Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 Takes a 1-2-3 Finish in Dubai 24 Hour Race
Team Abu Dhabi Black Falcon wins first endurance race of the year, Heico Motorsport Gullwings finish in second and third place
by John Clark | 16 January 2012
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The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 super sports cars driven by the Abu Dhabi Black Falcon Team and HEICO Motorsport placed 1-2-3 in the Dubai 24-hour race that took place January 12-14, 2012.. The Abu Dhabi Black Falcon team claimed victory with drivers Thomas Jäger (GER), Sean Edwards (ENG), Jeroen Bleekemolen (NED) and Khaled Al Qubaisi (UAE). After setting a new distance record of 628 race laps, final driver Al Qubaisi drove the Gullwing with starting number 3 across the finish line. This first place was also the maiden victory for the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 in a 24-hour race.
The first of HEICO Motorsport’s Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3′s came home second, two laps down. Driving duties in the car with starting number 6 were shared by Maximilian Buhk (GER), Christiaan Frankenhout (NED), Max Nilsson (SWE), Andreas Zuber (AUT) and Bernd Schneider (GER). Schneider, the five times’ DTM champion and AMG brand ambassador, drove in both of HEICO Motorsport’s cars as a part of AMG’s Customer Sports driver support programme. In the team’s sister car with starting number 16, he had been entered to partner Kenneth Heyer (GER), Andreas Simonsen (SWE) and Rodolfo Gonzalez (VEN). In a dramatic finish, final driver Simonsen managed to bring a small margin home to round out the clean sweep of the podium by finishing third.
The fourth of the four SLS AMG GT3s that were entered for the race also finished among the front-runners. The Gravity Charouz Racing team with Vincent Radermecker (BEL), Loris de Sordi (BEL), Eric Lux (LUX), Gerard Lopez (ESP) and Tomas Enge (CZE) was classified seventh to complete the good overall performance for the Gullwing cars.
All four Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3s put their mark on the Dubai 24-hour race by showing a commanding performance from the very beginning. In the field of the 72 cars, the Gullwings were among the fastest entries right away. Having started from 15th place on the grid, the Abu Dhabi Black Falcon SLS AMG GT3 moved up into the lead for the first time after two hours. Consistently fast lap times also allowed the other Gullwings to move up quickly into the ranks of the front-runners as well.
During the night, the teams from the AMG Customer Sports programme continued their largely trouble-free run on the 5.39 km long Grand Prix circuit, maintaining their fast lap times and partly alternating in the lead. After one third of the race, the Gullwing with starting number 3 finally took over the lead and held on to it until it crossed the finish line.
Thomas Jäger: “This is an optimal result for the Abu Dhabi Black Falcon team. It shows in an impressive way how performant and reliable the SLS AMG GT3 is. The driver changes went perfectly and, admittedly, we also had the necessary bit of luck: we didn’t get involved in any collisions, which isn’t self-evident with so many cars on such a short track. I want to thank the entire team for a great performance.”
Marc Schramm, managing director Black Falcon: “We came to Dubai to win. That is what we have said prior to the race and we lived up to it thanks to a strong team performance. As usual, the focus of our strategy was on consistency and that worked out in a fantastic way. Of course, I am also happy with having covered a new record distance of 628 laps. Thanks to the entire team and, of course, also to Mercedes-AMG and HWA for the support.”
Bernd Schneider: “During the night, we had a minor problem, that’s why we stood in the pits for a couple of minutes. Had it not been for that, it could even have been slightly better. To be honest, I now feel a little bit knocked out after having raced with both cars, but the success more than makes up for this. After all, finishing second and third at the same time doesn’t happen every day. Congratulations also to the Abu Dhabi Black Falcon team for this well-deserved race win.”
Ola Källenius, chairman of the board, Mercedes-AMG GmbH: “This is a great success! Especially considering that the participation in Dubai was only the fifth 24-hour race for the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3. Today’s clean sweep of the top three is a great reward for our efforts. I sincerely want to thank our customer teams, drivers and everyone involved. I am looking for a great 2012 motor racing season!”
Most successful newcomer in the 2011 motor sport season
This year’s Dubai 24-hour race marks the beginning of the second racing season for the SLS AMG GT3. In its debut year of 2011, the Gullwing became probably the most successful newcomer in the 2011 motorsport season: from March 2011 on 40 race cars were delivered to international customer teams that took part in races on four continents and won a total of 25 races. The success story was crowned by the team title of the FIA GT3 European Championship for HEICO Motorsport and its two Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 – the first title for the Gullwing in its first full racing season.
The race car: performance and safety
The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 is the racing version of the SLS AMG for the customer sport. It is designed for sprint and endurance races and is developed and produced by Mercedes-AMG in close cooperation with HWA AG. HWA is responsible for the development and deployment of the AMG-Mercedes DTM racing team on behalf of and in constant consultation with Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. The near-production SLS AMG GT3 provides not only an athletic performance but an exemplary level of safety that is unmatched by any other current GT3 car.