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Why more rac­ers than ever are tak­ing part in the an­nual Dubai 24 hour race

Virtuozity - - Boutique -

The 2016 hankook 24h Dubai—this year’s edi­tion of the an­nual 24-hour en­durance race that takes place at the Dubai au­to­drome—saw a record field of 98 cars on track. nat­u­rally, this led to nu­mer­ous in­ci­dents, but it il­lus­trated the point that en­durance rac­ing is not only a grow­ing hobby for mo­tor­ing en­thu­si­asts in europe, but also for rac­ers in the Middle east.

In­deed, be­cause the Dubai 24 hour is solely made up of teams who have to reg­is­ter them­selves (un­like, say, the 24 hours of Le Mans, whereby teams are in­vited by the or­gan­is­ers to com­pete), a grow­ing num­ber of en­trants re­ally says some­thing about the pop­u­lar­ity of en­durance rac­ing in the re­gion.

nat­u­rally, many of the pro­fes­sional rac­ing teams fly in to emi­rates for the Dubai leg of the 24 hour se­ries, which gained FIA In­ter­na­tional Se­ries sta­tus in 2015. The cal­en­dar is made up for 12-hour and 24-hour events, and for many of the in­ter­na­tional teams, Dubai is lit­tle more than an­other stop on the global tour that makes up the sea­son.

how­ever, for lo­cal rac­ing teams (some of them pro­fes­sional, some of them semi-pro, and some al­most am­a­teur), the Dubai 24 hour has turned into a big deal. There are sev­eral rea­sons for the record num­ber of en­trants, with the first be­ing that the cost of en­trance has fallen dra­mat­i­cally. Yes, the pro­fes­sional teams on the field are ex­tremely well funded, and they run some

of the most ex­otic su­per­cars to be found any­where in the world. What’s more, the races are fun, with an elec­tri­fy­ing at­mos­phere and no-holds-barred driv­ing. Fi­nally, they’re a chance to meet like-minded petrol­heads who share a love for fast-mov­ing ma­chin­ery.

Cer­tainly, the or­gan­is­ers of the 24 Hour se­ries are do­ing well with their stated goal of cre­at­ing races with “low costs, a con­vivial at­mos­phere with teams and driv­ers from all over the world and fair com­pe­ti­tion on track”.

The roots of en­durance rac­ing go back to 1905, when the world’s first or­gan­ised 24-hour car race was held on a one-mile oval track in Ohio, United States. Four cars from Frayer-miller, Pope-toledo, Peer­less and White Steamer raced for a $500 sil­ver tro­phy. The win­ner, the Pope-toledo, cov­ered 828.5 miles (1,333 kilo­me­tres) - far less than the 3,174 kilo­me­tres cov­ered by this year’s Dubai 24 Hour win­ners, but it did show the world that con­cept could work.

Be­fore long, en­durance rac­ing had be­come a hit, and many of the world’s top gen­tle­men driv­ers com­peted in the races. To­day, that spirit still lives on, though the cars are a far cry from the clas­sic hunks of metal that gen­tle­men rac­ers used to hoon around tracks.

The Dubai 24 Hour, for ex­am­ple, hosts ev­ery­thing from small-en­gined Su­per 2000 hatch­backs, such as the Re­nault Clio and the Honda Civic, to rac­ing-bred sports cars such as the Porsche 911 GT3 and the Mar­cos Man­tis GT. While ev­ery con­tes­tant is out com­pet­ing on the same track, teams ac­tu­ally com­pete against each other in var­i­ous classes. The hatch­backs will have their own class, while the thor­ough­bred rac­ers will com­pete in theirs.

It should be noted, how­ever, that while the com­pe­ti­tion is open to teams that reg­is­ter them­selves, there are a lot of hoops to jump through. Cars must pass all man­ner of checks in or­der to be al­lowed to com­pete in their classes, while driv­ers need to make sure they’ve got the ap­pro­pri­ate doc­u­men­ta­tion for rac­ing. What’s more, rac­ing for 24 hours is no pic­nic. The me­chan­ics in the garages are no strangers to the tolls that such treat­ment takes on cars, but the driv­ers too are pushed to their lim­its, with lit­tle sleep, high lev­els of stress, and the un­end­ing noise of roar­ing en­gines blar­ing out across the night.

Nev­er­the­less, for the con­tes­tants, this adds to the ex­cite­ment of tak­ing part, and the sat­is­fac­tion of com­plet­ing the chal­lenge. And with it get­ting eas­ier ev­ery year to en­ter the race, it’s a safe bet that fu­ture edi­tions of the Dubai 24 Hour will again see record num­bers of cars out in the field.

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