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