On the 12th January 2013, Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon made history by winning the Dubai 24 hour race twice in a row. For the second year running the SLS AMG GT3 took the top place on the podium after one of the toughest weeks in the team’s history.
Starting with testing on Wednesday, all was well with the two cars entered for Friday’s race. The pace was good, the set up working well and the drivers were happy. However, this equilibrium was soon brought to an end. Towards the end of the Wednesday practice, the session was stopped for a Red flag. The news over the radio told the team that sadly the car bearing Number One had spun at Turn 5 and crashed heavily into the barrier. With great thanks, the driver was unhurt, a testament to the strength and safety of the SLS AMG GT3!
With the car recovered to the pits it was immediately obvious that this chassis would never roll again. Various options were explored, with the support of AMG and in the end the personal relationship that AMG Bernd Schneider has with rival team Preci Spark, negotiations began to find a way the Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon could acquire their spare car.
Time was of the essence, as the team would have to strip the crashed car and build up the replacement chassis in 24 hours.
With thanks to the Jones brothers and the Preci Spark team a deal was struck and by 9pm Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon had a replacement chassis. With qualifying beginning at 5pm the next day, it would be a sleepless night ahead for the mechanics.
Through a quite unbelievable force of team work from the Black Falcon mechanics, lead by the never tiring power of chief mechanic Marvin Wagner, car Number One rose from the ashes and was able to dominate qualifying taking pole position by a healthy margin over its rivals.
Step one complete, but the car was only half ready to take on a full 24-hour race. Yet another sleepless night ahead as the mechanics toiled away to get this car ready. After all this we just could not fail now!
With the race starting at 1400 on Friday 11th January, it was becoming heart achingly close that the car would be ready. The team continued to work calmly and methodically to ensure every screw was done up properly, every measurement was accurate and that this car would not fail. It was a testament to the incredible team work, that only seconds before the race started, car Number One was in position, on the ground and ready to start the race. It should be mentioned that under normal circumstances after a rebuild of this type, a car we require a roll out before being used at race pace. This was now just not possible. Some fingers would need to be crossed!
In car Number Two, Andreas Simonsen had a fantastic start, pulling the car from 14th in qualifying up to seventh and well within sight of the leaders. Throughout the race there was numerous Code 60 “safety car” situations, from which the team seemed to almost always find not to be in their favour. Several times having only just passed the pit entry before a Code 60 began, or being stuck in traffic at the fuel pumps or just being behind a driver on the track driving 40 kmh, which on one occasion lost the team a full 90 seconds from their competitors. All in all the frustrations were mounting as the team fought to the front and then lost positions because of the Code 60.
Despite all this, by the half-way mark, car One occupied Position One and car Two thanks to the hard work of Khaled Al Qubaisi, Andreas Simonsen, Sergei Afanasiev, Simon Knap and Steve Jans, had puled itself up to Position two, behind its sister car.
However, their luck would not remain and throughout the night, car Two sustained a number of contacts with other cars until, despite the strong build of the SLS, the team had to bring the car into the pit garage for repair.
This was very sad as the mechanics and drivers had all been working hard and with great success, pushing the car for a definite podium finish. Losing 20 laps in the pit box, dropped car Two out of the top ten and out of contention for a podium. Therefore it become the new goal to finish as high up the top ten as possible and from here on in the divers would have to push hard.
With only one hour to go, Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon had once again taken complete control of the race.
The main competitors had gradually fallen away with problems of their own and car Number One driven by Khaled Al Qubaisi, Bernd Schneider, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Sean Edwards took an emphatic win at 1400 on Saturday the 12th January.
Driving into Parc Fermé, Khaled once again jumped onto the bonnet of the car, shrouded in a UAE flag and unable to contain his emotion after this incredible story. Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon, back-to-back winners of the Dubai 24 hours!
For car Number Two, the fight back through the field had been metronomic and the drivers pulled the car into a respectable 7th place overall. Sadly not the result the guys had worked so hard to achieve, but with the confidence and knowledge that they can fight for top honors in 2014.
Marvin Wagner, technical director Black Falcon: „The title defence was not easy for us. I am very proud of my team, which showed that it works professional and focused also in difficult conditions. We did not had any technical problems on all three Black Falcon cars during the whole 24 hours and gained the victory as a reward.”
Also the Porsche 997 Cup GT3 entered by Black Falcon Team TMD Friction was managing its own up and downs during the Dubai 24 hours event. After setting the fastest Qualifying time in the 997-class with 2:03.944 Christian von Rieff, Christian Raubach, Burkard Kaiser, Erwin Stückle and Patrick Huisman started from position 15 overall and first in class, alongside the SLS #2. During the opening stages of the race, the Black Falcon Porsche #44 was the leading non-GT3-car in the field and always in the Top Twenty. Unfortunately after 8 hours of racing, another car hit #44 and the car had to return to the pits for repairs. The team worked feverishly to repair the car but sadly this meant two hours in the pit and #44 rejoined the race in position 57. During the night there was more drama as the team had to manage a second accident caused by a competitor. From the early morning the car #44 drove lap after lap from position 42 up to 28 overall and finished on position 5 in the class 997. In the last lap Christian von Rieff managed to drive next to the Black Falcon SLS #1 and crossed the checkered flag alongside the winning car for a team photo finish.
Sean Paul Breslin, Black Falcon SLS Team manager:
“We came to defend the victory. We have suffered a lot. We never gave up. And now we’ve done it.
After an excellent, self-sacrificing team performance our drivers have achieved the maximum and won for the second time in a row this prestigious race.
We are speechless, overjoyed and can not even believe it. Thanks to everyone who made this possible and especially to all the fans and supporters who have kept their fingers crossed.”
Jan Derenbach, Black Falcon Porsche Team manager:
“Unfortunately we had some bad luck with our Porsche during the race and had to handle two accidents which were caused by the mistakes of competitors. But in the first part of the race we showed that we are also competitive with our Porsche 997 Cup. I want to thank the mechanics and drivers who did a great job and I am very proud that we were able to defend the title.”
2012 saw a very happy team take first place at the chequered flag in the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3. This was a great achievement for the whole team bringing many firsts, including the first win for a local UAE resident. Khaled Al Qubaisi will return to this two-car line up to fight to make it a double. For AMG it was the first win in a 24-hour event with their first GT3 car, the mighty SLS and even more poignantly the win was the first in any 24-hour event since 1989 for the Mercedes brand! Khaled will return to defend his title along with his world-class teammates Jeroen Bleekemolen and Sean Edwards, the driver line up being completed by 5 times DTM champion Bernd Schneider. A prospect the whole team is very excited by. As yet the full driver line up on the second car is to be confirmed.
It has been a turbulent year for the Black Falcon team and for the SLS in all competitions, though the car continues to prove its strength and reliability as well as its balance and pace. It remains the car to beat and a benchmark for GT3 racing.
After a strong race program 2012 beginning with 24h Dubai, continuing with 12h Bathurst, followed by several VLN races, the Blancpain Endurance Series and 24h Nürburgring and Spa, Team Black Falcon is confident for the coming motorsport season 2013.
Team manager Sean Paul Breslin comments:
“2013 sees a different race in Dubai than previous years. Teams will have the opportunity to run without time restrictions, though if they choose this route, there are other penalties such as weight and a reduced fuel range to think of. It is going to be interesting and we are very confident to have one of the strongest teams in the field.”
Team Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon with its drivers Sean Edwards, Khaled Al Qubaisi, Jeroen Bleekemolen, and Thomas Jager, beat strong competition from BMW, Ferrari, Audi, Mercedes and Porsche to win the seventh edition of the 24 hour race in Dubai. With a new distance record of 628 laps (3385 miles) Black Falcon scored the first 24 victory for Mercedes since 1989 at Le Mans and the first for the Mercedes SLS AMG GT3, only a year after its debut in the 24 hours of Dubai.
This year’s edition of the 24 hour race in the Arab emirate of Dubai was full of international teams and drivers at their best. From the start of the race, Black Falcon’s SLS was amongst the fastest and fought all the way from 15th up to 1st position in the first hour. Later in the race they lost their advantage, because it was too far away from the pit lane entry at the beginning of a code 60 and therefore could not take full advantage of a pitstop. The competition took advantage of the situation and drove past Black Falcon. Several tactical ploys by the drivers and team were able to regain the lost time and get the lead back eventually.
Sean Edwards was the one to regain the lead before midnight with a great move around the outside of another Mercedes SLS. Over the next few hours Khaled Al Qubaisi, Jeroen Bleekemolen, Sean Edwards and Thomas Jager built their lead up. Even so, after 18 hour of the race, the top three cars (Mercedes, BMW, Mercedes) were covered by only 7 seconds! Good tactics from the team, excellent pit stops from the crew and fast driving, combined with the high reliability of the SLS meant that after 24 hours, the first overall victory for Abu Dhabi by Black Falcon was achieved.
“What an amazing race we had, it was such an amazing fight all the way to the end! I am so happy to win my first 24 hour race and to help Mercedes get the first for the SLS. Everyone performed flawlessly from the team and drivers, which is what you need in modern endurance racing, no mistakes. We spent the least time in the pits and won the race because of it.”
Khaled Al Qubaisi:
“To have won the 24 hours of Dubai is a great feeling. The victory was hard fought, the race was very tight and the competition very high. Therefore, the race for the whole team was incredibly demanding. Nevertheless, everybody in the team did a great job, and my dream team of drivers performed outstandingly. It was such a great feeling to cross the finish line after so much hard work to achieve the result we really deserved!”
The 5th edition of the Dubai 24 hours again took place in January, during the UAE’s so called winter of 30c. Sean Edwards, along with fellow countryman Oliver Morley had set their sights on a podium finish. Rule changes for 2010 had meant that the 997 RSR’s were heavily restricted with extra weight and power reductions, so the race was not going to be easy. But, a 24 hour race is the ultimate endurance test for any driver, team and car. To finish, let alone finish well, so many thing have to go right, with the possibility of so many things to go wrong, it’s the toughest challenge around.
Practice was difficult, with the track being very “green” and the team using the new Dunlop tyre, there was a lot of setup work to be done. By the end of the test session, Sean and the team had worked hard and got the car to where they wanted it for the race. “There was so much oversteer in high speed corners, it was almost undrivable, especially for a long distance race, but I am glad we have resolved the issues now.” commented Sean after the second test session.
Sean was qualifying as usual, but a problem with the from aero splitter only allowed him one lap at reduced speed which resulted in a poor qualifying slot. All the other drivers did their mandatory three lap runs to be eligible for the race.
With the race starting on Friday, everything was set for the long haul ahead. With team owner Miro Knopka starting the car, it was underway to a safe start. Oliver Morley took over for the second stint, putting in a great effort to get the car from 22nd to 8th place by the time he pitted! It had taken it’s tole on him, as he almost collapsed from heat exhaustion when he got out of the car, with cockpit temperatures reaching upto 65c! Richard was third in the car and started off at a decent pace and started to find his rhythm. All of a sudden there was a code 60 yellow and Ricard came on the radio saying the rear right was broken! About ten minutes later the car was recovered by a truck and delivered to the pitlane. Disaster had struck, only three hours into the 24 hour race, with a right rear suspension failure. There was so much damage done to the rear of the car, the race was over, with not enough spare parts to fix it.
“I am gutted, we were progressing really well and I was looking forward to my first stint in the car during the early evening. It’s really bad luck, but that’s racing, so there is nothing we can do.” said a disappointed Sean Edwards shortly after the announced retirement.
Sean is now working hard to secure a full time ride in both the Porsche Carrera Cup Germany and the Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup for the 2010 season.