Two successful Mercedes-AMG GT3 in Dubai

Strong start of the season for HRT and BILSTEIN at the 24 Hours of Dubai

“The damping takes some getting used to,” Maro Engel grins, referring to the camel he is sitting on as he staggers through the pit lane of the Dubai Autodrome. No comparison to the BILSTEIN EVO RT shock absorbers on his Mercedes-AMG GT3, which he had brought to the finish line shortly before with the third place overall in the 24-hour race. The traditional camel ride to the podium is a matter of honour in Dubai, marking a successful start to the new motorsport season for the Haupt Racing Team and BILSTEIN. However, Engel and his cockpit colleagues Patrick Assenheimer, Ryan Ratcliffe and the three-time Dubai winners Khaled Al-Qubaisi and Hubert Haupt could have done even better in the desert marathon.

When the race started on Friday at noon, the weather conditions on the Persian Gulf were at their best. Last year’s rain chaos, which led to the race being shortened to seven hours, is forgotten. Even the wind, which occasionally carries sand from the nearby desert onto the track, is restrained this time. Maro Engel’s start is anything but restrained: The AMG brand ambassador with the HRT GT3 in blue and yellow BILSTEIN design reacts as quick as a flash and makes up two positions from seventh on the grid. The laps that followed were even more spectacular, with Engel exchanging blows with Mirko Bortolotti in the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 – a breathtaking duel at eye level between two of the best GT drivers in the world.

After two hours on the 5.390-kilometre circuit, Engel hands over the Mercedes-AMG GT3 to Hubert Haupt. The team owner and former DTM driver immediately continues to push forward. With success: on lap 79, “Pos. 1” lights up in front of start number 4 in the live timing for the first time. Patrick Assenheimer is also able to collect further leading laps during his subsequent stint with the BILSTEIN car.

Only an unfavourable Code 60 phase shortly after a pit stop brings HRT BILSTEIN’s march briefly to a halt. However, the driver quintet remains on course for the podium and is able to establish itself in the leading group over the course of the night. As the morning dawned over the Dubai Autodrome, a place on the podium became more and more within reach. In the final phase, which was dominated by tactics and fuel strategy, Khaled Al Qubaisi was in second place until 30 minutes before the end of the 24-hour race.

Shortly before the end of the race, HRT brings the Mercedes-AMG GT3 #4 into the pits for the last driver change. WRT’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo doesn’t miss the chance and passes. Final driver Engel tries hard again and sets by far the fastest lap times of the field with a light tank. Metre by metre, the current lap record holder on the Nürburgring Nordschleife catches up. Just a few seconds were missing at the finish line: HRT BILSTEIN finished third overall behind GPX Racing and WRT.

“Second place was within reach, the decision was made just before the end of the race,” said Maro Engel. “In the end, it wasn’t quite enough, so it’s now third place for us. It wasn’t an easy race, especially as there were so many cars on the track. A big thank you to the team and my colleagues in the cockpit and congratulations to the winners.”

HRT’s sister car with start number 5 also achieved an excellent result. Despite bad luck in the early stages, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 with Nico Bastian, Valentin Pierburg and Florian Scholze as well as the double starters Patrick Assenheimer and Khaled Al Qubaisi fought back impressively: Before nightfall, the #5 returned to the top 10 and was even able to take the lead in the GT3-AM class a little later. After 24 hours, the HRT ABU DHABI RACING car occupies fifth place overall and takes the class win in the GT3-AM category.

“We competed here in Dubai with two top set-up cars and held our ground in the top group with both vehicles,” a satisfied Hubert Haupt looks back. “Our number five car delivered a great performance and took a commanding class win. We would have loved to win the race with the #4, but a podium at the start of the season is of course also a good result. Big thanks to the whole team for a successful race weekend!”

It will not be the last attempt of the HRT Bilstein, which was able to win many fans already in the first race due to its eye-catching appearance – stay tuned!