Race two of the season again produced an excellent result for SPS automotive performance. After a furious finale to the 24 Hours of Dubai, Kenny Habul (AUS), Mikaël Grenier (CAN), Maro Engel (GER) and Jules Gounon (FRA) crossed the finish line in third place overall in the #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3. The number 20 car, with Valentin Pierburg (GER), George Kurtz (USA), Reema Juffali (KSA) and Ian Loggie (GBR) at the wheel, finished runner-up in the GT3-AM class to complete an impressive team result.
The first indication of what to expect at this year’s desert classic came as early as qualifying. Just short of 80 cars took to the track at the same time, as they strived to secure a good start position at the five-kilometre Dubai Autodrome. The Willsbach-based team’s two Mercedes-AMG GT3 were among those who had to negotiate the cars from slower classes as quickly as possible. Both crews did an excellent job of this. The #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3, sporting the SunEnergy1 design, qualified fifth, while the number 20 car started the race from 22nd place (P5 in GT3-AM) on the grid.
The start phase was dominated by a number of incidents and Code 60 phases. This resulted in the competitors pursuing many different strategies. Mikaël Grenier, the first man at the wheel of the #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3, came in early for his first service. Unfortunately, a fault in the fuelling system, which is provided by the organiser, resulted in the Canadian losing valuable time. As a result, and through no fault of their own, the quartet found them self a lap down early on in the race. Thanks to consistently fast lap times and flawless stints, the drivers in the #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3 were able to work their way back through the field, lap by lap. By the halfway point of the race, they were already back up to sixth place overall. Going into the closing stages of the 24 Hours of Dubai, Habul, Grenier, Engel and Gounon were within striking distance of the podium places. The number 75 car found itself in a battle for third place. With ten minutes remaining, Mikaël Grenier, back at the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the conclusion to the race, benefitted from a better strategy to take third place overall and earn the team from Willsbach its first overall podium at the 24 Hours of Dubai.
First at the wheel of the black #20 Mercedes-AMG GT3, which lined up in the GT3-AM class, was Ian Loggie. The experienced Brit first stayed clear of any battles out on the track – a strategy that paid dividends. After just a few hours of racing, the car was already second in the class. The team then extended its lead over the chasing pack, thanks to consistent and virtually flawless stints. Reema Juffali, who was contesting her first endurance race in a GT3 car, contributed significantly to the good performance with her fast stints. Valentin Pierburg, George Kurtz and Ian Loggie also used their vast wealth of experience. As such, the number 20 Mercedes-AMG GT3 crossed the finish line in second place in the GT3-AM class, well clear of the third-placed car. Their fine performance also earned them an outstanding ninth place overall.
Stephan Sohn, team principal SPS automotive performance: “A great success for us! The team and drivers did a flawless job. The incident during fuelling is very frustrating, particularly as there was nothing we could do about it. The time we lost probably cost us an even better result. However, our strategy paid off and we are pleased with the third place. We are obviously also delighted with the second place in the GT3-AM class. All four drivers produced a magnificent performance and more than deserved this result.”
Maro Engel, #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3: “A fantastic result at the end of a very tough race. We had a few things that repeatedly set us back. From the middle of the night, we also had some slight damage to the car, as the result of a contact. However, we always kept fighting. Congratulations to Kenny, who did a great job. I am delighted that he was able to celebrate his first podium here in Dubai. Thank you to the SPS team, too. Together, we have made it through two tough weeks in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Rounding it all off with a podium makes it all the sweeter.”
Jules Gounon, #75 Mercedes-AMG GT3: “A great start to the season for me. The team did a fantastic job. To finish on the podium after a finale like that is just reward for the hard work put in by the whole team.”