It’s the start of January. It’s cold, it’s dreary and you’re probably feeling a bit ill and sluggish from overeating at Christmas. You’re sick of getting up in the morning darkness for your long commute to work. To add insult to injury, you’re a motorsport fan and you’re beginning to observe withdrawal symptoms from the winter break.
We feel your pain. Welcome to the first in a series of beginner’s guides to sports car racing events, designed to get you through your motorsport winter blues. So let’s get started – first up is the Creventic Dubai 24 Hours.
There’s a Dubai 24 Hours?
Indeed there is. The race is held every January at the Dubai Autodrome, and marks the start of the sports car and endurance racing season for the hardcore sports car fans. First run in 2006, the event was originally targeted at amateurs but now attracts professionals from all over the world. Organised by Dutch promoter Creventic, the Dubai 24 Hours is the opening round of the Creventic 24H Series.
What kind of cars are racing?
Everything. Ok, not everything but pretty close. Outside of the Nurburgring 24 Hour you will struggle to find a more diverse GT grid than in a Creventic series. At the front you will find factory backed GT3 cars such as the Mercedes-AMG, Audi R8 LMS, Porsche 911, and Lamborghini Huracán. Many of these cars enjoy factory support and may include drivers that would be more at home behind the wheel of a LMP1 prototype.
Behind the GT3 fights you’ll find an incredibly diverse field. There are classes for GT4 and for cars with a national homologation. What does that mean? It means McLarens, Aston Martins, BMWs and Porsches. If you enjoy the Ginetta Supercup races at BTCC events then you’re in luck, as the admittance of nationally homologated cars means Ginetta G50s and G55s in the mix.
Behind dedicated sports cars you start discovering hatchbacks and touring cars. The TCR regulations have done to touring car racing what GT3 regulations did to sports car racing. The explosive popularity of TCR means there are a lot of these cars floating about the motorsport world, including endurance racing. These little hatchbacks are easy to kit out for endurance races with extra headlights, air conditioning units and drinks bottles. Expect to find cars like the SEAT Leon, Audi RS3, Renault Clio (the one from BTCC support races), Honda Civic and Peugeot 208 GTI. Who doesn’t love a Peugeot GTI?
For those who prefer rares and exotics, Dubai has that covered too. A tube frame Ford Focus produced by MARC Cars Australia will make an appearance. Not satisfied with a standard Focus engine, the MARC Cars Ford Focus has a V8 wedged in the front. There’s a Ford GT on the entry list too – although not the one you’ll be used to seeing at Le Mans. Lamdba Performance have modified a GT3 spec Ford GT and are bringing it to Dubai.
Also on the grid is the crazy Renault RS01, KTM X-Bows, a Corvette ZR1, and something called a Lamera Cup. Who knew? Whatever your taste in sports cars, the Dubai 24 Hours has it covered.
Watch Nissan factor driver Jann Mardenborough take a class front row in a Nissan 370Z GT4.
What about drivers?
Although targeted at amateurs, the event has always attracted enough professional drivers to make the front of the field interesting. The first running of the event in 2006 was won by a car piloted by German legend Han-Joachim Stuck and Toto Wolff (yes, that Toto Wolff). Ex-F1 driver and DTM superstar Bernd Schneider is a regular in Creventic events, with 2 Dubai wins to his name.
The 2017 roster included Porsche Le Mans winner Brendon Hartley, Formula E and DTM driver Maro Engel, ex-BTCC driver Tom Onslow-Cole, Vincent Radermecker (can anyone in the comments remember who he drove for in BTCC?), ex-BTCC Independents Champion James Kaye, Jean-Eric Vergne and some guy called Robert Kubica. I hear Robert is pretty good. Given their new F1 commitments, it’s unlikely that Hartley and Kubica will reappear, but it gives you an idea of the quality of the drivers involved.
It seems a bit complicated, I can’t watch the full race
It’s understandable that it can be challenging to set aside an entire 24 hours (plus recovery time) for a race, but the beauty of sports car racing is the ability to dip in and out of an event as it goes.
We recommend picking one or two favourite cars and watching those throughout the race. Try picking some of the overall podium cars and one or two of the more unusual entries. Check in throughout the event to see how your favourites are going.
I’ll give it a go. Where can I watch?
Despite sports car racing’s best efforts, many people are completely unaware how easy it is to watch these events. Races are often streamed live on YouTube completely free of charge and with absolutely zero commercial breaks. Where else can you get such coverage? But we realise that just because something is on YouTube, it doesn’t necessarily make it easy to find or access. If you don’t know what you’re looking for then how are you meant to find it? So theRacingLine is introducing tRL TV, where we will collect these events in one easy place and will post on the homepage when a race is taking place. The Dubai 24 Hours marks the first of a series of live streams you can find on tRL TV.
For those new to streaming, we provide a basic guide on different methods of streaming and what’s available to you. You can watch this race on a PC or laptop, mobile device or tablet, or even on your TV – you just need to know how, and we’ll help you with that.
Commentary and analysis of Creventic events is provided by Radio Show Limited – better known as Radio Le Mans. The fantastic service provided by John Hindhaugh and Eve Hewitt, with support from the likes of Graham Goodwin and Nick Damon, has grown to cover much more than just the Le Mans 24 Hours. Stick with theRacingLine throughout the year and you’ll quickly become used to the voices of RLM. Eventually they’ll feel like part of the family. An argumentative dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless.
Is there anything else I should know?
Don’t expect to follow every car throughout the race and have a full understanding of the entire event. There’s a lot of drivers in the lower classes who even the experts are not familiar with, and this is part of the fun.
Keep in mind that these events are aimed at the amateur driver and teams. To these smaller teams, this event is their Le Mans 24 Hours. For many of them, this is the biggest event of their motorsport season. If you keep that in mind whilst watching, the race takes on a whole new perspective.
When to Watch
The race starts at 1400 local time on Friday the 12th of January and finishes at 1400 on Saturday 13th of January.
The United Arab Emirates is +4 GMT. The race begins local time at 2pm. That’s 10am UK, 11am for the majority of Europe. There’s very little flood lighting at the Dubai Autodrome, and the sun sets quite early. Expect a good 12 hours of darkness for this one!
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