Class victory for Optimum in Dubai 24H, backed up with strong P4 overall
Optimum Motorsport underlined its considerable endurance racing pedigree bringing home their third victory in the season-opening Hankook Tyres 24 Hours of Dubai today (14 January, 2017) with the Ginetta G55 in the SP3 Class for GT4 machinery.
The British team’s second entry was battling from the start at the front for outright victory with its Audi R8 LMS, eventually settling for fourth in a tough race, littered with Code 60 safety periods.
“I’m delighted to have three wins in six attempts in the GT4 class,” stated Team Principal Shaun Goff. “Also, to be the best Audi with P4 is a big achievement in a 99-car grid, coming ahead of the (Belgian Audi) WRT squad. It’s really satisfying for us. Big thanks to all the drivers and support team for their time during the weekend.”
Sharing the driving duties in the #14 Audi R8 LMs GT3 were Christopher Haase, Flick Haigh, Ryan Ratcliffe and Joe Osborne.
The start of the race proved to be frenetic, with the #14 Audi losing positions initially before regaining ground to run in fourth position in the A6-Pro class. As the race unfolded, with an unprecedented 21 Code 60 periods, strategy became something of a lottery but the team were still confident of a solid result.
After 20 hours of largely trouble-free running a power steering failure in the midst of Joe Osborne’s stint put the podium chase on hold and presented the drivers with a real physical challenge to bring the car home, eventually succeeding with a hard-fought fourth position.
"Probably my most enjoyable race, but also the hardest race - especially in those last few stint as we didn't have any power steering,” Ratcliffe explained. “The team has done a really good job and we wanted to bring the car home. We were behind the P3 and hoping they might have a mechanical issue or something. P4 is the same as last year which isn't really what we wanted but everyone has driven really well and that's all we can really ask for."
Flick Haigh echoed Ratcliffe’s comments. “The car was really good except for the power steering issue, which forced us to change the strategy,” she explained. “I am sad I’ve been out of the car for 14 hours since then! It’s the same result as last year which with this grid isn’t bad at all.”
Over in the class SP3 GT4 class winning #231 Ginetta G55 GT4, Stewart Linn, Ade Barwick, Dan O’Brien and William Moore took turns behind the wheel. The early running proved to be frustrating four-minute stop go penalty but the team fought back, eventually taking the chequered flag with a comfortable seven-lap margin.
“A massive team effort and the car didn’t disappoint,” Moore summarised. “Thanks to all the boys from Optimum team, great effort, I’m over the moon.”
Dan O’Brien was also happy with the end result, even if a bit frustrated with the penalty. “The race was very good, we overcame an early penalty as opposed to what happened last year, when we dropped to the back right at the end. So, it’s nice to be able to do it the right way around this time! We had a big push through the night to get the lead and build a gap, and then the morning was about keeping the gap.”
Stewart Linn was keen to praise both the team and his teammates. “It’s great how the car has coped with the conditions, and the team has done a top job too at keeping the race going smoothly, it’s being absolutely fabulous. The other drivers have been fantastic, I was focusing on bringing the car in one piece after my stints and everyone else has done the same, we worked great as a team.
“Our strategy as a team, driving the car at approximately the 90-95% of its potential instead of going flat out for fast laps has definitely helped us in the long run achieving the win. Will specially, has been under a lot of pressure, but he did a stellar job!”
Having kicked the 2017 season off on such a positive frame, Optimum Motorsport will now focus on the season ahead which will include British GT as well as further outings in the Hankook Tyres 24H Series.