Optimum dominates Dubai 24 on Ginetta G55 debut
- Team takes SP3 class victory AND finishes in overall top 20
- Second win in four attempts for Optimum in Dubai 24 Hours
- Ginetta G55 victorious on 24h debut; takes fastest lap
Yorkshire-based race team, Optimum Motorsports took victory today in the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai in sensational style, leading the SP3 class for GT4 cars for over sixteen hours of the race. The result at the 5.39km Dubai Autodrome is the second class victory in four years, but was made all the more impressive this year due to the teams Ginetta G55 GT4 finishing inside the top-20 overall finishers of the race out of a huge field of 95 cars.
The victory this year on the back of victory in 2012 and two top six finishes in 2013 and 2014, makes Optimum the most successful SP3 team in the twice-round-the clock Dubai race and the driver line-up of Ade Barwick (GBR), Bradley Ellis (GBR), Euan Hankey (GBR), Salih Yoluc (GBR) acquitted themselves admirably in their first time competing at the prestigious race. For Barwick, Hankey and Yoluc it was their first 24-hour race and the trio had limited experience going into the weekend of night racing, and multiple category races
, let along the unique physical and mental challenges a 24-hour race brings.Competing with the 355bhp GT4 specification Ginetta G55 for the first time in an endurance event, Optimum Motorsport gave the car pole-position on its 24-hour race debut courtesy of Bradley Ellis’ 2:09.672 lap of the Dubai Autodrome. The race began in near perfect conditions with sun-drenching the Middle Eastern track and Ellis cruised into the race lead for the SP3 class, moving up the overall order too, sitting just outside the top 40 runners in 41st place.
Optimum were the first of the main SP3 cars to pit and Barwick took over after 90 minutes to begin the first of his stints, almost immediately settling into a good pace. It wasn’t long before the British GT4 frontrunner had to defend third place from an ambitious, if slightly reckless challenge from Fischer in the all-Austrian Niedertscheider Ginetta. Barwick kept his cool and got the place back, handing over the G55 to Yoluc during another Code60 for his first turn behind the wheel in an endurance race. The Turkish racer, who has impressed in national GT series such as GT Cup and Britcar, continued his accelerated development and moved up thirteen places overall in the tricky dusk conditions before the next changeover.
At this point, the class leaders were the Italian Nova Race squad, and they had been swapping places with the Swedish Aston Martin Vantage GT4 of ALFAB Racing. Yet another good stint by Barwick, showing a consistency and level of pace more akin to someone with greater experience, and a pacey first hour into the night from ex-Porsche Carrera Cup GB ace Hankey delivered the class lead back to the Wakefield-based boys.
While the race was relatively problem-free, there was a brief moment of concern when Hankey pitted ten minutes earlier than planned due to a tyre issue on the left rear. It was a precautionary move and averted a bigger issue than staying out on track. With new boots on the Ginetta, Ellis headed out into the darkness in the lead, a mighty 25th overall. Hankey completed another 90 minutes on board #163 rattling off the target 2:11s and the ‘Pro’ element had built up a healthy two-lap cushion over their nearest rivals, fellow Brits, Speedworks.
Yoluc returned to the car just gone 4am and completed a ‘full’ stint of two-hours behind the wheel of the Ginetta, seemingly at ease with the chaos of multi-class racing. From here on in, it was the consistency in pace from Ellis across his two stints that sandwiched Barwick’s, which was key to doubling the gap over the Speedworks Ginetta G50. Barwick’s contribution increased and on several occasions the 47-year-old from Gloucestershire rattled off times in the low 2:14s, which ensured a greater parity with Yoluc than was expected by Team Principal, Shaun Goff.
A final stint from Hankey ensured the Ginetta G55 would set the fastest ‘legal’ lap for the class, a 2:11.071, on its debut bow in a 24-hour race.
With just two and a half hours to go, Optimum had been in the lead for over thirteen hours, with the pace and reliability crushing its rivals. A rapid succession of 2:11s from Ellis only served to strengthen Optimum’s grip on the class lead and a final pit stop, the seventeenth of the race for #163, saw Yoluc take over for the remaining two hours to stroke it home. It wasn’t easy for the 29-year-old, by this point the G55 had developed understeer and the brakes were past their best, but he delivered a sensible pace to the flag and ensured that the SP3 class winner finished inside the overall top-20, a monumental achievement.
Shaun Goff, Optimum Motorsport Team Principal
“We’re really chuffed, and if I’m honest it is slightly unexpected! Yes we’ve had the pace all weekend, but given we had three drivers who lacked 24-hour race experience; there was a possibility that we might struggle to deliver the win. But, we all succeeded and did it. All of the drivers acquitted themselves really well and Ade and Salih were particularly impressive. Ade chipped away at the lap times when it mattered and did a low 2:14, which was on a par with Salih and he really got into it. There’s a lot that goes into a good lap in a 24-hour race with multiple classes; you have to be really conscious of other cars around you, and be able to deliver the car back to your team-mate in the pit box. All of the guys achieved that, so it’s been a very positive week for us.
"I made some changes to strategy as the race went on. I said before the race that regardless of our pace, if after the night-time we’re in for a shout for the class win that we’ll look at who we put in the car to the finish to deliver the win. If we get through the night quickly and in a good position, we’ll go for it. We made some changes and it has paid off. For a GT4 car to finish in the top 20 in a 95-car race is just massive. The car itself was pretty much faultless and it really behaved itself throughout the week. We didn’t have to make any trips to the garage for repairs or fixes and it enabled us to focus on the driver changes, refuelling and head back out on track; that type of reliability is what wins you 24-hour races. Bringing the G55 to its first 24-hour event and winning is a significant achievement for Ginetta and for us. The fact it was the Dubai 24-hours, which is known to be very tough with the unique atmospheric conditions of the desert means it is just all the more special. It’s one thing for a G55 to win a sprint race, but to run so faultlessly is a real testament to the car and to the experience of our team here at Optimum. It’s been a pleasure to work with Ade, Brad, Euan and Salih, and the whole event has been really satisfying.”
“I am used to a professional service and Optimum delivered perfectly with a perfect strategy and an experienced team that worked efficiently. We always knew we had a chance if the car went the distance and Shaun and his team delivered us a G55 that proved itself by being one of the few cars in the paddock that didn't need be put in the garage. The only problems we encountered were minor. Winning a 24 hour race is a major event for any driver and we are no exception.”
“It’s an amazing sense of achievement as the race takes its toll on you both mentally and physically. The car was spot on throughout the race, we had a lot of small minor problems but not once did the car have to go into the garage. We changed the setup slightly for the race just to make it a little more consistent and easier to drive, this meant we lost some of our outright speed, but as we knew we couldn't go below a 2:11.00 in the race it would help us to double and treble stint our tyres, which is how you gain an advantage. The start of the race was chaos as expected, but was probably my most enjoyable stint of the race; the atmosphere was crazy! Optimum really showed their strength in running an Endurance GT car. Everything from when we arrived was perfect, the car preparation and maintenance was done to a very high standard. This is the reason we won, as we needed a strong car to go with the strong driver line up. It has taken a while for it to sink in, but now it has it feels really good.”
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to win. I never thought it could happen, as so much luck is also required within a 24-hour race. What a team we had and what a 24-hours. I’m extremely proud of everyone within the team. Optimum were flawless; excellent well drilled and confident mechanics that were on it the whole time. The car was what I was most worried about, but it held up well. We had a few little issues, one being we had to change the steering wheel as the paddle shift was playing up. I boxed early in my first stint as I felt a problem on the rear left and I didn't know what it was at the time, whether fluid was down or if the wheel was loose so I pitted for the team to fix and we were soon on our way. Both Ade and I had a few visibility issues with oil on the windscreen – but we overcame that. I had really good third and fourth stints, and I really enjoyed these two and was able to set the fastest lap also.”
“It is massive to win! I always thought we had a good chance to because I knew how amazing Euan and Brad are, and we were not so bad as Am's with Ade, so it wasn’t really surprising, but still an incredible feeling, managing to finish a 24-hour race, and get to win! For my first three stints the car was good, but my last one had a few issues with braking and understeer. Fortunately we had a good lead, so I was like a Sunday driver on the last stint, just having to cross the finish line. I had one spin on one of my night stints, the green-black SLS jumped in front of me at turn 15 and caused me to lose grip, but it wasn’t a massive one. We had a race to finish and I couldn't have taken the chance of a big contact that would cost us the race. Shaun and his team worked really hard, and didn't sleep for a minute. I honestly feel we couldn't have done this without their commitment. I appreciate that a lot.”