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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What I learned from 2014 Dubai 24 Hours...

Image courtesy of Dailysportscar.com
Endurance racing has never been so exciting. Imagine witnessing a race under the night lights, with Grand Touring cars speeding down the environment at 250 kmh+, overlapping each other, testing each driver's skills under the dark skies while making sure that they drive through the night with their cars free of scratches and technical failures. The race starts from the bright skies in the afternoon, then continues as the sun gradually sets and night comes, and as the sun goes up the next day the race to the finish line is near. That is if it's a 24-hours endurance, with easy mentions such as Daytona 24 Hours, Le Mans 24 Hours, Nurburgring 24 Hours, and Dubai 24 Hours.

Image courtesy of Auto123
This year in January, the round-the-clock endurance racing season kicks off with Dubai holding its 9th edition of its Dubai 24 Hours race, where Grand Tourers and Touring cars race together and try to be consistent and have their cars failure-free throughout one day. What makes it unique is that the series pits together GT cars owned by Pro and Amateur teams, with touring cars of varied specifications, and some road cars that are eligible to race there. This allows for a big number of racers in the race, even bigger than Le Mans that pits Le Mans Prototypes and GT cars does offer, which in this year's case is seventy seven. Yup, I'm not joking, 77. But I'm pretty sure I missed out some more participants that compete on the main race, but based on what I saw in a live timing site, it's 77. You know it's a real deal when there are more competitors than all the circuit's pit garage can hold :p

An SLS AMG GT3 car driving down Dubai, driving in one of the A6 classes. A6 cars are none other than FIA GT3-spec cars with the class once again split into two subcategories of Pro and Pro-Amateur based on the driver lineups. Image courtesy of Dubai 24 by Priocept.


I knew I've posted an article of last year's Le Mans race which was notorious for Allan Simonsen's death after just 14 minutes of race if you look at the endurance racing topic, but this time it's not a recap thingy as I learned two things that are new to me: Code 60, and refueling procedure that's unique to Dubai 24 Hours...

And I thought they were retiring from the race. It turned out they weren't and were refueling their cars... *headscratch*. Image courtesy supplied.


CODE 60 - What's that?


To simply put, Code 60 is a code where all drivers drive no faster than 60 kmh prior to the time the code is given. There's a set lap time for this case, which is 5 minutes and 29 seconds. So why there's a set lap time given prior to Code 60? The answer is if any driver sets a time faster than the mentioned time while Code 60 is still in effect, that driver will be given a penalty. It is a substitute to Safety Cars for this year's Dubai 24 Hours, and would be a potential alternative Safety Car method in the upcoming Le Mans race so to say.

Image courtesy of drivemeonline.com



Here's a complete excerpt of Code 60 from Dubai 24 by Priocept:

"Creventic, the organisers of the Dubai 24 Hours, pioneered a method of neutralising their races in the event of an accident or other safety issue, without having to put a safety car on circuit. This is called “Code 60″, so named because it requires all cars on track to drive at 60km/h.

In the event of an accident or other scenario that requires marshalls or service vehicles to go on track, drivers will see purple Code 60 flags waved at all marshall posts. The Code 60 is also notified to the teams via the timing screens, and can be relayed to drivers via pit-to-car radios.

Once a Code 60 is activated, all cars must slow immediately to 60km/h from their current position and must not pass other cars. The Code 60 may last for less than a full lap, or might last for half an hour or more in the event of a large incident.

Since 60km/h is exactly 1 kilometre per minute, and the track length is 5.39 kilometres, a full Code 60 lap will take 5.39 minutes (5:24). Any cars posting a lap time under this during a Code 60 will receive a drive-through penalty.

How to Drive a Race Car Slowly

Driving a race car at a steady 60km/h is not as trivial as it sounds. Most race engines and transmissions are not the smoothest, or most efficient, at low RPM and low throttle. The top teams have special Code 60 engine maps to switch to, helping with this and reducing fuel consumption to a minimum during the Code 60 period.

The top teams will be aiming to drive each Code 60 lap at 59.9km/h. Expect to see some frustrated GT3 drivers intimidating other drivers into speeding up if they are “only” driving at 55 or 56km/h, as the cars are not allowed to pass during a Code 60 even if a car in front is driving below 60km/h.

Once a Code 60 period ends, cars are immediately free to accelerate flat out from their current position, which makes for some interesting drag racing. There is no coordinated restart at the start/finish line as there would be when a safety car pits. Drivers may struggle to maintain tyre temperature during a long Code 60, and cold tyres can lead to incidents on the restart.

Code 60 Refueling and Repair
The final consideration is refueling and car repair, both of which are allowed during a Code 60. Refuelling during a Code 60 costs about a lap to the rest of the field, compared to 2-3 laps during full race speed. So a huge advantage can be gained by doing a fuel stop under Code 60. But there’s a catch. All refueling at the Dubai 24 Hours is done at a central refueling station, not at the team garages. So this tactic can backfire if a car has to queue at the fuel station because too many other cars had the same idea and all the pumps are in use.
Teams can also use a Code 60 to perform repairs or scheduled maintenance on their cars with minimal loss of position. Many cars will need a full brake change (new discs and pads) at some point in the race, usually around the 12 hour mark, and this takes several minutes. So expect a flurry of mechanics activity and cars back in their garages if a Code 60 occurs during the night or early hours."

REFUELING METHOD


Also unique from other round-the-clock races, refueling is done on the pre-determined refueling station which resembles your everyday gas station where you refuel your car. Although for nine seasons this kind of refueling is no stranger if you follow the Dubai 24 Hours before I do, I thought it's interesting to show a different way of refueling in endurance races...


By no question this race has to be the most unique series with refueling procedure has its own place. I don't know if Nurburgring 24 Hours also do this because I haven't watched one but until I checked on Nurburgring 24 more, I can say that the refueling in Dubai is the most unique. It's like your run-of-the-mill gas station where everything is usual except the customers are race cars, grand tourers and touring cars, and refueling there is free of charge.

Glad that I caught the Dubai 24 Hours's Live Stream albeit I don't do it on frequently basis due to my limited quota (and the fact that I can't even bother to do big download antics from afternoon to 23:59 as I only have 1 GB there aside from the usual 11 GB from midnight to 11:59). While this is the first time I could catch an endurance race Indonesia cannot into (Indonesians are just into random twerks tbh -_-), I could learn new things that other endurance races don't.

Image courtesy of Dubai 24 Hours by Priocept (same link as the previous one)
Congratulations to the #20 Stadler Motorsport who managed to take their win after 603 laps throughout 24 hours, and please don't eat your heart out #2 Black Falcon Racing a.k.a the one with Jeroen Bleekemolen a.k.a the last year's victor, completing the podium behind ALL-INKL.com Munnich Motorsport isn't all bad ;)

And congratulations for all participants who survived this race albeit numerous reparations and most importantly teams that clinched their individual classes' podiums and win, especially GT Academy (yay Ordonez!) teams and Racing Divas (the Dutch all-girl racing team).

Further Readings:
Motorsports.com article
Dubai24 by Priocept's article, complete with podiums for each class
7 Reasons why this year's Dubai 24 is the best @ Crank and Piston.com
Speedhunters article from a person's PoV

~[R]

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