Delayed by engine failure earlier in the week, Eastalent Racing’s Peter and Simon Reicher have admitted that neither expected to celebrate outright victory at this year’s Hankook 24H DUBAI.
Eastalent Racing team principal Peter Reicher did not expect an overall win on the team’s first run at the Hankook 24H DUBAI, a weekend that started with engine failure for the #54 Audi R8 LMS ahead of Qualifying.
The German newcomer, having headed the field for the majority of the event – despite resistance by Getspeed, Attempto Racing and eventual runner-up Proton Huber Competition – eventually led 493 of the total 603 completed laps en-route to its first 24-hour race win. In doing so, the German team secured the fourth overall event win for Audi Sport and became the 12th different outfit to take outright victory at the Hankook 24H DUBAI in the 19 editions run since 2006.
Despite his team’s controlled performance, Reicher admits that thoughts of a win were far from his mind on the build-up to the race.
“It’s unbelievable!” Reicher explains. “Our first 24-hour race and then a victory. If I’m honest, I expected everything, but not this.
“In your wildest dreams you imagine yourself on the podium. But let’s be honest, even though each and every one of us has been involved in motorsport for many years, as a newcomer, it is anything but easy to manage such a task. Only after we realized in the free practice sessions that we were keeping up with the best did we think about setting higher goals. Winning a 24-hour race is a really big number in motorsport.
“I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved. And by that I mean everyone on our team who gave 120 per cent to ensure success. Everyone is hungry.”
Reicher’s son Simon, back for his second Hankook 24H DUBAI in 2024 alongside Mike Zhou, Gilles Magnus, and Audi Sport PROs Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock, was similarly dazzled, given that an engine failure curtailed the Audi’s run during Thursday’s private testing.
“I generally traveled to Dubai with mixed feelings,” S.Reicher continues. “Our goal was to compete with the best. But we didn’t really know where we stood. It wasn’t until the private training sessions that it looked as if we could keep up with the top ten teams. But then everything that could go wrong went wrong.
“It all started with an engine failure. After our mechanics gave it their all and installed a new engine, we couldn’t find a suitable setup. And it went on like this with lots of little things. Qualifying went surprisingly well with 6th place. That also met our expectations and impressed me.
“I wouldn’t have expected [the win] at all before the weekend. In a 24-hour race you have to get there first – that’s difficult enough. Winning a championship like the international GT Open was a huge thing for me,” – Reicher and Haase took the overall Drivers’ title, competing with Eastalent Racing – “but winning a 24-hour race is a completely different matter. Mind, body and machine have to work together at an extremely high level for 24 hours. This is extremely tiring. If you want to be at the front, you have to deliver perfectly every lap. And that’s exactly what makes it so special. Emotionally it has its own significance.”
From 6th on the grid, and thanks to a strong start by Winkelhock, the Eastalent Racing Team Audi was quickly in the mix for the overall lead, and eventually taking the top spot for the first time on lap 36, less than an hour in. Aided both by its drivers’ pace and solid strategy during the early Code 60s, Eastalent took a more decisive grip on the lead during the fourth hour, though it continued to swap intermittently between the #54 Audi and the #9 Getspeed Mercedes. When the Mercedes was forced to retire with a fuel flow issue during the night, the Eastalent Audi found itself with a one-lap cushion. Ironically, it’s next challenger – Attempto Racing – would also retire from 2nd place during the night when the #99 Audi R8 suffered a failure on its right rear corner. Though new rival Proton Huber Competition, also on its GT3 debut at the event, kept the leader honest for the remainder of the event, and even closed the gap to just over 90 seconds during the final stint, Eastalent Racing Team was able to maintain its lead to the chequered flag.
Unlike his teammates, Christopher Haase, now a two-time winner after his first overall Hankook 24H DUBAI win in 2019, had victory in-mind from the beginning, though admits the reality still came as a surprise…
“The goal of driving for victory was already on our agenda. We are racing drivers. As a rule, we can’t handle 2nd place very well. We honestly gave everything, especially mentally, to achieve this goal, but I still didn’t fully expect a win.
“We were able to make our mark in the competition with our very strong and fast competitors. We set the pace for more than 20 hours while we were in the lead. Not only our competitors had their difficulties, we also had our problems. Since we made the fewest mistakes overall, we deserved to win. I’m very proud of that.”
Though Peter Reicher has not yet confirmed whether the Eastalent Racing Team will compete further with the 24H SERIES in 2024, a return to the Hankook 24H DUBAI could potentially be on the cards in 2025…
“Today we enjoy the sweet honey of victory before we sit down at home and analyze our mistakes. This was definitely not our last 24-hour race. After all, we got off to a first-class start in 2024. We would like to take this positive momentum into the 2024 season. We would like to start defending our GT Open title without any expectations. And we know, we will have to fight hard again in 2024 and cope with setbacks. All in all, Dubai was a great success that we will now build on.”