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The 2021 season got off to a fantastic start with another great result for Team WRT at the Hankook Dubai 24 Hour race where the five-driver team, including Penrith’s Frank Bird, finished in an excellent second place.

In the 16th running of the race in the sunny United Arab Emirates that traditionally opens the GT3 endurance calendar, the Audi R8 LMS of the Belgian squad produced a very strong and faultless performance whereby the efforts of the team and of its drivers, GT stars Dries Vanthoor and Kelvin van der Linde, young guns Frank Bird and Benjamin Goethe and top amateur racer Louis Machiels were rewarded by finishing runner-up to the locally-based GPX Racing Porsche 911.

The weekend started well with positive feedback for the team’s Audi, despite having to concede the very top positions to some of the rival cars with better top speed. The Team WRT quintet were seventh and eighth in the two free practice sessions, fifth in the night practice and qualified in tenth overall.

At the start of the race on Friday afternoon, with experienced South African van der Linde at the wheel, they quickly gained some positions, running seventh initially before climbing more positions thanks to great pit stops and good stints from Louis Machiels, Frank Bird and Benjamin Goethe and at the six-hour mark, they were up to sixth overall.

The position further improved, and they were up to fourth by the nine-hour mark but the gaps between front-runners were unfortunately increased by the effects of a number and sometimes lengthy ‘code 60’ (full course yellow) periods. However, at mid-race distance, Vanthoor started a sensational charge, setting several fastest lap times, meaning the faultlessly-running Audi started to close the gap.

Team WRT then moved into second place and with further excellent drives, including by 21-year-old Frank who was making his debut at the event, they chased the leaders relentlessly and reduced the margin to just one lap after 600 laps around the Dubai Autodrome after 24 hours of running.

Frank Bird: “What a way to start the season and what a first race for me with Team WRT. All the drivers did a perfect job, we let the race come to us, making no mistakes on track and in the pit stops, which played a massive part. The Audi was fantastic too so a big thanks to all the team, engineers, and my team-mates. Hopefully, it’s the first of many podiums this year.”

Team Principal Vincent Vosse: “It’s a great way to start the season and the best possible result, as we did not have the same speed as the winning car. The entire team and all the drivers did a fantastic job, there wasn’t a single mistake or problem, so we can be very happy with the result.”

24 Hours Series – Round 1
Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai, UAE, 13-16 January 2021
Race Result
1. Jeffires-Fatien-Jaminet-Andlauer-Ferté (Porsche 911 R) – 600 laps
2. Bird-Goethe-Machiels-van der Linde-Vanthoor (Audi R8 LMS) + 1 lap
3. Haupt-Engel-Assenheimer-Ratcliffe-Al Qubaisi (Mercedes AMG) + 1 lap
4. Ineichen-Bortolotti-Amstutz-Breukers (Lamborghini Huracán) + 2 laps
5. Al Qubaisi-Pierburg-Scholze-Assenheimer-Bastian (Mercedes AMG) + 8 laps

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Pictures courtesy of Michele Scudiero

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