Triple Eight Racing will make its debut in the one of the most demanding races in the world, the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai, this week (8-10 January 2015) for its first attempt at a 24-hour race, armed with the venerable BMW Z4 GT3 to take part in the A6 class and contest overall honours.
Joe Osborne (GBR), Lee Mowle (GBR), Jacques Duyver (BEL) and Charlie Hollings (GBR) will drive the #8 BMW, and all four have past experience of endurance events, with Osborne and Mowle Dubai 24H SP3 class victors in 2012 with Optimum Motorsport.
Previously, the longest race contested by the Greatworth-based team was the final race of the Blancpain Endurance Series, the Nürburgring 1000km, some six hours in duration – a mere quarter of the length of the Dubai 24.
“Competing at a 24 hour race is always special,” said Keith Cheetham, Triple Eight Racing’s GT Programme Director. “It’s the ultimate proving ground for a race team and is highly important ahead of the 2015 season. With little else happening on track in January, all eyes focus on this race, so a good result is critical. It’s our first 24-hour race as Triple Eight, which is an important box to tick, but the experience of both the crew and the driving talent is high and we’re optimistic about what we can realistically achieve.
“The rule of events like this are to ensure that first of all the car finishes; a podium would get 2015 started in the right way that’s for sure, but I’d be lying if I said we ever go to a race with anything other than winning in mind.”
Across the board hopes are high for success in Triple Eight’s Dubai debut with the BMW Z4. Three of the past nine victors have been produced by the Bavarian marque (the last in 2011), and since the end of the 2014 race season, the new GT crew assembled by Cheetham (himself appointed in August 2014), have worked closely with BMW Motorsport to understand the intricacies of the Z4.
The combination of two driver pairings that have been cemented for over four years is critical to the preparation of longer race events, and there are few Pro-Am relationships that have lasted quite as long as that of Joe Osborne and Lee Mowle. The pairing have worked together since 2011 and this will be the fourth consecutive 24 Hours of Dubai the pair has contested together.
Osborne, had a mixed 2014, hampered by an unflattering Balance of Performance for the Z4 in British GT, while tasting success in the Blancpain Endurance Series with MP Motorsports’ Aston Martin. The BRDC SuperStar is particularly excited about getting back racing after the off-season and even more so about that return being in Dubai.
“The event is huge and very important, it’s great to be a part of it,” said Osborne. “It’s a real cliché to say it’s a long race, but it is. There can be surprises that come up, especially with 90 plus cars taking the start. It’ll be great to put the Z4 through its paces on another F1-spec track having driven this before in the Ginetta. Lee’s great fun to drive with and I know this race is as important for him as it is for me. He’s hungry for success and wants to right some wrongs, so we’re not short of ambition. Triple Eight really have got a fantastic team together and we now have some particularly useful people on-board, so we shouldn’t struggle to adapt to the Hankook rubber and won’t be chasing a setup in those vital qualifying sessions.”
Triple Eight’s co-owner, Mowle, is looking to start 2015 in the best way possible and with two seasons of British GT under his belt in the Z4, has the experience required to push for a class result.
“I feel confident we can get a decent result out of the race,” commented Mowle. “It’s exciting to be part of Triple Eight’s first foray in 24 hour racing, and we’ve made progress with the Z4, so hopefully we should be there or there abouts at the end of the race; the fast and flowing nature of the Dubai circuit will suit the BMW. With such a big field of cars and varying levels of experience I think we’ll see quite a few code 60s, and certainly the opening part of the race could be a bit hairy and will require a sensible head.
“Jacques and Charlie are a welcome addition to the team, we’ve got to know each other well from competing against each other over the past two years, so it will be great to have them in our garage; hopefully everything aligns and I’d love to see us on the podium on Saturday afternoon.”
The twice-around-the-clock endurance classic will be the first time that Duyver and Hollings have raced the Z4 GT3, with the majority of Duyver’s experience coming in Ferraris where he has raced GT3 and Challenge spec 458s. Since the tail end of the 2014 race season Duyver and Hollings have completed just shy of 700 kilometers in the BMW and found it easy to drive over a mix of long and short runs. Despite having not raced in a 24-hour race before, Belgian businessman Duyver is up for the challenge.
“I’ve not raced in Dubai before,” adds Duyver. “The race has a lot of appeal for me and has challenges that I haven’t experienced to date. There’s a huge grid of cars, all at varying speeds, so it will be a marked difference to the sprint and same class endurance racing I’ve done previously; it adds another dimension to one’s driving skills.
“It’s my first time racing the BMW and I’m pleased Charlie and I have an opportunity to run with Triple Eight in Dubai. I tested the car in early 2014 and it felt like something I’d not experienced before and I knew it was a car I’d like to race one day, so when Lee said there were seats available, I was only too happy to get involved. I know the team would like to go for a class win, but as we all know, there are so many factors that need to work in ones favor in a 24-hour race. Personally my goals are to do a double stint in the car at a good and consistent pace, and set myself up for Spa and maybe even Le Mans in the years to come.”
Hollings has no shortage of 24-hour experience, and was in the Dubai 24 pole-sitting car in 2012 before a mechanical issue saw the car retired after five hours of racing. The British racer is hopeful of a good weekend and looking forward to working with Triple Eight.
Hollings: “Dubai is getting bigger every season and the list of drivers and teams competing continues to get stronger; it’s up there with Daytona, Spa, Nurburgring and Le Mans. To be driving for a team like Triple Eight gives a huge amount of confidence in the race too. It’s also great for Jacques and I to be able to team up with Lee and Joe. We all know each other well and there will be a great atmosphere between us I’m sure.”