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Gosia Rdest clinches class win in shortened Dubai 24H

Polish W-Series driver Gosia Rdest clinched class victory in a shortened 24 Hours of Dubai heavily affected by torrential rain.

Like every new year, we spent the first weeks of January eagerly awaiting for the first official event of the racing season: it's like a tradition for most of the motorsport addicted: the 24 hours of Dubai finally kicked-off 2020, with a quality field of female drivers on the grid among the 77 teams.

Polish W-Series driver Gosia Rdest made her fifth start in the classic winter endurance race at Dubai Autodrome and was joined by GT ace Rahel Frey, as well as by Slovakian-born and German-based Katarina Kyvalova and Canadian Samantha Tan. Following a last minute call, W-Series runner-up and BMW Motorsport official driver Beitske Visser was a welcomed addition to the entry list, racing for team 3Y Technology.

"I am very happy that I am starting here, it is a great warm-up before the season." - said Rdest before the event. This year, she joined the ranks of Molitor Racing Systems team, at the wheel of a Porsche 991-II Cup.

"My team partners are experienced drivers. I can not wait. The key to success will be regularity and a bit of luck" - said the Polish lady during the practice days in the Emirates.

Rdest qualified the car in 7th place, while Ollie Hanckock took the start of the race. Gosia got behind the wheel for the second stint and, among mixed weather conditions, left the #989 Porsche in the hands of her teammates in third class position.

"First stint done. I started at day, finished at night - I’m really satisfied." - she commented.

"The conditions on track were variable, twice during my driving stint it was raining."

Beitske Visser started the race at the wheel of the BMW M4 in the GT4 class and, after a trouble-free first race stints by all her teammates, she went back on track for her second driving shift. As the night approached and the rain fell down with increasing intensity, Beitske started to lament engine issues and pitted. The engineers tried to fix the problem, but the 3Y Technology crew lost several laps from the class frontrunners, ultimately rejoining 16 laps down.

A couple of hours later, the problem persisted.

The Dubai Autodrome witnessed heavy showers throughout the weekend, with several support races being affected. But, as the race entered its night hours, the rain became more and more of an issue for safety. At 22:17, a red flag was deployed for the extreme weather conditions and all the competitors stopped their cars on the main straight.

"Aquaplaning even at 60 km/h. We absolutely can’t go. Standing water and no visibility." - said Rdest, who had jumped into the #989 Porsche again for her second stint and moved up into the 991 class lead. "We’re waiting for the official info further what to do now."

Race promoters and officials delayed the restart as the rainfall continued. The situation then dramatically deteriorated when the flooding started to extend to the whole racetrack, pitlane and garages. Circuit infrastructures and the roads around the track were also affected. After several hours of waiting, organizers made the final decision to end the competition.

"Despite the best effort of Dubai Autodrome staff and officials to resolve the situation on track, the water level on track and in the pit lane continued to rise throughout the night.

In mutual agreement, Creventic and Dubai Autodrome have decided not to resume the race on grounds of safety." - read the official release.

After approximately 7 hours of racing, the race was declared completed, with Khaled Al Qubaisi (father of the Al Qubaisi sisters, Amna and Hamda) winning the overal classification for Black Falcon Mercedes AMG, together with teammates Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Barker, Hubert Haupt and Manuel Metzger.

Gosia Rdest, Jukka Honkavuori, John Hartshorne, and Ollie Hancock claimed class victory in the 991 category for Molitor Racing Systems: it was Gosia's second win at the Dubai 24H, after the 2018 GT4 class win and last year's second place in the 991 class. It was also her fourth consecutive podium in the competition.

"I am very happy about the win. The race in Dubai is a great opportunity to warm up before the full season. I am satisfied with the really good work of the team and the well prepared car. Of course I regret that we didn't cover the whole distance but the track conditions really didn't allow it."

"I've never seen that amount of water on the track! The fact that winning after a full distance would taste even better, but I am happy with our pace, team work, preparation and two laps advantage over the second car in the class after 8 hours of the race."

"A very quick and good start to the season. Many thanks to the whole Molitor-Racing-Systems for team spirit and well prepared car. The overall goal - finishing the race a little higher than last year - has been achieved." - she concluded.

BMW Motorsport official driver Beitske Visser echoed on the very difficult track conditions: "24H Dubai turned into 7H, it started raining so hard that the track became a swimming pool so it was impossible to continue driving. But was great to be here anyway!"

The team was classified 57th overall and 11th in GT4, after enduring the engine troubles.

Katarina Kyvalova was the woman highest finisher in the GT4 class, ending 6th after starting from the 7th grid slot: "After one double stint and only 7 hours of racing, Dubai 24H was over, we stranded 6th in the class. Torrential rain turned the circuit in to a huge lake so unfortunately it wasn’t possible to resume. At least not in race cars. Big shout out to the whole Ciceley Motorsport team for their hard work and to my fab team mates Jake Giddings, Jon Minshaw, Jack Butel and Adam Morgan who gave everything in to it! Again not lucky with this one, but I’m not giving up, one day I’ll finish here."

Samantha Tan, who was at the wheel of the #438 BMW when the red flag was shown, was just behind in 7th GT4 place: "Unfortunately, the 24H of Dubai was canceled due to heavy rain at 7am today... We were red flagged around 10:30pm because the track became a lake."

Her Samantha Tan Racing entry claimed pole position thanks to a record-breaking lap by Nick Wittmer, but the team dropped down the order in the opening hour of the race, only to recover up until seventh place four hours into the competition.

"Although we would’ve liked to have continued racing for the podium, I’m still so proud of our hardworking team & especially Nick Wittmer for setting the GT4 track lap record during qualifying! We’ll get em next time boys. Thank you to all the 24H Series officials for trying their best to get the event running again and for keeping everyone safe." - she posted on her social media feeds.

Rahel Frey was eighth in GT4 class and P41 overall, racing this weekend for Heide Motorsport. The Swiss lady, together with Alex Welch, Heinz Schmersal and Mike Beckhusen was fastest during the night practice, but qualified 5th.

"Due to extremely heavy rainfall in Dubai it was simply not possible to race any longer - the Hankook 24H Dubai 2020 turned out to be a 8H sprint race." - added Rahel.

Frey will now head back to the US, where she will get ready for another legendary 24 hours race: the Rolex Daytona 24, as she will line up in the all-female GEAR Racing by Grasser team together with Katherine Legge, Tatiana Calderon and Christina Nielsen.

In Gosia's words:

"I've never seen that amount of water on the track! The fact that winning after a full distance would taste even better, but I am happy with our pace, team work, preparation and two laps advantage over the second car in the class after 8 hours of the race."

Torrential rain affected the circuit infrastructures - Ph: 24H SERIES

Cover ph credits: Gosia Rdest



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