MONDAY 17 JANUARY 2011
FUN, FRIENDS AND FAST FAILURE AT THE 24 HOURS OF DUBAI
Allan Simonsen rates the Dubai Autodromo, as one of the top five circuits in the world. That would mean it's right up there with the French classic, La Sarthe (24 Hours of Le Mans), Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, Mount Panorama in the New South Wales town of Bathurst, Australia, along with the recently re-established San Luis circuit in Argentina, that snakes its way around a volcanic lake – Potreros de los Funes.

Allan explains why he likes the Middle Eastern track...

"Dubai International has been cleverly designed. It's one of the few circuits that provide a strong technical challenge and enough ashphalt run off area that gives a driver an opportunity to push very hard without ending up in a sand pit.

"I like it a great deal beacuse it allows multiple lines on many corners and that is really valuable when you have a field of 90 cars doing an around-the-clock race.

"There is a huge speed differential between the outright class and the minor leagues and so the overall technicality makes it very satisfying for a driver when you calculate a passing manoevre from a half a dozen corners back.

"And Dubai itself is a fantastic place to visit and so different from Denmark, especially at this time of year."


An '06 spec 997 Cup Car – it was all about having fun

With winter in full swing, throughout Europe, Allan and his partner, Carina, decided to enjoy a few extra days of relaxation in the sun, prior to the race. Allan had wanted to visit Ferrari World, in Abu Dhabi – it had recently opened and was well worth the visit.

"It's funny going there, said Allan. "I look at it from a tourist point of view of course, with the mega rollercoaster and all things that represent Ferrari and then I pinch myself.

"I sort of forget that I spend most of the year racing Ferrari's at the highest level! In fact 2011 will see me in the most diverse array of the Italian weaponry yet. We have a new 458 Italia GT2 coming for the Le Mans Series (and the 24 Hour after gaining an automatic entry from their 2nd place in GT2 in 2010) so that presents a huge new challenge for me. On top of that we will continue to use our trusty F430 GT2 for tyre testing, the F430 GT3 Scuderia in British GT3 and I'll do a bunch of Australian GT races down under with my old mate Nick O'Halloran, in a F430 GT3. So its sort of funny, because you actually see images of your own race car there at Ferrari World!"


Ferrari World - just opening and a must see!

For the 2011 race, Allan took a call from an old mate, Gabrio Rosa asking if he could join him and bunch of mates in an aging Porsche 997 Cup Car. Clearly it wasn't the outright car that Allan was used to...

In 2008, Allan teamed with Lars Erik Nielsen in the same Autorlando RSR they'd taken to 3rd place in the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans. Despite qualifying on the front row and leading the race, it had been cut short when a slower car left Lars no room, forcing him off track at high speed and into a roll. DNF.

2009 had also been a mess, after yet another front row start. Similarly, Allan's team mate, Francisco Cruz Martin was violently rear-ended by an out of control car, shortening the expensive Porsche by a metre. DNF.

And so it was agreed that a finish was the target along with some fun.

With only two hours of practice, it was vital that the other drivers got as much seat time as possible. Joining Gabrio was his son Giorgio, Stefano Crotti and Mauro Casadei. Allan concentrated on setup and feedback to the engineers.

It wasn't long before things were going wrong – Giorgio pitted with over temperature alarms blazing. All they could do is hope the engine had not beed subjected to excessive heat and would be ok for the race.

Naturally, qualifying duties were left to Allan, who put in a 110% lap to gain 3rd position in class.

With Gabrio on start duties, Allan jumped the pit wall to wish him good luck, only to find that he'd lightweighted the car somewhat.

"I don't need any water, Allan, said Gabrio. I'm a bit of a camel anyway, especially here in Dubai. I've got what I need."

In place of the water bottle was a pack of Marlboro Red! Funny.

The field went on the citing lap, ready for the rolling start, but Gabrio wasn't there – a sudden gearbox problem left him without the top two gears.

It would take over an hour to rectify.


Mercedes SLS GT3 was 3rd outright on its world debut

Four hours later, having clawed back up the field, with a not-so-great engine, it was all over. The engine had expired. Twenty hours short.

Twenty hours later, a BMW Z4 GT3 would take victory, from a Ferrari 430 GT3. In third, making its world debut, was a Mercedes AMG SLS GT3.

With so much time now on his hands, Allan was asked by a clever British media representitive, what his plans would be for the rest of the event.

"Well there isn't much point hanging around here for hours, I'll guess we'll all head to the pub, early, returned Allan.

"Oh, really, said the rep. This is a Muslim country, you know Allan....."