Gremlins at work: No chance of top-class result for Benjamin Mazatis in 24 Hours of Dubai

350 drivers, 74 cars, 30 degree heat and 24 hours of race action! The 24 Hours of Dubai was staged last weekend. Benjamin Mazatis drove Reiter Engineering’s KTM X-Bow in the SPX class. The team had invited him to compete at short notice, and he had immediately said ‘yes!’

Mazatis was tasked with finishing on the podium in class along with team-mates Adam Galas, Jan Krabec and Nicolai Elghanayan. As the team’s fastest crew member, he was given the job of driving in qualifying.

Team-mate Elghanayan took the first stint in the race but was back in the pits after just 30 minutes. The KTM X-Bow’s engine had caught fire for reasons unknown. Although a repair seemed almost hopeless, their mechanics got to work and the KTM X-BOW actually went back out on track some seven hours later. Despite having no real chance of success in the overall standings, Mazatis and his team-mates showed their fighting spirit and tried to regain lost ground. Their efforts went unrewarded, because they were forced to retire for good with another technical problem just half-an-hour before the chequered flag finally fell.

Three questions for Benjamin Mazatis

You had the honour of qualifying for the team. Did you find that especially challenging?
Yes, indeed! I was the fastest crew member in practice and my good performance made me the favourite to drive in the quali. Also, my team-mates decided that I should go out and qualify. I felt slightly more under pressure than is usually the case, because it was my responsibility to achieve a good result for the other three as well. What’s more, getting a clear lap with some 56 GT cars out on track was not easy. Still, I was absolutely thrilled with my hot time. The back-end stepped out briefly and I hit traffic at one point, but there would only have been two tenths of a second in it at most.

What did you drivers do during your temporary retirement?
We were all still pumped up with adrenaline, as the race had just started when Nicolai reappeared in the pits. Nobody really thought we’d ever get back out again – not even the mechanics themselves. Still, they went about their work and actually got the car restarted during the night – they did an absolutely amazing job! The atmosphere was incredible when the car finally sprang back into life, really tense. Despite being hopelessly behind, we were all still really fired up, because you never quite know what might happen in a 24-hour race.

How did it feel to have such a big deficit in the race?
We all obviously knew at that point that it would be impossible to fight for a top-class result. Our goal was to do a bit of testing and blow away the winter cobwebs – which I didn’t find at all necessary in the end. We managed to catch up quite well. My night stint proved to be pretty tough, because some of the lights didn’t work, and I had to approach the turns blind. Also, the turbo was late kicking in again. Things were much better once it got light, and we even managed to pull out a lead on our rivals and were really competitive. Unfortunately, our race didn’t end well, because we had another technical problem just half-an-hour before the finish. I felt especially sorry for our mechanics, who really deserved to see the chequered flag after all their hard work.