South African Bradley Liebenberg impressed on his international endurance race debut at the Dubai Autodrome. The young star formed part of the victorious CWS Engineering quartet who celebrated the Class SP3 win during the Hankook 24H Dubai endurance race that took place on Friday, January 12 to Saturday, January 13, 2018. The driver line-up also included compatriot Simon Murray as well as two drivers from England: Jac Constable and team owner Colin White.
Liebenberg comes from a strong karting background and has won the national DD2 category on four consecutive occasions. He has also represented his country on the global stage in this format. 2015 Saw him make his saloon car debut in the ultra-competitive Engen Volkswagen Cup with defending champions Signature Motorsport. 2016 Saw him just missing out on the title in this category, but his performance opened the door to his debut with the team in the premier Sasol GTC Championship. Driving his Ferodo liveried MINI John Cooper Works GTC2, he claimed the team and manufacturer’s maiden race victory in the fifth race of the season. Liebenbeg’s prolific rise through the ranks caught the attention of CWS Engineering and thanks to support from Murray as well as Simpson Racing, he found himself being confirmed as one of the drivers participating in the Ginetta G55.
During Thursday’s qualifying session Liebenberg secured the team’s second place grid position. White completed the team’s opening stint with Murray and Constable conducting the rest of the running during sunlight and dusky conditions. Despite dropping to fifth place in their class during the initial stages, the team worked their way back to the second by the time that Liebenberg started his first stint.
A major concern was Liebenberg’s lack of night racing experience; especially as his night session on Thursday was also severely compromised by stoppages. Liebenberg countered these concerns by finishing his two hour stint with the team not only leading the class, but also the Touring Car Endurance race; the so-called race within a race.
With Murray and Constable retaining this lead, drama struck for the team during the twelfth hour. A gearbox failure saw them stationary in the pits for 45 minutes. Fortunately a portion of this also coincided with a Code-60; a situation similar to a Virtual Safety Car where no competitor is allowed to circulated at more than 60 km/h. They didn’t sacrifice their position in the class during this period, but when Constable left the pits they’ve dropped to fourteenth position in the TCE race; 23 laps down on the leader. Liebenberg was the next to get behind the wheel for another two hour stint during which he posted a set of consistently fast laps despite having to conserve fuel. His stint ended with the team gaining back five laps in the TCE race.
Liebenberg’s last opportunity behind the wheel came when he undertook the penultimate stint with just under three hours remaining. This saw him set another host of fast laps including the team’s fastest lap of the race; this despite tyres which were very worn.
Murray had the privilege of bringing the Ginetta home with the team victorious in the SP3 class. The valiant efforts from the entire team couple with the determination of the driving quartet saw them recovering to sixth position in the TCE race at the end.
Story by Reynard Gelderblom – Signature Motorsport