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Preview – 2010 24 Hours of Spa

by Nathan Heywood
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

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The grueling
Action in last year's wet race
24 Hours of Spa? What’s to say?   

Classic? One of the first ever circuit races breaking the point-to-point mould.

Iconic? As a venue certainly.

Always terrific? Well.....we shall see.

I’m certainly up for it as Spa has been in my Top Five must see racetracks since I was a schoolboy and this year, finally, I get to go to cover it for AutoRacing1.com. For the record; the others include in an ever changing order, Le Mans, Laguna Seca, Nürburgring (old), Silverstone, and Bathurst.

Is it just me or can any racetrack be improved with a big hill thrown into the middle of it? I digress, but L’eau Rouge would still be red and watery without the hill after it, just not half as impressive or plain flat-out scary.

SRO, having recently released the provisional list of entries for the 2010 24 hours of Spa weekend, detail for us the potential combatants for the title and, potentially, there are 44 cars that will do battle with the demanding circuit as well as with each other. Provided, of course, that there is no repeat of the large number of late withdrawals seen in previous years.

Given such a large field, one might assume that it would be difficult to pick oneself a favorite and just possibly a winner. There are, quite naturally, some likely lads looking to make a name for themselves, some old stagers back for a shot at the limelight, and some Gentlemen Drivers out to enjoy themselves.

Whom to choose then?

Well, the smart money goes on an Audi, and the romantic says a Belgian home win. If this theory holds true then last year’s GT1 winner Anthony Kumpen (Belgian) returning to race in the Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS (last year’s G2 winner*) should be locked-on.

That said, there are some cool heads flying the Star - Spangled Banner for United Autosports’ in their Audi R8 LMS, step forward Zak Brown, Richard Dean, and Eddie Cheever? Yes, THE owner/driver 82nd Indy 500 winning Edward McKay Cheever, Jr.  no less, whom as well as Mark Blundell and Stefan Johansson must surely have stretched the amateur driver regulations of GT3 by a fair distance. We wish the only American team entered ‘all the best of British luck’ for the race.

Which leads me on nicely to my picks for the weekend; any number are in with a shout and, short of sticking a pin, narrowing the field is highly subjective and opinions vary as you would expect. But … there are British entries amongst the provisional entries and one in each class. Easy peasy then; I’ll take Team Jota’s Aston Martin Vantage N24 in GTN, RJN Motorsport’s Nissan 370Z in the GT4 class, the RPM entered Ford GT in GT3 and last, but by no means least, Trackspeed’s Porsche 997 GT3-RSR, owned and driven by David Ashburn, entered into the GT2 class.

Trackspeed are a somewhat surprising entry in that they normally race GT3 in the FIA GT3 European Championship formula and a GT2 car maybe something of a one-off for them. Not only because of SRO shortening the GT2 2010 ‘season’ to a single race, but also because it is allowed to run the Avon rubber from the supplier to their GT3 sister Porsches when all of the others are on Michelins, apart from the BMW M3s bringing their Dunlop’s to the party that is.

With a week to go until the engines turn over in earnest it’s all still up for grabs and any number of them could drop out before setting rubber on the track for free practice and GT3 pre-qualification sessions.

Qualifying proper kicks-off Thursday 27th July and sees the GT2 cars up first and going at it F1-style with a three-stage knockout qualifier, the last two of which are at night. Game on.

*The 2009 G2 class was for non-homologated cars such that have since been verified and now form part of the 2010 GT3 classification.

Scenes from 2009 24 Hours of Spa
by Gary Parravani

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