Spa-Francorchamps: Peugeot and Audi top the bill!
The Spa-Francorchamps 1000-kms race on 7th May is part of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup for the first time. It has attracted an exceptional field, unfortunately without Aston Martin.
Aston Martin confirmed yesterday that it would not enter its AMR-ONES for the Spa-Francorchamps 1000 kms. This withdrawal is due to the fact that Aston Martin Racing has decided it needs more time to continue preparing and testing its two cars. The British team has decided to give the second round of the ILMC a miss, so as not to compromise its participation in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Despite the absence of the two English machines, the Belgian race has attracted a fantastic entry. Fifty-seven cars will take to the track (one more than in the coming Le Mans 24 Hours). There are thirty-two prototypes in the LM P categories, and twenty-five cars in the Grand Touring one (GTE). Eight manufacturers are officially represented, thirteen former F1 drivers will take part and battles of a never-before-seen intensity will rage on the Ardennes circuit in all five categories!
Two weeks after the Le Mans 24-Hours test day and four before the big Le Mans week, the Belgian event will, more than ever before, serve as a general rehearsal for forty-three of the fifty-six cars entered in the world-famous Sarthe classic.
The Spa-Francorchamps 1000 kms lasting a quarter of the Le Mans race (the Belgian classic has retained its 1000-km label, but its duration will be exactly six hours) will be a sprint. The crowd will be able to see the first real battle between the four Peugeot 908s, the three works cars and the Oreca-entered 908 HDi FAP (the 2010 car adapted to the 2011 regs) driven by Panis-Lapierre-Duval to victory in the Sebring 12 Hours, and the three new Audi R18s. The Ingolstadt make, which has multiplied its test sessions mainly in the United Sates as well as last weekend at the Le Mans test day, will have its official race baptism in Belgium with its prototypes that now have a roof! On paper anyway, the battle for victory at Spa will take place between the seven diesels, as will also be the case in the Sarthe next month.
However in endurance, taking into account the importance of reliability, the influence of the weather, strategy as well as the risk of collisions, an upset can never be ruled out.
Challengers like the Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyotas, the Pescarolo-Judd (not entered for the ILMC but in the LMS, which shares the Spa race) that emerged victorious in the Le Castellet 6 Hours at the beginning of April, cannot be excluded. The performance of the Oreca Swiss Hy Terch Hybrid Oreca entered by Hope Racing will also be watched with much interest.
In addition to the seventeen LM P1s present, there is a rich and varied field in LM P2. American team Level 5 Motorsports’ Honda won the category in the United States last month. The test day on 24th April proved yet again the real potential of the Signatech-Nissan team’s Oreca-Nissan.
In the GTE Pro category, the Ferrari F458 Italias (Luxury Racing is running its second car and AF Corse is replacing the F430 GT seen at Sebring), the works BMW M3s and Porsche 997 RSRs will be locked in a ding-dong battle. Like Sebring, where BMW scored a thrilling double, the outcome will not be decided until the last hour – or even in the closing minutes or on the last lap! The race debut of the Lotus Evoras is not to be missed.
In GTE Am, the Larbre Competition Corvette and the AMR Middle East Gulf Aston Martin will try to break the Ferrari-Porsche monopoly. At Sebring, the Krohn Racing Ferrari F430 GT finally emerged victorious after a tough battle.
The supporting events include the Radical Eurocup and ATS F3 races as well as the new Speed Series. A rich entertainment program is also being laid on: race simulators, competitions with radio-controlled cars, the presence of authors of cartoon books in partnership with the OAK Racing team who will hand out albums to the kids, plus circus artists and musicians, will all add to the life and fun in the paddock. There will also be the first “Soirée de l’Endurance’ with free entrance and drinks for the spectators in the circuit Brasserie after the race!