|The #25 Audi crosses the line to win|
For the fourth time, after earlier success in 2011, 2012 and 2014, an Audi was the first car across the line in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the world’s biggest GT3 race and the undisputed season highlight of the Blancpain GT Series. After 546 laps of the 7.004 kilometers long Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, German driver Christopher Haase drove the #25 Audi Sport Team Sainteloc Audi R8 LMS across the finish line to secure victory for himself and teammates Markus Winkelhock (GER) and Jules Gounon (FRA).
With second place for the #8 car, Bentley Team M-Sport made up for its misfortune in last year’s race at Spa. The #90 Akka ASP Mercedes rounded out the top three with the second consecutive podium finish at Spa for the French team. Mercedes-AMG took Pro-Am class honors with a strong performance by the #16 Black Falcon team while the #888 Kessel Racing Ferrari led almost throughout to score a commanding Am class win. The Belgian Speedlover team won the national class with its #991 Porsche.
With 63 cars taking the start and no fewer than 36 of them competing for overall honors, there was no doubt that this year’s running of the Total 24 Hours of Spa had one of the strongest entries ever in the history of the Belgian endurance racing classic. Qualifying had already made it clear that a fierce battle could be expected among the teams representing the world’s most prestigious sports car brands, and the race duly delivered.
Once the field was released after one formation lap of the 7.004 kilometers long circuit, it was ex-Formula 1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella who made the best use of the pole position and took the lead with the #55 Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari, ahead of compatriot Mirko Bortolotti in the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini and Kevin Estre in the #117 KÃœS Team75 Bernhard Porsche.
While the Ferrari and the Lamborghini shone at the front of the field throughout the first hours of the race, the second hour saw the first of several full-course yellows and a subsequent safety car intervention due to a severe crash by Thai driver Pasin Lathouras, who lost control of his #50 AF Corse Ferrari at the top of the Raidillon. Luckily, the driver walked away unscathed.
Several teams used the neutralization to come in for pit stops with the different pit stop strategies applied by the teams leading to frequent position changes throughout the field. Meanwhile, it was also clear that the Race Control was watching drivers’ antics closely as there were penalties galore, particularly for track limit infringements.
As the first points were awarded after six hours, the #55 Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari was leading from the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini and the #84 Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport Mercedes and no fewer than 16 cars were still on the lead lap after the first quarter of the race. Soon after the six-hour mark, Swedish driver Jimmy Eriksson crashed the #84 Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport car at Raidillon.
|From left, Winkelhock, Haase and Gounon|
Temperatures were above 20 degrees until midnight, allowing the thousands of spectators to enjoy the entertainment both on and off track, including the Music Festival with several top-line DJs and live acts on a balmy Saturday evening. During the night, however, the rain shower that so many had expected finally arrived, spicing up the action even more whilst also making it more challenging for the drivers, as if the Spa-Francorchamps circuit wasn’t challenging enough in itself. Most drivers opted for rain tires, but some gambled and stayed out with slicks. There were incidents, too, including a collision that put two Mercedes cars out at once, the #00 Good Smile Racing car and the #18 Black Falcon Mercedes. Earlier on, the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes had already retired after a crash.
Halfway through the race, points were attributed again and this time, it was the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini who claimed the full score ahead of the #85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes and the #55 Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari. In the 14th hour, the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini and the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari collided at Stavelot corner, after which the Lamborghini caught fire. Its driver, Adrian Amstutz, was taken to hospital in Liege where he was diagnosed with second-degree burns and a broken rib. The Ferrari driver, Matteo Cressoni, was transferred to hospital in Verviers for a check-up. There was well-deserved praise for the track marshals and rescue teams for their quick intervention.
A little bit later, the Kaspersky Motorsport team that had led the race for many hours saw its hopes of a possible victory evaporate as Marco Cioci came off track at the Raidillon with damaged steering, the result of contact with the #90 Akka ASP Mercedes at La Source. About two hours later, the other Italian GT car that shone for a long time, the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini, retired when Christian Engelhart crashed out at Les Combes with brake issues.
This effectively turned the battle for the lead into an almost entirely German affair with the Porsche, several Audis, the #98 ROWE Racing BMW and a number of Mercedes-AMG cars in contention, while the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley defended British honors. Suspension issues then put to an end ROWE Racing’s ambitions of a repeat win after their 2016 success.
In the afternoon, the Sainteloc Audi emerged as the main candidate for success and as the last car from the group of the front-runners, the #117 KÃœS Team75 Bernhard Porsche, completed his final pit stop on lap 527, it was left up to German driver Christopher Haase, who had pitted six laps earlier, to bring the Audi across the finish line, which he duly did after 546 laps, scoring Sainteloc’s first 24-hour race win as an Audi Sport team. The #8 Bentley came second ahead of the #90 Akka ASP Mercedes. The #117 KÃœS Team75 Bernhard Porsche was classified fourth, making Laurens Vanthoor the best-placed Belgian driver in the overall classification.
Pro-Am honors for Black Falcon
The #97 Oman Racing Team with TF Sport Aston Martin led the Pro-Am class for the opening hours of the race, but a spirited drive with consistently fast lap times resulted into good progress for the #16 Black Falcon Mercedes that then moved up into the lead of the class in the evening and held on to its class lead throughout the race. Its drivers Oliver Morley, Miguel Toril, Marvin KirchhÃ¶fer and Maximilian Gotz finished twelfth overall, one lap ahead of class-runners-up Ahmad Al Harthy, Salih Yoluc, Jonny Adam and Euan Hankey with the Aston Martin. For Adam and Al Harty, the points scored at Spa were already enough to seal an early Blancpain GT Series Pro-Am drivers’ title and to rack up the title win for the Oman Racing Team with TF Sport as well. Third place in class went to the #961 Spirit of Race Ferrari with Alex Demerdjian, Nicolas Minassian, Davide Rizzo and Toni Vilander.
Am-Cup: Kessel Racing Ferrari throughout
A faultless performance by Swiss team Kessel Racing and its drivers Marco Zanuttini, Jacques Duyver, David Perel and Niki Cadei in the #888 Ferrari 488 GT3 was rewarded with a commanding class win, the team’s second Am class victory in a row in the Total 24 Hours of Spa. The team led in class almost from lights to flag and won with a margin of four laps from the #488 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari of Pierre Ehret, Rino Mastronardi, Patrick van Glabeke and Gabriele Lancieri. German team Walkenhorst Motorsport took the final podium slot with its #36 BMW driven by David Schiwietz, Stef Vancampenhoudt, Henry Walkenhorst and Ralf Oeverhaus.
Ferrari wins Coupe du Roi in its anniversary year
Fitting for the year in which the legendary Italian sports car manufacturer is celebrating its 70th anniversary, Ferrari won the prestigious Coupe du Roi for the best performance by a manufacturer in the total of the three classes.
National class honors for Speedlover Porsche
Only two Porsche cars were entered in the national class and once the #56 RMS Porsche had retired, it was only a matter for the drivers of the #991 Speedlover car to bring the Porsche home to collect the class honors. They did this in a masterful way and thus, Pierre Yves Paque, Gregory Paisse, Thierry de Latre du Bosqueau and Louis-Philippe Soenen were able to celebrate in front of their home crowd.
Markus Winkelhock (#25 Audi Sport Team Sainteloc, 1st): “Not only the first, the second victory as well is very important. I think everybody will agree that this one is the toughest 24-hour races there is, so if you can win it, it’s very nice. When we were two laps down with twelve hours to go, we thought: ‘Well, maybe we can still get into the top-5’. I never expected that we would get a chance to win this race. That shows you never should give up in life."
Maxime Soulet (#8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental, 2nd): “I tried to catch the Audi at the beginning of my last stint, but when I realized I was not getting any closer, I stopped fighting. This second place still feels like a win, though. It was a very hard fight, we all agree that this was the toughest Spa we ever did. It’s a first podium for Bentley in Spa, I heard that everybody was crying when I crossed the line."
Michael Meadows (#90 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG, 3rd): “From about three hours to go we thought we might be short. It was then just a question of where we would come out again, whether it would third, fifth or second. To be honest, I am quite relieved that we finished on the podium, for it has been a tough race, as we saw with some of the other cars. Raffaelle did a fabulous job in his first 24 hours as well, doing four triple stints. That is quite impressive."
Oliver Morley (#16 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG, 1st Pro-Am Cup): “The depth of talent throughout the whole field – in Pro, in Pro-Am, in Am – is just astounding. For me personally, it is a real privilege to be in the company of these guys – Le Mans winners, Spa overall winners, young and upcoming talents. I am very pleased that Mercedes-AMG, Black Falcon and my teammates have made it possible to fulfil a boyhood dream. I never thought this was possible, and certainly not on the top step."
Ahmad Al Harthy (#97 Oman Racing Team with TF Sport Aston Martin, 2017 Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup Pro-Am champion): “Honestly, the team only told me when I crossed the line. This title is something that I have been dreaming about for a couple of years. I think this my fifth attempt at the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup. I am really proud of this title, sharing it with Jonny, and Euan and Salih played an important part in it as well."
David Perel (#888 Kessel Racing Ferrari, 1st Am Cup): “Three years ago, I was watching this race on YouTube! I never thought that I would be on the top step so shortly after trying to get into this race. We followed our plan and took no risks. Our car was amazing, we had no unscheduled pitstops, it was an amazing day for all of us.
Pierre-Yves Paque (#991 Speedlover Porsche, 1st Groupe National): “It was a perfect race, but we managed to avoid all pitfalls. We also have to thank André Van Hoof of Speedlover, who gave us a magnificent car. Without his great work, we would not have made it here."
|1||25||Christopher Haase, Jules Gounon, Markus Winkelhock||Audi Sport Team Sainteloc||Audi R8 LMS||546||0.000s|
|2||8||Maxime Soulet, Vincent Abril, Andy Soucek||Bentley Team M-Sport||Bentley Continental GT3||546||11.862|
|3||90||Edoardo Mortara, Michael Meadows, Raffaele Marciello||AKKA ASP||Mercedes-AMG GT3||546||52.855|
|4||117||Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen, Laurens Vanthoor||KÃœS Team75 Bernhard||Porsche 991 GT3 R||546||1:07.247|
|5||2||Connor de Philippi, Christopher Mies, Frederic Vervisch||Audi Sport Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||546||1:30.566|
|6||1||Antonio Garcia, Nico MÃ¼ller, Rene Rast||Audi Sport Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||546||1:49.955|
|7||85||Edward SandstrÃ¶m, Fabian Schiller, Dominik Baumann||HTP Motorsport||Mercedes-AMG GT3||545||1:05.482|
|8||4||Luca Stolz, Adam Christodoulou, Yelmer Buurman||Black Falcon||Mercedes-AMG GT3||545||1:56.452|
|9||76||Pierre Kaffer, Frank Stippler, Kelvin van der Linde||Audi Sport Team ISR||Audi R8 LMS||543||1.724|
|10||98||Tom Blomqvist, Nick Catsburg, Bruno Spengler||Rowe Racing||BMW M6 GT3||542||25.661|
|11||5||Marcel FÃ¤ssler, Andre Lotterer, Dries Vanthoor||Audi Sport Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||541||1:31.467|
|12||16||Oliver Morley, Miguel Toril, Marvin KirchhÃ¶fer, Maximilian GÃ¶tz||Black Falcon||Mercedes-AMG GT3||540||1:12.052|
|13||23||Lucas Ordonez, Alex Buncombe, Katsumasa Chiyo||Motul Team RJN Nissan||Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3||539||49.142|
|14||7||Guy Smith, Oliver Jarvis, Steven Kane||Bentley Team M-Sport||Bentley Continental GT3||539||1:24.738|
|15||97||Ahmad Al Harthy, Salih Yoluc, Jonny Adam, Euan Hankey||Oman Racing Team with TF Sport||Aston Martin V12 GT3||539||1:32.621|
|16||12||Michele Beretta, Stefano Gattuso, Andrea Piccini||Ombra Racing||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||538||1:10.179|
|17||961||Alex Demirdjian, Nicolas Minassian, Davide Rizzo, Toni Vilander||Spirit Of Race||Ferrari 488 GT3||538||2:09.424|
|18||19||Rolf Ineichen, Raffaele Giammaria, Ezequiel Perez Companc||GRT Grasser Racing Team||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||537||1:29.372|
|19||51||Ishikawa Motoaki, Lorenzo Bontempelli, Olivier Beretta, Francesco Castellacci||AF Corse||Ferrari 488 GT3||536||1:24.178|
|20||35||Markus Palttala, Christian Krognes, Nico Menzel, Matias Henkola||Walkenhorst Motorsport||BMW M6 GT3||536||1:47.559|
|21||27||Luca Filippi, Nicolas Pohler, Fabrizio Crestani||Orange 1 Team Lazarus||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||534||28.653|
|22||888||Marco Zanuttini, Jacques Duyver, David Perel, Niki Cadei||Kessel Racing||Ferrari 488 GT3||532||3.318|
|23||52||Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin, Aaron Scott, Riccardo Ragazzi||AF Corse||Ferrari 488 GT3||531||2:09.846|
|24||72||Victor Shaytar, Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina||SMP Racing||Ferrari 488 GT3||529||1:14.438|
|25||488||Pierre Ehret, Rino Mastronardi, Patrick Van Glabeke, Gabriele Lancieri||Rinaldi Racing||Ferrari 488 GT3||528||1:48.152|
|26||36||David Schiwietz, Stef Van Campenhoudt, Henry Walkenhorst, Ralf Oeverhaus||Walkenhorst Motorsport||BMW M6 GT3||527||1:28.293|
|27||26||Christian Kelders, Marc Rostan, Fred Bouvy||Sainteloc Racing||Audi R8 LMS||524||39.184|
|28||777||Bernard Delhez, Gilles Vannelet, Mike Stursberg, Christopher Zarnella||Team HB Racing||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||522||1:29.977|
|29||912||Daniel Allemann, Ralf Bohn, Sven MÃ¼ller, Mathieu Jaminet||Herberth Motorsport||Porsche 991 GT3 R||517||55.420|
|30||22||Matt Simmons, Struan Moore, Matthew Parry||Motul Team RJN Motorsport||Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3||514||2.217|
|31||67||Giorgio Maggi, JÃ¼rgen Krebs, Clement Mateu, Sarah Bovy||Attempto Racing||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||511||2:16.431|
|32||188||Alexander West, Chris Goodwin, Chris Harris, Bradley Ellis||Garage 59||McLaren 650 S GT3||501||1.458|
|33||99||Philipp Eng, Maxime Martin, Alexander Sims||Rowe Racing||BMW M6 GT3||498||-1:43:15.201|
|34||991||Pierre Yves Paque, Gregory Paisse, Thierry de Latre du Bosqueau, Louis-Philippe Soenen||SpeedLover||Porsche 991 Cup||476||1:31.137|
|35||66||Mikael Grenier, Max Van Splunteren, Jaap Van Lagen||Attempto Racing||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||416||-4:03:51.247|
|NC||9||Christer JÃ¶ns, Jordan Pepper, Nico Verdonck||Bentley Team ABT||Bentley Continental GT3||379||-6:42:04.652|
|NC||63||Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart, Andrea Caldarelli||GRT Grasser Racing Team||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||356||-7:50:44.471|
|NC||55||Giancarlo Fisichella, Marco Cioci, James Calado||Kaspersky Motorsport||Ferrari 488 GT3||299||-10:14:47.196|
|NC||11||Michael Broniszewski, Andrea Rizzoli, Matteo Cressoni, Giacomo Piccini||Kessel Racing||Ferrari 488 GT3||288||-10:53:10.468|
|NC||77||Adrian Amstutz, Martin Kodric, Patrick Kujala, Oliver Gavin||Barwell Motorsport||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||282||-10:53:33.983|
|NC||53||Niek Hommerson, Louis Machiels, Andrea Bertolini, Rory Butcher||Spirit Of Race||Ferrari 488 GT3||242||-12:29:17.770|
|NC||3||Josh Caygill, Niki Mayr-Melnhof, Jon Venter, Richard Lyons||Belgian Audi Club Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||233||-13:23:48.639|
|NC||0||Nobuteru Taniguchi, Tatsuya Kataoka, Kamui Kobayashi||Good Smile Racing & Team UKYO||Mercedes-AMG GT3||230||-13:21:02.185|
|NC||43||David Fumanelli, Jonny Kane, Sam Tordoff||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||230||-12:16:19.664|
|NC||18||Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal, Hubert Haupt, Gabriele Piana, Renger van der Zande||Black Falcon||Mercedes-AMG GT3||228||-13:47:40.934|
|NC||88||Felix Serralles, Daniel Juncadella, Tristan Vautier||Mercedes-AMG Team Akka ASP||Mercedes-AMG GT3||209||-14:40:45.867|
|NC||15||Dore Chaponik, Brett Sandberg, Scott Heckert, Jeroen Bleekemolen||Black Falcon||Mercedes-AMG GT3||209||-14:34:35.604|
|NC||42||Craig Fleming, Nick Leventis, Lewis Williamson, Oliver Webb||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||204||-14:45:41.006|
|NC||78||Leo Matchitski, Miguel Ramos, Richard Abra, Phil Keen||Barwell Motorsport||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||198||-13:18:17.382|
|NC||89||Daniele Perfetti, Alex Fontana, Ludovic Badey, Nico Bastian||AKKA ASP||Mercedes-AMG GT3||176||-14:17:49.718|
|NC||48||Indy Dontje, Patrick Assenheimer, Kenneth Heyer||MANN-FILTER Team HTP Motorsport||Mercedes-AMG GT3||152||-16:42:46.639|
|NC||84||Jimmy Eriksson, Maximilian Buhk, Franck Perera||Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport||Mercedes-AMG GT3||142||-17:49:54.784|
|NC||56||Howard Blank, Yannick Mallegol, Fabrice Notari, Frank Mechaly||RMS||Porsche 991 Cup||142||-16:20:48.496|
|NC||911||JÃ¼rgen HÃ¤ring, Alfred Renauer, Robert Renauer, Marc Lieb||Herberth Motorsport||Porsche 991 GT3 R||139||-17:44:10.683|
|NC||14||Lorenz Frey, Stephane Ortelli, Albert Costa||Emil Frey Jaguar Racing||Emil Frey Jaguar G3||131||-18:12:54.471|
|NC||333||Alexander Mattschull, Rinat Salikhov, Matteo Malucelli, Norbert Siedler||Rinaldi Racing||Ferrari 488 GT3||105||-19:23:35.600|
|NC||6||Stephane Richelmi, Nathanael Berthon, Benoit Treluyer||Belgian Audi Club Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||103||-19:31:14.264|
|NC||59||Jazeman Jaafar, Pieter Schothorst, Andrew Watson||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||96||-19:34:12.623|
|NC||75||Filipe Albuquerque, Clemens Schmid, Filip Salaquarda||ISR||Audi R8 LMS||95||-19:44:18.470|
|NC||58||Ben Barnicoat, Rob Bell, Come Ledogar||Strakka Racing||McLaren 650 S GT3||74||-20:39:10.010|
|NC||114||Marco Seefried, Jonathan Hirschi, Christian Klien||Emil Frey Jaguar Racing||Emil Frey Jaguar G3||69||-20:55:25.720|
|NC||17||Stuart Leonard, Jake Dennis, Jamie Green||Belgian Audi Club Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||53||-21:40:50.229|
|NC||50||Pasin Lathouras, Michele Rugolo, Alessandro Pier Guidi||AF Corse||Ferrari 488 GT3||44||-22:11:28.203|
NC = Not Classified
EX = Excluded