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Total 24 Hours of Spa ... BMW M6 GT3 wins Overall & Pro Class


 

Spa, 28 – 29 July 2018

The 2018 edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa was the 70th anniversary of the race, and as if to help the celebrations go smoothly, the notoriously fickle Spa weather played its part and it remained dry throughout the race. It had threatened to rain with a couple of short sharp showers on the Thursday, one of which interrupted the drivers photo shoot on the grid, but those aside, very high (up to 37deg C) ambient temperatures were the order of the day for the proceedings leading up to the race. One of the most popular features of the pre-race build-up, is the drivers parade and autograph session on the Thursday evening, when all the competing cars drive from the circuit to the centre of Spa, where they are parked in the main street near the casino, for the evening, which allows the race fans to get really close to the cars and drivers. This provides an evening’s entertainment, as the drivers have to attend a briefing, before the cars are driven back to the track, and many people stay around for the sight and sound of the drive-out. Part of this year’s parade and display was an array of classic cars that had competed in the race over the years, which ranged from a Zastava 101P, which competed in the 1976 edition, to a pair of Belga cigarette brand liveried Ford Capris.

The entry list comprised of 65 cars from 13 different manufacturers, running in 5 classes, the 5th one being additional to the regular ones, and was for a Groupe National, although there were only four entries, of which only two arrived, thus making a total of 63 race starters. In the other classes there were 30 cars in the Pro Cup Class, 11 in the Pro-AM Class, 9 in the Silver Cup Class and 11 in the AM Class. In terms of manufacturers the largest contingent was Mercedes-AMG with 14 cars, followed by Lamborghini with 11 and then Audi with 9. Apart from the main 24 Hour Race, there were a number of support races on the Friday and Saturday for the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, Formula Renault Eurocup, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Benelux, providing a total of nine support races in all. 

After the qualifying sessions and super pole shoot-out, it was the # 1 Audi Sport Team WRT entered Audi R8 LMS of Dries Vanthoor, Alex Riberas and Christopher Mies that claimed the overall pole position with a lap time of 2mins 18.578secs, around 0.6sec quicker than the # 62 R-Motorsport entered Aston Martin V12 Vantage of Dominik Baumann, Marvin Kirchhöfer and Maxime Martin. However, at post qualifying scrutineering the pole sitting Audi was found to have a technical infringement that the stewards deemed gave it a performance advantage, and its super pole time was disallowed. It had to start the race behind all the other nineteen super pole qualifiers, and added to this was an in-race 3mins stop-go penalty. This meant that the # 62 Aston Martin started from pole position, with the # 2 Audi Sport Team WRT entered Audi R8 LMS alongside it, followed by the # 72 SMP Racing entered Ferrari 488 GT3 and the # 29 Montplast by Land-Motorsport entered Audi R8 LMS.

After all the preliminaries, the Total 24 Hours Race started at 16.30 on the Saturday afternoon, with the Belgian national flag being used as part of the anniversary celebrations, rather than (what has become) the traditional “lights out” start system. From “the flag” The # 2 Audi managed to get ahead of the # 72 Aston Martin in the drag down to Eau Rouge, which it maintained through to the first round of pit stops. As the pits stops cycled through in the early part of the race the lead changed between these two cars, the # 29 Audi and the # 72 Ferrari popping to the front at the one hour mark. Unfortunately for the SMP Racing squad, the Ferrari had a puncture during the third hour which dropped it over two laps down whilst it hobbled back to the pits, a deficit from which it couldn’t recover. A lengthy pit stop for the # 72 Aston Martin as the early part of the race progressed saw the # 8 Bentley come to the fore around quarter distance. Meanwhile there had been the usual endurance race carnage and a flurry of full course yellows whilst either cars or debris were removed. As daylight turned to darkness it was the # 29 Audi of Kelvin van der Linde/Sheldon van der Linde / Jeffrey Schmidt headed the field into the night hours, followed by the # 98 BMW of Ricky Collard / Marco Wittmann / Jesse Krohn and the # 8 Bentley of Vincent Abril / Andy Soucek / Maxime Soulet.

At around 3.00am a massive accident in Eau Rouge between the # 31 Team Parker Racing Bentley driven by Andy Meyrick and the # 666 Attempto Racing Lamborghini driven by Jurgen Krebs, brought out the red flag, and the race was neutralised for the best part of two hours whilst repairs were carried out to the barriers, thus in effect making it the 22 Hours of Spa. Both drivers were reported as having suffered fractures, and were taken to hospital, due to the high-speed nature of the accident, as a precaution, they were kept under observation in intensive care, although neither had suffered life-threatening injuries. 

As the sun lazily rose, it was the # 25 Audi of Markus Winkelhock / Frederic Vervisch / Christopher Haase that headed the field, with the lead changing between it the # 99 BMW of Alexander Sims / Jens Klingmann / Nicky Catsburg and the # 4 Mercedes of Yelmer Buurman / Luca Stolz / Maro Engel as they each made their respective pit stops. During Sunday morning there was a big accident between the # 117 KUS Team75 Bernhard Porsche, the # 111 Aust Motorsport Audi and the # 8 Bentley Team M-Sport car. The subsequent full-course yellow developed into a safety car period, cutting the then leading # 99 BMWs lead from around 10 to just 2secs. It was around this time that another strong overall contender earlier in the race came back into play, this was the # 34 Walkenhorst Motorsport entered BMW driven by Tom Blomqvist / Christian Krognes / Philipp Eng, which hit the front in the latter stages, and then went on to take the win from the similar # 99 Rowe Racing entry of Alexander Sims / Jens Klingmann / Nicky Catsburg by just 10.408secs after 24 (22) hours of racing. This was quite an achievement for the Walkenhorst team, as this was their first Pro class appearance in the Blancpain series and their drivers had never previously contested a 24 hour race together. The final podium spot went to the # 29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport, Audi R8 LMS, driven by the young driver line-up of South African brothers Kelvin and Sheldon van der Linde with Jeffrey Schmidt.

Victory in the Pro-AM Class went to the # 333 Ferrari 488 GT3 entered by Rinaldi Racing and driven by Daniel Keilwitz, Alexander Mattschull, Rinat Salikhov and David Perel, whilst Rinaldi also achieved a 3rd place podium finish in the AM class with their # 488 example driven by  Murad Sultanov, Rick Yoon, Nicholas Boulle and Pierre Ehret. The top spot in the Silver Cup went to the # 12 Ombra Racing entered Lamborghini Huracan GT3 driven by Kang Ling, Alex Frassineti, Romain Monti and Andrea Rizzoli, after a lengthy battle with the similar # 78 Barwell Motorsport entry of Michele Beretta, Rik Breukers, Sandy Mitchell and Martin Kodric. Barwell went one better in the AM Cup Class, as their # 77 example driven by Adrian Amstutz, Leo Machitski, Richard Abra and Patrick Kujala took the class win. At the end of the day 47 of the original 63 starters were classified as finishers, an achievement in itself, after what had been a gruelling race on one of the best and most challenging circuits in the world.

 

Overall & Pro Class Podium

1st # 34, Tom Blomqvist, Christian Krognes, Philipp Eng - Walkenhorst Motorsport, BMW M6 GT3

2nd # 99, Alexander Sims, Jens Klingmann, Nicky Catsburg - Rowe Racing, BMW M6 GT3

3rd # 29, Kelvin van der Linde, Sheldon van der Linde, Jeffrey Schmidt - Montaplast by Land-Motorsport, Audi R8 LMS

Pro-AM Cup Class Podium

1st # 333, Daniel Keilwitz, Alexander Mattschull, Rinat Salikhov, David Perel - Rinaldi Racing, Ferrari 488 GT3

2nd # 42, Chris Buncombe, Nick Leventis, Lewis Williamson, David Fumanelli - Strakka Racing, Mercedes-AMG GT3

3rd # 175, Kenny Habul, Bernd Schneider, Thomas Jäger, Martin Konrad - Sun Energy 1 Team HTP Motorsport, Mercedes-AMG GT3

Silver Cup Podium

1st # 12, Kang Ling, Alex Frassineti, Romain Monti, Andrea Rizzoli - Ombra Racing, Lamborghini Huracan GT3

2nd # 78, Michele Beretta, Rik Breukers, Sandy Mitchell, Martin Kodric - Barwell Motorsport, Lamborghini Huracan GT3

3rd # 6, Abdulaziz Al Faisal, Hubert Haupt, Manuel Metzger, Gabriele Piana - BLACK FALCON, Mercedes-AMG GT3

AM Cup Class Podium

1st # 77, Adrian Amstutz, Leo Machitski, Richard Abra, Patrick Kujala - Barwell Motorsport,   Lamborghini Huracan GT3

2nd # 9, Alberto di Folco, Stefano Costantini, Bernard Delhez, Sylvain Debs - Target Racing, Lamborghini Huracan GT3

3rd # 488, Murad Sultanov, Rick Yoon, Nicholas Boulle, Pierre Ehret - Rinaldi Racing, Ferrari 488 GT3

Groupe National

1st # 70, Pierre Yves Paque, Gregory Paisse, Bob Wilwert, Gilles Petit - Speed Lover, Porsche 991 Cup

2nd # 67, Andrew Haryanto, Andres Josephsohn, Beniamino Caccia, Sarah Bovy - GDL Racing, Lamborghini Super Trofeo

 

Ferrari Entry

Race #

Model

Chassis #

Team

Colour

Drivers

Position

 

O/A

Cl.

Class Pro

 

 

72

Ferrari 488 GT3

4446

SMP Racing

Red-White-Blue

M. Aleshin /
M. Molina /
D. Rigon

10th

10th

Class Pro-AM

 

 

333

Ferrari 488 GT3

4400

Rinaldi Racing

Green-White- Yellow

R. Salikhov /
A. Mattschull / D. Keilwitz /

D. Perel

15th

1st

51

Ferrari 488 GT3

4226

AF Corse

Green Met’-White

D. Cameron / M. Griffin /
A. Scott /
L. Bontempelli

21st

4th

53

Ferrari 488 GT3

4298

AF Corse

Black-RWG St’s

N. Hommerson /
L. Machiels /
A. Bertolini /
M. Cioci

26th

5th

Class AM

 

 

488

Ferrari 488 GT3

4432

Rinaldi Racing

Green-Black

R. Yoon /
P. Ehret /
M. Sultanov /
N. Boulle

34th

3rd

75

Ferrari 488 GT3

4254

T2 Motorsport

Blue Met’-Red- White

D. Tjiptobiantoro /
G. Teo /
C. Colombo /
M. Cressoni

36th

4th

 

 

Keith Bluemel          07/2018.