Since the Total 24 Hours of Spa became a GT contest at the beginning of this century, organisers SRO Motorsports Group have reserved a place for Belgian teams and drivers wishing to compete in what is effectively the country’s most popular race. Enter ‘Groupe National’.
During the touring car era of the Spa endurance classic there was no lack of Belgian participation. In fact, by the end of the nineties, non-Belgian competitors were few and far between. One of the reasons the organisers of the Spa 24 Hours decided to switch to GT rules in 2001 was to return the event to its former international glory. There would always be room for national drivers wishing to compete, however.
During the early GT years they were catered for by ‘Category 2’ and ‘Category 3’. The former consisted of cars from the national GT championships of France, Great Britain, Spain and of course Belgium, while the latter featured single-make Cup and Trophy contenders. Category 2 was made up mainly of the ubiquitous Porsches, but also of a monstrous Marcos LM600 with Chevrolet V8 power, a 2-litre 4-cylinder Renault Spider, and the first Belgian car to take part in the race for 63 years: the Gillet Vertigo.
First conceived as a road car by Belgian hillclimb champion Tony Gillet, featuring a carbon-monocoque chassis and carbon-kevlar bodywork, the Vertigo competed in some BPR and French championship races. For the 2001 edition of the Spa 24 Hours it used an Alfa Romeo 3-litre V6 engine, but unfortunately had to retire early on. In 2001, Category 2 was won by the Belgian PSI Motorsport Porsche, while a Land Motorsport Porsche with Belgians Corthals and Sterckx among the drivers took top honours in Category 3.
The names of the classes evolved during the FIA GT years, but the basic idea remained the same: giving local drivers and teams the opportunity to compete against the best GT drivers in the world. This allowed fans the chance to see some extraordinary machines, such as a TVR Cerbera Speed 6 and a BMW Z3 M Coupé GT (both in 2002), the mysterious Stealth B6 – which never made it through scrutineering – a Morgan Aero 8, a couple of Mosler MT900 Rs, and even a Seat Toledo from the Spanish GT championship (all in 2003).
These exotic machines proved to be competitive in some cases, with the G&A Racing Mosler of Belgian quartet Smets-Kenis-De Keersmaecker-Mattheus taking G2 (the former Category 2) honours in 2007. Two years later – the final year GT1 cars competed in the Spa 24 Hours – the Category/Group 2/3 rules came to an end. Another fans’ favourite – the Matech GT Racing Ford GT of Maxime Martin – took the final ever win in G3.
From 2010 onwards the category was given the ‘GT National’ label, still reserved for cars that competed in domestic GT championships. Among them were two Schnitzer-entered BMW M3 E92s, factory supported cars with which the Bavarian brand wanted to claim its 22ndoverall victory in the Belgian Ardennes. Werner, Müller and Adorf came close to doing so, but a steering arm failure with 40 minutes to go meant it would finish third overall while comfortably winning GT National.
During the first three years that the Total 24 Hours of Spa was run according to the Blancpain Endurance Series GT3 rulebook (2011-2013), national competitors were able to compete in the Cup category for single-make Cup machinery (the former G3 rules). The Porsche 911 Cup proved to be the weapon of choice, claiming all three wins. After a brief hiatus Groupe National was reintroduced to the Spa endurance classic in 2016, much to the joy of the drivers wishing to compete in the Belgian twice-around-the-clock race at the wheel of a Cup car. The most recent ‘National’ winner was the Porsche of Belgian squad Speedlover. Not only did the car have four Belgian drivers at the wheel, it also had one of the country’s most famous exports racing with them: the livery consisted entirely of Smurfs!
2018 Groupe National cars
Porsche 991 Cup
Ferrari 458 Challenge
Lamborghini Super Trofeo (until 2017)
Marc Cars Ford Mustang V8 (invitational Class Intercontinental GT Challenge)
Palmares (2001 – 2017)
Practical information - Total 24 Hours of Spa
When: 24th – 29th July 2018
Tickets: www.24hoursofspa and www.ticketmaster.be
Tuesday July 24th
Bronze test 14:55 – 17:55
Wednesday July 25th
Parade Spa 18:00
Autograph session 19:00-20:00
Thursday July 26th
Free Practice 11:45-13:15
Night Qualifying 22:30-24:00
Friday July 27th
Super Pole 19:10-19:40
Saturday July 28th
Starting procedure & Grid walk 15:45-16:30
Start of the 70thedition Total 24 hours of Spa 16:30
Facebook : 24HoursofSpa @24hoursofspa
Twitter : www.twitter.com/24hoursofspa #Spa24H
Instagram : blancpaingtseries #blancpaingt
Blancpain GT Series app available on the App store & Google Play
Total - Official Partner of the Total 24 Hours of Spa
Energy is vital to economic development and improved standards of living. Wherever it is available, energy is helping to drive progress, but sustainability requires changes in the way that it is used and managed. This is the environment in which we conduct our business.
With operations in more than 130 countries, Total is a top-tier international oil company and a world-class natural gas operator, refiner, petrochemical producer, and fuel and lubricant retailer.
Our nearly 99,000 employees leverage their globally acknowledged expertise so that together they can discover, produce, refine and distribute oil and gas to provide products and services for customers worldwide.
We are also broadening our offering by developing energies that can partner oil and gas — today, solar energy and tomorrow, biomass.
As a responsible corporate citizen, we focus on ensuring that our operations consistently deliver economic, social and environmental benefits.
Blancpain - Innovation is our Tradition
Since 1735, Blancpain has been contributing to the development of mechanical watchmaking, while conserving the traditional skills of its founder
Blancpain is currently engaged to the renewal of mechanical watchmaking and to passing on exceptional expertise from one generation to the next through constant investment in human resources, production facilities and research. This approach is its strength and the expression of our long-term vision, even though it goes against the tide of a certain tendency to seek immediate profit.
From the creation of components through to watch design, Blancpain is distinguished by its ability to develop exceptional movements. Through its various models, Blancpain preserves its heritage of precision and elegance, while also displaying an innovative and occasionally provocative spirit. Its range encompasses the sportive Levolution line, the legendary Fifty Fathoms diver’s watch, as well as the classic Villeret collection, the high complication from Le Brassus collection and the Women models.
Pirelli – Official Tyre Supplier
Pirelli is a tyre manufacturer and world leader in the automotive industry. It has an exclusive relationship with over 50 racing series worldwide, including Formula One.
Pirelli has a long and illustrious history in endurance racing, and has also claimed a huge variety of class wins in GT racing all over the world. The design of the new Pirelli GT tyres meets the needs of GT racing while maintaining the performance characteristics that endurance drivers have appreciated in the past.The slick tyres used for GT racing are branded Zero: just like the slicks that have become a central feature of Formula One. The name P Zero is used in the highest categories of motorsport such as GT racing.
SRO Motorsports Group, the architect of modern GT racing
Over the past 25 years SRO has specialised in the promotion and organisation of motorsport series around the world.
Inextricably linked with GT racing’s revival in the early 1990s, currently SRO predominantly promotes series that adhere to the successful GT3 and GT4 regulations. Indeed, these rules – a common framework allowing manufacturers, teams and drivers to compete equally with one another – have helped to establish SRO as the global leader in customer GT racing.
Today, SRO’s influence and organisation can be seen around the world. Its flagship continues to be the European-based Blancpain GT Series, which features both the Sprint and Endurance Cups. Its annual highlight remains the iconic Total 24 Hours of Spa.
The same Pirelli tyres and Balance of Performance parameters governing the Blancpain GT Series have also been adopted in the United States by the Pirelli World Challenge (of which SRO is a shareholder), while SRO expanded its successful platform East in 2017 by establishing Blancpain GT Series Asia.
In addition, the world’s best GT races from all four corners of the globe are brought together under the Intercontinental GT Challenge. The 2018 edition features four events – the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour, the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the inaugural Suzuka 10 Hours, and the California 8 Hours of Laguna Seca.
SRO is also strong domestically. The multi-class British GT Championship, over which it has presided since 2005, pairs GT3 with GT4 machinery. The FFSA French GT Championship, for many years run by SRO, returned to the fold in 2017, and was added to the existing GT4 European Series. GT4’s incredibly successful first season in France provided SRO with the blueprint and confidence to expand the class’ European footprint further. Three new regional series to support the flourishing GT4 class have been added in 2018: GT4 Nordic European Cup, GT4 Central European Cup and GT4 Belgium Cup.
In addition, SRO’s world-renowned Balance of Performance regulations are licensed by other series running GT3 and/or GT4 machinery, such as Super GT in Japan, the Australian GT Championship, the ADAC GT Masters and the VLN in Germany and the China GT Championship. SRO also works closely with the FIA when organising its prestigious Macau FIA GT World Cup race.
While Macau caters solely for professional teams and drivers, SRO also understands the important role amateurs play in GT racing’s global success and sustainability. That is why it operates the SRO Race Centre by MMC – a high-level technical centre at Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France – and Curbstone Track Events, which provide the ultimate track driving opportunities on world-renowned circuits. Many of its clients have subsequently graduated to the Blancpain GT Sports Club, the first competitive stepping stone towards gaining the confidence and racecraft required to compete in a Pro/Am environment.
SRO Motorsports Group is chaired by company founder and CEO Stephane Ratel and has offices in London, Paris, Liège and Hong Kong. Its dedicated team of full-time and freelance staff work with the support of numerous national sporting authorities and sanctioning bodies to offer teams, drivers and manufacturers the world’s best professional, Pro/Am and amateur GT racing platforms.