The 66th running of the Total 24 Hours of Spa became a classic edition of the Belgian highlight of the Blancpain Endurance Series, with the fight for the win only decided in the closing minutes of a very demanding race. It was the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi that crossed the line in first, with a mere seven seconds advantage over the #77 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS BMW. The #3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi in third was only one lap down.
The fight for the win in Pro-Am was exciting as well, with the #53 AF Corse Ferrari taking the flag just ahead of the #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW. The Gentlemen Trophy saw a dominating win of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari.
The 2014 Total 24 Hours of Spa started under glorious sunshine, in front of fully packed grandstands. Laurens Vanthoor, polesitter in the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi, had little trouble in keeping the lead for the opening laps, with all drivers quickly settling in their race pace.
95 minutes into the race the safety car was deployed, when Vyacheslav Maleev crashed the #100 SMP Racing Russian Bears Ferrari at the Raidillon corner. That safety car-period did not last long, but incidents and crashes at the various restarts caused three more consecutive interventions of the safety car and the retirements of nine cars. The #66 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS BMW, at one point leading the race, was involved in an incident as well. At one of the restarts Jörg Müller misjudged his braking and hit the back of the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari. Repairs at the front of the BMW made the car lose seven laps.
The lights were put back to green at the four-hour mark, with the fight at the front being dominated by the Audi teams. The race was soon interrupted again however, when the #333 GT Corse by Rinaldi Ferrari and the #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari were involved in a crash at the exit of the Paul Frère Curve. The driver of the #111 Ferrari, Marcus Mahy, had to be stabilized before being airlifted to the hospital in Liege, so race direction took the decision to red flag the race, allowing the safe evacuation of the driver.
After one hour of interruption, the race was restarted under safety car. The #3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi, who had the lead at the six-hour mark, was awarded a drive-through for having entered the pitlane during the red flag period, which handed the lead of the race to the sister car, the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi.
From then on, the #1 Audi crossed swords with the #77 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS BMW, the sole BMW in the top-5 otherwise occupied by other Audi R8 LMS ultra cars. The cars swapped positions up until the final hour of the race, with the Audi being slightly quicker on track and the BMW spending less time in pitlane. Their duel was only decided after the final pitstops. At the start of the 521st lap, 23:45 hours after the start of the race, René Rast managed to take the lead away from Dirk Werner, to eventually cross the line with seven seconds in hand.
In Pro-Am the #90 Scuderia Villorba Corse Ferrari had taken the lead during the night and with its competitors all experiencing trouble during the early hours of Sunday morning it all looked good for the Italian squad. Gearbox problems stopped their trouble free run however, and seven laps were lost. The fight for the class win then took place between the #53 AF Corse Ferrari and the #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW, closely followed by the #52 AF Corse Ferrari. All three cars were running well within the top-10 overall as well. In the final hour Louis Machiels in the #53 Ferrari and Alexander Sims in the #79 BMW decided the outcome of the race, with the Belgian in the Ferrari crossing the line as first of the Pro-Am drivers and in 6th overall.
For a long time the fight in Gentlemen Trophy was as close as it gets, with the #42 Sport Garage Ferrari and #51 AF Corse Ferrari driving on the same lap all through the night, running away from the competition. Their duel was decided just after 08:00 on Sunday morning, when Lorenzo Bontempelli lost the front left wheel of the #42 Sport Garage Ferrari when leaving the pitlane. By the time the former leader of the category had made his way back to the pits four laps were lost. From then on, the #51 AF Corse Ferrari had a couple of laps in hand and the drivers controlled the race until the chequered flag.
The fight for second involved the #228 Delahaye Racing Porsche, the #49 AF Corse Ferrari and the #22 Team Parker Racing Audi. With the Porsche falling back with suspension problems in the final hours of the race, it was the Team Parker Racing Audi who eventually crossed the line in second, one lap ahead of the AF Corse Ferrari.
René Rast (#1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi): ‘It was a very emotional moment for me when I crossed the line, because it was a very hard race. I was really exhausted, both emotionally and physically. We had to push all race long, but we knew we had a good package to take the win in this race.’
Dirk Werner (#77 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS BMW): ‘Not changing tires at the last pitstop was our last option to try and stay in front of the Audi. We had experienced some small electronical problems during the final four hours, which was a shame, because up until then the car was running beautifully. We had a good weekend nevertheless, driving a strong race, especially during the night. I was a little disappointed at first, but for the Marc VDS team it is great to finish on the podium of the biggest Belgian race there is.’
Christopher Mies (#3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi): ‘Pitting during the red flag period did not give us as much of an advantage as we had expected. We had some small issues with the car, so we had to pit anyway. We tried something different, but it did not pay off as expected. Still, we are very happy to finish on the podium.”
Niek Hommerson (#53 AF Corse Ferrari, 1st Pro-Am): “There is nothing better than winning and this is by far the best win ever. At the end we knew how big the gap was and we could have let the far better drivers finish the race, but we choose to race, Louis and I. That is why we are here, after all. And to get this result at the end, that is fantastic.’
Peter Mann (#51 AF Corse Ferrari, 1st Gentlemen Trophy): ‘When the Sport Garage Ferrari fell back, we had a three lap lead and Alexander extended that a bit. But then started the difficult part: handling the lead! The last few hours were really gut wrenching, but we made it.’
Romolo Liebchen (Head of Audi Sport Customer Racing, representing Audi, winner of the Coupe du Roi): ‘I can’t believe what happened today. We have participated in four 24-hour races this year and won three of them. It was an amazing race. I really can’t find the words to express what I am feeling right now.’
Provisional points standings
Pro Cup Drivers Top 3:
1 Laurens Vanthoor 74pts; 2 Edward Sandström/Stephane Ortelli/Grégory Guilvert 67pts; 3 Andy Meyrick/Guy Smith/Steven Kane 59pts.
Pro Cup Teams Top 3:
1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 89pts; 2 M-Sport Bentley 78pts; 3 Sainteloc Racing 78pts.
Pro-Am Cup Drivers Top 3:
1 Andrea Rizzoli/Stefano Gai/Francesco Castellacci 77pts; 2 Andrew Smith/Alasdair McCaig/Oliver Bryant 65pts; 3 Richard Abra/Mark Poole/Joe Osborne 45pts.
Pro-Am Cup Teams Top 3:
1 Scuderia Villorba Corse 79pts; 2 Ecurie Ecosse 65pts; 3 TDS Racing 62pts
Gentlemen Trophy Drivers Top 3:
1 Peter Mann/Francisco Guedes 97pts;2 Alexander Mattschull /Franck Schmickler 75pts; 3 Cedric Mezard 61pts
Gentlemen Trophy Teams Top 3:
1 AF Corse 97pts; 2 GT Corse by Rinaldi 81pts; 3 Team Parker Racing 58pts;
Kings Cup standings
1. Audi 140pts 2. Ferrari 138pts 3. BMW 92pts
Next Race : Nürburgring 1000 - 19-21 September
Over 275 years of tradition in motion :
Founded in 1735 by Jehan-Jacques Blancpain, the watch brand bearing his name is the oldest in the world. 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. Over the past nine years, the Manufacture has indeed developed no less than 32 new calibres.
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 L-evolution 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.
With operations in more than 130 countries, Total is a top-tier international oil company and a world-class natural gas operator, refiner and petrochemical producer. Our 97,000 employees leverage their acknowledged expertise to discover, produce, refine and convert oil and gas to provide products and services for customers worldwide. We are also broadening our offer by developing energies that can partner oil and gas — today, solar energy and tomorrow, biomass.
In Belgium, our Group possesses a long history as an energy supplier and is mainly active in the chemical and refining sectors, together with marketing and service activities, employing some 4500 people. As the market leader, Total Belgium is known to respond to its clients’ needs, and brings innovative solutions through its products and services. Total helps its clients to reduce consumption in a better and more efficient way, through a varied range of products like the Excellium fuel, the Fuel Economy lubricants, fuel oil and wood pellets for heating, aviation fuel, super, diesel, LPG, asphalt, lubricants…
SRO Motorsports Group
SRO Motorsports Group was founded by Stephane Ratel and has specialised in the promotion, support and organisation of many national and international motorsport series since 1995.
In 2014, SRO promotes several championships and series, such as the Blancpain GT Series with the Blancpain Sprint Series and the Blancpain Endurance Series, including the iconic Total 24 hours of Spa, the Cooper Tires British F3 Championship, the Avon Tyres British GT Championship and has various franchise agreements including the GT4 European Series.
SRO has offices in London, Paris and Liège.