BMW wins Spa, Audi scores full points for the Intercontinental GT Challenge

31st July 2018

BMW scored a one-two in the 70th edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa, but it was Audi that scored the most points for the 2018 Intercontinental GT Challenge, of which the Belgian endurance classic was the second round. The #25 Audi Sport Team Saintéloc finished in fourth overall, increasing the German brand’s lead in the manufacturer championship. Bathurst-winner Robin Frijns took the points for fourth and remains on top in the drivers’ standings.

This anniversary edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa proved to be a very hectic affair, as is often the case. The #2 Audi Sport Team WRT machine led much of the first hour after beating the pole-sitting Aston Martin into Eau Rouge. Their positions were then reversed after the first round of pit stops, but the complexion of the race changed over the next 90 minutes as a full-course yellow – which then developed into a safety car – brought a number of new competitors into the frame, including the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport machine.

The #8 Bentley moved into the overall lead a couple of laps later and remained there after another full-course yellow. There was almost immediate drama when the race went green as a Lamborghini made heavy contact with the #58 Garage 59 McLaren, causing significant damage to both cars. The pair was forced to pit for lengthy repairs. After the #17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car shed a wheel and retired, the leading Bentley remained out front through yet another full-course yellow, with Andy Soucek at the front for the start of the sixth hour.

With several neutralisations, strategy played an important role in proceedings. Unfortunately, the race was also red-flagged after an accident involving the #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley of Andy Meyrick and the #666 Lamborghini driven by Jurgen Krebs, just before the eleven-hour mark. Both drivers remain under observation. However, neither has suffered life-threatening injuries.

When the race was restarted at 4.50 on Sunday morning, several cars competing in the Intercontinental GT Challenge were part of the leading pack. The #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental that had led proceedings on Saturday evening was no longer part of that group, as it had lost a significant amount time due to steering problems.

At the start of the last quarter of the race the #25 Audi Sport Team Saintéloc was lying first overall, with the second of the Intercontinental GT Challenge cars, the #4 Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon car close behind. The second of the Bentley Team M-Sport cars – the #7 Continental GT3 that had started the race from pitlane – was still on the lead lap at the time, but an issue with the radiator cost them a lot of time soon afterwards.

As far as the points for the Intercontinental GT Challenge were concerned, the final hours were marked by a duel between the Audi and Mercedes-AMG representatives. The #4 Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon of Yelmer Buurman, Luca Stolz and Maro Engel lost ground due to an ill-timed pitstop just before a Full Course Yellow period and was unable to make up for the lost time.

That meant that the #25 Audi Sport Team Saintéloc took full points for the Intercontinental GT Challenge. The car of Fred Vervisch, Christopher Haase and reigning drivers’ champion Markus Winkelhock almost finished on the overall podium, but a fuel issue saw it drop back to fourth overall. However, the problem did not threaten their points’ score for the Intercontinental GT Challenge.

With the #4 Mercedes-AMG taking the points for second, the third place in the Intercontinental GT Challenge went to another Mercedes-AMG, the #88 Mercedes-AMG Team Akka ASP of Dani Juncadella, Raffaele Marciello and Tristan Vautier. The latter two are now on 33 points in the drivers’ standings, together with Luca Stolz. They all are four points behind Robin Frijns, who took the points for fourth at the wheel of the #2 Audi Sport Team WRT he shared with Nico Müller and René Rast.

For both McLaren and Porsche, this proved to be difficult edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa. The #58 and #188 Garage 59 McLaren cars hit technical issues after contact with other cars, with the latter not finishing the race. For the representatives of the Stuttgart brand the #911 Manthey-Racing Porsche dropped down the order due to electrical issues and the #117 Küs Team75 Bernhard was parked after contact with a backmarker. Both the #540 Black Swan Racing 911 and the #991 Herberth Motorsport car were among the fastest cars driven by Bronze drivers, but technical issues meant they could not end the race.

The best of the Bronze drivers was Nick Leventis in the #42 Strakka Racing Mercedes-AMG, finishing in 17th overall. At the wheel of the #175 Sun Energy 1 Team HTP Motorsport car Kenny Habul also took a top-20 spot overall.

The Total 24 Hours of Spa was round two of this year’s Intercontinental GT Challenge. Next month, the Suzuka 10 Hours takes centre stage, on August 24-26. The Laguna Seca Raceway California 8 Hours, on October 26-28, closes out the campaign, which began in February at the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour.

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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.