Spa 6H WEC Race Report

Traditionally the circus of the WEC (World Endurance Championship) travels to the Ardennes to the beautiful Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps as the prequel to the big 24H of Le Mans in June. All Teams were stacked up to check their cars in race conditions for the last time before the most important race of the Season at Le Mans.

Quite unusually for Spa the weather forecast looked very good for the whole weekend. Another notable point was that in Spa there were a lot of shuffled Driver line-ups due to Formula E commitments for example. Both Peugeot’s and the Hertz Jota #12 (Stevens/Ilott) ran with a two driver line-up. In the GT3 Class Kelvin van der Linde Raced in Formula E as well and was replaced by Ritomo Miyata. Timur Boguslawski has had to miss Spa due to illness and was replaced by DTM Driver Clemens Schmid.

After some minor BOP adjustments following Ferrari’s dominance at Imola the field was expected to be closer together in Belgium although the two tracks have very different characteristics. Nevertheless it was still the #50 Ferrari AF Corse (Fouco/Nielsen/Molina) with the fastest time of 2:02,600 a bit over half a second ahead of the Penske Porsche. Although after the mandatory Scrutineering the #50 Ferrari was found to be under the minimum weight limit and lost the Pole. That meant that the #5 Porsche Penske Porsche 963 (Campbell/Christensen/Makowiecki) started from Pole ahead of the #2 Cadillac V.Series (Lynn/Bamber) and the Proton Competition Porsche 963 (Andlauer/Jani) in third. The Proton Porsche as well had one of their drivers not attending (Tincknell).

In LMGT3 the Pole went to the Iron Dames #85 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 (Bovy/Frey/Gatting). Doriane Pin set out this round to compete in Euro Formula Open and was replaced by Rahel Frey. Second fastest was the #95 United Autosport McLaren 720s GT3 (Caygill/Pino/Sato) but this car also was found to be underweight in the inspections afterwards. That meant that second went to the #46 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 (Al Harthy/Rossi/Martin) in their home race. Third was scored by the #91 Manthey EMA Porsche 911 GT3R (992) (Shahin/Schuring/Lietz). Their sister car #92 Manthey Pure Rxcing (Malykhin/Sturm/Bachler) crashed heavily in Eau Rouge/Radillion and was questionable to be repaired in time for the race the next day.

With Qualifying settled the Race went underway under bright sunshine with a record crowd watching the cars go into the 6H Race. It was a very clean start for all drivers as the race started to get into a rhythm. The first spectacular action of the race did not take long to occur as Julien Andlauer lined up the #2 Cadillac of Alex Lynn before Eau Rouge. He braved it out and took second place away to make it a Porsche 963 1 and 2. Also the #51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi) made early progress overtaking the #12 Hertz Jota for 4th after starting P10. The Cadillac however could not go the pace of the top runners and fell back to 7th. Andlauer who now cut down the gap to Makowiecki in the leading Porsche started to be the story of the Race. Almost 40 minutes into the Race the first opportunity for Andlauer came up. Makowiecki had t lift in Blanchimont to lap a GT3 Lexus and Andlauer could still plant his foot on the throttle and threw his car through the corner. As Makowiecki made his move to drive by on the outside of the Lexus Andlauer took the inside line and made the move stick due to his overspeed even before the braking for the Bus-Stop chicane. The move might remember you of the Mika Hakkinen and Micheal Schumacher battle back in the past.

Meanwhile Laurents Vanthoor in the #6 Porsche Penske Porsche 963 (Vanthoor/Estre/Lotterer) has made it a Porsche Podium lockout with the first hour almost completed. Looming from behind was the #51 Ferrari 499P with Giovinazzi at the wheel was coming fast from behind. As Vanthoor out braked himself a little bit in the last chicane Giovinazzi used this opportunity to draft up to the Porsche and overtake on the Kemmel straight breaking the Porsche Podium lockout.

After the first hour has been completed the order at the front was Porsche followed by Ferrari → and that down to 6th place. The #99 Proton Porsche was still the lead car followed by the #51 and #5. The private AF Corse Ferrari 499P ran in 4th. First major upset of the race happened with 1,5 hours done as the #38 Hertz Jota (Button/Hanson/Rasmussen) got tagged while lifting by the #20 Team WRT BMW M Hybrid V8 (van der Linder/Frijns/Rast). The Porsche spun to the left and collected the #46 BMW M4 GT3 of Team WRT and both cars ended up in the tire barriers at Bruxelles. Both cars were unable to continue the race after this incident that also brought out the first neutralization. After everything has been cleared and the race was back to green the #59 United Autosport McLaren 720s GT3 (Cottingham/Costa/Saucy) cycled thru into the lead of LMGT3 but was chased closely by Rahel Frey. The Iron Dames retook the lead on the Kemmel straight with just under 3,5 Hours left. With the half way point almost reached the race of the #5 Porsche Penske Porsche 963 ended on the exit of Blanchimont. Christensen went a bit wide over the curb on the exit and just could not get the car back under control and damaged his suspension on the left side concrete wall before the Bus-Stop chicane. The contact with the wall itself was not too severe but enough to damage the car beyond repairs for this race. Before that the #91 Manthey EMA car with Morris Schuring at the wheel made great progress thru the field catching both the leading Iron Dames Lamborghini and the McLaren in second. After the neutralization for the#5 Porsche he took the lead in LMGT3 and sailed off into the distance with great pace. Another battle for the lead unfolded just after this. Antonio Fouco caught up to the leading Proton Porsche with Neel Jani at the wheel, Jani had some bad luck in the previous laps concerning traffic and that exactly should be the decisive factor coming the battle of those two cars. Jani had to lift on top of Eau Rouge/Radillion for a slower GT3 car and Fouco took the opportunity and went flying by the Porsche giving the #50 Ferrari the lead. The Iron Dames with Rahel Frey still at the wheel had to reovertake the McLaren again and they copied the move they did an hour before and Frey again was able to slip ahead of the McLaren. The sister car of the now leading Porsche #91 also showed great pace with Joel Sturm at the wheel. He also overtook several opponents and found himself just seconds away from the podium places in 4th.

With roughly 2 hours to go Ferrari now lead the race and in GT3 the #91 Manthey EMA Porsche was out in front. After their struggles for pace in the early parts of the race the #2 Cadillac made up ground and positions in the middle part and now they found themselves catching up to the #99 Porsche which was now in 3rd place after both Ferrari’s managed to go by the Proton Porsche. What was about to happen was the moment of the race as Jani was again held up by GT3 traffic climbing up Eau Rouge. Again the car behind, this time being the #2 Cadillac, had a free run up the corner and was about to make a move on the Kemmel straight. The lapped GT3 was the #31 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3 (Leung/Gelael/Farfus) and it was still next to the Porsche once they cleared Eau Rouge. Bamber in the Cadillac sa a gap between the two cars and tried to stick his Cadillac in that gap. Jani who was on the left side of the road moved over slightly and caught Bamber off guard. The Cadillac then touched the BMW and both went into the guardrails in spectacular fashion. Most important both drivers were able to walk away from the crash thanks to the great safety of the modern race cars. The Race had to be red flagged as the damage to the guardrails was too severe. The stoppage of the race occurred with about 1 hour and 45 minutes left in the clock.

The clock ran to about 10 minutes left without information if the race could carry on or if it had to be canceled. Just as most of the fans were about to leave the officials made the call that the race would be restarted with the time that was left on the clock when the red flag was called. Not everybody though liked that decision as per rules you are not allowed to work on the cars while the race is under red flag conditions. The restart meant that some cars who had already pitted just before the crash happened now had a massive advantage as the now had a full tank of fuel and were right behind the leading cars that not have had a pitstop. In Hypercar these 3 cars where the #12 Hertz Jota Porsche 963 (Stevens/Ilott), the #6 Porsche Penske Porsche 963 and the #36 Alpine 424 (Lapierre/Vaxiviere/Schumacher). The Alpine however was unbelievably unlucky under the lucky pit stoppers cause the fell out of the lead lap and were not eligible for the pass around as they where behind the still leading AF Corse Ferrari’s at the restart. The good work of Mick Schumacher in the middle part of the race where he made up a lot of ground and was right behind the now virtually leading Jota #12 car has been ruined by this red flag. In LMGT3 the #91 and #92 Porsches made their penultimate Pitstop as well just before the red flag fell. The Iron Dames car was leading at the restart but owed a pitstop to the Manthey Porsches.

Once all pit stops been completed the order shuffled quite abit as some cars had to take an emergency stop under safety car conditions and delay their full service once the race was back to green. Now in the lead were the two cars mentioned earlier who got their stops done before the crash happened followed by the #50 Ferrari. 4th was the #7 Toyota GR010 (Kobayashi/De Vries/Conway) followed by the #51 Ferrari. Both Toyota’s struggled for pace throughout the race and also could not hold the charging Ferrari and Julien Andlauer in the #99 behind. Andlauer now back in the car went back to shine as bright as when he started the car with another overtake thru Eau Rouge this time on the #35 Alpine 424 (Milesi/Gounon/Chatin). In LMGT3 the order was shuffled even more. Leading going into the last half an hour of the Race was the #95 McLaren chased again by a Lamborghini this time it was the #60 Iron Lynx Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 (Schiavoni/Cressoni/Perera) with Franck Perera at the wheel. Perera was very quick after the restart and mostly was the quickest GT3 around the track. With just over 15 minutes to go he made his move on the leading McLaren down into La Source and grabbed the lead. Just when the fans though the positions where settled the Iron Lynx as well as the McLaren and the Iron Dames car had top pit on the final 2 laps for a splash of fuel giving the GT3 lead to both the Manthey Porsches. The intern battle was coming down to the last lap as the #92 of Klaus Bachler had to fuel save quite a lot to not have to pit as well the #91 sister car with Richard Lietz at the wheel was able to go by on the last lap to score their first win of the season.

The TotalEnergies 6H of Spa-Francorchamps 2024 proved to be a real test of man and machinery and also a portion of luck was needed to win this 6 hour (this year 8 hours with a 2 hour brake for some extra excitement). Winners were the #12 Hertz Team Jota car of Will Stevens and Callum Ilott as they became the first privateer entry to win in the new era of sports car racing. Second went to the #6 Porsche Penske entry of Laurents Vanthoor, Kevin Estre and André Lotterer with the #50 Ferrari AF Corse with Antonio Fouco, Nicklas Nielsen and Miguel Molina went on to finish third.

LMGT3 was won by the #91 Manthey EMA Porsche of Yasser Shahin, Morris Schuring and Richard Lietz with their teammates Alexander Malykhin, Joel Sturm and Klaus Bachler of the #92 Manthey Pure Rxcing team. Third went to Iron Lynx and their #60 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo2 driven by Claudio Schiavoni, Matteo Cressoni and Franck Perera. Next up for the World Endurance Championship are the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the seasons highlight and one of the most important and most prestigious races of the world of Racing. The 24H of Le Mans will take place on 15th and 16th of June with 62 cars taking on the race twice around the clock.

LMP2 will make a one off appearance for this event as well. So lets hope for a great spectacle of racing at Le Mans!

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