The race for the victory at the Spa 24 this weekend came down to a last-minute tire gamble as the rain came bucketing down with under an hour to go. Once the dust settled, it was a knock-down drag-out battle between Ferrari and Audi for the win, unfortunately Porsche was nowhere to be seen. There was a Vanthoor in the fight for the win, but unfortunately it was Porsche driver Laurens’ younger brother Dries Vanthoor pushing to the finish in the WRT Audisport R8 GT3. The best finishing Porsche in the race was the KCMG team’s #47 911 GT3 R of Laurens, Nick Tandy, and Maxime Martin down in fifth. Considering the top-level GT3 Pro class was stacked from first to last with mega talent, we can take solace in the blue and silver car scoring some decent season points for the Stuttgart sports car maker. This year, 58 vehicles from nine different manufacturers tackled the 7.004-kilometre rollercoaster circuit in four classes.
If there is a silver lining for Porsche here at this race, the manufacturer did manage to win the Am category. The Haegeli by T2 Racing 911 GT3 R piloted by Pieder Decourtins, Marc Basseng, Dennis Busch and Manuel Lauck pushed for the full 24 hours without setting a single foot wrong, and came home 33rd overall and first in class. A solid effort by all involved!
In total, there were ten different Porsche customer squads taking on the marathon in the Ardennes forest with a massive twelve-car effort. The first hour of the race was marked by a scary crash at the top of Raidillon where a car contacted the wall and was spat back out onto the racing surface. As the Rutronik Racing 911 crested the blind hill, the car was sitting right there in the middle and contact was unavoidable. That car was perhaps Porsche’s best effort as it was helmed by works drivers Kevin Estre and Richard Lietz with Sven Muller. The GPX Racing Porsche was also packed with talented Porsche factory racers in the form of Earl Bamber, Matt Campbell, and Mathieu Jaminet. That car was also going fairly well in the race before it was forced to retire with steering problems. The Schnabl Engineering Porsche of Michael Christensen, Dennis Olsen, and Frederic Makowiecki was running toward the front overnight, but contact with a competitor forced the car out of the competition around four in the morning.
Clearly luck was not on Porsche’s side.
The front KCMG Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor, Nick Tandy, and Maxime Martin managed to keep their nose clean on track, but the same could not be said of the team’s off-track excursions. Following an overnight stint in the car, Vanthoor was heading back to the team trailer to get some rest on a scooter and collided with another team’s paddock transporter cart. In the impact Vanthoor was thrown to the ground, smashing his face into the ground and breaking his nose. He was taken to the hospital for care, and had to sit out the rest of the race. With driver maximum stint lengths coming into play, Martin and Tandy had to run the final third of the race on their own. A late-race pit stop call at the right time netted the KCMG team a couple positions in the final hour, pushing them up to a fifth-overall finish. It wasn’t a victory, but after all of the poor luck suffered on behalf of the German manufacturer, it might have felt like one.
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R): “That was a typical 24-hour race for Spa-Francorchamps. First a major accident, we had dry and wet track conditions and long caution phases. Ultimately, some of our Porsche 911 GT3 reached the finish line. Some had problems, others didn’t. Fifth place is a good result, congratulations to KCMG. Team Haegeli by T2 Racing won its Am class, congratulations to them, as well. Thank you to our customer teams. They demonstrated huge commitment this weekend. We’re now looking ahead and we’ll return to Spa next year stronger than ever – because we want to reclaim the 24-hour trophy.”
Maxime Martin (KCMG, Porsche 911 GT3 R #47): “All in all, a difficult race for us. I’m really pleased with fifth place. Our team had the two best-ranked Porsche. In view of the changeable conditions, the length of the race and the many competitors on the track, we had to remain completely focused the whole time. In my last stint, I was driving on a partly wet track with slicks. Nick took the wheel and he was also taken by surprise by heavy rain on dry tires. It was definitely a lot of fun, that’s for sure. But it’s not always easy getting the right feeling for the grip and keeping the car on the track. We were determined to finish. After Laurens Vanthoor’s bad luck, Nick and I had to drive alone. We wish him a speedy recovery and we’re pleased that nothing more serious happened to him in the collision. Now I’m happy that the race is over and our job is done.”
1. Ledogar/Nielsen/Pier Guidi (I/DK/I), Iron Lynx, Ferrari 488 GT3 #51, 556 laps
2. Van der Linde/L. Vanthoor/Weert (RSA/B/B), WRT, Audi R8 GT3 #32, 556 laps
3. Gunn/Soerensen/Thiim (GB/DK/DK), Garage 59, Aston Martin Vantage GT3 #95, 556 laps
5. L. Vanthoor/Martin/Tandy (B/B/GB), KCMG, Porsche 911 GT3 R #47, 554 laps
12. Burdon/Imperatori/Liberati (AUS/CH/I), KCMG, Porsche 911 GT3 R #18, 550 laps
20. W. Bamber/Harker/Rivas/Triller (NZ/NZ/L/D), EBM Motorsport, Porsche 911 GT3 R #61, 547 laps
26. Allemann/Au/A. Renauer/R. Renauer (CH/GB/D/D), Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R #911, 542 laps
27. Apotheloz/Buus/Kern/Santamato (CH/DK/D/F), Allied Racing, Porsche 911 GT3 R #222, 542 laps
33. Basseng/Busch/Decurtins/Lauck (D/D/CH/D), Haegeli by T2 Racing, Porsche 911 GT3 R #166, 518 laps