The Spa 24 Hours race is the highlight of the GT racing calendar, the blue riband even of the Blancpain Endurance series and a true festival of motorsport, showing just what these fantastic Grand Touring cars can do. It all takes place against the backdrop of what is undoubtedly Europe’s most scenic and challenging circuit – the legend that is Spa Francorchamps.
That legend usually involves rain and mist and fog, even in the height of summer! But today, the race was held in beautiful, hot and sunny conditions. And the sun seemed to shine on the Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3, which was definitely one of the star performers for much of the weekend. With a crew made up of former F1 star Giancarlo Fisichella, official Ferrari driver James Calado and the vastly experienced Marco Cioci, there was every reason to be confident.
Unfortunately, with ten of the 24 hours remaining, Kaspersky Motorsports hopes of taking the win we have been after for a long time, were dashed. Cioci was at the wheel, dicing with a Mercedes and the two cars collided at the La Source hairpin, the first corner. Marco was able to drive on, but it was soon apparent that the coming together had damaged his front right suspension and as he came into the Radillon, two corners later, the car went straight onto into the barrier on the left hand side. Game over. Fortunately, Marco was uninjured.
Our white, red and green car was, as usual, immaculately prepared by AF Corse, using all the data gathered at previous rounds of the Blancpain Championship by Kaspersky Lab. The meticulous preparation paid off, as the Ferrari was quick right from the start of the weekend, meaning that the 55 car was in the Super Pole shoot out for the top places on the grid. James Calado proved why he is an official Ferrari driver, putting in a fantastic lap to take pole position!
For the race, our strategy involved each driver doing one stint, before switching to the longer “double stint” for the next part of the race. All was going to plan, with Fisichella in the car for the start. The Roman driver immediately pulled out a slight advantage over the pack and held the lead to the first pit stop. When Calado took over driving duties, he extended that lead to around 20 seconds over the second placed runner. Cioci also led in his stint as the six hour mark ticked by. The drivers put in their double stints and all was going well until, with ten hours remaining, came the collision that ended it all.
This is what our drivers had to say:
Giancarlo Fisichella: “It was a difficult race on our and I have mixed feelings to be honest. I was hoping for a much better result today. We tried our best but things didn’t go our way. Obviously we had a great start in qualifying and the first part of the race when we were leading. It was fantastic to be in the lead and start from P1. This is very positive and I’d like to thank everyone – the engineers for setting the car up well and the mechanics for some very fast and precise pit-stops.”
James Calado: “Unfortunately we were unable to finish and my first 24h of Spa was a tough race. After qualifying in pole position and a great start from Giancarlo we lead the majority of the race. The car was handling extremely well and we were able to manage the tyres and maintain a comfortable lead. Unluckily for Marco he had contact with the Mercedes and that put us out the race. Despite the unlucky result, we had a positive weekend. Especially for myself, I took a lot of risks to get to where we were! At least we come away with some points which are useful for the championship. I would like to thank everyone for their sacrifices and hard work over the last months to prepare for this race. We won’t give up; we came here with such a good car, which gives me faith in the team, so that I believe we will do it one day.”
Marco Cioci: “It’s very disappointing, because I thought it was going to be our day, as we had the pace to do it. However, once again we found out how hard is to win 24h of Spa. It’s just incredible. The car has been very good all weekend and the team did a fantastic job; all week we were impressed by the balance and efficiency. So to be out of the race like this is hard to take. It doesn’t seem possible. This race doesn’t want to come to us for some reason. Thanks everybody!”
Source. Kaspersky Motorsport