On Thursday morning, action for the Total 24 Hours of Spa got underway with a good performance by Mercedes-AMG. In first free practice, three Mercedes-AMG GT3s ended up in the top ten. Maro Engel (GER) of the #4 Mercedes-AMG Team HRT entry posted the third-fastest time in the GT3 field of 56 cars. In total, ten GT3s from Affalterbach will be participating at the circuit in the Ardennes and will be competing for the outright win as well as success in the Pro-Am and Silver classes in the next three days. Seven teams are running the cars, all of them excellently prepared and highly motivated for the endurance racing classic with their 36 drivers in total. Like in the Nürburgring 24-hour race, the efforts of the Mercedes-AMG Performance teams at Spa-Francorchamps will again benefit the ‘Passion for Good’ initiative by the Laureus Sport for Good foundation.
The race cars have been unloaded, the teams have set up their pit boxes and the first kilometres in practice have been completed: the Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing Teams have started the 72nd running of the Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour race according to plan. This year, the world’s biggest GT3 race with a field of 56 cars is held behind closed doors and with strict hygiene and safety procedures in place. Without the parade of the participants through the city centre of Spa, otherwise traditionally held on Wednesday evening, the action started at the race track straight away today.
First practice was all about bedding in and finding the right set-up. The track was still slightly damp initially, but dried out more and more as the session went on, resulting faster lap times being posted in rapid succession. The drivers in the Mercedes-AMG GT3s also presented themselves in promising shape at the seven kilometres long circuit in the Ardennes. Just before the end of the 90-minute session, Maro Engel posted his personal fastest time of 2m 19.207s. In the process, the previous year’s pole sitter set the third-fastest time of the field. The #4 Mercedes-AMG Team HRT car with the striking livery to celebrate the ten-year Customer Racing anniversary also was the best-placed GT3 from Affalterbach. Another quick car was the #20 SPS automotive performance entry driven to sixth place by Dominik Baumann, who also ended up fastest in the Pro-Am class. The #88 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP concluded free practice with the eighth-fastest time.
The next on-track sessions will serve as first real tests for the competitiveness of Mercedes-AMG’s Performance and Customer Racing Teams: pre-qualifying starts this afternoon (15.15 hrs), followed by qualifying in four segments in the evening (from 18.55 hrs). Here, the goal is to qualify for Friday’s Super Pole shootout (18.20 hrs), in which the starting order for the first 20 cars will be determined. The race starts on Saturday at 15.30 hrs and ends on Sunday at 14.30 hrs already, a result of the return to standard time during the night.
Racing for a good cause
In the Total 24 Hours of Spa, Mercedes-AMG is again actively racking up kilometres in the GT3 race series to support the sports programmes of the Laureus Sport for Good foundation and particularly children and youngsters through the ‘Passion for Good’ initiative. For 20 years, Laureus Sport for Good is using this passion to change the lives of young people all over the world. Since 2017, the Mercedes-AMG motorsport fraternity has already raised over 180,000 Euros for this good cause. At the occasion of the 24-hour race, Mercedes-AMG as a long-standing partner is congratulating Laureus on its 20th anniversary and is celebrating the power of sports with ‘Passion for Good’.
Maro Engel, Mercedes-AMG Team HRT (#4): “A good start. Our car is handling the way it should. As track conditions were mixed, it was important for us that all drivers would get their laps in. Today’s schedule is packed and the changeable conditions look set to continue. We will try to complete our programme with full focus, to determine a god balance for the race and, of course, secure a slot for top qualifying. Anticipation by myself and the entire team is huge!”
Dominik Baumann, SPS automotive performance (#20): “My teammates have no or very little previous experience at Spa. Therefore, every minute at the track is really valuable for us. So far, they have all done very well. We were able to post the sixth-fastest time and are on top in our class, but that doesn’t mean anything at all. Qualifying this evening will surely be difficult. Then, we are already getting into the dark. Let’s see where we end up at the end of the day.”
Raffaele Marciello, Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP (#88): “That was quite a good start for us already. We haven’t been able to test everything yet, but we are on a good way. After the next sessions, we will know more. In any case, I am looking forward to the next days and of course to the race.”