The 72nd running of the Total 24 Hours of Spa ends with a turbulent final stage at a rain-soaked track. In particularly difficult conditions, Mercedes-AMG was able to achieve a respectable result. The best-placed GT3 from Affalterbach at the finish was the #4 Mercedes-AMG Team HRT car: seventh place for the trio of Vincent Abril (FRA), Maro Engel (GER) and Luca Stolz (GER). A race that was marked by very changeable weather preceded the result. The #88 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP entry dominated the first half of the race. However, damage resulting from a collision led to retirement for Timur Boguslavskiy (RUS), Felipe Fraga (BRA) and Raffaele Marciello (ITA). In spite of the retirement, Boguslavskiy and Marciello managed to defend their points’ lead in the GT World Challenge Europe drivers’ standings. In the Silver Cup classification of the 24-hour race, two Customer Racing Teams came out on top: with the #5 Mercedes-AMG GT3, Haupt Racing Team secured the class win with Sergej Afanasiev (RUS), Michele Beretta (ITA), Hubert Haupt (GER) and Gabriele Piana (ITA). Indy Dontje (NED), Philip Ellis (SUI) and Russell Ward (USA) finished second in class with the #84 HTP-Winward Motorsport car.
Held in October for the first time, the Spa-Francorchamps 24-hour race got off to a promising start for Mercedes-AMG: on Friday evening, Raffaele Marciello posted the fastest time in the Super Pole session with the #88 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP car. Maro Engel, who had claimed pole position in the previous year, managed to set the third-fastest time of the top 20 teams with the #4 Mercedes-AMG Team HRT entry. At the start of the race, Marciello was able to hold on to his lead while Engel also established his Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the group of the front runners.
Rain setting in over and over again made it difficult for the teams to find a good rhythm. The race included accidents, full-course yellows and safety car interventions until the end and these led to multiple position changes. Nevertheless, Engel, Vincent Abril and Luca Stolz managed to cement their top ten position and even racked up a few laps in the lead of the race with the #4 Mercedes-AMG GT3. As rain increased again during the final hours of the race, final driver Engel was still in a position with a good perspective of a podium finish. A 10-second time penalty, however, cost the AMG brand ambassador valuable positions that he was unable to make up anymore. After 527 laps of the seven kilometres long circuit in the Ardennes, he brought the #4 Mercedes-AMG home in seventh place.
The second Performance car, the #88 des Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP entry, dominated proceedings in the first half of the race. Marciello and his teammates Timur Boguslavskiy and Felipe Fraga were in the lead at the six-hour mark and therefore achieved the maximum point score for the GT World Challenge Europe standings. Just before the next intermediate classification after twelve hours, consequential damage after a collision was the reason for the early retirement. In spite of not making it to the finish, Timur Boguslavskiy (1st place with 137 points) and Raffaele Marciello (2nd place with 127.5 points) defend their lead in the drivers’ standings of the GT World Challenge Europe, of which the Total 24 Hours is a round, with one event remaining (1,000km Paul Ricard, 13th-15th November).
Behind the cars in the Pro category, the #5 HRT sister car was able to shine: having started the race from P32, the quartet of Sergej Afanasiev, Michele Beretta, Hubert Haupt and Gabriele Piana worked its way up to 18th place overall with consistent lap times. The team’s focus, meanwhile, was on the Silver Cup class result. Here, the #5 car moved up into the lead during the night already and went on to defend its position in a commanding way.
Second place in class for Indy Dontje, Philip Ellis and Russell Ward with the #84 HTP-Winward Motorsport car rounds out the 1-2 for Mercedes-AMG in the Silver Cup. Fourth in class, Customer Racing Team Madpanda Motorsport with Patrick Assenheimer (GER), Ezequiel Perez Companc (ARG), Juuso Puhakka (FIN) and Ricardo Sanchez (MEX) just missed out on a podium finish. The best-placed Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the Pro-Am classification is the #20 SPS automotive performance car, sixth in class with Dominik Baumann (AUT), Colin Braun (USA), George Kurtz (USA) and Valentin Pierburg (GER).
Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing: “Even though it didn’t work out with our major goal of winning the Spa 24-hour race this year, there are many positive elements to take away. Finishing just under 40 seconds down after 24 hours of hard fights and in the worst conditions is something everybody involved can be proud of. I am particularly proud of our Customer Racing Teams HRT and HTP-Winward Motorsport that were able to celebrate a 1-2 in the Silver Cup. I am already looking forward to next year when, hopefully, we will be able to experience the event again in the way we love it: with many fans and spectators at the race track, with sponsors and partners present on site, who are adding even more emotion to this event.”
Maro Engel, Mercedes-AMG Team HRT (#4): “We have given it our all and caught up over and over again during the race. During the final stop, we wanted to make up time again by refraining from changing tyres, but eventually, the tyres simply degraded too much. We were no longer able to attack all the way up front. Many thanks to the entire team for a top performance throughout the event and congratulations to the #5 sister car on the Silver Cup win. I am really happy about that, particularly for Hubert, who is able to celebrate the class win here with his own team and as a driver.”
Hubert Haupt, Haupt Racing Team (#5): “This is fantastic. We only founded our team back in June and for us, Spa is one of the biggest events of the year. Now we are here with victory in the Silver Cup. I am really happy. The team and my fellow drivers, everybody has done a great job.”
Philip Ellis, HTP-Winward Motorsport (#84): “Our weekend started in a difficult way. We hardly had any running on Thursday and missed out on a top qualifying slot by just one position on Friday. In the race, things didn’t start particularly well either. I was tapped into a spin on the opening lap already and then had to make my way up from the back of the field. Later on, we were unlucky with the tyre choice once and also had a minor collision. Taking all that into account, second place in class really is more than satisfying.”