Last weekend, the Total 24 Hours of Spa staged its 20th edition since GT rules were introduced in 2001. We had to wait a little longer than anticipated to celebrate the milestone, while the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic altered the character of this year’s event.
What did not change, however, was the level of competition. The race that unfolded between Saturday and Sunday was an intriguing contest featuring several leading contenders. At times it seemed almost certain that Mercedes-AMG, Lamborghini, Ferrari or Audi would secure the overall win, only for ROWE Racing to pounce during the closing stages and clinch victory for Porsche.
This is the final word on a very different but typically close-fought Total 24 Hours of Spa.
ROWE Racing strengthened its reputation as an elite endurance outfit with its second Total 24 Hours of Spa win, and its fourth podium, in five years. The German squad has two victories (2016 and 2020) and a pair of runner-up finishes (2018 and 2019). No other team has more than two podium appearances during this period.
Among the ROWE Racing drivers, Nick Tandy collected his maiden Total 24 Hours of Spa victory after finishing runner-up for the same squad last year. Earl Bamber is a first-time winner and podium finisher, while Laurens Vanthoor collected his second overall win in the Ardennes.
Vanthoor’s first win was with Audi in 2014, making him only the second driver of the GT era to triumph with multiple brands. The other is Fabrizio Gollin, who won with Ferrari in 2004 and Corvette in 2007.
After missing out in 2019, Audi Sport returned to the overall podium thanks to a runner-up finish for its newest factory-backed squad, Attempto Racing. It means that the Ingolstadt brand’s strike rate for the GT3 era is now nine podiums from 10 races.
The #51 AF Corse Ferrari led the most laps (118) and enjoyed the longest unbroken spell at the front this year, completing 49 laps at the head of the field during the night hours before ultimately slipping to fifth. In contrast, the winning #98 ROWE Racing Porsche led just 43 laps across the entire race.
The race saw a total of 59 lead changes, with 13 cars representing seven manufacturers running out front at some stage. Porsche and Ferrari both had three different cars at the head of the field, the latter’s contingent including the #27 HubAuto entry that started from the pit lane.
Eight cars finished on the lead lap, setting a new record for the event. First staged in 1924, this year’s race marked the 72nd edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa. Judging by the number of cars at the front, it was among the most competitive ever seen.
Lamborghini looked to be firmly in contention until an early-morning crash eliminated its #63 Orange1 FFF Racing entry. The car led 98 laps and was at the head of the order when Dennis Lind lost control at Raidillon shortly before 07.30 CET. It was a devastating conclusion for the Danish racer, who had been remarkably fast and consistent in each of his stints.
Earlier in the race, teammate Marco Mapelli established a new record lap time for the GT3 era by posting a 2m18.146s at the wheel of the #63 Lamborghini. This beat the previous benchmark, set by Nick Catsburg in 2015, by more than half a second.
Raffaele Marciello also left Spa empty handed, but the Italian was one of the standout performers of the event. He put Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP on top in Super Pole, while his pace during the opening phase of the race was equally impressive. It was further confirmation that Marciello is one of the fastest GT drivers on the planet.
A much-discussed topic before the weekend began, the weather played only a supporting role in this year’s race. The heaviest rain fell on Sunday morning, though it was nowhere near enough to threaten a stoppage.
The long night was a bigger factor, with some 14 hours of the race staged in darkness. Competitors appeared to take a conservative approach, with most of the event’s full-course yellow and safety car interventions coming during the daylight hours.
France was the best represented nation at this year’s race with 30 drivers, though none of them finished on the overall podium. In contrast, New Zealand had just one driver: overall winner Earl Bamber.
Belgian drivers were in fine form this year, with home representation on the podium in each class. Laurens Vanthoor (overall winner), Fred Vervisch (second overall), Maxime Martin (third in Pro-Am), Baptise Moulin (third in Silver Cup) and Stephane Lemeret (Am Cup winner) ensured plenty of success.
Barwell Motorsport secured its third class victory from as many attempts by winning Pro-Am with the #77 Lamborghini. Indeed, the British squad now has three wins and two second places from the past three years, having conquered the Am Cup, Silver Cup and Pro-Am classes respectively. So, that just leaves the overall win…
Barwell’s Sandy Mitchell set the Pro-Am pace with a best lap of 2m19.057s. The young Scot was also impressive during the heavy rain that fell on Sunday, leading his team’s charge to class victory. He was part of the squad’s Silver Cup win last year, while teammate Leo Machitski earned Am Cup honours in 2018.
Barwell’s success ensured that Rob and Ricky Collard’s first race together ended in victory. For father Rob, it represented another significant achievement: winning on his Spa debut. The Collards are the first father-son duo to win a class during the GT era, though the best overall finish remains ninth, set in 2004 by the combination of two fathers and two sons: the Felbermayrs and the Rieds.
By finishing second in class with its #93 Ferrari, Sky Tempesta Racing became the only squad to wrap up a championship at this year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa. The British outfit clinched the GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Pro-Am teams’ title, while Chris Froggatt and Eddie Cheever III are the new drivers’ champions. The squad had already won the Sprint Cup crown and could seal a clean sweep by adding the Endurance championship next month.
The #10 Boutsen Ginion Racing BMW took fifth in Pro-Am, ensuring that the team’s ‘art car’ made it home in one piece. Indeed, the Peter Halley design was in remarkably good condition despite 24 hours of gruelling track action.
The Boutsen Ginion crew was especially busy at Spa. In addition to its efforts in the 24 Hours, the Belgian squad also ran cars in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo and TCR Europe support series. The team took a pair of runner-up finishes in the latter courtesy of tin-top legend Tom Coronel.
In what is becoming something of an annual tradition, RAM Racing topped the Bronze Test with its #74 Mercedes-AMG. This was the third year in succession that the RAM car has led the way in the opening session, Remon Vos setting the time on this occasion. The car retired during the evening stint after a crash at La Source caused significant chassis damage.
After finishing third at the 2018 and 2019 editions, Hubert Haupt and Gabriele Piana were thoroughly deserving Silver Cup winners for the new HRT squad, holding an advantage of three laps by the end of the race. This is the first time that a Mercedes-AMG has won the class following back-to-back victories for Lamborghini.
The #5 Mercedes-AMG also featured Michele Beretta, who was class runner-up in 2018, and Sergey Afanasyev, who returned to the race after a six-year absence and earned his best finish to date.
Though it was the only one-off entrant in the Silver Cup, HTP Motorsport showed very well with its #84 Mercedes-AMG. The German squad finished as class runner-up despite losing time following an opening-lap incident. What’s more, Philip Ellis set the fastest Silver Cup lap, posting a 2m19.156s.
HRT’s dominant win did not tell the whole story of the race. Barwell Motorsport looked set to battle the German squad to the flag until its car was eliminated in an unfortunate collision at Raidillon. The #78 Lamborghini was unable to avoid a separate accident and was eliminated from the Silver Cup lead on the spot.
Lamborghini took this year’s Coupe du Roi, which rewards the manufacturer with the best performance across all four classes. The Italian brand took Pro-Am victory and was third in the Silver Cup thanks to the #555 Orange1 FFF Racing Lamborghini. It also ran second overall at six and 12 hours thanks to the #63 FFF car.
Bentley took its first class win in the Ardennes thanks to French squad CMR, which was the only Am Cup runner to go the full distance. The #108 crew completed 497 laps, a significant achievement given the unprecedented amount of night racing.
Clement Mateu, Romano Ricci and Stephane Tribaudini represented the team’s three Bronze-graded drivers. They were joined for the 24 Hours by the vastly experienced Stephane Lemeret, who made his maiden appearance at the event in 1996.
As well as the Am Cup win, Lemeret also took victory for CMR in Saturday’s GT4 European Series support race. Silver Cup contender Valentin Hasse Clot won on Friday, while Gilles Vannelet also pulled double duty between GT3 and GT4 machinery.
The fastest lap among the Am Cup runners was set by Steven Palette in the #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi. The Frenchman posted a 2m21.084s during the second hour.
It flew under the radar amid the post-race celebrations, but events at Spa have set up an incredible conclusion to the GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS season. In the Endurance Cup the overall championship is a tie, with the top-five crews separated by just 12 points.
The lead in Pro-Am is also tied, while the Silver and Am titles remain on the line. There are further battles for the GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS overall and Silver Cup titles, setting up a spectacular showdown at Circuit Paul Ricard
In the race for the global GT World Challenge Powered by AWS title, Mercedes-AMG (9,550 points) holds a useful advantage over Audi (8,031) heading into the concluding event at Circuit Paul Ricard. The German marques are followed by Italian rivals Ferrari (5,830) and Lamborghini (5,275), who will battle for third. The French venue will stage the season-closing race on 13-15 November.
In the meantime, SRO Motorsports Group wishes to thank everyone involved with making the 2020 Total 24 Hours of Spa possible, despite the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Representing the 20th edition of the GT era and the 10th since GT3 became the premier class, the action on-track more than matched the occasion. It was a pleasure to share it with the world.
Source. SRO Motorsports group