The Saintéloc Junior Team has secured its first overall win in the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook after a race-long fight with former series champion Herberth Motorsport and ‘part two’ Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS polesitter Heart of Racing by SPS.
Though it was the Heart of Racing by SPS Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#27, Ian James / Gray Newell / Roman De Angelis) that led the field away at Sunday morning’s restart, a demon stint during the second hour meant it was 2017 Overall GT Teams’ ‘Continents’ champion Herberth Motorsport (#91, Daniel Allemann / Ralf Bohn / Alfred Renauer / Robert Renauer / Laurin Heinrich) that led for much of the event thereafter. The Bavarian team, which officially entered its new 992-generation Porsche 911 GT3 R for the first time in Belgium, led 70 of the completed 132 laps on Sunday, and 79 of the 250 total completed laps across the weekend, and looked on course for its first series win since 2021.
A delay during a late-race Code 60 caution period though, during which the Herberth Motorsport stopped twice to brim its fuel tank, allowed the Saintéloc Junior Team Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#26, Erwan Bastard / Paul Evrard / Antoine Doquin) to leapfrog ahead heading into the final 90 minutes. Even with a 40-second deficit to overhaul, Herberth Motorsport was catching the leader only for a puncture to strike the Porsche with just three minutes left on the clock. Now unchallenged, the Saintéloc Junior Team Audi went on to complete an impeccable run to secure its first series victory at Spa-Francorchamps.
The result means that, for the second event in succession, the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook has crowned a brand-new, outright winner in the GT division, following Haas RT’s win in Mugello. The victory also vaults the Saintéloc Junior Team to the top of the GT3 Teams’ championship standings.
“The team, everyone, did a perfect job to bring home the victory, so that’s good preparation for ‘the big one’ in July!” Antoine Doquin explained to radiolemans.com’s Diana Binks. “This was only my second time in a GT car, and I’ve learnt a lot ahead of the next race. We all did a mega job to bring the car [home] without any contact, so we’re very happy and hope that continues.”
Though a time penalty dropped the American team away from the top two, Heart of Racing by SPS nevertheless completed an impressive run to secure its second successive 24H SERIES podium in 3rd, just ahead of series debutant JP Motorsport (#69, Christian Klien / Patryk Krupinski / Norbert Siedler). 4th for the McLaren 720S GT3 means four different manufacturers finished in the top four at Spa-Francorchamps.
Having taken the restart in 4th – as one of five GT cars still on the lead lap – Modena Motorsports (#16, Francis Tjian / John Shen / Benny Simonsen / Mathias Beche) eventually slipped back when its new Porsche 992 GT3 R was delayed in the refueling area during an early Code 60 on Sunday. A strong run meant the Hong Kong team nevertheless managed to finish 7th overall and take GT3-PRO/AM class victory after significant delays – including a severe vibration and an on-track collision – dropped the Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II of fellow GT3-PRO/AM runner, and reigning GT European Trophy winner, Scherer Sport PHX (#1, Michael Doppelmayr / Pierre Kaffer / Elia Erhart / Swen Herberger) to the tail of the field.
Behind class winner Heart of Racing by SPS, an extraordinary sequence of events meant the fight for the final GT3-AM podium spots went down to the wire.
The one-lap gap between the Porsche 911 GT3 Cups of 992 class winner HRT Performance (#930, Adam Christodoulou / Eric Zang / Xinzhe Xie) and Red Ant Racing (#903, Ayrton Redant / Yannick Redant / Kobe de Breucker) belied the close fight between the two, with less than 30 seconds splitting the pair heading into the final hour. The race was ultimately decided when the reigning 992 Teams’ champion was forced to stop for fuel with just 15 minutes remaining, though the #903 Porsche was still able to hold off eventual 3rd-placed Willi Motorsport by Ebimotors (#955, Fabrizio Broggi / Sergiu Nicolae / Sabino de Castro) for 2nd in-class. Ironically, the final podium spot, plus its class win in Mugello, means the Romanian-Italian outfit now leads Red Ant Racing in the 992 Teams’ championship standings by four points.
The sister Red Ant Racing (#904, Sam Dejonghe / Philippe Wils / John de Wilde) upheld the Belgian team’s honour with a commanding win in 992-AM and 4th overall in 992. So strong were the 992 frontrunners at Spa, the top four in-class also finished inside the overall top 10 at Spa-Francorchamps, in 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th respectively.
Long-time 992 leader Red Camel-Jordans.nl (#909, Ivo Breukers / Rik Breukers / Luc Breukers) fell away from the fight for 992 class victory at three-quarter distance with broken steering, though the Dutch team was still able to finish 6th in 992.
E2P Racing (#90, Javier Morcillo / Pablo Burguera / Antonio Sainero) had been on course to finish 8th overall and 2nd in GT3-AM – the Spanish team’s first podium since switching to GT3 – until a collision with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Hofor-Racing (#11, Michael Kroll / Chantal Prinz / Alexander Prinz / Maximilian Partl), 1.5 hours from home, left the #90 Porsche 911.2 GT3 stranded in the gravel at Les Combes.
The incident brought out the 14th, of an eventual 15, Code 60 of the event, and, briefly, demoted E2P Racing to 4th in GT3-AM. 2017 Overall GT Teams’ ‘Europe’ champion Hofor-Racing, which limped back to the pits with broken suspension, was unable to continue.
CP Racing’s (#85, Charles Putman / Charles Espenlaub / Shane Lewis) time on the GT3-AM podium also came to naught when, in a rare error for the GT Continents Trophy winner, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 collided with the Juta Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#71, Yevgen Sokolovskiy / Vytenis Gulbinas / Arunas Geciauskas / Jonas Gelžinis) at La Source 35 minutes from home. The American team was handed a 20-second time penalty for the collision, and, unable to go the distance, the wounded Mercedes-AMG GT3 once again fell behind E2P Racing and, ironically, Juta Racing back to 5th in GT3-AM on the penultimate lap.
Beneficiary Land Motorsport (#34, Dr. Johannes Kirchhoff / Tim Vogler / Max Edelhoff) came through the melee to take 2nd in GT3-AM and round out the overall top 10. A fitting reward for the Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II, which was denied a GT3-AM podium in the closing moments last time out in Mugello.
Having lost more than two hours repairing heavy damage sustained at Raidillon, the polesitting HAAS RT Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO II (#21, Mathieu Detry / Stéphane Perrin / Frédéric Vervisch / Olivier Bertels) completed a clean run across the remaining six hours to the collect the chequered flag in 43rd, the Antigua team banking track time in the process.
The second Juta Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 EVO I (#72, Aurimas Jablonskis / Egidijus Gelunas / Joana Survilaité / Jonas Karklys) lasted just a single lap during the second half of the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, a spin on cold tyres on the start-finish straight causing significant damage to the front and rear. Fortunately Jonas Karklys was uninjured during the impact.
The returning VDS Racing Adventures (#758, Raphaël van der Straten / Nathan Vanspringel / Nick Geelen) completed a flawless run to take victory in GTX with its bespoke MARC II V8, marking the Belgian team’s first 24H SERIES win since the same event in 2018.
The GT3 Poland Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo (#763, Andrzej Lewandowski / Adrian Lewandowski / Mariusz Miekos) completed a similarly strong run to finish 2nd in GTX, just one minute clear of the RD Signs – Siauliai racing team Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo (#720, Audrius Butkevicius / Nicola Michelon / Paulius Paskevicius). Alongside two collisions on Saturday, the Lithuanian team also suffered a puncture mid-way through Sunday afternoon, though the Lamborghini’s pace was quick enough to keep the 9und11 Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup MR (#719, Georg Goder / Ralf Oehme / Martin Schlüter / Tim Scheerbrarth) at bay.
RD Signs thus leapfrogs Vortex V8 (#701, Lionel Amrouche / Olivier Gomez) to the top of the GTX Teams’ title standings, the latter having lost considerable time with an off at Les Combes that left the Vortex 1.0 sports car crabbing badly back to pitroad.
The PB Racing Lotus Exige V6 Cup R (#726, Stefano d’Aste / Vito Utzieri / Federico Leo / Maurizio Copetti) endured a difficult race en-route to 5th in GTX. The Italian team lost significant time during the opening wet-dry-wet conditions with repeat tyre changes before suffering brake and driveshaft failure on Sunday. PB Racing’s efforts earned it radiolemans.com’s ‘Spirit of the Race’ award.
Buggyra Racing (#416, Aliyyah Koloc / David Vrsecky / Adam Lacko) took a controlled win in GT4 with its Mercedes-AMG, the second class victory of the season for the Emirati team after Abu Dhabi. The result, plus 2nd in-class in Mugello, means Buggyra now leads the GT4 Teams’ standings in the 24H SERIES.
The final podium spots in GT4 meanwhile went down to the wire, with the Lionspeed GP powered by SRS Team Sorg Rennsport (#427, Daniel Miller / Patrick Kolb / José Garcia) handing the TCL Motorsport by AR Performance (#488, Gary Terclavers / Kenny Terclavers / Lars Zaenen) 2nd in-class in the dying moments when the #427 Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 RS Clubsport pitted for fuel with only a few laps left. The #488 BMW M4 GT4 was then handed a 60-second time penalty post-race for a driver stint infringement, meaning the GT4 podium was decided by just 17 seconds.
One electrical fire aside very early on Saturday morning, the Xwift Racing Events Toyota Supra GT4 (#408, Pieter Denys / Steven Dewulf / Tim de Borle / Gavin Pickering) completed its first 24H SERIES outing 4th in-class, just ahead of erstwhile GT4 standings leader Atlas BX Motorsports (#403, Steven Cho / Roelof Bruins / Jongkyum Kim / Taekeun Yang). Alternator failure ultimately meant the South Korean team’s Mercedes-AMG GT4 dropped to 5th in-class at the flag, 11 laps behind its championship rival.
One year on from the Danish team securing its first-ever class win (and podium) in the 24H SERIES, the Holmgaard Motorsport Cupra Leon Competición TCR (#102, Jonas Holmgaard / Magnus Holmgaard / Roy Edland / Martin Vedel Mortensen) completed a commanding run to take overall TCE victory, the CUPRA Leon Competición TCR completed 232 laps of the 7.004km Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps en-route to the chequered flag. Amazingly, despite its seemingly easy run to victory, a potential driveshaft failure was a concern for Holmgaard Motorsport as the CUPRA entered its final stint.
“We are so happy, because that could have gone so wrong,” Magnus Holmgaard explained to radiolemans.com’s Diana Binks. “We started with a few issues, and we were on the limit [with the driveshaft], so we’re so happy to get to the end. But great teammates, awesome team. To be on the podium again is really nice!”
The result moves Holmgaard Motorsport to the top of the TCR Teams’ championship standings.
At half-distance, the TCE runners-up spot looked set to go to the returning RAIL EQUIP BY TOTCAR SPORT CUPRA TCR (#123, Jorge Belloc Diaz / Jorge Belloc Ruiz / Álvaro Rodríguez Sastre), though the Spanish team was eventually overhauled across the final six hours by the Audi RS 3 LMS TCR of three-time Overall TCE Teams’ champion Wolf-Power Racing (#121, Jasmin Preisig / Ivars Vallers).
SRS Team Sorg Rennsport (#227, Seppi Stigler / Bernhard Wagner / Heiko Eichenberg / Patrik Grütter) converted TCE pole position into a commanding TCX class victory at Spa-Francorchamps after a flawless run from the Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 CS. The Roma Racing by BMW Team Van Der Horst BMW M2 CS Racing (#245, Paul Roosen / Mauro Mercuri / Johan Lambregs) proved similarly reliable on its way to 2nd in TCX, a fitting result for Van der Host’s first 24H SERIES run since 2019.
Finally, the Hofor Racing by Bonk Motorsport BMW M2 CS Racing (#331, Martin Kroll / Michael Bonk / Alexander Schmidt), on the fringes of the TCE top five throughout the event, eventually retired late on Sunday when its front left brake caliper shattered. The Swiss team had nevertheless completed sufficient race distance to secure TC-class victory, the win vaulting the Swiss team to the top of the TCE European Trophy standings in the process.
Round three of this year’s 24H SERIES powered by Hankook takes CREVENTIC and its competitors to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the second Hankook 12H MONZA on 10-11 June. One month later, the inaugural Hankook 12H ESTORIL is set to be held on 7-8 July with the non-championship 6H VILA REAL – the first official CREVENTIC event to ever be held on a street circuit – following one week later on 14-15-16 July.
Further details regarding the 2023 24H SERIES calendar and championship standings can be found at 24hseries.com.