A remarkable field of 71 GT3 cars will tackle this year’s CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa, promising an unmatched level of competition as the legendary event celebrates its 75th edition.
Among this bumper grid, 20 Pro crews will be gunning for overall victory in the Ardennes. Each can count on world-class professional drivers, while the teams represent the very best in the business. So, who will be the latest to add their name to Spa’s roll of honour?
The natural starting point is last year’s victorious brand, Mercedes-AMG. Winning back-to-back is an immense challenge, but with a quartet of top-level crews the Affalterbach concern has the necessary firepower. Last year’s winner Akkodis ASP should be strong once again with its flagship #88 entry, which won the most recent Fanatec GT Europe Endurance Cup event at Circuit Paul Ricard thanks to the trio of Raffaele Marciello, Jules Gounon and Timur Boguslavskiy. The sister #87 Mercedes-AMG Team Akkodis ASP machine unites 2013 winner Maxi Götz with Lorenzo Ferrari and Thomas Drouet to form another competitive crew.
The #777 Mercedes-AMG Team AlManar machine also has the potential to run at the front. The programme is overseen by the GetSpeed squad that finished second overall last term, with Luca Stolz again leading the driver line-up alongside experienced AMG racers Fabian Schiller and Lucas Auer. In addition to these full-season Endurance Cup programmes, Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing add a fourth Pro car to the entry list. Maro Engel moves across from his regular berth in the #777 to join fellow factory drivers Mikaël Grenier and Dani Juncadella, the latter chasing back-to-back Spa wins after triumphing last year with Akkodis ASP.
BMW arrives with a bolstered four-car effort this term as it hunts a 25th overall victory. There would be something appropriate about Spa’s most successful brand reaching a quarter-century of wins at the event’s 75th edition, and many believe it to be on the cards. The M4 GT3 looked strong last year in the very capable hands of ROWE Racing and the accomplished German squad has made a stellar start to the 2023 campaign. Two-time winner Philipp Eng (2016 & 2018) leads the #98 crew alongside fellow factory stalwarts Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly, while the young trio of Dan Harper, Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen will look to make their mark in the #998.
The BMW line-up also features a two-car programme from Team WRT. The #32 of Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts and Sheldon van der Linde has endured a tough start to the season, but this is certainly a potential winner. In the sister #46, Valentino Rossi is set for his second crack at the Ardennes classic, which will be helped immensely by the experience of 2016 winner Maxime Martin and BMW factory stalwart Augusto Farfus.
A new car does not often win Spa at the first attempt, but Ferrari has high hopes for its 296 GT3. Its two-pronged effort is run by brand specialist AF Corse – Francorchamps Motors, while the drivers are all drawn from its Competizioni GT division. The #71 crew of Davide Rigon, Antonio Fuoco and Daniel Serra finished third last year and represent one of the most balanced line-ups on the grid. In the #51 machine, Robert Shwartzman will get his first taste of international 24-hour racing alongside a pair of Spa experts: Nicklas Nielsen won the event in 2021, while Alessio Rovera broke the GT3 lap record last year.
After a strong run that included overall wins in 2019 and 2020, Porsche endured a fallow year in 2022. Its hopes of returning to the top rest on a new-generation 911 GT3 R and a trio of Pro crews. Dinamic GT Huber Racing brings plenty of experience thanks to Christian Engelhart, Ayhancan Güven and Sven Müller, while Rutronik Racing has youth on its side with Thomas Preining, Dennis Olsen and Laurin Heinrich. There’s also a heavyweight addition for the big event, with Manthey EMA fielding a pair of winners in Laurens Vanthoor (2014 & 2020) and Kevin Estre (2019) alongside talented youngster Julien Andlauer.
Lamborghini has an upgraded model for 2023 and has already earned an Endurance Cup podium with the Huracán GT3 EVO2. Success at Spa remains elusive, but its chances have been bolstered by the addition of 2021 winner Iron Lynx, whose #63 line-up of Mirko Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli and Jordan Pepper is as strong as any other on the grid. American squad K-PAX Racing also has a full complement of Squadra Corsa drivers in Marco Mapelli, Franck Perera and Sandy Mitchell, so there is no question that Lamborghini has the speed and the personnel to win this race. Could its long wait finally be over?
It has now been six years since Saintéloc Junior Team secured victory for Audi Sport, which suggests that the Ingolstadt marque is due a return to the top. The French team remains a strong contender, with its line-up of Chris Mies, Patric Niederhauser and Simon Gachet more than capable of conquering this race. Belgian squad Comtoyou Racing is new to the event, but in 2017 winner Christopher Haase and local expert Fred Vervisch it has countless laps of experience at Spa-Francorchamps, while emerging talent Gilles Magnus completes a line-up that should be one to watch.
Audi Sport Tresor Orange1 adds another leading contender with its line-up of Mattia Drudi, Ricardo Feller and Dennis Marschall. The team is run in collaboration with Attempto Racing, which came within a few seconds of snatching overall victory three years ago, so the only question concerns the drivers’ experience: none are new to Spa, but their average age is just 24. An extra Audi joins the grid thanks to Scherer Sport PHX, which partners top international racers Nicki Thiim and Kelvin van der Linde with young TCR ace Luca Engstler.
McLaren completes the line-up of Pro manufacturers with its upgraded 720S Evo. Perhaps the greatest obstacle that it faces is a numerical disadvantage, with its lone entry coming from Garage 59. The young duo of Benji Goethe and Nicolai Kjaergaard are joined by factory man Marvin Kirchhöfer, and as a minimum they will aim to match McLaren’s best overall finish of seventh in the Ardennes. But should they hit their marks perfectly and emerge as contenders for victory, it would be no great surprise.
Indeed, each of the 20 crews gunning for glory at this year’s CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa must be considered a potential winner. To find out who takes the big prize, fans can follow the action live thanks to free-to-view online streaming. Commentary is available in English, German, French and Italian on the GT World YouTube channels, with further live streams available via the event’s social media channels.