With a brilliant performance and fantastic team spirit, ROWE RACING has won the 24 Hours of Spa for the third time, following their victories in 2016 and 2020. Austrian driver Philipp Eng, who also triumphed for the third time in the endurance classic and highlight of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, confidently brought home the win for the team from St. Ingbert in the final stages of an eventful race, securing the first Spa victory for his teammates Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly. After 24 hours and 537 laps on the Belgian Formula 1 track, he crossed the finish line in the #98 BMW M4 GT3 with a lead of 11.129 seconds, completing the 25th victory for record-holder BMW M at the 75th edition of the race.
This victory continues ROWE RACING’s impressive success streak this season. In the last five races, at least one of ROWE RACING’s BMW M4 GT3 cars has stood on the podium: second place in the third round of the Nürburgring Endurance Series (NLS), a double victory at the opening of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup in Monza, second place at the ADAC 24h Nürburgring, and third place at the 1,000km race at Le Castellet. Now, they have achieved another triumph at Spa. Throughout all these races, two-time DTM champion Marco Wittmann has been on the podium, and he has now fulfilled his dream of winning a 24-hour race. British driver Nick Yelloly was already part of ROWE RACING’s winning trio in the 2020 24-hour classic at the Nürburgring.
Together with Philipp Eng, the St. Ingbert team laid the foundation for their fantastic record at Spa with their victory in 2016, which includes three wins and second-place finishes in 2018 and 2019. No other team can boast such a record during this period. The Spa victory in 2016 was also the first 24-hour success for the BMW M6 GT3, while this time it marks the premiere for the current BMW M4 GT3.
Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly were not discouraged by starting from 26th position or a minor problem during a refueling stop that required an additional pit stop. They also overcame an unfortunate Full Course Yellow period shortly after a completed pit stop, which temporarily dropped them significantly behind their competitors, as well as a 30-second penalty for frequently exceeding the track limits. The trio fought back and then benefited from a safety car period that brought them back into the pit stop rhythm of the leading group, allowing them to maintain the lead they had occasionally taken earlier in the race. As the closing driver, Philipp Eng extended the lead to over 20 seconds at one point and was able to keep his pursuers under control.
“What an incredible weekend with the first victory for our BMW M4 GT3 in one of the great 24-hour classics and BMW’s 25th overall victory in the Ardennes! Many thanks to the drivers and the ROWE RACING team for their fantastic performance, and to every employee of BMW M Motorsport who contributed to developing such a great GT3 car,” said Andreas Roos, Head of BMW M Motorsport.
In the overall standings of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly have an eight-point lead with 76 points in the driver standings, ahead of the Mercedes trio who finished second at Spa. In the team standings, ROWE RACING has a 12-point lead with a total of 80 points.
At the six-hour mark, the sister #998 car also contributed six points in the intermediate classification. Starting from 25th position – both cars missed the Super Pole session for the top 20 fastest cars due to rain-affected qualifying on Thursday evening – British driver Dan Harper, Max Hesse from Germany and Neil Verhagen from the USA fought their way into the leading group during the race. However, the BMW Junior Team retired early after a confusing Full Course Yellow procedure initiated by the race control after more than 11 hours. This led to a chain of unfortunate circumstances, and Neil Verhagen and Charles Weerts, who was driving ahead in the BMW M4 GT3 of Team WRT, received different information about the exact start time of the yellow period. Weerts reduced his speed, and Verhagen was caught by surprise and could not avoid colliding with him. Both cars suffered severe damage, but fortunately, the drivers remained uninjured.
Hans-Peter Naundorf, Team Principal ROWE RACING: “For me, this was the most intense, toughest, and most fiercely contested GT3 race we have ever competed in, with very strong competition, many cars, and numerous top-class drivers, and to come out on top again makes me incredibly happy. First of all, I would like to thank our team, which has handled extreme workloads during the long preparations for this event. Our drivers made the difference on the track. It took incredible commitment to come through the race as error-free as possible, as well as great morale never to give up. The final quarter of the race was extremely intense, GT sport at the highest level with one qualifying lap after another. The drivers deserve the utmost respect, and it’s great to be able to work with such pilots. I would like to thank our partner BMW M Motorsport for their comprehensive support. I am proud that we were able to present BMW with the 25th victory and the first 24-hour success of the BMW M4 GT3 at the 75th edition of this race. In the eighth year of our partnership, we have achieved an almost blind understanding that can make the difference in race-decisive moments. Such successes are only possible with great mutual trust. Lastly, I would like to thank SRO, which always manages to make this unique event even better every year. It’s fantastic what a high-caliber platform SRO offers us for our sport.”
Philipp Eng (#98 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “Winning a 24-hour race is the dream of every racing driver, and this is the most difficult GT race to win, so it means a lot to me to experience it for the third time in my career. It’s a great honor for me. The race was anything but easy for us. At one point, we were one lap down, and there was no indication that we could still win but the team did a fantastic job of bringing us back into the race. The last two hours felt like an eternity.”
Marco Wittmann (#98 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “I’ve been trying to win a 24-hour race for about ten years now. Finally, it worked! It’s an incredible feeling. A big compliment to the team and my fellow drivers. We had an extremely strong package of driver, team and car, which gave me my long-awaited first 24-hour victory.”
Nick Yelloly (#98 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “A fantastic performance from the entire team. So many things have to come together to win a race like this, and today it all came together. Many thanks to everyone who made this success possible! For me personally, this is the culmination of an outstanding week that started with the first GTP victory for the BMW M Hybrid V8 at Watkins Glen.”
Neil Verhagen (#998 ROWE RACING BMW M4 GT3): “Something went wrong in the communication regarding the Full Course Yellow before the accident. But why that happened, I can’t say anything about that. Everything happened so incredibly fast, and I’m just glad that we drivers are okay. For BMW M Motorsport, it’s obviously extremely unfortunate to have lost two cars with a chance of winning due to this incident.”