Bad luck for Kessel Racing after hugely encouraging centenary 24 Hours of Spa

Kessel Racing headed into the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa as leader in the Bronze category, following their fabulous victory at the season-opener in Paul Ricard. After a promising start to the race and being in constant charge for class victory, an unfortunate chain of events led to the retirement of both Kessel Racing Ferraris with five hours to go in the race.

The start to the weekend was dominated by a warm and sunny summer feeling, untypically for the Ardennes. So, whilst the four qualifying sessions on Thursday evening still took place in perfect dry conditions, it was an altogether different story for the race to come.

When the 66 cars lined up on the starting grid, the sun was still beaming. Niccolò Schirò started the #8 Ferrari 296 GT3 from P10 in class, whilst Ben Tuck steered the sister car #74 from 17th position.

After a clean start with no incidents to speak of, Ben Tuck took the advantage of having free air in front of him, setting the fastest lap in the category, which would remain until the end of the race. Both cars pitted under the first Full-Course-Yellow. Whilst Ben Tuck was running in 50th overall, he gained an enormous advantage thanks to a great strategic move, pitting early and moving up the order into 24th place.

Four hours into the race, teams were informed to check their equipment as strong winds and thunderstorms were predicted for the night.

After six hours the team took their scheduled stops and the rain continued even heavier, the weather turning into the predicted downpour everyone had been expecting at that time. At this stage the Kessel Ferraris were in P9 and P16 respectively, gaining one point towards to championship for their Top-10 position.

When it was just about to ring in the eighth hour the field was led by the Safety Car due to the heavy rain for more than two hours. At around 4:15 am, Chandler Hull pitted in the #74 Ferrari for the mandatory technical pitstop. After an incredible team effort, he was sent back out on the track.

Whilst the first 12 hours had ticked down the clock, the team was given another five points towards the championship with P6 and P14 in class. Light rain was still looming and with the sun rising somewhere behind think rain clouds, the #8 was running in 25th overall and 5th in class.

As the day dawned over Spa, heavy rain and mist was hanging in the trees. The #8 Ferrari stopped for its technical pitstop as well from fourth in class and with a time of 5:02 the pitstop work could not have been more on point. With still 25 seconds left on the clock, the car was sent out back on track retaining the lead lap and keeping it in contention for class win.

With just under five hours to go, John Hartshorne lost control of the #74 and hit the barriers heavily at Bruxelles corner – meaning the unfortunate retirement of the car. The driver escaped the accident unhurt.

Only 20 minutes later, in a chain of unfortunate circumstances, the #46 BMW of Valentino Rossi clipped the rear left of the #8 Ferrari of Nicolò Rosi going into Le Combes, forcing the car into a spin and a contact with #35 Aston Martin.

The car managed to make its way into the pits, but after a closer inspection, the team had to also unfortunately retire their second Ferrari, seeing the chances of a podium finish at this iconic race vanish.

Ronnie Kessel, Team Principal
“It is always an honour to participate in the 24 Hours of Spa. This year, we were facing many challenges with the rain starting sooner than expected and the long periods behind the Safety Car, making the jobs for both the drivers and the team strategies even more difficult. This extraordinary race has shown once again that things can go from good to bad within a matter of minutes. We all know this is racing and this can happen, but it is still very frustrating. We were here to fight for trophies, and we will come back to fight for them on the top step, again! Sadly, luck was not on our side for this round, but I would like to thank all our drivers and the crew for their magnificent job.”