It wasn’t to be this year too, the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa did not yield the sought results for BMW M Team WRT. There is frustration and disappointment in the Belgian squad, as its leading car, #32 of Charles Weerts, Dries Vanthoor and Sheldon van der Linde was fighting for the win and looked extremely strong. Unfortunately, it was put out of contention in the middle of the night by an unusual incident, for which neither the team nor the driver, Charles Weerts at that moment, can be held responsible. 

The frustration was partly mitigated by the 2nd place podium finish in the Gold Cup conquered by Calan Williams, Niklas Kruetten and Jean-Baptste Simmenauer, the strong result, 6th overall, of Augusto Farfus, Maxime Martin and Valentino Rossi, and a good fight by Adam Carroll and Lewis Proctor, who drove 22 hours out of 24 after their teammate Tim Whale had to give up after two stints because of an acute medical issue.

Team Principal Vincent Vosse could not hide his feelings after the race: “I am extremely disappointed by the final results in Pro. We were competitive, we were at the right place, and we had prepared extremely well. Then, our best-placed car, #32, was put out of the race by an incident provoked by confusing instructions coming from the race direction. It’s difficult to accept at this level of competition and it’s something that will have to be analysed. For the rest, our three other cars got to the finish, car #46 is in the top-six despite a number of minor issues and race incidents, and the car in the Gold Cup brings home the best takeaway of the weekend. Thumbs up as well to Lewis and Adam for an impressive effort. At the end, the entire team did an impeccable job, but unfortunately, it wasn’t rewarded as it should have been. A huge congratulations to ROWE Racing who took the overall win. We fought hard and fair during the race and are glad it was another member of the BMW Motorsport family who took the victory.”

The practice and qualifying sessions were challenging, given the level of competition with 70 cars on track and the better top-speed pace of some of the rivals. Qualifying was heavily influenced by the rain which started to fall after the first of the four sessions. This benefitted the cars of the Bronze classes, with a four-driver line-up, as at least one of them could post a lap on a dry track. Consequently, car #46 qualified 21st and car #32 22nd, therefore just missing the top-20 and a ticket for the Super Pole. Car #30 qualified 6th in the Gold Cup and car #31 19th among Bronze competitors.

The start was given on an almost completely dry track after a few laps behind the safety car with Sheldon van der Linde (car #32) and Maxime Martin (car #46) exchanging positions and then starting to climb into the top-20. Niklas Kruetten took the start in car #30, stabilising in fifth position in the Gold Cup, with Lewis Proctor at the wheel of car #31 doing a similarly good job in the Bronze class, having raised to 13th.

After four hours, car #32 was fifth, running with the top contenders, with car #46 in 10th position. Calan Williams (#30) was running second in the Gold Cup, while car #31 dropped down the order after an unfortunate contact with Rossi and later, a high-speed puncture. Another setback hit this car, as Tim Whale, after two stints, had to give up, due to persistent back pain that he was suffering for several days, thus leaving Carroll and Proctor driving for 11 hours each. The withdrawal of the Bronze driver consequently led to the car being reclassified as Pro.

By the 6-hour mark, Charles Weerts took the lead confirming the excellent form of car #32, with car #46 running eighth. The restart after a safety car period in the 10th hour saw car #32 losing the lead, but not its chances to fight for the win. Unfortunately, shortly before the mid-race mark, the race of car #32 ended after being hit at very high speed on the Kemmel straight by another BMW, after a very confusing full course yellow procedure. The disappointment was partly mitigated by car #30 provisionally taking the lead in the Gold Cup.

The rest of the night and the morning were relatively uneventful for the Belgian squad, which entered the final part of the race with car #46 climbing and finishing eventually 6th despite some damage on the front left during the night, car #30 firmly holding a podium finish in the Gold Cup and car #31 continuing its recovery up to 25th overall.

Niklas Kruetten (car #30): “Overall, a good race for us. Of course, we would have wanted to win, but second is good as well and means a lot of points after not finishing at Paul Ricard. We started down in P46 overall and fifth in the Gold Cup, so finishing 14th overall and second in the Gold Cup is not bad at all. We didn’t have the ultimate pace, but the team did a perfect job in strategy and in the pit stops.”

Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer (car #30): “It’s been a really long race! It’s a shame we had some little issues in the last six hours, otherwise we could have been better. There are of course a lot of mixed feelings after what happened yesterday [the fatal crash of Dilano van ’t Hoff in the Formula Regional race] and now I really look forward to some rest…”

Calan Williams (car #30): “The weekend started off quite tricky, but in the race, we maximised the result we could achieve. We stayed strong, did no mistakes, kept pushing and were consistent. Eventually, it paid off, and we got good points for the championship.”

Adam Carroll (car #31): “That was a long race and it’s amazing to finish it! It was sad to lose Tim, a real shame, and I am happy we did it, also for him. Lewis and I had to drive 11 hours each, I don’t think anyone else has driven so much today, but we made it and took P13 in Pro, where we have been reclassified. We managed to stay out of trouble, the biggest issue we had was at the beginning of the race, when I was hit by a Ferrari and got a puncture. This happened in turn one, so it was a very long journey back to the pits at 40 km/h, and all in all, that cost us three laps.”

Dries Vanthoor (car #32): “For sure, it’s not the race we had in our minds. After being in the lead and always in the fight for the win, we had this unfortunate incident on the track. Difficult to say what went wrong and whom to blame, but there is nothing we could do about it, which makes it even more difficult to swallow. For sure, I believe we had a car to win, as proven by ROWE, whom I congratulate again for their success. It’s going to be difficult for a couple of days, but we’ll get over it as a team as we always do. I feel proud to be part of the WRT family, we always keep pushing each other and doing things as one.”

Valentino Rossi (car #46): “It’s a positive result, we are happy with P6, everybody in the team and my teammates worked hard and did a great job, we just lacked a little bit of pace. It was my second 24 Hours of Spa, a big step forward from last year when I finished 17th, but clearly, we want more, so we’ll try again next year!”

Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup – Round 3
CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium – 1-2 July 2023

Race results:

1. Eng-Yelloly-Wittmann (BMW M4 GT3) 537 laps

2. Marciello-Boguslavskiy-Gounon (Mercedes AMG GT3) +11s129

3. Engstler-Thiim-K.van der Linde (Audi R8 LMS) +12s296

4. Andlauer-Estre-L.Vanthoor (Porsche 911 R) +13s175

5. Preining-Heinrich-Olsen (Porsche 911 R) +50s301

6. Farfus-Martin-Rossi (BMW M4 GT3) +1m25s074

14. Kruetten-Simmenauer-Williams (BMW M4 GT3) + 2 laps (2nd in Gold Cup)

25. Carroll-Proctor-Whale (BMW M4 GT3) +5 laps

DNF S.van der Linde-Vanthoor-Weerts (BMW M4 GT3) 250 laps (damage)

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    10 months ago

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