Team WRT added a podium finish to its collection of achievements in the Crowdstrike 24 Hours of Spa, with Sheldon van der Linde, Dries Vanthoor, and Charles Weerts taking third in the Skechers-branded #32 BMW M4 GT3. For its centenary anniversary, the classic race in the Ardennes kept faithful to its legend, with all the epic ingredients of a 24 Hours of Spa, from all types of weather to incidents and an unprecedented finale. Like other times in the recent past, Team WRT finished on a high after emerging from a demanding week. There was less luck for the other two cars of the Belgian squad, where car #46, with Maxime Martin, Raffaele Marciello, and Valentino Rossi, dropped from the front-running in the closing hours following the consequences of a race incident, but managed to take the flag. Car #30, entered in the Bronze Cup with Ahmad Al Harthy, Sam De Haan, Jens Klingmann, and Calan Williams, had to retire at the 18th hour, after a consistent race, because of a technical issue.

The week started in a terrific atmosphere, with many events to celebrate the centenary and a record crowd at the traditional parade, but the practice and qualifying sessions were frustrating for all BMWs, who couldn’t keep the pace of the fastest rivals. Cars #46 and #32 qualified 21st and 23rd respectively, missing the Superpole threshold by a few thousandths of a second, while car #30 took 11th among the Bronze Cup cars.

Good weather was still dominating at the start of the race, which ran smoothly despite the 66-car grid, with the first couple of hours unusually uneventful. Maxime Martin took the start in car #46, running 22nd in the opening hours, closely followed by Sheldon van der Linde in car #32. Jens Klingmann was the first driver at the wheel in car #30, before handing it over to Ahmad Al Harthy, who brought the M4 GT3 up to eighth in class before being slowed by a puncture.

Three hours into the race, a few drops of rain started to fall and with them commenced the string of incidents and full course yellow periods, perfectly mastered by Team WRT. During the fifth hour, #46’s Valentino Rossi led the race for a while but was later involved in contact that cost the crew a drive-through, while car #32 was in fourth.

The much anticipated heavy rain came later and with less strength than forecast, causing gambles with tyre choice in all teams, but at the seventh hour, it came for good, prompting a long safety car period during the night. Except for contact and later a 30-second penalty for #32, Team WRT’s cars survived the treacherous conditions, with more than half of the first 12 hours run under caution. They performed the mandatory technical pit stop shortly after the 12th and 13th hour marks.

Early into Sunday morning, the BMW M4 GT3s of Team WRT were solidly in the top positions, taking the lead on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, at noon, Calan Williams in car #30 which was running eighth in the class, stopped along the track with a total loss of power, being forced to retire.

Approaching the last third of the race mark, Raffaele Marciello took the lead again in #46, with #32’s Charles Weerts in fifth. Positions swung according to the sequence of pit stops and the numerous caution periods that continued to happen, despite a mostly dry track, but both cars remained in contention for top honours. Unfortunately at noon, Rossi could not avoid contact with a Ferrari, forcing #46 to the pits to replace front bodywork and repair the front left suspension, an intervention that was achieved in less than five minutes. A ‘stop and go’ was also inflicted on the car, which had to stop again to change the bonnet, whose fixation points had been damaged in the contact. All this put the car three laps down and it eventually crossed the finishing line in 24th position. Car #32 kept running trouble-free with Dries Vanthoor, who fought for the podium until the end and achieved third in the thrilling finale of the race.

Vincent Vosse, Team Principal Team WRT: “To finish a 24-hour race is always something special, and fighting the way we all did until the end for this podium is fantastic. Everybody, the mechanics, the engineers, the drivers, everybody did brilliant work. In the race, we had good and bad moments, like everybody else, but achieving this podium is a special feeling.”

Sheldon van der Linde, driver #32: “We are very happy to get an unexpected podium, we were running 4th – 5th in the last hour, so it came a little bit as a surprise to finish on the podium. Unfortunately, there was an issue with the ROWE car, but we did a very clean race and it is a great feeling to see the ball rolling in our direction, especially after the last couple of times when it didn’t. We are very happy and it’s important for the rest of the year that we are leading the championship.”

Dries Vanthoor, driver #32: "It was a tough race for us. For sure, we weren’t the fastest out there, but we did a clean race, with no mistakes, so we can be happy with the result. It’s a pity that it was one of the sister BMWs that put us in contention for the podium, I feel sorry for them. In the end, I gave everything the car and I had, there was no more that could be squeezed out, and we can be happy with the podium.”

Charles Weerts, driver #32: “Overall, it was a very special and difficult weekend for us. Performance-wise, we struggled a bit compared to the other manufacturers, but we worked hard with the team and BMW to optimise the package we had, and we executed an almost perfect race. The third place was difficult to achieve, I am very pleased, but I also feel sorry for the #998 BMW, which lost the podium at the very end.”

Valentino Rossi, driver #46: "It’s a big shame because we did a very good race and we were there to fight for the victory, for the podium. We enjoyed it a lot even though the race was in very difficult conditions. We were fast and competitive, but unfortunately at the end of my stint, after the restart, I touched with another car, went into the dirt and then there was damage to the car when I rejoined the track. It’s a great shame for all of the team, for Maxime and Lello. We will try to win the next one!"

Jens Klingmann, driver #30: "Overall, it was a difficult weekend for everyone with the conditions. Especially at night with the onset of rain, heavy rain, and then the drying track, it was hard to have the right tyres at the right time. All in all, we did a good job. We got through the night without a scratch. That was the big goal, to then attack on Sunday. Unfortunately, we then had a technical problem, which is why we had to retire the car. But in terms of pace, especially in the rain, we were right there, which is encouraging and gives us hope for the upcoming races. It's a shame we couldn't bring it home for the team. We didn't achieve our big goal of getting to the Bronze podium, but we can still be proud. We drove an almost flawless race until retirement. Sometimes a bit of luck is part of it, and that's what we lacked today."