The countdown has begun: at 16:30 this afternoon, the 67th edition of the 24 hours of Spa will see the green light. With an already soaking wet warming up behind us this morning, the race promises to be marked by attrition and excitement.
Pole position was decided on Friday. Superpole was taken by Frank Stippler in the brand new Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3. While the car is still in the final stages of its development program, with already a VLN and a Nürburgring 24 hours win in the pocket, a third win might be forthcoming tomorrow.
“The guys have done a great job in preparing the car for the Superpole,” Stippler said about his three lap pole run. “This was about the best lap I could do, I think. Of course I am proud of this achievement, but it is only a small step. [During the race] we will see how competitive the car is over a long run.”
Somewhat surprising are the results of Maxime Martin, Dirk Werner and Augsto Farfus in the Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3 and WRT Racing’s champion car of Laurens Vanthoor, René Rast and Markus Winkelhock. Where a weekend-long battle between the two Belgian squads was expected, they ended tenth and sixth respectively. No worries in the Marc VDS camp, however, as the team expects to be up to pace over the long runs.
“We saw in qualifying today that even when we are running to our absolute maximum, there is some speed that we cannot match, though I’m still confident for the long run pace,” technical director Sebastien Metz explained. “On the team side, I’m extremely happy with the pitstop work. The guys are fast, and solid, and I am sure they’ll do a perfect job.”
In the middle of the field, starting from the 24th starting row, we see the return of the #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3. As the sun set over the 2014 24 hours of Spa, Marcus Mahy was seriously injured in a fierce crash at Blanchimont. Seeking redemption for this dramatic race, Liam Talbot is looking forward to the start of the classic.
“Last year it was very tough to see anyone, let alone a good friend, suffer such a terrible accident,” the Australian said. “But his recovery has been nothing short of inspiring and Marcus has been a big part of my success and speed this year, giving me advice in strategy. We hope to get the best result this year, as we think of our team mate Marcus.”
As the rain has been drenching the the Ardennes since Friday evening, Talbot is not hesitant to take to the track in these conditions.
“I haven’t looked at the weather, I don’t wanna know. You can only deal with what you can deal with. I love the wet: I’m a racer and I get hungry to drive at any opportunity, whether it is wet, dry, or a track that people don’t like. I don’t care, I just wanna be in the car and drive.
“I don’t think there will be as much of carnage as last year, but it’s hard to say. Maybe when people will put their helmets on that it’s gonna be crazy.
“We expect to have a good race. A few things have to go your way: hopefully no contact with other cars, stay on the track, no track limits exceeding. We’re ticking every box, making sure we’re on the right target. I think that as long as we stay out of the pits, we’re going to be in a really good place. We can’t wait to find out what that place is come Sunday afternoon.”