Rowe Racing has brought Porsche its second Total 24 Hours of Spa victory in as many years while itself winning both 24-hour races at Spa and the Nürburgring in the span of one month.
In a thrilling finale that saw Nick Tandy in the #98 Porsche 991.2 GT3R having to nurse a dying car home, the Brit stayed ahead of the #66 Audi Sport Team Attempto that had been leading for much of Sunday. Tandy shared the win with co-drivers Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber.
Having started the wet and damp autumn endurance race from 20th on the grid, it took Rowe Racing 22 hours to establish itself in the lead. A shorter final pitstop under yellow with 75 minutes to go in which the decision was made to double stint the rain tyres gave the #98 Porsche the lead as it was able to leapfrog top dogs #66 Audi Sport Team Attempto (Mattia Drudi/Patric Niederhauser/Fred Vervisch) and #25 Audi Sport Team Saintéloc (Markus Winkelhock/Dorian Boccolacci/Christopher Haase).
With the final half hour approaching, Patric Niederhausen aboard the #66 Attempto Audi returned to fighting spirits as he began reeling in Tandy in a last-ditch attempt at retaking first place. Tandy was on the brink of losing it all when with just minutes to go the Porsche’s gearbox broke with a loud rattle. However, the Porsche works driver was able to bring the car to the finish to complete his quartet crown: Tandy has now won all four big 24-hour races at the Nürburgring, Le Mans, Daytona and Spa-Francorchamps.
“Halfway through the penultimate lap I had a small lock-up into turn eight, and when I exited the corner, I heard this loud knocking noise,” said Nick Tandy.
“I thought a driveshaft joining had broken, but the car was still running. Apparently, the gearbox casing was damaged as well, and unfortunately for our competitors we coated the track with oil. We can only apologise for that, but it kind of saved us!
“I had to drive the last lap and a half without pushing, and I had to coast through the corners in order not to cause more damage. But, in the end, to win this with these two guys is an incredible feeling, and so is sharing it with all the team at Rowe. They have been so good this week, and I’m so happy that they could win Spa and the Nürburgring in the same year.”
Audi Sport Team Attempto finished second, being one of the few early pacesetters to make it throughout the 24-hours of racing without serious problems. The team made a strategic masterstroke by changing from slicks to wet-weather tyres late in the morning when others went for another set of slicks. The rain the German squad expected did indeed come, handing Fred Vervisch a 95-second lead as others dived into the pits for an early pitstop to take on grooved tyres – only for it to be erased by yet another Safety Car neutralisation.
Many of Attempto’s challengers from Saturday suffered accidents and retirements, amongst them the #63 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 that crashed out of the lead shortly after sunrise having led significant portions of the race up to that point. Pole sitter and long-time leader #88 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP retired in the middle of the night after a brake disc exploded – however scoring enough points at the 6-hour mark to take over the Endurance Cup championship lead.
Other frontrunners suffering problems were the #31 Audi Sport Team WRT of Endurance Cup championship leader Kelvin van der Linde, newly crowned Sprint Cup champ Dries Vanthoor and Christoper Mies with a drivetrain failure and the #47 KCMG Porsche 991.2 GT3R that was first slapped with a drive-through penalty for track limits before technical troubles took out it of contention for the win.
Like in last year’s rainy 24 Hours of Spa, the Porsche proved to be perfectly suited for mixed weather conditions, picking up third (#54 Dinamic Motorsport, Sven Müller/Christian Engelhart/Matteo Cairoli) and fourth place (#12 GPX Racing, Matt Campbell/Patrick Pilet/Mathieu Jaminet) as well. Nighttime leader AF Corse scored fifth place with the #51 Ferrari 488 GT3 of James Calado, Nicklas Nielsen and Alessandro Pier Guidi.
1. #98 Rowe Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R (Laurens Vanthoor/Nick Tandy/Earl Bamber)
2. #66 Audi Sport Team Attempto Audi R8 LMS GT3 (Mattia Drudi/Patric Niederhauser/Fred Vervisch)
3. #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 991.2 GT3R (Sven Müller/Christian Engelhart/Matteo Cairoli)
4. #12 GPX Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R (Matt Campbell/Patrick Pilet/Mathieu Jaminet)
5. #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 (James Calado/Nicklas Nielsen/Alessandro Pier Guidi)
6. #25 Audi Sport Team Saintéloc Audi R8 LMS GT3 (Markus Winkelhock/Dorian Boccolacci/Christopher Haase)
7. #4 Mercedes-AMG Team HRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 (Maro Engel/Luca Stolz/Vincent Abril)
8. #22 Frikadelli Racing Porsche 991.2 GT3R (Jörg Bergmeister/Fred Makowiecki/Dennis Olsen)
9. #29 Honda Racing Honda NSX GT3 (Dane Cameron/Renger van der Zande/Mario Farnbacher)
10. #3 K-Pax Racing Bentley Continental GT3 (Jordan Pepper/Jules Gounon/Maxime Soulet)
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