From his podium-finishing debut in the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa in 2017 all the way to starting from his third consecutive pole position last Saturday, Raffaele Marciello had always been a frontrunner but could never convert performance into result. That is, until last weekend. 24 hours after leading the field to the green flag at Spa-Francorchamps, his sixth try was finally successful as the Italian-Swiss took the chequered flag triumphantly aboard the #88 AMG Team Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 shared with Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella.
SPA 24 HOURS | ENTRY LIST | LIVESTREAM | PRACTICE REPORT | PRE-QUALIFYING REPORT | QUALIFYING REPORT | THURSDAY GALLERY | SUPER POLE REPORT | K-PAX DISQUALIFIED; AKKODIS ASP ON POLE | KLAUS BACHLER INTERVIEW | FOUR HOUR REPORT | SATURDAY GALLERY | RACE REPORT | CLASS WINNERS | INTERVIEW RAFFAELE MARCIELLO
“It’s really a relief because we were always close to winning this race – this one and even the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring – but I always saw different manufacturers and drivers win the race and never me, so at some point it became really annoying,” ‘Lello’ candidly admits.
“I mean, I rate myself a good driver and sometimes I felt I deserved to win a 24-hour race and I always saw someone else winning the race, so it was quite annoying. But finally, this year we did it.”
What made the difference between previous years and this year?
“It’s really difficult to say because we did well last year and two years ago. I think we were just unlucky with mechanical failures and then it is always a matter of when Spa chooses you, let’s say.
“We had some contact also this year and stuff, but everything went smooth, so it’s only a matter of when everything comes together because it’s always the same crew, the same drivers – we were just unlucky that the car broke down, but now everything went smoothly.”
When everything goes right and you’re racing for the win all throughout the race, it’s hard to find a single moment that really sticks out as pivotal, Marciello says.
“We had a really clean race, we had only one 5-second track limit penalty, never had a puncture, were consistent. It’s difficult to point at one moment but we were always in control and always had a car that was nice to drive and we made no mistakes. It was really a clean 24-hour race instead of one key moment.”
There was, however, a major scare moments before the red flag during the night came out when the Mercedes’ pedal box came loose. Being able to fix it under the red flag was one more bit of luck needed to win.
“We had some issue with the pedals – so even there, if the red flag had not come out, for sure it would again be a DNF. So, as you see, it’s a matter of when everything goes well.
“I saw in 2017 when we finished third, I had made so much contact in that race, I felt invincible, and this year was the same: we had some contact, some issue, but every time when we had an issue, immediately something came our way. Everything went well.”
There can be no doubt about the combined level of race craft of the #88 Mercedes-AMG’s drivers combination either. A line-up for Endurance races since 2021, all three have won races in the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS, with Spa being their first win together.
“We are all three very quick and like each other,” Marciello describes their working relationship.
“We all three don’t care who does Super Pole, the start, the finish, or wants to drive more or less, because we trust each other. When you are with really good drivers it’s easy because you know that the driver who’s in the car will perform so there are no doubts and no discussions when someone has to do something – we trust each other and I think this is very important.”
A big talking point during the weekend were the newly installed gravel traps. Where others suffered punctures caused by the sharp pieces of rock, Lello remained unfazed.
“The punctures were not because of the gravel traps. But the safety car, yeah, it is a bit easier to get stuck in the gravel. But for me, they could put gravel all around and it’s fine because I always prefer when everything is harder rather than easier.”
Already on his way to the Nürburgring for the next round of the ADAC GT Masters, there’s no rest for the Swiss-licenced race car driver. It won’t be long until the GT World Challenge Europe continues as well, where Marciello is leading the overall standings, Endurance Cup, and is still very much in the fight for the Sprint Cup.
“At Barcelona we’ve more or less always been quick,” the Zürich-born Marciello looks ahead.
“Hockenheim, we will have to see, because it’s a new track for the GT World Challenge, but normally we are always strong. Sprint, I think, is not so easy because WRT is always quite quick and 11.5 points behind is not so easy to recover. Overall is a bit easier because of the gap and in Endurance we have to do two really good Endurance races to try to get the championship.”
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