This weekend, the world’s biggest and best GT race – the Total 24 Hours of Spa – gets underway in Belgium and prior to the race The Checkered Flag takes a look at all the classes taking part in the 68th running of the race.
A mega 29 entries headline the main category this year, and with 65 entries, that is a big turn out for the all-pro class and leading the Blancpain GT Series coming into the race is Rob Bell in the #58 Garage 59 McLaren 650S he is sharing with teammates Come Ledogar and Shane Van Gisbergen – who are leading the Endurance Cup side of the Blancpain GT Series’ points standings and will be hoping to claim that first victory for McLaren at Spa.
For the 24 Hours of Spa, Garage 59 will be adding some firepower with a third 650S for endurance specialist Pipo Derani, Bruno Senna and Duncan Tappy in what will be a very strong trio.
However, they have a lot of competition fighting them for Pro Cup victory as two of last year’s winners, Markus Palttala and Nick Catsburg, have been split up because of the withdrawal of Marc VDS Racing. Palttala moves to Emil Frey Racing and one of their two Jaguar XKRs he’ll be sharing with Jonathan Hirschi and Christian Klien.
For Catsburg, he stays in BMW machinery and the new M6 GT3 at ROWE Racing where he, Dirk Werner and Stef Dusseldorp will be looking to make it two wins in a row for the German manufacturer. However, they’ll have strong competition from the other side of the garage as Alexander Sims joins Maxime Martin and Philipp Eng in another M6.
Looking to claim glory for the four rings include 2014 Spa winners Laurens Vanthoor and Rene Rast who, alongside Nico Muller, will be looking to take their Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS to the top step of the podium.
Audi certainly haven’t rested on their laurels in picking strong driver trios as Markus Winkelhock, Peter Kox, Christopher Mies, Robin Frijns and Dries Vanthoor – amongst others – join up with Team WRT and Phoenix Racing to try and push the R8 masses up the podium.
They’ll have to look over their shoulders though as Mercedes come back in a big way with the new Mercedes AMG with a driving team led by Bernd Schneider, who is looking for another victory in the Ardennes 27 years after his first. He’ll be racing for AMG-Team Black Falcon in the #00 but in a better position in the championship is the #86 HTP Motorsport car of Maxi Buhk, Jazeman Jafaar and Dominik Baumann who will be looking for a strong race to keep up the pressure on Rob Bell in the points championship.
In the hotly contested Pro-Am class, teams are going to have to work hard to defeat the Kessel Racing team led by Michael Broniszewski who has won all three of the Sprint Cup races and two of the three Endurance Cup races (Paul Ricard and Monza) so far this year.
As part of a four driver team this time out in Belgium Broniszewski will be joined by Alessandro Bonacini, Andrea Rizzoli and Giacomo Piccini in pushing the Ferrari 488 as far forward as they can.
However, there is a number of crews looking to make something happen twice round the clock including the Oman Racing Team as Jonny Adam, Devon Modell and Ahmad Al-Harthy are joined by Darren Turner in a line-up that is arguably more talented than some of the Pro Cup entries.
Also keeping the British end up is Barwell Motorsport who have entered two cars for the race – one the regular entry for Leo Machitski, Marco Mapelli and Marco Attard as well as Tom Kimber-Smith, and a Lamborghini Huracan in a livery very familiar to followers of the British GT Championship as the Demon Tweeks red and green livery comes to Spa with Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen joining Joe Osborne and Corvette legend Oliver Gavin.
Bentley are also represented in the class with Team Parker Racing entering a very competitive Bentley Continental GT3 for Callum MacLeod, Ian Loggie, Tom Onslow-Cole and Bentley regular Andy Meyrick.
Finally the Am class and last year’s Pro-Am winner Stephane Lemeret has moved into the Am class with the AF Corse run Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari 458 Italia which narrowly lost our on victory last time out at Circuit Paul Ricard after mechanical problems put pay to what was a great weekend up until that point.
But now, sharing the Ferrari with Alexander Moiseev, Davide Rizzo and Rui Aguas, the team will be on it to make sure the same fate doesn’t befall the car again, and if they do an entry looking to claim victory at the Spa 24 Hours is the Team Parker Racing Bentley of TopGear host Chris Harris who will be racing alongside Derek Pierce, Carl Rosenblad and David Perel.