Despite two of their three entries failing to finish the 69th TOTAL 24 hours of Spa, Mercedes privateer team AKKA ASP are focussing on the positives, after claiming third place courtesy of the #90 Mercedes-AMG GT3 in what has been a trying season thus far.
Former Sauber Formula 1 test driver Raffaele Marciello shone, amassing nearly 14 hours driving time, partnered with Michael Meadows and DTM star Edoardo Mortara.
However, Marciello and co.’s effort was all in vain, ending up 52 seconds shy of winning trio Christopher Haase, Jules Gounon and Markus Winkelhock in the #25 Audi Sport Team Sainteloc entry.
On a tough Saturday evening, both the #88 and #89 entries succumbed to terminal damage, leaving the #90 car with sole responsibility of claiming points.
However, the weekend started well for all three cars, as they held three of the top five spots in Free Practice, before Marciello set the fastest time in the night’s Qualifying session, with Daniel Juncadella a welcome fourth in the #88.
Yet, after the Super Pole shootout, the highest placed AKKA-ASP entry found itself in 13th, a disappointing end to a promising Qualifying.
In the race proper, all three cars regained their earlier form, the #88 and #90 at the sharp end of the overall action, whilst the #89 scrapped for third in the Pro-Am class.
In a cruel twist of fate as light faded, Ludovic Badey in the #89 suffered a severed brake line after running into unsighted debris on the entry to Pouhon corner, losing one-and-a-half hours in the garage. Despite trawling back out with the intention of finishing the event, the car was forced into retirement due to major aerodynamic damage.
That was swiftly followed by another blow. Former European Formula 3 star Felix Seralles collided with an unreported, slow McLaren forcing him into the tyre wall. Like Badey, the Cuban limped back to the pits, but only to retire for good.
“On the performance level, we were satisfied because everything followed our operating schedule,” bemoaned Team Principal Jerome Policard.
“During the night, we were forced to retire. The crew are having a bit of a miserable season.”
A miserable season indeed, AKKA-ASP sit in fourth in the overall teams’ standings, without a win to their name in 2017. They’ll be hoping to turn their fortunes around at Budapest in three weeks’ time.
The troubles make the #90 podium all the more sweeter, however Policard believes that more was on offer, with unfortunate Safety Car timings to blame – the #90 car holding a slim lead with around one hour to go.
“We stopped 40 seconds too soon, trapped by our own strategy as we didn’t get a chance to compensate for those 40 seconds.”
Additionally, the #90 car lost a fraction over two minutes with three driver-through penalties, dealing a severe blow to their chances of overall victory.
Policard beamed about Marciello’s mammoth display.
“He was the man of the race. He gave his all, which is why he was too tired to go on the podium! But all is well.”