GPX Racing Win Spa 24 Hours for Porsche

by Mike Widdowson

GPX Racing have taken the win at the 2019 Total 24 hours of Spa, and their maiden Blancpain GT series win with an all factory Porsche driver line up.

A tremendous end to the 24 hours, with the result going right down the wire. #20 GPX Racing Porsche kept the advantage over the nearest contender of the #998 Rowe Racing Porsche in the hands of Nick Tandy who would bring home their Porsche in second place overall.

The pole position car, #4 Black Falcon AMG Mercedes kept in contention all race and Maro Engel, Yelmer Buurman, Luca Stolz brought their car home in third place overall in a hugely chaotic race.

Credit: SRO/ Dirk Bogearts

The great Belgian race would start behind the safety car, conditions before the start were torrential, it was deemed safer to start behind the safety car and let the drivers feel there way into the conditions around the circuit. for three laps the opening drivers would spend time feeling there way around getting to grips with it before being released to full race conditions.

Maro Engel onboard the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes AMG GT3 controlled the pace nicely, an open track ahead of him and no spray hindering his vision meant he soon began to open up a 5 second lead over Earl Bamber who started the #117 KUS75 Team Bernhard Porsche. Meanwhile further back in the pack Kevin Estre onboard the #20 GPX Racing Porsche was scything his way through the field making up 10 positions in the first hour to take the lead of the race by the time of their first pitstop to change over to slick tyres.

Post Pitstops Engel led the way with Estre close behind. Engel managed the gap and kept a good consistent six tenths to a second between them for a while before a full course caution was called that would turn into a safety as the #37 3Y Technology BMW M6 GT3 lost control at Les Combes and backed the car heavily off into the barriers.

The incident involving the 3Y Technology BMW was a heavy one, the barriers took a heavy impact and were under repair for quite a while. The clock was ticking away under full course yellow conditions and closing in on the third hour and the leaders began to make more pitstops. Approaching the third hour the order was Nick Tandy from Maximillian Buhk, Michael Christensen to Denis Lind, Clemens Schmid in fifth and the early leader of Luca Stolz was in sixth.

Credit: SRO/ Kevin Pecks

Quarter Distance

Early Race chaos finally began to calm down, the race soon ran some long needed green flag conditions all the way through into the sixth hour of the race with only few incidents along the way. Points were awarded at the quarter distance mark, making the most of this was the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari who ticked over the quarter mark in the lead fo the race after running long on fuel to take the lead of the race. Second position points were awarded to #63 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini and third place to the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes.

As the sixth hour continued the rain really began to fall, this would continue for some time as drivers would try and stretch they stints and stay on slicks before making the switch over to full wets. #72 SMP Racing continued to run on slicks and this was how they claimed the quarter distance points but the team were losing time sector after sector to the chasing #63 GRT Lamborghini. Mikhail Aleshin onboard the SMP Ferrari would pit to switch to slicks after the points.

As Aleshin pitted, Christian Engelhart onboard the GRT Lamborghini would take the lead but would pit one lap later along with #4 Black falcon with Yelmer Buurman who had passed #88 AKKA ASP to take third position before pitting. Now the #88 would lead but again only for one single lap before he pitted in for his wet tyres opening the door for the Audi’s. #1 Audi from WRT and #25 Sainteloc Audi R8 EVO would now be out in front of the field.

Rain continued to fall and conditions starting to really challenge some of the drivers as the positions consistently changed as drivers drop in and out of the pace in-between pitstops. Early leader #20 GPX Racing dropped down during pitstops but was fighting back and once again took the lead during the cycle of pitstops as the eight hour of the race was counting down.

As the ninth hour started we got the first of the 5 minute mandatory technical stops from the #6 Black Falcon Mercedes, getting their technical stop in early hoping the race would come back to them. The team were running second in silver cup and would return back to the race 4th in class. Pro-AM was now bubbling up into a fight for the lead as the #97 TF Sport who started the race from the pitlane was leading the class, now hunted by Tom Onslow-Cole onboard the #74 RAM Racing Mercedes and challenging for the class lead.

Credit SRO/Kevin Pecks

Halfway Distance

Heading into the twelfth hour of racing and it started with the loss of the #00 Goodsmile and TypeMoon Racing Mercedes AMG GT3. Tatsuya Kataoka had lost the car on the dampening surface once again at Blanchimont. The car had speared off into the barrier and caused considerable damage. Some teams took this time as the rain was falling heavier to come in off strategy and pit for wet tyres and not risk the loss of control on the ever changing surface conditions.

It was a long clean up for the #00 Goodsmile and TypeMoon Racing Mercedes and some teams hung out on the slicks even in the ever intensifying downpour. The risk of losing time coming in off schedule was worrying a lot of teams so the choice to stay out and keep track position. Eventually all cars would end up on wet’s, not long before the safety car was called to end the full course yellow but with the rain continuing it was decided to red flag the race at 5:45am and halt the race until the weather eased.

Race Re-start

At 11:30am, the cars were released behind the safety car once again, just under 6 hours, a quarter of the race was lost to red flag conditions due to heavy weather that rolled in over the Spa Francochamps Circuit. #63 GRT Lamborghini lead the field back out with the #34 Walkenhorst BMW M6 GT3 in second and the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche in third position.

Credit: SRO / Patrick Hecq

Further back in the race, Graham Davidson onboard the Daiko Lazarus Lamborghini got caught out coming through Blanchimont. Davidson ran out too wide on the damp limits and spun the car across the track into the opposite barrier on the run up to the bus stop chicane. Once again we would see another Full course yellow to clear up the Daiko Lazarus Lamborghini.

Just before the safety car would pull off and release the field back to green flag racing, the leading #63 Lamborghini would pull in for their 5 minute technical stop. This stop would drop the car right down the order from the lead of the race right down to nineteenth in the field

Pitstops would begin the fight to the finish as the stops were rounded off #1 WRT Audi with Nico Müller would hold the lead with Maro Engel now on board the #4 Black Falcon and Kevin Estre behind the wheel of the #20 GPX racing Porsche. Estre would chase Engel along before making a pass along the Kemmel Straight and begin to pull away.

Estre now closing down the lead of Müller and really beginning to put the pressure on as they went up the Kemmel straight once again, Müller turned in to Les Combes but lost the back end on a still slightly damp circuit. The Car off and backed into the barrier but Estre was past and into the lead of the race.

Estre leading and Maro Engel in second for Black Falcon. Müller was back in third but with just over one hour remaining #998 Rowe Racing was coming to life and beginning to mount a charge to the front. Nick Tandy onboard the #998 Rowe Racing would begin to pile the pressure on Müller before shortly finding a way past the #1 Audi to move himself up into third position.

Final pitstops came around, and Estre pitted from the lead followed by Engel. Nick Tandy and Müller would pit one lap later on. The cars all cycled through where Nick Tandy would find himself in a battle with Maro Engel for second and third position.

This battle would have them swapping positions as Tandy would find his way past, only for Engel to try and get the place back straight away with door to door action being close, but fantastic to watch in the last hour of the 24 hour race.

The race was into the last hour and rain began to fall once again light at first but getting heavier by the minute. Catching a few cars out as the conditions changed once again non more so than Benny Simonsen who lost the Modena Motorsport Porsche coming through speakers corner and putting the car heavy into the barrier on the inside of the corner.

Once again the field would find themselves under a full course yellow situation with the clock ticking away, the safety car was brought into play to clear the accident up much quicker. Once the Incident was cleared up it left just under 15 minutes remaining in the race.

The green flag dropped once again with 14 minutes left on the clock, the #20 GPX Racing Porsche lead the way with Estre on board. #998 with Tandy on boards only 9.2 seconds back from the lead but with 12 cars in-between him and the lead of the race.

Credit: SRO/ Jules Benichou

No sooner that the race had gone green, another incident had occurred and once again the full course yellow into a safety car was called. #1 Audi had been caught up in an accident with #54 Dinamic both out of the race. the #444 was also caught up as an innocent bystander in the fallout of the coming together of the 2 previous cars.

4 minutes remained and the green flag is waved once again. Estre had the lead and only time for 2 more laps around the Spa circuit. Kevin Estre kept it all under control and brought the car home to take the chequered flag and win for the GPX Racing team and their maiden victory in the series.

Only three seconds back was Nick Tandy onboard the #998 Rowe Racing Porsche for a second position overall, a further seventeen seconds back saw the #4 Black Falcon AMG Mercedes coming home to finish the podium.

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