The 2022 edition of the 24 Hours of Spa marked a turning point after two editions placed behind closed doors, or almost. Two years that the public could not freely walk the spans of the “most beautiful circuit in the world” to admire the protagonists of the largest GT endurance race in the world, due to the covid-19 pandemic. Forget it all. And if this year’s line-up was once again prolific with 66 GT3s at the start, the public also responded in numbers. And this from the parade on Wednesday which saw the racing cars resume their traditional round trip between the circuit and the center of Spa where a veritable tide of people had come to admire these beautiful mechanics! But in the end, it is on the track that the show takes place above all and we were not disappointed! Admittedly, the return of the gravel traps at the edge of the track to play a role, certainly the race experienced many neutralizations and even a red flag, but the drivers gave us a great show from start to finish. And at the end of the 24 hours of confrontation, it is Mercedes who wins the timpani. A first victory for the AMG GT3, nine years after the success of an SLS GT3 in 2013. Better, it is a double of the star cars which followed the Hungarian double podium of the Silver Arrows in F1. And with one more lap, the triple was possible.
Hecatomb among the favorites
There were more than 20 crews able to win at the start, for 8 brands: Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Mercedes and Porsche. And the start of the race offered a thrilling spectacle with a Porsche leading the pack from the green light, battling the #88 Mercedes Akkodis-ASP which would win just over 24 hours later. Counting among the favourites, the “official” Audis and Porsches were unlucky and sometimes lacked a bit of reliability in this proven sprint. Each being able to count on 5 peak representatives, the two builders lost more than half of their forces before dawn. The race then moved towards a Mercedes vs BMW duel with a Porsche, a Ferrari, an Aston Martin and a McLaren as referees. The first places were regularly exchanged according to pit stops, neutralizations and overtaking – sometimes tough – on the track. However, with two hours to go, the #98 ROWE Racing BMW M4 GT3 looks set to repeat the feat of the same team when it won the M6 GT3 in its first appearance at the Spa classic in 2016. a puncture just under 2 hours from the finish put the Bavarian out of the fight for the win. It will eventually finish sixth behind sister car #50. Only 8 cars finished on the winner’s lap, including the surprising #38 JOTA Sport McLaren 720S GT3, eighth.
Mercedes in force
Up front, the final clash was between two factory-supported Mercedes-AMG GT3s: the #88 AMG Team AKKODIS-ASP and the #2 AMG Team GetSpeed. After the final refueling, the #88 of the French team retained the best of its “British” counterpart without hesitation and flew to a moving victory for the structure of Jérôme Policand which had been chasing after this success for many years. A first success for Raffaele Marciello – poleman for the last 3 editions – and Daniel Juncadella, but the second for Jules Gounon, after that won with Audi Saintéloc in 2017. Defending champions, the Ferrari Iron Lynx team were on the podium again, but on the third step this time, with the #71 488 GT3 of Antonio Fuoco, Davide Rigon and Daniel Serra. The sister car #51, victorious in 2021 finally finished ninth.
Berezina for Audi and Porsche
While the Audi R8 LMS Evo emerged again among the favorites, four of the 5 cars supported by Audi Sport experienced mishaps that kept them out of the front ranks. At WRT, the #32 and #46 (of a certain Valentino Rossi) clung in the early morning after Charles Weerts (#32) were forced to brake urgently to avoid the crash with a McLaren in distress at the exit from the turn of the Source. Alas, sister car #46, then in the hands of Nico Müller, could not avoid it. Saintéloc’s leading R8 was also eliminated by a collision while the #12 Team Tresor also suffered a prohibitive hit then a puncture.
If bad luck had thrown its evolution on Audi, Porsche lost the 24 hours due to unreliability for the #21 GPX Martini Racing and the #100 Tocksport WRT. Only #54 owed its retirement to a collision. The two remaining leading cars fought for a long time for a place of honor, but the #47 KCMG who started last would finally clinch seventh place.
In the “lower” categories, we suffered the victory of the Audi Team WRT #30 of Simmenauer/Goethe/Neubauer, thirteenth overall and especially of the female quartet of the Ferrari 488 GT3 #83 Iron Dames who won in the Gold category. , with a superb eighteenth place finish. Congratulations to Dorianne Pin, Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting and our compatriot Sarah Bovy who consistently scored in the top 20 throughout the event and dominated the Gold Cup. Note that the 6 female pilots at the start are also at the finish. Well done ladies!
‼️WE DID IT‼️
The FIRST victory for an all-female squad in @24HoursofSpa ???????
— Iron Ladies (@IronDames_) July 31, 2022
Find the complete classification of the 24 Hours of Spa 2022 here.
Photos: Jules Beamont-Kevin Hecks-Patrick Hecq Photography for SRO