Skip to main content

You are here

TG.com at the 24 Hours of Spa

  1. Cast your mind back a couple of months. We popped over to Spa where Audi was performing a quick workout ahead of its Le Mans assault at the legendary La Sarthe. We commented at the time that Lots Of Rain happened, casting an ominous watery shadow over the weekend’s proceedings.

    Well, just before this year’s Spa 24 hour race kicked off, a brief, duplicitous glimpse of blue sky and the comedy sight of majestically luxuriant Euro-hair and facial foliage fooled us into thinking, ‘no, maybe this year it’ll be different’. It wasn’t. Come race time, a flash of lightning; then, the Universe’s very own subwoofer of thunder rumbled into play and all hell broke loose. It cleared up just before the race start, but such was the velocity throughout most of the first half of the race, you’d have thought the Gods displeased with the lack of oversteery carnage in the 2012 race season.

    Cars were spinning off everywhere, and thus set into a motion that would become the theme of this year’s Spa 24 hours: The Safety Car. Fittingly, it was an Audi. 

    This Audi soon became a familiar sight, because while this year might have seen the largest single entry of GT cars to the Spa 24 hours - the fourth round of the Blancpain Endurance series - a large chunk of the race would be played out behind the Audi’s rear bumpers. It was deployed no less than sixteen times throughout 24 hours, totalling a period of five hours and seven minutes. Sixteen times in 24 hours.

    Still, there remained breakneck racing and superb turns of overtaking and determination. For the first nine hours of the race - a considerable margin, lest you forget how much of a sprint race modern endurance racing has become - the rather delectable BMW Z4 of Markus Palttala, Bas Leinders and Maxime Martin led.

    That was until, somewhat inevitably, an Audi R8 LMS appeared, took over and basically dominated the race, eventually leading home a 1-2. Surprised that an endurance racer with four rings stapled to the front of its nose took the podium? Yeah, us neither. But there’s no denying Ingolstadt’s sheer capacity for Winning Stuff. This victory at Spa, plus back-to-back victories at the Nürburgring 24hrs and of course, Le Mans, means Audi has won three 24 hour endurance races in the space of 71 days. Kudos, Dr Ullrich, and of course, Mssrs Piccini, Rast and Stippler who took the Spa trophy back home to show mum.

    That Z4 still made the final step of the podium mind, so it wasn’t a complete Audi 1-2-3 (as it had looked for a while in between). Incidentally we caught up with Dr Ullrich on the grid just before the start, and in his typically modest and humble demeanour - replete with that terrifyingly intelligent glint in his eye - he told TG, “we’re feeling good, but we’ll take it slowly. Let’s see how it pans out shall we?” The smile on his face spoke volumes.

    Still, nice to see Tom Kristensen making his first 24 hour debut outside of Le Mans. Just before the race he shouted across the grid to Bernd Schneider - lined up next to him in the SLS AMG GT3 car - and offered a thumbs up. Bernd’s team wouldn’t finish, but Kristensen, well he did alright: he finished sixth.

    But there was a terribly galling and horrible episode for RJN Motorsport. This team - co-sponsored by Nissan’s GT Academy and sporting both Lucas Ordonez (first GT Academy winner) and Jann Mardenborough (2011 GT Academy winner) - started 41st on the grid but made up an incredible 21 places over just two hours after superb stints from Alex Buncombe and Jann. But electrical gremlins meant the 3.8-litre V6-engined monster wouldn’t start on the third hour at the driver change pit-stop.

    A frantic few hours were spent in the garage practically rebuilding the car’s electrics, when it coughed into life and pumped out a hot lap, only to cut out at Eau Rouge, terminating its race immediately. Consider this: Jann - who’s never driven at Spa before - was lapping comfortably in the 2m 25s zone. Those were the times of the top ten drivers.

    Have a click through the gallery for more action, and then stay tuned this week as we’ll have more from rising star Mr Mardenborough…

    Words: Vijay Pattni
    Photos: Katie Johnson
     

  2. This is a dry Spa, believe it or not. But it wouldn’t stay dry for long. Oh no sir, not dry at all…

  3. That’s Jann Mardenborough - 2011 GT Academy winner - behind the wheel of RJN Motorsport’s Nissan GT-R racer. Peering in alongside him is Lucas Ordonez, the original GT Academy winner. They’re really quick. And pin-up boys for the PlayStation generation. Proof, if you needed it, that gamers shall inherit the earth…

  4. …because if playing Gran Turismo until your nails bleed eventually results in getting a race seat in car number 35 pictured above, we’re in. Where do we sign again?

  5. Eau Rouge, from the vantage point of a freshly-squashed badger. Anyone for road-kill burger?

  6. “Nah, we’ll never need to open our umbrellas”, they said. “It’ll never rain so we can wear white”, they said…

  7. And they’re off! BMW’s GT3-flavoured Z4 in the lead to begin with. Ludicrously large, TG-approved rear wings in full effect.

  8. There’s something magical about racers belting through Eau Rouge at full volume. Magical and deafening. Tinnitus, much?

  9. Fun facts: this race is part of the Blancpain Endurance series. Blancpain is a very posh Swiss watchmaker. That car on the right is a GT3 Lamborghini Gallardo sponsored by Blancpain - the LP600+ by Reiter Engineering. One of the drivers is Marc Hayek, Blancpain CEO. They finished 11th overall.

  10. This is Lorenzo Bontempelli’s Ferrari 458 Italia, which, as of just after 3pm on Sunday, executed an enormous barrel roll and triggered off the final safety car of the race. He climbs from the car unhurt, thankfully.

  11. It’s all a bit Lord of the Rings, isn’t it? Somewhere in there, a horde of Orcs is waiting to pounce on the waffle truck.

  12. Black Falcon’s Mercedes SLS AMG GT3, after seemingly having gone 12 rounds with Muhammed Ali. Battered and bruised, it still roared across the finish line in 19th place.

  13. This is the number 200. It is precisely the number of ‘OHMYGOD’ utterances that must leave your mouth every minute during the night.

  14. You’re not interested in racing, you’re just looking at the size of those wings, aren’t you? Just look at them.

  15. Some disc jockeys were present to play popular music that inspired the local crowd to do the patented ‘Stand There And Look Straight Ahead’ dance routine that has gripped Belgium. Also, lots of moustaches were growing.

  16. There is a half naked lady breathing fire in front of a bright orange Chevrolet Camaro on a stage in front of people. Sponges appeared. That is all.

  17. That is a 1970s-era Chevrolet Camaro. These people are clearly staring at the stage in awe of its mythical status in muscle car history.

  18. This is the Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Haase/Mies/Ortelli. It eventually crossed the line in second place.

  19. These are some heels. They eventually crossed the line when the terror of 66 GT cars started their engines.

  20. Nissan’s GT-R run by RJN. Superb race pace, a monster rear wing and of course, brakes that are nearly on fire. Unlucky to bow out so early on.

  21. The lights are on, and everyone is gearing up for the night shift…

  22. Gulf Racing UK’s McLaren MP4-12C goes for a pleasant mid-race swim. How cool? Sadly, both Gulf McLarens were beached by the rain’s wrath, spinning out into the barriers, ending the team’s two-car assault. Still, they were lapping horrendously fast beforehand.

  23. The wheel gun faces off with the errant fly on the rear bumper. The poor mite never stood a chance.

  24. Kessel Racing’s Ferrari 458 Italia, in the rain. In the background, something is very clearly ON FIRE.

  25. Told you the MP4-12C’s pace was smoking hot.

  26. The life of an endurance team: hours of feasting on Prawn Cocktail crisps and staring at a timing screen.

  27. “No, I am your father”, said every pit mechanic in a Darth Vader-esque helmet, ever.

  28. Race Art’s rear-wheel-drive BMW Z4 GT3 navigates the rain-swept pit lane. Driver considers immediate change of career.

  29. “Zero visibility, repeat, I can’t see a ruddy thing in the pitch-OH GOD THERE’S A CAR THERE”, said every single endurance racer, ever.

  30. As well as turning GT cars into quivering, tip-toeing wrecks, rainwater can also be used to multiply Mogwai, which can then be fed after midnight to create Gremlins.

  31. Gulf Racing UK’s McLaren gets boozed up before its night stint. Sadly, despite sporting the coolest livery in the history of ever, it wouldn’t see the finish line.

  32. GT3 Racing’s Audi R8 LMS finished 14th overall.

  33. Audi Sport Team WRT’s R8 loses in its duel with Eau Rouge.

  34. Aston V12 Vantage would finish 16th overall. Looks ace, too.

  35. Some more cars racing at Spa, yesterday.

  36. If you can identify each car solely by its wing, you need a cold shower and some fresh air.

  37. Kwik Fit’s training scheme was brutal.

  38. Sainteloc Racing’s Audi R8 carcass after crashing out.

  39. AF Corse’s 458 Italia finished in 5th overall position.

  40. 911 leads SLS leads Lamborghini at Les Combes. Check out the tyre debris on track.

  41. A second win for Audi at the 24hrs of Spa.

  42. Another podium full of Audi. There’s a giant watch there too.


    Photos: John Rourke/SRO and press

What do you think?

This service is provided by Disqus and is subject to their privacy policy and terms of use. Please read Top Gear’s code of conduct (link below) before posting.

Promoted content