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Season Review

SPORTSCAR365: Race of the Year

Sportscar365 selects Total 24 Hours of Spa as its race of the year for 2018…

Photo: Kevin Pecks/SRO

Following on from the top prototype drivers, GT drivers, rookie driver and team of the year, Sportscar365’s staff has selected the best race from throughout the 2018 sports car and endurance racing season.

Total 24 Hours of Spa

In a season that produced uncharacteristically forgettable editions of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Rolex 24 at Daytona, one 24-hour race stood out above the rest: Spa. 

The Belgian endurance classic fulfilled its role as the SRO Motorsports Group’s flagship event, in a season that saw the Stephane Ratel-led organization continue its meteoric rise by launching new events, categories, championships and begin to unify its three major regional GT3 series.

As a result, the thrilling display put on by a variety of teams, drivers and manufacturers at Spa-Francorchamps in late July perfectly matched the global success of both the SRO and its GT3 formula. 

Seven cars, each from different teams, and representing four manufacturers, had their turn at the front of the field at different stages throughout the race, but the contest eventually boiled down to the BMW M6 GT3s of ROWE Racing and Walkenhorst Motorsport.

It resulted in two of BMW’s leading factory drivers, Philipp Eng and Alexander Sims, battling for the lead in the final stint, with the Austrian eventually finishing ten seconds ahead in his Walkenhorst car.

Both drivers had been part of the winning lineup two years earlier in a ROWE car, while Walkenhorst’s success gave the Munich-based manufacturer a third win at Spa in four years.

What made this win so special, though, was the team behind the victorious car.

Before the race weekend got underway, the unexpected Pro entry from Walkenhorst, which had previously run a little-noticed Am Cup entry in the Blancpain GT Endurance Cup, was overshadowed by ROWE’s pair of full-factory entries.

While the No. 34 car did feature works drivers Eng and Tom Blomqvist, Silver-rated Christian Krognes was an unknown quantity who nonetheless proved himself a serious competitor throughout the race.

Eng admitted afterwards that the almost surprising win showed what the team was capable of, and it has since been rewarded with the chance to run a BMW for the full Intercontinental GT Challenge in 2019.

This year’s running of the 24H Spa had high expectations to meet after a string of thrilling editions of the race but continued to entertain and showcase the best of GT racing with the largest GT3 field on the planet.

Honorable Mentions: Motul Petit Le Mans (final lap thriller), Continental Tire Road Race Showcase (fuel mileage run at Road America), California 8H (Audi vs. Mercedes-AMG battle for the win and title), Paul Ricard 1000 km (first win for Lexus in series)

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