Sportscar365 is recognizing some of the top competitors and moments from the 2021 season. Up next is the race of the year award, as selected by website staff.
Race of The Year – TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa
Even by this event’s own high standards, the 2021 TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa will stand out as one of the very best on a long list of spectacular editions over the years.
Iron Lynx claimed Ferrari’s first win since 2004 courtesy of a career-defining pass from Alessandro Pier Guidi around the outside of Dries Vanthoor at Blanchimont, in soaking wet conditions, with just under 10 minutes to go.
Vanthoor’s WRT Audi crew initially thought they had done enough to complete a remarkable comeback from 54th on the grid by moving to the front with a brilliant switch to wet tires shortly before the heavens opened.
Seemingly beaten after hemorrhaging time on slicks, Pier Guidi was given a reprieve by a safety car that brought the Italian into range. He then chipped away at the gap before rounding Vanthoor to seal the win with his co-drivers Nicklas Nielsen and Come Ledogar.
Other angles included Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Ross Gunn claiming Aston Martin’s first outright Spa podium since 2008 with a cameo entry in the Pro class, and the exhausting two-driver job from KCMG’s Nick Tandy and Maxime Martin to finish fifth after their teammate Laurens Vanthoor picked up an injury in the paddock mid-race.
Lamborghini’s pursuit of a maiden Spa win continued as penalties bogged down the rapid FFF Racing Team entry, while Mercedes-AMG was made to wait even longer to back up its 2013 triumph after the pole-sitting AKKA-ASP car retired on Sunday morning.
The event was almost marred in the opening hour by a huge accident at Raidillon that eliminated four cars and left Jack Aitken and Davide Rigon with injuries that would rule both drivers out of competitions later in the year.
After the incident, the race developed into a thrilling contest packed full of twists and turns — both on the track and in the skies — that built up to a breathtaking crescendo.
***One of the finest examples of factory GTE racing you’re likely to witness, the duel at the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Monza between the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 and the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo was titanic. The two cars were inseparable for the entire race, with their fates only decided by a late fuel splash for the Ferrari to seal a Porsche victory in its rival’s backyard. The Bahrain title decider between the same cars was equally thrilling, despite being wrapped in post-race controversy.
***The grid for the GT Le Mans category’s farewell season was not the most impressive size-wise, but the level of competition remained as high as ever. One highlight was the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR, where three cars produced some of the most exciting racing of the year. Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy prevailed in a wide-open 160-minute battle that featured plenty of rubbing and racing in equal measure.
***Nominated for its ending alone, the24 Hours of Le Mans LMP2 race boasted one of the most exciting conclusions of the year, as WRT’s Robin Frijns pipped JOTA’s Tom Blomqvist to the line by less than a second. Frijns, whose Oreca 07 Gibson had developed issues, unexpectedly became the leader after his teammate Yifei Ye slowed with an electrical problem. That set up a tense dash to the line, made even more dramatic by Frijns and Blomqvist swerving around cars from other classes that had eased off the gas.