Walkenhorst Motorsport has scored BMW’s third Total 24 Hours of Spa victory in four years, with Philipp Eng leading a 1-2 finish for the German manufacturer.
The team’s one-off entry for the joint Blancpain GT Series and Intercontinental GT Challenge round was driven by factory drivers Eng and Tom Blomqvist and Silver-rated Christian Krognes.
Eng, in the No. 34 BMW M6 GT3, led fellow works driver Alexander Sims to the line, who finished ten seconds back in his ROWE Racing entry.
The two were part of the winning lineup two years ago, along with Maxime Martin, when ROWE took the BMW M6 GT3 to its first 24-hour race victory one year after BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS win in a Z4 GT3.
Walkenhorst led for most of the final three hours after swapping the top position with the ROWE car and Audi Sport Team Sainteloc entry.
Eng recovered from a slip-up regarding the use of the team’s final joker pit stop after losing the advantage gained to a safety car.
This had initially put the race into the favor of ROWE, Sainteloc and Montaplast by Land Motorsport, all of which were unable to topple the Walkenhorst car in the closing stages.
Kelvin van der Linde took the Land Audi to the line in third ahead of Frederic Vervisch’s Sainteloc car, which he shared with defending winners Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock.
The two Audi R8 LMS cars bounced back from a pre-race Balance of Performance change which gave the car an additional 15 kg in minimum weight.
Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon classified fifth with its car driven to the line by Luca Stolz, while the works-backed AKKA ASP Mercedes finished sixth.
Walkenhorst first inherited the lead during Hour 10, and although it lost position on several occasions, the second half always swung back to BMW’s favor.
It came after Land, Bentley Team M-Sport and R-Motorsport all swapped the lead in the opening hours.
While Bentley looked set for a strong result after its second-generation No. 8 Continental GT3 had led for a while on Saturday evening, both cars suffered problems that took them out of contention.
The No. 8 car’s race effectively ended after an incident between Andy Soucek and the No. 117 Team75 Bernhard Porsche 911 RSR and Aust Motorsport Audi, while the sister No. 7 car had lengthy repairs including work to the radiator.
WRT’s chances were spoiled after problems for all three of its Audis, including an overheating issue for the No. 1 car and a lost wheel for Stuart Leonard in the No. 17 entry.
Robin Frijns took the No. 2 car to an eighth-place finish, two laps down, after bouncing back from contact with Jules Syzmkowiak’s AKKA ASP Mercedes, which brought out one of the race’s many Full Course Yellows.
Unscheduled brake changes on both R-Motorsport Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3s hampered the Arden and Jota-supported team’s chances after starting from pole, while a fuel rig problem further delayed the No. 62 car from the lead early on.
Trouble hit both of the factory-supported Porsches, with an early retirement for the Team75 Bernhard car after the incident with the Bentley and Aust Audi, while the Manthey Racing car lost time to both radiator damage and an alternator problem.
A heavy accident between Andy Meyrick and Juergen Krebs led to the most serious incident of the race, resulting in a 100-minute red flag period during the night time hours, sending both drivers to the hospital with fractures.
It came after an early end to Stephane Ortelli’s race with a heavy impact at Raidillon in his Emil Frey Racing Lexus RC F GT3.
Rinaldi Takes Pro-Am Honors
Rinaldi Racing came through in a near race-long battle with Strakka Racing to score the Pro-Am Cup win with its No. 333 Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Daniel Keilwitz, Alexander Mattschull, Rinat Salikhov and David Perel.
The two cars led almost the entire race after pre-race favorite Ram Racing dropped back in the fifth hour with a damaged radiator.
Ombra Racing secured the Silver Cup win after an all-Lamborghini battle in the class, with the No. 12 car driven by Kang Ling, Alex Frassinetti, Romain Monti and Andrea Rizzoli.
They battled with Barwell Motorsport for most of the race as the class made its race and Endurance Cup debut.
Barwell did manage to win in the Am Cup with its No. 77 Lamborghini finishing 27th overall after inheriting the lead during the fourth hour.
Leo Machitski, Richard Abra and Patrick Kujala shared driving duties with Adrian Amstutz, who made his return after sustaining an injury in last year’s race.
RESULTS: Total 24H Spa