After nearly a decade away, Pierre Kaffer makes his return to the Total 24 Hours of Spa, looking to put his first Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup points on the board, after a difficult start to the season.
The Audi Sport “pool” driver, who has shifted back to full-time European racing this year, has yet to show the full potential of his No. 4 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS alongside co-drivers Adrien de Leener and Peter Kox in the first three rounds.
An early race puncture at Monza resulted in a 26th place finish, followed by a unrepresentative 23rd at Silverstone and an accident on the opening lap of the Paul Ricard 1000km ending in retirement.
Kaffer makes his first 24 Hours of Spa start since 2009, when the German driver was part of AF Corse’s Ferrari F430 effort, back when the race featured GT1, GT2 and G3 class machinery.
“A lot has changed,” Kaffer told Sportscar365. “Some things have been on the track now, obviously, only GT3 cars.
“It seems to be busy like Nordschleife 24 Hours and just with one class, with one type of category of cars, it makes it quite unique. And Blancpain Endurance does a great show.
“The BoP is quite similar, so it’s quite a strong championship.”
What has also changed has been one of Kaffer’s co-drivers this weekend, with Kox forced out due to his testing commitments with the new Acura NSX GT3, and Bertrand Baguette having been drafted into the No. 4 Audi.
Despite not being in one of the two flagship factory-supported cars, Kaffer feels they have a good chance of a strong result this weekend.
‘The Audi is a great car,” he said. “It’s a very good series, the Blancpain Endurance, it’s very strong.
“Everything needs to be on point to drive in front or to have a little bit of luck in qualifying with no traffic, but it is the same for everyone.
“You need to stay out of trouble, be consistent, and make no mistakes. It’s the same as every race, and same as everyone says always before the race!
“I think this is one of the unique styles of racing from today. You need to have a good eye in traffic.
“You need to be able to anticipate what sort of drivers are in front of you and it’s sometimes not so easy because even Spa right now, there’s a lot of new drivers.
“That makes it much more challenging.”
Kaffer, who has taken part in the last two full seasons of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, has admitted his desire to return to U.S. racing on a more consistent basis, but has been pleased with his new challenge with Audi.
The 39-year-old German previously enjoyed a stint as an Audi LMP1 factory driver in the mid 2000s.
“I really miss America, I have to say,” Kaffer said. “But to be back at Audi now, as a pool driver is nice.
“I’m enjoying to work with all the people and bring the projects a bit forward, and I like to work with Audi in general.
“It’s a great sport, great show, and I’m pretty sure we’ll do a pretty good job in the Audi this year. It’s very reliable, very strong, so over 24 Hours anything can happen.”