Alessandro Pier Guidi made a late and bold overtake on Dries Vanthoor at Blanchimont to win the TotalEnergies24 Hours of Spa for Iron Lynx and Ferrari, delivering the Italian manufacturer’s first victory at the event in 17 years.
Pier Guidi swept around the outside of Vanthoor’s No. 32 Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo at the fast left-hand corner in wet conditions with nine minutes remaining to capture a dramatic win alongside his Iron Lynx No. 51 co-drivers Nicklas Nielsen and Come Ledogar.
Iron Lynx initially appeared to have lost a prime chance for its first 24-hour race victory when Audi Sport Team WRT made a perfect strategy call at the final round of pit stops, giving Vanthoor wet tires after Pier Guidi took on a new set of Pirelli slicks.
While the track was dry at the time, Vanthoor — who shared the Audi with Kelvin van der Linde and Charles Weerts — soon got the upper hand when the heavens opened and Pier Guidi struggled to control his Ferrari.
The Italian driver made an extra pit stop after one lap, which thrust Vanthoor into the lead of the race driving a car that started from 54th on the 58-car grid due to the Belgian not setting a time in qualifying.
Iron Lynx was handed a lifeline by a safety car period occurring with just under 45 minutes to go, after several incidents including Benjamin Hites crashing his Rinaldi Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020 on the Kemmel Straight and Brendan Iribe spinning his McLaren 720S GT3 at Eau Rouge.
The safety car peeled off with 27 and a half minutes remaining, with Vanthoor holding around five seconds and the benefit of three backmarkers between himself and Pier Guidi.
The Ferrari factory driver and reigning Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup champion dispatched the vehicles ahead of him before reeling in Vanthoor to make the move of the race.
Pier Guidi crossed the line 3.978 seconds ahead of Vanthoor, earning the first 24H Spa wins for himself, Nielsen and Ledogar.
It bookended a dramatic maiden 24 Hours of Spa for the Italian squad, which saw its No. 71 Ferrari eliminated in a major four-car accident at Raidillon during the opening hour that resulted in Davide Rigon and Emil Frey Racing’s Jack Aitken being taken to hospital.
Marco Sorensen, Nicki Thiim and Ross Gunn completed the podium in the No. 95 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage GT3, which crossed the line 84 seconds behind the winner as the only other car to finish on the lead lap.
The sole Pro-class Aston, which was a one-off entry for Spa, ran third for the last nine hours after benefiting from the No. 88 AKKA-ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo retiring from contention with damper failure, however it was unable to challenge the top-two.
Team WRT’s No. 37 Audi driven by Nico Mueller, Robin Frijns and Dennis Lind was fourth, ahead of the No. 47 KCMG Porsche 911 GT3 R featuring defending winners Nick Tandy and Laurens Vanthoor alongside Maxime Martin.
Tandy and Martin drove the bulk of the race after Vanthoor was sidelined midway through after having an accident on his scooter in the paddock.
Patric Niederhauser, Markus Winkelhock and Christopher Haase were sixth for Audi Sport Team Sainteloc, meanwhile.
A late Ben Barnicoat overtake on Andrea Caldarelli ensured the JOTA McLaren to finish seventh, one place ahead of the No. 63 Orange1 FFF Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo, which dropped out of contention after two drive-through penalties and an issue following Caldarelli’s second-to-last stop.
Attempto Racing made it four Audis in the top nine, with its No. 66 entry climbing back the running order after a brave move for Christopher Mies to stay on slick tires during the race’s first bout of rain in the second hour.
The No. 89 AKKA-ASP entry was the highest-placed Mercedes-AMG in tenth overall, brought to the flag by Felipe Fraga.
Madpanda, AF Corse Take Class Victories
Madpanda Motorsports claimed Silver class honors in a commanding run for the quartet of Ezequiel Perez Companc, Ricardo Sanchez, Patrick Kujala and Rik Breukers.
Breukers took the No. 90 Mercedes across the line one lap ahead of the No. 7 Toksport WRT Mercedes, in an entry that saw Axcil Jefferies drafted into the lineup to replace Berkay Besler just hours before the race start on Saturday.
The No. 159 Garage 59 Aston Martin driven by Alex MacDowall, Tuomas Tujula, Valentin Hasse-Clot and Nicolai Kjaergaard completed the class podium in third.
AF Corse led a 1-2 finish in Pro-Am, with the No. 53 Ferrari of Duncan Cameron, Rino Mastronardi, Matt Griffin and Miguel Molina coming out ahead of teammates Louis Machiels, John Wartique, Andrea Bertolini and Alessio Rovera, cemented by a late-race drive-through penalty for the No. 52 Ferrari.
Thirty-two cars, including the lone-finishing Am class Porsche from Haegeli by T2 Racing, were classified at the end of a grueling GTWC Europe Endurance Cup and Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli round that saw an unusually high level of attrition.
Four contending cars were withdrawn in the first-hour accident at Raidillon, with Rutronik Racing’s Kevin Estre and Lamborghini driver Franck Perera walking away uninjured in the massive crash that sent Rigon and Aitken to the hospital.
The No. 22 GPX Racing Porsche dropped out with steering issues while the No. 3 Schnabl Engineering 911 dropped out when Michael Christensen was hit from behind into the right-side barriers approaching Eau Rouge just before halfway.
Both the Walkenhorst BMW M6 GT3s retired overnight, the No. 34 doing so from third place with an engine failure, as well as the No. 26 Sainteloc Racing Audi which crashed out.
The No. 4 Team HRT Mercedes was one of a handful retirements later in the running after several incidents.
RESULTS: TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa
John Dagys contributed to this report