Audi Sport Team Sainteloc has claimed overall victory in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, its first 24-hour race as a factory team, in one of the most competitive editions in recent memory that saw six cars representing four different manufacturers finish on the lead lap.
Christopher Haase took the No. 25 Audi R8 LMS to a 11.862-second victory over the No. 8 Bentley Continental GT3 of Maxime Soulet, following a frantic closing few hours that saw multiple lead changes.
The French-run squad ran a quiet but consistent race with its lineup of Haase, Markus Winkelhock and Jules Gounon to secure Audi’s second major endurance win of the year after Audi Sport Team Land won the Nürburgring 24 in May, along with Winkelhock.
It marked Audi’s fourth win in the Belgian endurance classic and first since 2014, which was also won by Winkelhock.
The Sainteloc car started from 19th overall, and the race was ultimately decided on pit lane as a result of the 65-minute maximum stint time rule.
It prevented the No. 90 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 from a potential victory as the team had to hold Raffaele Marciello in the pits an extra 43 seconds on its final stop, with the other leaders pitting inside the pit window.
Marciello came home in third behind Soulet’s Bentley, which was damaged earlier in the race when its nose panel became loose.
The privateer AKKA ASP Mercedes entry led at various stages although the Italian GP2 ace was involved in two major incidents throughout the race.
The first came with Marco Cioci’s Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari 488 GT3, which sent the Ferrari into the barrier at Raidillon in Hour 14, while Marciello was later hit by Rene Rast at the end of the Kemmel Straight, forcing the Audi driver to serve a drive-through penalty three hours later.
This didn’t hamper Rast’s race, as the No. 1 Audi Sport Team WRT car joined the lead battle in the final hours but faded to sixth after its final stop, with a late pass by Frederic Vervisch, who was the best-placed WRT entry in fifth.
It is the first time WRT had failed to score an overall podium in the race in the GT3 era, dating back to 2010.
The KÜS Team75 Bernhard Porsche 911 GT3 R finished fourth after making a comeback from two penalties early on.
Kevin Estre was handed a three-minute stop-hold penalty in the fourth hour for an unsafe pit entry after co-driver Michael Christensen hit a Team HB Racing mechanic, before it served a drive-through later in the race for a collision with Frank Stippler’s Audi Sport Team ISR entry.
The race saw several contenders crash out in the nighttime and early morning hours.
Jimmy Eriksson spun into the barriers at Radillon soon after darkness fell, prematurely ending the No. 84 Mercedes-AMG Team HTP Motorsport car’s race. Maxi Buhk and Franck Perera entered Spa second in the overall Blancpain GT Series standings.
The pole-sitting Kaspersky Ferrari dropped out in the early morning following Cioci’s contact with Marciello, after leading much of the first half of the race with factory drivers James Calaro and Giancarlo Fisichella.
An ABS failure at Pif Paf, meanwhile, prevented the all-factory crewed No. 63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 from a finish, damaging the points haul for pre-race championship leaders Mirko Bortolotti and Christian Engelhart.
Nevertheless, the Lamborghini was first after six hours and second after 12 hours, scoring valuable mid-race points.
Also of note was the No. 50 AF Corse Ferrari which was the first major incident of the race, with Pasin Lathouras having a heavy impact at the top of Raidillon less than two hours into the running.
Co-driver Alessandro Pier Guidi had briefly led as the first pit stops cycled through.
Despite several major incidents, the final few hours were relatively accident-free, with no safety cars or Full Course Yellows called in the final seven hours, apart from a short neutralization to retrieve debris.
Black Falcon dominated the Pro-Am class with its No. 16 Mercedes driven by Oliver Morley, Miguel Toril, Marvin Kirchhoefer and Maxi Goetz, crossing the line 12th overall and one lap ahead of the Oman Racing Team with TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3 in second.
The Am Cup victory, meanwhile, went the way of the No. 888 Kessel Racing Ferrari of Marco Zanuttini, Jacque Duyver, David Perel and Niki Cadei.
The all-Belgian driver lineup of Pierre Yves Paque, Gregory Paisse, Thierry de Latre du Bosqueau and Louis-Philippe Soenen won the two-car Group National battle in the SpeedLover-entered Porsche 991 Cup.
RESULTS: Total 24 Hours of Spa