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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Spa Thursday Notebook

Vincent Wouters’ Thursday notebook from Spa…

Photo: Audi

***Attempto Racing drivers Sarah Bovy and Juergen Krebs were both penalized during Free Practice for leaving the pit lane at La Source rather than continuing to the end of the endurance pit lane at Eau Rouge. Both drivers received one Behavior Warning Point. Neither driver already had any BWPs.

***Bovy is the only female driver in the field of 215 drivers, 47 of which are Platinum, 54 Gold, 59 Silver and 55 Bronze-rated.

***Nic Minassian returns to the race 12 years after his last start, and partners Toni Vilander, Davide Rizzo and Alex Demerdjian in the No. 961 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GT3. He scored a second-place finish as a substitute driver at G-Drive Racing last weekend in the European Le Mans Series race at the Red Bull Ring. “The 24 Hours of Spa has changed a lot in 12 years,” he told Endurance-Info. “GT3 has taken the place of GT1, the paddock is impressive with its professionalism, and the level is very high.”

***Connor De Phillippi, who makes his 24 Hours of Spa debut in the No. 2 Audi Sport Team WRT entry, said it’s taken some adjusting, in only his second start with the Belgian team. “For me, the language barrier has been a bit of an interesting thing,” De Phillippi told Sportscar365. “I feel like it’s 2013 again, my first year in Germany when I didn’t know any German [working with Land Motorsport]. Luckily, everyone knows English, since my French is not too good. It’s below par!”

***Stephane Ratel, Intercontinental GT Challenge series manager Sophie Peyrat and Blancpain GT Series Asia manager Benjamin Franassovici met with the organizers of the new Suzuka 10-Hour race, which will run in partnership with SRO Motorsports Group, next August. The event has been rumored to take over as the Asian round of the IGTC, although not yet confirmed for 2018.

***The Honda NSX GT3, which will be made available to customers beginning next year, is set to race as an Acura in North America and China and under the Honda nameplate everywhere else, according to Honda Motorsport Europe manager William De Braekeleer. The Acura brand is only available in North America, China, Russia and Kuwait, although the car has been globally homologated as an Acura, per FIA documents.

***There are questions whether any team will be able to double stint tires in the race. While the Lamborghini Huracan GT3s have struggled on the new-for-2017 Pirelli compound, cars such as the Mercedes-AMG GT3 may be able to achieve the feat, depending on the minimum pit stop time, which SRO has yet to communicate.

***For safety reasons, no driver can do more than three consecutive full stints, which equates to three hours and 15 minutes. Furthermore, a single driver cannot spend more than 14 hours behind the wheel in the race.

***All safety cars will be preceded by a Full Course Yellows except in the case of the race start, allowing the safety car to enter the track and quickly collect the leader while the cars are already under reduced speeds.

***Friday’s Super Pole will see the top 20 cars each complete two laps, leaving the pit lane at one-minute intervals, which has been increased from 20 seconds in previous years. Teams are able to nominate the driver, as is in the case in the Nürburgring 24’s Top-30 qualifying. 

***Audi and Mercedes organized group shots of their cars on Wednesday evening, following the parade. All 11 Mercedes-AMG GT3 were positioned around the apex of La Source, while Audi lined up its ten R8 LMS on the Raidillon.

***The Spa paddock harbors a mysterious BMW hospitality unit, which gives visitors a sneak peak of the new BMW M5 road car. The car will be officially unveiled at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in September,  with visitors able to view it here this weekend but not take any photos.

***Pirelli has brought more than 13,000 tires in 24 trucks to Spa this weekend, with 112 people representing ten nationalities working for the series’ exclusive tire manufacturer. Twelve Pirelli engineers are distributed among the different teams.

***Longtime 24 Hours of Spa race promoter Jean-François Chaumont has passed away today. The Belgian started working the event 1978 and headed the organization committee for three decades, transforming the event from a touring car car into the GT era at the beginning of the 21st century.

John Dagys and Jake Kilshaw contributed to this notebook

Vincent Wouters (@VinceWouters) is a Belgium-based sports car racing reporter, providing coverage primarily of the Blancpain GT Series.


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