***While 66 entries were initially announced, only 63 cars will take part in this weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa. Following the previous withdrawals of the No. 60 Raton Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and No. 131 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3, HTP Motorsport confirmed on Tuesday that its No. 86 Mercedes will not take part in the event. The reigning Blancpain GT Series champions will revert to a three-car operation.
***Drivers assembled for a group shot in the grandstands on Wednesday afternoon prior to making the trip to downtown Spa for the annual parade (photo, above), which showcased all cars taking part in the race, which doubles as the second round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
***Christian Krognes topped Tuesday’s three-hour Bronze Test in the No. 35 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3. The Norwegian posted a 2:26.155 towards the end of the rain-impacted session, right as the track began to dry again. Twenty-seven cars participated in the session, which was introduced in 2015 with the aim of giving the less experienced drivers a feel of the Belgian circuit. Click Here for the results.
***The No. 9 Team Abt Bentley Continental GT3 was allowed by the stewards to complete a single lap during the Bronze Test, in order to check its systems following a rebuild. The third factory-backed Bentley, running in the Pro class, is being driven by Christer Jons, Nico Verdonck and Jordan Pepper.
***The mandatory five-minute technical pit stop is still in place this year but can no longer be done under a Full Course Yellow or safety car period. Furthermore, the stop has to be completed between the start of the 12th hour and before the end of the 15th hour of the race.
***The SRO has cleared up some confusion over the race start, confirming that the start will be given in front of the endurance pit lane between La Source and Eau Rouge, while the finish line will be opposite the main pits.
***Laurens Vanthoor and Audi were presented the winning trophies for the inaugural Intercontinental GT Challenge championship on Wednesday in Spa. Vanthoor finished on the podium in each of the three races last year, winning the season finale in Sepang. Audi, meanwhile, claimed the Manufacturers’ Championship by a hefty 35 points over Bentley, which missed the final round.
***Andre Lotterer missed today’s activities, including the parade and drivers’ meeting, as the German driver was completing a test in Barcelona with the Porsche 919 Hybrid. Lotterer is expected at the track tomorrow, in what will mark his first laps in the new-generation Audi R8 LMS, having been a late addition to the No. 5 Audi Sport Team WRT entry.
***Lotterer replaces Will Stevens, who had teamed with Dries Vanthoor and Marcel Fassler in the opening three Endurance Cup races of the season. While understood to be a team decision, the ex-Formula One driver is expected back in the car for the season-ending round at Barcelona, as well as the remaining Sprint Cup rounds with the Belgian squad.
***The Black Falcon Mercedes are carrying stickers in memory of Chester Bennington, who died earlier this week at the age of 41. The Linkin Park frontman, along with other band members, served as the grand marshals for last year’s race and also designed the livery on the team’s No. 00 Mercedes.
***SRO Motorsports Group is expected to hold its annual press conference on Friday, prior to Super Pole. Stephane Ratel will likely unveil the provisional 2018 schedule for the Blancpain GT Series, as well as further details on SRO’s other championships, including the Intercontinental GT Challenge, Blancpain GT Series Asia and British GT Championship.
***Bentley is set to reach a milestone 500th start for its Continental GT3 this weekend, should all three of its entries make it to the race. A pair of Bentleys are also taking part in this weekend’s China GT Championship races in Zhuhai, which takes place prior to the Spa start.
***Timo Bernhard said there was no consideration for him to drive his Team75 Bernhard Porsche 911 GT3 R in this year’s race, as the German has remained fully focused on his LMP1 driving duties with Porsche in the FIA World Endurance Championship. “Maybe in the future, but at the moment we need all the capacity on the pit wall,” Bernhard told Sportscar365. “I’ll be on the pit wall for the whole race. It’s a big pleasure and it will be great to see how it goes.”
***Former 24 Hours of Le Mans and Spa winner Eric Helary is serving as Driver Advisor this weekend, with the Frenchman set to provide a drivers-eye view to the stewards and race director, amid SRO’s new zero-tolerance driving conduct policy. Helary, who was brought into race control in last month’s Endurance Cup round at Paul Ricard, will continue in the newly created position for the remainder of the season.
***In addition to the Mercedes-AMG GT4 that was revealed on Tuesday, examples of both the BMW M4 GT4 and Audi R8 LMS GT4 will be present in the paddock this weekend. HTP Motorsport could compete with the new Mercedes GT4 car before the end of the year, while Maxime Martin will open the Curbstone Parade on Saturday in a BMW M4 GT4.
***The team displaying the best team spirit will be awarded the SRO Media Award. Using the hashtag #Spa24hOneTeam, the teams can show how united they work towards success, by posting texts, graphics, videos or any other kind of media. The competition ends on Sunday at noon, after which a jury will consider all relevant posts and select a winner.
John Dagys, Laurent Mercier and Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report