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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Akkodis ASP Leads Mercedes-AMG 1-2 Finish at Spa

Marciello, Gounon, Juncadella give Mercedes-AMG first Spa victory in nine years…

Photo: Jules Beaumont/SRO

Raffaele Marciello, Daniel Juncadella and Jules Gounon won the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa for AMG Team Akkodis ASP, giving Mercedes its first victory in the Belgian endurance classic since 2013.

The No. 88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo started the race from pole but Marciello was immediately overtaken by the No. 54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R of Klaus Bachler at the start.

After both fellow AMG squads GetSpeed and GruppeM held the lead throughout the first quarter of the race, the No. 98 BMW M4 GT3 began to move to the front and Nicky Catsburg moved out front on the brink of the sixth hour.

From there, the German squad largely remained out front through a red flag caused by a heavy crash for the No. 16 EBM Giga Porsche of Matthew Payne and reached the halfway point as leaders.

The team’s mandatory technical stop in the early hours of Sunday morning allowed the No. 47 KCMG Porsche, driven by Nick Tandy, to capture the lead from Iron Lynx’s Davide Rigon. The Porsche had started the race in last position and worked its way into the lead places throughout the night.

After a battle with Marciello, a well-timed stop under a caution caused by Walkenhorst Motorsport’s Richard Heistand allowed ROWE’s Catsburg to retake the lead.

However, a poorly timed stop under a subsequently lengthy safety car triggered by a heavy crash for Garage 59’s Miguel Ramos caused his co-driver Yelloly to fall back behind both Akkodis ASP and KCMG.

As strategies from the various teams began to play out, the No. 88 Mercedes began to position itself as the main contender for the race win, even as Gounon came to blows with the No. 95 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Nicki Thiim at Raidillon, causing the Dane to spin.

While the Frenchman allowed co-driver Marciello to take the car into the lead, its chief rival fell away when ROWE’s No. 98 BMW suffered a right-rear puncture at Pouhon with Yelloly at the wheel.

With ROWE eliminated, Akkodis ASP fended off an off-sequence strategy from the No. 2 GetSpeed Mercedes of Stolz, Steijn Schothorst and Maximilian Goetz to score the team’s first major race in a 24-hour race and its second major endurance victory since the Kyalami 9 Hour earlier this year.

Additionally, Gounon extends his points lead in the Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli standings with back-to-back victories, having won the Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour with SunEnergy1 Racing in May.

Antonio Fuoco, Davide Rigon and Daniel Serra finished third aboard the No. 71 Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020, ahead of the No. 55 AMG Team GruppeM Mercedes of Maro Engel, Maximilian Buhk and Mikael Grenier in fourth

Daniel Harper, Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen rounded out the top five aboard the No. 50 ROWE BMW, meanwhile.

Class victories in the other categories went to the No. 30 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo (Silver Cup), No. 83 Iron Dames Ferrari (Gold Cup), No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari (Pro-Am) and No. 20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes (Bronze Cup).

The Gold Cup win marked the biggest win to date for the all-female program, featuring the lineup of Doriane Pin, Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy and Michelle Gatting.

Audi, Lamborghini and Porsche Falter 

While Mercedes, BMW and Ferrari carried out the fight for top honors, rival manufacturers Audi, Lamborghini and Porsche largely saw its top contenders fall away with various issues.

Emil Frey Racing and Audi Sport-backed entries from Attempto Racing and Tresor all notably fell victim to a streak of rear punctures in the opening hour of the race, with the latter ultimately retiring its No. 12 car after further troubles.

Audi Sport Team WRT, who finished a narrow second in last year’s race, experienced a difficult running that culminated with a collision between the No. 32 car of Charles Weerts and Nico Mueller’s sister No. 46 machine that eliminated Weerts and cost Mueller several laps.

Lamborghini, meanwhile, saw one of its top cars eliminated when Albert Costa crashed the No. 63 Emil Frey Huracan GT3 Evo overnight after Marco Mapelli suffered an earlier setback for K-PAX Racing with a puncture while briefly at the head of the field.

Porsche’s initial top challenger, the No. 221 GPX Martini Racing entry, retired after a mechanical failure shortly after the red flag.

Additionally, Dinamic’s No. 54 and Toksport WRT’s No. 100 cars both retired and late-race contact ended a podium challenge for EMA Motorsport, which also finished outside of the top ten.

RESULTS: 24H Spa (final)

Davey Euwema is a Sportscar365 reporter based in The Netherlands, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, DTM, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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