Mercedes continued its mark on international GT racing this weekend, as HTP Motorsport scored a monumental victory in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the penultimate round of the Blancpain Endurance Series.
Five-time DTM champion Bernd Schneider took the No. 84 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 to a 1 minute and 18-second vctory over the No. 150 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of Marc Lieb, in a race that saw a heated two-way battle for the lead until the closing stages.
Late-race engine issues for the Manthey Porsche, which led throughout the night, took Lieb and co-drivers Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet out of immediate contention, along with a penalty for overtaking while under the safety car.
It gave clear sailing for the SLS of Schneider and fellow Germans Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Gotz, who combined to complete 564 laps over the course of the twice-around-the-clock marathon and give the gull-winged beast its third 24-hour race victory this year.
With the win, Schneider capped off a remarkable year of endurance racing victories at the 24 Hours of Dubai, Bathurst 12 Hour, Nurburgring 24, and now the 24 Hours of Spa.
Additionally, it was the German manufacturer’s first overall win in the famed Belgian endurance classic in nearly 50 years.”It was an amazing race and such a hard battle,” said Schneider, who earned his second career Spa 24 win. “We were all really exhausted after the long night. The team did a fantastic job. The car was outstanding. The car survived and we survived. We’re really happy.”
The No. 2 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT Audi R8 LMS ultra of Frank Stippler, Christopher Mies and two-time Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer completed the podium in third, benefitting from the late-race retirements of the No. 26 Vita4One BMW Z4 GT3 and championship-leading No. 44 Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.
Both the Nos. 3 and 4 Marc VDS Racing BMWs, which challenged the No. 150 Manthey Porsche in the early stages of the race, dropped out with electrical and engine issues overnight.
Pro-Am class honors went to the No. 59 AF Corse Ferrari of Toni Vilander, Duncan Cameron, Matt Griffin and Alex Mortimer, finishing fifth overall, seven laps behind the winning Merc.
The No. 20 SOFREV ASP Ferrari won the Gentleman’s Trophy in a race that featured a near-record level of attrition, including a number of heavy accidents through the night time and morning hours.