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Spa Pre-Race Notebook

Marcel ten Caat’s pre-race notebook for the Spa 24 Hours…

Photo: Brecht Decancq Photography

Photo: Brecht Decancq Photography

***Despite a foggy start of the day here at Spa-Francorchamps, the weather forecast for the rest of the weekend is good. No rain is expected on Saturday and there’s only small chance of rain for Sunday morning. But as it is Spa, things can change within a matter of minutes.

*** Felix Baumgartner will wave the flag at the start of the Total 24 Hours of Spa later today. The Austrian, who jumped to earth from a helium balloon, recently competed in the Nürburgring 24 behind the wheel of an Audi R8 LMS ultra, finishing ninth.

***Black Falcon changed the engine on the No. 18 Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 of Richard Muscat, Vladimir Lunkin, Saud Turki Al Faisal and Christian Bracke. The change was after permission was granted by the stewards of the meeting, but results in the car starting from the back of the grid.

***The now repaired No. 98 ART Grand Prix McLaren will also start from the rear of the grid, as it didn’t take part in the qualifying and night qualifying sessions. The team finished repairs on the car in the middle of the night and then started working on the setup until the early hours.

***Alvaro Parente completed four laps behind the wheel of the McLaren in this morning’s warmup, but the car experienced some electrical troubles related to the crash. However, it should be race fit to take the start of the race later today.

***The No. 49 AF Corse Ferrari of  Yannick Mallegol, Howard Blank, Jean-Marc Bachelier and François Perrodo saw all of its qualifying times cancelled as its rear was not conform the regulations. The Gentlemen Trophy entered car will start the race from the back of the grid.

***Chris van der Drift and Michael Schmetz didn’t do their three mandatory laps in night qualifying, as a result of a crash, but the stewards have allowed the two to compete in today’s race. The No. 16 Boutsen Ginion Racing McLaren also had a crash during last night’s Bronze test, with Shahan Sarkissian having an off at Eau Rouge.

***McLaren is showcasing its two GT3 models in the Spa-Francorchamps paddock, with both the MP4-12C GT3 and the brand new 650S GT3 lined up next to each other. Andrew Kirkaldy confirmed there’s a good demand for the new car, with most of its current customer teams also planning to make the upgrade for next season.

*** Several familiar faces were seen in the paddock over the course of the weekend. Five-time FIA GT champion and three-time Spa 24 winner Michael Bartels was present, but couldn’t confirm a return to racing for his Vita4One Racing squad. Erebus GT team owner Betty Klimenko was present with an eye on a potential entry in the race next year. Promoters of the Gulf 12 Hours, Baku World Challenge and Super GT were also spotted in the Belgian Ardennes.

***Three drivers in today’s race have won the event more than once. Andrea Bertolini (2006, 2008), Fred Bouvy (1999, 2000) and Bernd Schneider (1989, 2013) have all won it twice, although it seems unlikely they will make it three wins in the 2014 edition.

***The Total 24 Hours of Spa will be live on several international TV channels as well as the Blancpain Endurance Series website, which will also offer live timing and scoring. The broadcast schedule is 4pm – 7pm, 8pm – 11pm, 8am – 12pm, 1pm – 5pm (all local time, CET). will also broadcast the event, with onboard camera coverage for all 24 hours.

(Vincent Wouters contributed to this notebook)

Marcel ten Caat (@marceltencaat) is a contributor to Sportscar365 and other publications including

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