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GPX Porsche Wins Rain-Affected 24H Spa

Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen, Richard Lietz win 24H Spa dominated by weather…

Photo: SRO

GPX Racing won the Total 24 Hours of Spa with its one-off all-factory Porsche lineup of Kevin Estre, Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen.

The Emirati team led a strong Porsche contingent in the joint Blancpain GT Series and Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli round, with the Stuttgart marque represented by five cars in the top-10.

It came in GPX’s first race with a factory Porsche lineup and first season with the Porsche 911 GT3 R, typically running in the Silver Cup. 

Porsche, meanwhile, claimed its first overall win at Spa since 2010.

Estre emerged as the car’s standout driver with an impressive opening stint and strong pace towards the end of the race to catch and pass the previous leaders.

He crossed the line 3.347 seconds ahead of fellow Porsche factory driver Nick Tandy, whose No. 998 ROWE Racing car was another of the race’s noteworthy entries.

Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon finished third after starting from pole, with reigning Blancpain GT Endurance Cup champions Maro Engel, Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman steadily running at the front of the field.

Record-breaking heat earlier in the week, which saw ambient temperatures breach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday, was replaced by rain for most of the race.

Showers were heaviest overnight, with the race eventually being red-flagged just before 6 a.m. local time for almost six hours.

The race got back underway in the late morning with conditions generally drying and drivers later able to use slick Pirelli tires, bringing in another element of strategy gamble as the track dried.

As well as the lengthy red flag period, the race had a number of long cautions which usually began as Full Course Yellows before the safety car was brought out, bunching the field up.

Two late-race FCY and safety car periods shuffled the order, with fourth-placed Rene Rast amongst the casualties.

Rast’s No. 1 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 car had looked like the favorite with a few hours remaining after making up ground in a safety car period. 

The safety car appeared to pick up the second-placed Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 instead of the leading WRT Audi, giving Rast, Robin Frijns and Nico Mueller a lead of around 50 seconds.

The car later began to drop back relative to the pursuing Porsches, with Estre closing the gap with a rapid stint to eventually take the lead. Rast crossed the line fourth ahead of Sainteloc Racing’s works Audi. 

In the late stages of the race, Klaus Bachler collided with Rast on the run down to Pouhon, taking both cars out of the race. Bachler’s Dinamic Motorsport Porsche was another regular feature in the top ten.

That accident occurred on the restart from another FCY and safety car period, called with 24 minutes on the clock when Benny Simonsen crashed his Modena Motorsports Porsche.

Christopher Haase inherited fourth from Rast, moving his Audi Sport Team Sainteloc car up a position, while a late-pass by Mathieu Jaminet on Renger van der Zande saw the No. 98 ROWE Porsche finish fifth, ahead of the Dutchman in the JAS Motorsport-run Honda NSX GT3 in sixth.

ROWE’s third car, featuring another full-season Porsche IGTC lineup, finished seventh, ahead of Orange 1 FFF Racing Team’s lead Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo. 

Barwell Motorsport took the Silver Cup win with its No. 78 Lamborghini shared by James Pull, Jordan Witt and Sandy Mitchell, ahead of AKKA ASP’s No. 90 crew.

Oman Racing with TF Sport dominated the Pro-Am Cup despite starting from the very back of the grid after a chassis change earlier in the week, crossing the line 24th overall with its lineup of Nick Thiim, Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Ahmad Al Harthy.

In the Am Cup, Manuel Lauck took his No. 33 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari to the line in 28th on track, having shared with Christian Hook, Alexander Mattschull and Hendrik Still.

RESULTS: Total 24 Hours of Spa

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist who is Sportscar365's European Editor and also Managing Editor for e-racing365. He is a student of Politics and International Relations. Contact Jake

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