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Intercontinental GT Challenge

HRT to Operate Sky-Tempesta Mercedes at 24H Spa

Merc team Sky-Tempesta enlists HRT as new operating partner for Spa on single-event deal…

Photo: Jules Benichou/21 Creation

Sky-Tempesta Racing’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo will be operated by Haupt Racing Team at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa after it started the season with GruppeM Racing.

The British team led by Chris Froggatt switched from Ferrari to Mercedes-AMG machinery this year and enlisted GruppeM to provide engineers and mechanics for its Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance and Sprint program.

But fellow DTM outfit HRT will be the technical partner for the most prestigious race of the campaign next weekend.

Froggatt explained that GruppeM Racing’s plans to run a Pro Mercedes-AMG at Spa with factory support, as part of an Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli effort, meant that Sky-Tempesta couldn’t be guaranteed its preferred personnel for the event.

Froggatt, who is co-driving the No. 93 Mercedes-AMG with Eddie Cheever III, Jonathan Hui and Loris Spinelli, confirmed that the deal is currently for Spa only.

“We were always aware that GruppeM have the two cars in DTM and the Intercontinental commitment,” he told Sportscar365.

“That is something we’ve always been aware of, and there was always a bit of discussion around Spa, as to what staff had been contracted for that Pro car and what staff we would end up with.

“We’ve been considering, talking to all sorts of teams about who would run the car for Spa, in the sense that we essentially would have lost some of our regular crew to the Pro car.

“I’ve been speaking to HRT for a while, and I know Sean Paul [Breslin, team principal] quite well. Their plan has always been to run a fourth car at Spa.

“They know their crew from the beginning of the year; all of that had been earmarked already and well prepared.

“When we understood the position we’d be in, if we’d done Spa with GruppeM, I just thought it’s too much of a risk to not have a solid foundation to be able to compete.

He added: “It was a mutual thing. There’s no love lost with GruppeM because it is, at the moment, a one-time arrangement with HRT.”

Sky-Tempesta took part in the official test days last month with GruppeM support, where the team benefited from sharing data with the Hong Kong-based outfit’s Pro entry.

Its No. 93 car, which is usually serviced at GruppeM Racing’s European headquarters in Germany, was recently taken to HRT’s Nürburgring facility for a rebuild.

It is set to be run by a full crew of HRT personnel who work on the team’s DTM program.

“It’s essentially a plug and play with that,” Froggatt suggested.

“That is a crew that’s been working together all year and it’s a complete crew.

“Whereas with [GruppeM Racing’s] various commitments made beforehand with Mercedes, our crew got split a bit.

“So I wasn’t confident going into the longest and most gruelling race of the year having a crew that’s not particularly used to racing together.”

Froggatt added that date clashes with DTM early in the year impacted consistency in the Sky-Tempesta squad, which had four different lead engineers for the first four Sprint Cup rounds.

None of the three remaining GTWC Europe events after Spa overlap with DTM fixtures, although it has not been decided which team will operate the No. 93 car after Spa.

“From an outside perspective, it looks like a big change,” Froggatt said.

“But it was more of a known potential from our side, from the beginning of the year, with them running the Pro car.

“It’s not that they’re not capable of running two cars: it’s more that we’re considering the key people that we would want working on the program who have been potentially earmarked for the Pro car. It means it’s tricky for us to have a half squad, in a way.”

Froggatt has undertaken “a couple of debriefs” with HRT during an extremely short Spa preparation window that the British driver described as “quite an ask” for a major race.

In addition to the Sky-Tempesta car, HRT is running three Mercedes-AMGs with one in Gold Cup and two in Silver.

“We are very happy to welcome Sky Tempesta on board as an additional Gold Cup entrant and look forward greatly to supporting them,” said Breslin.

“HRT made a strong showing at the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring and celebrated a well-deserved class win.

“This makes us optimistic that we will do our best to finish at the front in both classifications at Spa.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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