AKKA ASP came up “one lap short” from a possible upset victory in last weekend’s Total 24 Hours of Spa, according to Edoardo Mortara, with the race’s maximum driving stint time ultimately denying the French squad a chance of fighting for the overall win after a dramatic final two-hour fight.
The non-factory supported No. 90 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Mortara, Raffaele Marciello and Michael Meadows was one of the revelations, as the trio were on course to win the Blancpain GT Series’ blue riband event until the final rounds of pit stops.
Marciello, who pitted from the lead with 1 hour and 8 minutes to go, was forced to be held in the pit box for an additional 43 seconds, due to the maximum driving stint length of 65 minutes.
The rule didn’t effect the other GT3 contenders, including the eventual race-winning No. 25 Audi Sport Team Sainteloc entry of Christopher Haase, who came in one lap later for service and didn’t need to be held for extra time in the box.
The Mercedes DTM ace admitted that properly back-timing the race could have ultimately delivered them victory.
“It was a very good race for us, unfortunately we came up one lap short,” Mortara told Sportcar365. “We led a lot of laps and dominated the race a bit, especially during the second part.
“We actually could have prevented that by extending one of our previous stints.”
Prior to the final stop, Marciello was fighting hard to hold off Haase, with the two cars nose-to-tail in a thrilling battle that could have gone down to the checkered flag had it not been for AKKA ASP’s miscue.
“For sure we would have battled very hard with the Audi,” Mortara said. “On pure pace, they were quicker than us on one lap, but we were quicker over an entire stint.”
Although Mercedes had three factory-supported cars entered in the event, it was up to the privateer No. 90 entry to chase down victory.
“One of the official cars was in our garage, so we also benefited from the support from AMG, during the race they we’re helping us with strategy and those kind of things,” Mortara said.
Mortara said one of the keys to their success was because of spending considerably less time in the pits than most of its direct competitors.
“We were very good in making the right calls when there was a safety car or Full Course Yellows,” he said. “Sometimes we were also just a little bit lucky with always pitting at the right time.
“We weren’t that good on one lap, but we could keep a very good and consistent race pace.”
The team also relied heavily on the services of Marciello, who spent just six minutes shy of the maximum drive time of 14 hours, in the car.
On top of that, the Italian completed this remarkable feat mostly in four triple stints.
“Raffaele was dehydrated after the race. I don’t know if it was a good idea to demand so much from him,” Mortara said. “I hope can recover really quickly. It was very hot in the car towards the end, we weren’t getting any air in the car anymore.
“I did a double stint myself and I was like roughly like him, but he did a triple stint in those conditions.”
Mortara also said the Mercedes was able to benefit on its tires, as the prohibited pit stop delta time was lowered pre-race to effectively prevent teams from fully double stinting the Pirellis, which the Mercedes would have been able to achieve.
“If you build a car that is able to work better with the tires than the others, why should you get penalized for that?” he said. “I got the impression that the others were trying to hold us back because they couldn’t do it themselves.
“We actually did some short double stints on the tires at some point. We took this opportunity when there was a safety car, extending some stints.
“For sure you don’t get the same grip as with new tires, but we could survive from that, the others couldn’t.”