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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Spa Friday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Friday notebook from the Total 24 Hours of Spa…

Photo: Jules Benichou/SRO

***Raffaele Marciello’s 24H Spa pole was the Italian’s first in GT World Challenge powered by AWS Endurance Cup. The Mercedes-AMG factory driver has taken eight poles in his Sprint Cup career, including two in the recently-concluded season. “It was a good qualifying for us,” he said. “It’s always good to start in the top 10 to stay out of trouble for the beginning.”

***Despite taking part in Super Pole, the HubAuto Racing Ferrari will start from the rear of the grid tomorrow because it underwent an engine change after preliminary qualifying on Thursday. The team noticed an issue during night practice.

***The No. 163 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo that finished ninth in Super Pole has been pushed back five positions for its driver Giacomo Altoe picking up his third behavior warning point of the season. 

***The No. 33 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo has been handed a 10-place grid penalty for Benjamin Goethe accruing four behavior warning points this season. Goethe, Stuart Hall and Rik Breukers qualified second in Silver Cup but are now eighth.

***A five-place grid drop was also imposed on the JP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG for Mathias Lauda picking up behavior warning point number three.

***Alessandro Pier Guidi set the fastest lap of the 30-minute warm-up session which took place immediately before Super Pole. The Italian’s time of 2:34.154 beat Audi man Frederic Vervisch’s second-placed effort by 0.172 seconds.

***Optimum Motorsport’s McLaren 720S GT3 completed 10 laps in the warm-up on its return to action following a now-solved electrical issue that forced Rob Bell to park the car up during night practice.

***The K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 that missed a lot of Thursday’s running due to an engine change was also back out in the warm-up. The team was required to carry out a ‘hardship lap’ to shake the car down at 9:30 a.m. this morning.

***KTM held a presentation of its KTM X-BOW GT2 Concept this morning. The 600 hp car is being developed by German firm Reiter Engineering. KTM’s head of customer racing and PR Manfred Wolf told Sportscar365 that the car is set to make its race debut next year: “We planned to run in racing conditions this year, but we were delayed three months by COVID-19”.

***Hans Reiter confirmed that the ‘Concept’ part of the GT2 Concept’s name will be dropped once the car achieves SRO GT2 homologation. It was positioned alongside the Audi R8 LMS GT2 and the Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport during the annual SRO Motorsports Group press conference this afternoon.

***Several topics were covered in the press conference. Of note, Stephane Ratel shared more details of the GTX World Tour concept for innovative technology vehicles. The city-to-city tour, which Ratel hopes will pique the interest of leading automotive brands, is set for Geneva-Monte Carlo next year and Paris-Berlin via Prague in 2022.

***The GT1 Sports Club track experience package for ‘super sports cars’ will run at the Monza, Paul Ricard and Barcelona rounds of GTWC Europe Endurance Cup in 2021.

***SRO also presented its ‘sustainability roadmap’ including a target for the company to become carbon neutral by 2022 through various carbon reduction strategies including offsetting.

***Ratel admitted that the early part of next season’s GTWC Europe Sprint Cup calendar might need re-addressing if the Brexit scenario prevents teams from competing in back-to-back races at Brands Hatch in the UK and Magny-Cours in France.

“If it’s reported in January, February or March that you need a week or five days to cross [the English Channel] of course it will be a problem,” he said. “But let’s hope common sense prevails.”

***Ferrari plans to contest the Paul Ricard 1000km with its two factory-supported Pro cars despite a date clash with the FIA World Endurance Championship 8 Hours of Bahrain affecting five factory drivers. Ferrari’s head of GT competition Antonello Coletta told Sportscar365 that the manufacturer foresees no issues allocating its background staff across the two major sports car events.

***Coletta also said that Ferrari will make a final decision on its Bahrain driver lineups after Spa, while some of its WEC drivers could end up contesting Paul Ricard if they emerge with a good chance of winning the Endurance Cup title. GTWC Europe Pro drivers James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen are all affected by the clash.

***The Hungaroring is being considered for GTWC Europe’s TBA Sprint Cup round on Sept. 18-19 or Sept. 25-26. A decision is expected to be made in the next two weeks.

***DTM racer Ferdinand Habsburg has been re-adapting to life in GT racing as part of his last-minute call-up to drive for Team WRT. His teammates Dennis Marschall and Matthieu Vaxiviere were also brought in at short notice to replace Audi factory drivers.

“We’re all trying to find what the best solution is for all of us,” said Habsburg. “I [usually] never have to go down the old Spa pit lane. The first time I went out of the pits I nearly went into the track and not straight into the old pits! These are things that can really give you big penalties and we need to focus on [them].”

***Ratel remains “confident” that LMP3 cars will form a category at next year’s second FIA Motorsport Games in Marseille, which are being promoted by SRO. The idea has been around for a while and largely depends on collaboration between SRO and the ACO, which governs the LMP3 formula. Ratel said: “We can’t have the FIA Motorsport Games without endurance”.

***Boutsen Ginion Racing is uniquely competing in three championships at Spa. The Belgian squad is fielding a BMW M6 GT3 in the 24 Hours, a Honda Civic Type R TCR for Tom Coronel in TCR Europe and an entry in Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe.

***During tomorrow’s race all cars must carry out one ‘technical’ pit stop of at least four minutes. These must be carried out between the 12th and 22nd hours of the race, and can take place during Full Course Yellow or safety car periods.

***Track limits have only been enforced at Turn 3 (Raidillon) so far this weekend due to a lack of policing staff. This has led to cars exceeding track limits elsewhere, most notably at the exit of Bus Stop.

***Several drivers have taken to social media to voice their concern, including Porsche’s Laurens Vanthoor who said the current procedures “just don’t make any sense”.

***The 72nd running of the Total 24 Hours of Spa is set to get underway at 3:30 p.m. CEST (9:30 a.m. EST). Live coverage can be found on the GT World YouTube channel and the race website. The TV broadcast schedule can be found here.

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

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