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Intercontinental GT Challenge

Spa Thursday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Thursday notebook from the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa…

Photo: Jules Benichou/21 Creation

***The No. 93 Sky-Tempesta Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo will take a five-place grid drop for the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa due to an infringement committed in Free Practice. Chris Froggatt overtook the No. 34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 under yellow flags for the retrieval of the No. 28 ST Racing BMW, according to a stewards’ report.

***In a late change to the race rules, safety car periods will no longer be preceded by a Full Course Yellow. The FCY procedure, which requires all cars to slow down under 80 km/h in response to an incident, will only be used for short interventions. Some teams were frustrated by only learning about the new measure on Wednesday.

***Maxime Oosten’s Free Practice crash at Raidillion inflicted only bodywork damage on the ST Racing BMW M4 GT3 and the chassis and suspension were not affected, according to team co-owner and driver Samantha Tan. The car underwent repairs and sat stripped in the garage after the session, but returned to the track to complete the next session.

***Two drivers were fined €500 ($508 USD) for crossing the finish line twice at the end of a session. Walkenhorst Motorsport’s Joerg Breuer incurred the sanction in Free Practice while CMR Bentley driver Stephane Lemeret did the same in Pre-Qualifying. There was also a €700 ($714 USD) fine for Valentino Rossi who exceeded the pit lane speed limit by 13.6 km/h.

***Audi Sport Team Sainteloc altered the order in which its drivers qualified with approval from the stewards under force majeure. According to an official bulletin, Christopher Mies was allowed to qualify first and be absent from night practice due to personal reasons.

***Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe points leaders Max Weering and Loris Spinelli are pulling double duty, but in different cars. In addition to sharing their Bonaldi Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo EVO2 in the support series, Weering is in Silver Cup with Leipert Motorsport, while Spinelli joins Sky-Tempesta Racing’s Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo in Gold.

***SPS Automotive Performance is running the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG this weekend. Kenny Habul’s outfit had support from Triple Eight Race Engineering for its Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour victory in May. SPS ran the flame-liveried AMG at the Hankook 24 Hours of Dubai in January.

***SPS was handed a €1,000 ($1,018 USD) fine for unsafely releasing the SunEnergy1 car into the path of GetSpeed Performance’s No. 3 Mercedes-AMD during Pre-Qualifying, causing damage to the latter vehicle.

***SRO Motorsports Group’s GT2 formula holds a prominent place in the Spa paddock, in the form of a static exhibition titled ‘The Rise of GT2’ where an Audi R8 LMS GT2, a Porsche 911 GT2 RS Clubsport, a KTM X-Bow GT2 and a Brabham BT63 GT2 Concept are displayed.

***There is also a Mercedes-AMG GT Track Series at center stage, with “homologation in progress” printed on the information panel. This is despite the manufacturer stating in May that the Track Series is made for track day use. Maserati became the sixth manufacturer to announce a GT2 commitment earlier this week.

***Boutsen Racing’s Audi missed Wednesday’s parade due to a damaged gearbox. The car had an accident during the Bronze test on Tuesday but returned for Free Practice.

***The minimum refueling time at standard pit stops during the race has been set at 41 seconds, while short pit stops have a maximum refueling time of six seconds.

***GPX Martini Racing filed a request with Porsche to reunite its 2019-winning driver lineup this weekend, according to team principal Pierre-Brice Mena. ​​”After 2019 we didn’t push to have it back for 2020 or 2021 because you have pressure trying to repeat it,” he told Sportscar365. “Time passed a little bit and it’s good to have the lineup reunited.”

***It is unclear if GPX will return to full-time European racing next year, with its 2023 plans not set. However, Mena said that GT3 remains “super important” to the 2019 Spa-winning squad: “We are considering to do a full program, etc. but I don’t know exactly what we’re going to do. We need answers from the organizers and Porsche. Racing is still in our DNA and will still be important for us.”

***Mena added that GPX intends to stay with Porsche for the first season of the manufacturer’s new GT3 product next year. It is understood that the team has pre-ordered two cars.

***BMW squad ROWE Racing is set to repeat its current program next season, according to team principal Hans-Peter Naundorf who told Sportscar365 that the Motorsport Competence Group-run outfit wants to place its “full attention” on GTWC Europe Endurance Cup and the Nürburgring 24 again.

***K-PAX Racing expects to add two Lamborghini factory drivers to its lineup for the Indianapolis 8 Hour according to team strategist Thomas Blam. “That’s the plan,” he told Sportscar365. “From what we understand, the rules will be aligned with the [GTWC America] rules in regards to pit stops and that nature.”

***Blam said the Lamborghini team could take part in this year’s IGTC season finale depending on the outcome from this weekend and Indianapolis. “There have been some whispers,” he said. “Let’s see how we do here and Indy. At that point in time, maybe we pull the trigger to do the final event.”

***BMW M Motorsport staff were largely unaffected by Wednesday’s Lufthansa strikes that saw the German national airline cancel the majority of its flights from Frankfurt and Munich, where BMW is based. The manufacturer’s racing director Andreas Roos explained that it is common practice for BMW personnel to reach Spa by road.

***The Heart of Racing’s TF Sport-supplied Aston Martin Vantage GT3 was a new purchase after the intended car was damaged in an accident at the Nürburgring 24 in May, according to TF team principal Tom Ferrier. The British squad is repairing the damaged car for future use.

***Attempto Racing’s No. 66 Audi racing in Silver Cup has a special livery celebrating 30 years of GT racing run by SRO Motorsports Group.

***Cars racing in the 30th GT Anniversary are running on tires from various suppliers, despite having Pirelli stickers on their bodywork as part of SRO’s affiliation with the Italian company. Most of the GT3-spec cars on the classic grid are running on Pirelli rubber.

***Jack Aitken plans to continue a combined program in both GT3 and LMP2 machinery next year. The one-time Grand Prix starter competes in a Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo for Emil Frey Racing and an Oreca 07 Gibson with Racing Team Turkey in the European Le Mans Series.  “I like doing it; I don’t have issues switching from the two cars because they are very different so I don’t have an issue separating those two in my mind,” Aitken told Sportscar365.

***Aitken reckons teams remain ‘a little bit fearful’ of punctures after the events of Paul Ricard, where multiple Lamborghini teams suffered tire problems. “We have had some changes made to the prescriptions for the tires, the parameters we can run for this race from Pirelli. Hopefully that is enough to prevent these issues.”

***The Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini’s accident at Raidillon during qualifying was caused by a tire failure, according to team principal Marcel Leipert. The Silver Cup squad’s No. 27 car returned to the track during night practice.

***The annual SRO press conference takes place at Spa on Friday, with Stephane Ratel providing updates on his organization’s global activities. An announcement relating to the Gulf 12 Hours, which was hinted at by the event’s official Twitter account, is set to form part of the presentation.

John Dagys and Davey Euwema contributed to this report

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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