The Porsche customer team Rowe Racing has won the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. In a dramatic finale, the No. 98 Porsche 911 GT3 R driven by works drivers Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor came out on top.
The trio crossed the finish line first after 527 laps on the 7.004-kilometre Formula 1 racetrack in Belgium and secured the second straight overall victory for the GT3 vehicle from Weissach. After a fierce battle, Italy’s Matteo Cairoli and the two Germans Sven Müller and Christian Engelhart conquered the third podium step in the identical car fielded by the Dinamic Motorsport squad.
Fritz Enzinger, Vice President Porsche Motorsport: “To win under such difficult conditions cannot be appreciated highly enough. Plus positions three and four – what a super performance. My congratulations and huge thanks to the winning team of Rowe Racing and to all other Porsche customer teams as well as the engineers from Porsche Motorsport. They all did a tremendous job at Spa.”
Close competition during changeable weather
The endurance race in the Ardennes was contested under difficult conditions with changeable weather and an often slippery racetrack. Many incidents including rain during the night resulted in a total of 18 full course yellows and 14 safety car phases. In the close competition among the 55-strong GT3 field from eleven manufacturers, the lead spot changed almost by the hour. The victorious Porsche 911 GT3 R from Rowe Racing swept into the lead for the first time early Sunday morning, after the 2015 outright Le Mans winner Tandy turned heads as the fastest driver in the field on a gradually drying track. After his teammates Bamber und Vanthoor put in impressive stints, it was again the Briton who took the limelight in the final hour. After perfect tactical decisions by the seasoned customer squad, at the wheel of his ailing car, Tandy outpaced the No. 66 Audi in a gripping final sprint. After 24 hours, he crossed the finish line with a mere 4.687-second advantage – his racing car, making alarming noises due to lack of transmission oil, would very likely not have managed another lap.
Matteo Cairoli also impressed in the final minutes of the long-distance classic. The Italian made optimal use the Porsche 911 GT3 R’s traction advantage on the wet track and fought his way up to third place shortly before the chequered flag. The No. 12 racer fielded by GPX Racing with works drivers Mathieu Jaminet, Patrick Pilet (both France) and Matt Campbell (Australia) reached the finish line in fourth place after an equally strong charge through the field, with the No. 40 sister car finishing on eleventh. The maiden Spa outing for the Frikadelli Racing team with Porsche ambassador Jörg Bergmeister as one of the driver-crew concluded the marathon in position eight.
The KCMG customer team, however, was plagued by bad luck in this year’s race. The No. 21 car retired early due to persistent vibrations at the rear of the Porsche 911 GT3 R. The sister car of last year’s winners Michael Christensen from Denmark, Kévin Estre from France and Richard Lietz from Austria lost five laps due to a wheel carrier defect and ultimately finished on 13th place. The Herberth Motorsport squad, which had at times led both the Pro-Am and Am-categories, lost both vehicles in accidents. The No. 56 entry from Dinamic Motorsport and the Rowe Racing’s No. 99 car also had to retire early.
Comments on the race
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R): “It was an extremely exciting finish – our hearts were racing at full revs. The last hours were simply nerve-wracking. Huge congratulations to Rowe Racing and the drivers who achieved the absolute maximum. On top of the overall victory, we also have one of Dinamic Motorsport’s cars on the podium and GPX Racing on fourth place. That underlines the strong partners we have at our side when the Porsche 911 GT3 R goes racing.”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 GT3 R #98): “I’ll never forget this finale. Our victory was hanging by a thread when loud noises suddenly started coming from the rear of the vehicle in the penultimate lap. It almost sounded as if small bombs were exploding. I got a fright and at the same time, the rear axle was sliding around on a trail of oil. What I didn’t realise was that the oil was coming from our car. I still can’t quite believe that the Porsche 911 GT3 R got us over the finish line. The relief and joy are indescribable.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 GT3 R #98): “It’s simply incredible. That was a real team effort. Everyone gave their utmost and never gave up. At the beginning, our chances didn’t look good but with tremendous determination we made it to the front. This victory feels just wonderful. We’ve experienced a lot of bad luck this year. The triumph at Spa helps us forget all about that. It’s a dream come true!”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #98): “This brings me to tears. The 2020 year for us was often difficult because luck was never on our side. At some point, I’d almost written the season off in my mind. And then of all things to win at my home race in Spa-Francorchamps. I can’t describe the emotions. First I have to let it all sink in.”
Sven Müller (Porsche 911 GT3 R #54): “I’m super happy with position three. Around the midway mark in the race and after the bad luck with two penalties, we didn’t at all expect a podium result would be possible. But Matteo simply put in a sensational final stint and the team also did a wonderful job.”
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 911 GT3 R #12): “Position four is a good result, but I’m still disappointed. More would’ve been possible. At times we were running in the lead. Our pace was consistently good, but it still wasn’t enough for a podium spot. Minor things hampered us, and sometimes our strategy wasn’t totally perfect. It’s of course a great day for Porsche. Victory and another car on the podium – it hardly gets better than that.”
Dennis Olsen (Porsche 911 GT3 R #22): “First and third place for Porsche – congratulations to the boys! The race was a bit more difficult for us, we lost two laps during the night. We did everything we could and made up a lap, but it didn’t work with the second lap because there were too few yellow phases at the end. I’m a little disappointed, of course, because our Porsche ran perfectly and everyone did a solid job.”
1.Tandy/Bamber/Vanthoor (GB/NZ/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #98, 527 laps
2.Drudi/Niederhauser/Vervisch (I/CH/B), Audi R8 LMS #66, 527 laps
3.Cairoli/Engelhart/Müller (I/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #54, 527 laps
4.Campbell/Pilet/Jaminet (AUS/F/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #12, 527 laps
8.Bergmeister/Olsen/Makowiecki (D/N/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #22, 527 laps
11.Dumas/Deletraz/Preining (F/CH/A), Porsche 911 GT3 R #40, 525 laps
13.Christensen/Lietz/Estre (DK/A/F), Porsche 911 GT3 R #47, 522 laps
29.Werner/Andlauer/Bachler (D/F/A), Porsche 911 GT3 R #99, 495 laps
37.Allemann/Bohn/Renauer/Renauer (CH/D/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #991, 375 laps
43.Liberati/Burdon/Imperatori (I/AUS/CH), Porsche 911 GT3 R #21, 247 laps
46.Häring/Konstantinou/Joos/Seefried (D/GR/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 R #918, 158 laps
48.Rizzoli/de Leener/Pedersen/Sbirrazzuoli (I/B/DK/MC), Porsche 911 GT3 R #56, 149 laps
Full results on www.total24hours.com/results.