Spa 24 Hours: Mercedes takes first win since 2013

Mercedes claimed a first Spa 24 Hours victory since 2013 as the French Auto Sport Promotion team finally broke its duck in the Belgian enduro.

Raffaele Marciello, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella took a 30-second victory over the GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG GT3 shared by Luca Stolz, Maximilian Gotz and Steijn Schothorst at the end of the double-points round of the GT World Challenge Europe.

The two Mercs were on different pitstop strategies over the final hours of the race, but the ASP entry was the quicker of the two cars in the closing stages.

Marciello was able to catch and pass Stolz as the penultimate hour drew to a close and pulled away by 15s before the GetSpeed entry made its final stop with just over 60 minutes to go.

The Italian then pitted out of the lead with just under 40 minutes left on the clock and came out of the pits with an advantage of four seconds over the chasing Merc.

The GruppeM Merc driven by Maro Engel, Maximilian Buhk and Mikael Grenier briefly led the ASP entry, but when it made its final stop on schedule Marciello moved back to the front of the field.

The ASP car survived two scares on Sunday, the first when Gounon was tipped into a spin at the Bus Stop by a backmarker entering the pits.

He then had side-by-side contact in Eau Rouge battling with the Beechdean AMR entry of Nicki Thiim, which sent the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 into a wild spin.

BMW had the fastest car during the night, the Rowe Racing entry of Nick Yelloly, Nicky Catsburg and Augusto Farfus heading the order at the six and 12-hour marks when the first tranches of GTWCE points were awarded.

But the new-for-2022 BMW M4 GT3 wasn’t a match for the quickest of the Mercedes as the temperatures rose.

The victory chances of the lead Rowe entry disappeared early in the penultimate hour when Yelloly sustained a right-rear puncture.

Yelloly had closed down to within a few tenths of Gounon after the stops proceeding the puncture, but was slowly dropped by the Merc later in the stint.

Catsburg took over the M4 for the run to the flag, ending up sixth in the final classification.

#71 Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GT3: Davide Rigon, Daniel Serra, Antonio Fuoco

#71 Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GT3: Davide Rigon, Daniel Serra, Antonio Fuoco

Photo by: Eric Le Galliot

The final place on the podium went to the best of the Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GT3 Evos.

The car shared by Antonio Fuoco, Davide Rigon and Daniel Serra finished more than 20s down on the second-placed GetSpeed car and 1.5s up on Engel’s GruppeM machine.

The other Rowe BMW, the junior team car shared by Dan Harper, Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen, had been second to the sister machine at the halfway point, but ended up fifth at the finish.

Porsche’s challenge yielded a best result of seventh for the KCMG Porsche 911 GT3-R shared by Nick Tandy, Laurens Vanthoor and Dennis Olsen.

Tandy brought the car through the field from the back of the grid after the Porsche was hit by a braking problem in first qualifying and the car appeared to be a genuine contender during the night.

The KCMG challenge faded in the final hours, the car dropping from sixth to seventh when a five-second penalty for a track-limits infraction was applied after the flag had fallen.

The Jota McLaren team ended up eighth with the 720S GT3 shared by Rob Bell, Marvin Kirchhofer and Ollie Wilkinson ahead of the second of the two Iron Lynx Pro class cars, which ended up a lap down in the hands of James Calado, Nicklas Nielsen and Miguel Molina.

The Aston Thiim shared with Marco Sorensen and Maxime Martin ended up 10th after its big spin, which was followed by a slow lap back to the pits on flat-spotted tyres.

Lamborghini took 11th position with the K-Pax Huracan GT3 Evo in which Andrea Caldarelli had taken pole before the car lost its Superpole times for an engine irregularity and was demoted to 30th on the grid.

The American entrant’s Lambo, in which Caldarelli was joined by Marco Mapelli and Jordan Pepper, was able to fight up through the field and briefly led the race early in the fifth hour before a puncture dropped it off the lead lap.

Audi had a disastrous race with its new-for-2022 R8 LMS GT3 Evo II, the German manufacturer leaving a race it has won four times in the GT3 era with a best finish of 11th place for the Attempto entry driven by Markus Winkelhock, Dennis Marschall and Ricardo Feller.

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