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Spa 24 Hours: Aston Martin wins after Ferrari blocked at pit entry

Aston Martin takes a dramatic victory at the Spa 24 Hours from Ferrari

Aston Martin stole a dramatic last-gasp victory at the Spa 24 Hours to claim a first win at the Belgian enduro since 1948.

The Comtoyou Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 shared by Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Mattia Drudi jumped into the lead of a race affected by heavy and prolonged rain and 17 safety cars with less than 50 minutes left on the clock.

They moved to the front of the field in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup blue riband when the race-leading factory AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3 with Alessandro Pier Guidi at the wheel found its path into the pits blocked.

The lead AF entry Pier Guidi co-drove with Davide Rigon and Alessio Rovera lost just over 50s stationary behind the broken down Silver Cup class entry from the Grasser Lamborghini team in the narrow section of the pitlane between the Bus Stop chicane and the Formula 1 pitboxes.

 

Pier Guidi led by just over 10s from the Aston when he ducked into the pits for his final stop, the delay before the Lambo was towed away handing Aston the victory in a race that also counted towards the Intercontinental GT Challenge.

Drudi crossed the line in the best of the new-for-2024 evolution Vantages 33s ahead of Pier Guidi.

The stroke of luck on the part of Aston Martin allowed the British marque, a stalwart of the GT scene since 2005, to claim its second outright victory at Spa, 76 years after St John Horsfall and Leslie Johnson triumphed in the first post-war edition.

Thiim said: “What a crazy race with what happened all the way through the night with the rain - and now this!

#51 AF Corse - Francorchamps Ferrari 296 GT3: Alessandro Pier Guidi, Davide Rigon, Alessio Rovera

#51 AF Corse - Francorchamps Ferrari 296 GT3: Alessandro Pier Guidi, Davide Rigon, Alessio Rovera

Photo by: Emanuele Clivati | AG Photo

“Actually I feel a bit sorry for the Italians, but this means a lot to me.

“This is the last one on my bucket list,” added a driver who has taken victory at the Nurburgring 24 Hours and class honours at Le Mans. “It’s awesome.”

Pier Guidi recovered to second in the centenary running of the Spa enduro, moving past David Pittard in the #34 Walkenhorst Aston and then the Rutronik Porsche 911 GT3-R with Julien Andlauer at the wheel, which still needed to make its final stop for fuel.

That put Pier Guidi third behind the Rowe BMW M4 GT3 of Max Hesse, Dan Harper and Augusto Farfus, which had to come into the pits with two minutes to go after what should have its final pitstop was brought forward by a slow puncture.

That dropped the car to sixth in the final order, but BMW still claimed a podium in a race it won last year courtesy of the WRT team.

Dries Vanthoor crossed the line in fourth place in the M4 he shared with Sheldon van der Linde and Charles Weerts but immediately moved up a place head of the Walkenhorst Aston of Pittard, Henrique Chaves and Ross Gunn.

Pittard was docked 10s for contact with Pier Guidi, when the Italian came past at Les Combes as he charged back after his delay.

Franck Perera, Jordan Pepper and Marco Mapelli took fifth in the Grasser Racing Team’s lead Lamborghini Huracan GT EVO2 the first-named had put on pole position.

Ferrari looked set to reprise its 2021 victory at Spa with an AF-run 488 GT3 Evo entered under Iron Lynx banner and driven by Pier Guidi, Nicklas Nielsen and Come Ledogar.

#32 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3: Sheldon Van Der Linde, Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts

#32 Team WRT BMW M4 GT3: Sheldon Van Der Linde, Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts

Photo by: Eric Le Galliot

Pier Guidi was aboard the car when the race turned in the favour of the Italian marque. He was running a close third in the 20th hour when he stopped one lap before the two cars head, the Rowe BMW and the Comtoyou Aston.

Pier Guidi’s pace on the out-lap gave the Ferrari the lead ahead of the battling BMW and Aston in the respective hands of Harper and Thiim.

Thiim then made it past Harper at the Bruxelles hairpin three laps later but was unable to do anything about the Ferrari, which edged away into a lead that stood at a little more than 3s at the next round of stops.

The lead continued to go up over a run to the flag interrupted only by one further caution period, a quick-fire Full Course Yellow with just under an hour to go.

Mercedes, a two-time winner of the Spa enduro in the GT3 era, could finish no better than seventh with the Getspeed team’s #777 that took Gold Cup class honours with Mikael Grenier, Philip Ellis, Dominik Baumann and Al Faisal Al Zubair.

The #48 Winward Racing Merc in which Lucas Auer qualified second and led early on retried in the 13th hour as a result of accident damage, while the #2 Getspeed entry driven by Jules Gounon, Luca Stolz and Fabian Schiller was withdrawn with front left hub issues during the night.

Porsche took eighth and ninth positions, the SSR Herberth 992-shape 911 GT3-R of Matt Campbell, Mathieu Jaminet and Frederic Makowiecki beating the Rutronik entry of Andlauer, Sven Muller and Patric Niederhauser.

Audi rounded out the top 10 with the Bronze Cup-winning R8 LMS GT3 Evo II of Attempto drivers Max Hofer, Dylan Pereira, Alexey Nesov and Andrey Mukovoz.

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