Spa 24 Hours
THE TOPSY-TURVY HISTORY OF THE Spa 24 Hours has almost certainly taken an upward turn with the decision to make it effectively an event for GT3 cars only. The success of this year’s race was that there were more than 50 cars, from 10 manufacturers, shooting for outright honours. That compares with poor turnouts in the top class in 2009 and 2010.
FIA GT boss Stephane Ratel, the architect of the GT3 division, was magnanimous enough to admit that it wasn’t his idea to change the format.
“I have to be grateful to the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium (the national sporting authority),” he explained. “They said (it) after last year when we had just 10 GT25, so it was the right time to have GT3.” Entries in the top division had been on the slide at Spa. In the last year of the FIA GT Championship in 2009, just nine GT1 cars were entered. Last year, with the advent of the FIA GT1 World Championship, those cars disappeared, leaving the baffle at the top of the field to eight FIA-rules
GT2 cars and two BMW M3s built to Le Mans regulations.
The historic 24 Hours at Spa isn’t as prestigious as its Le Mans counterpart, an event only one year older, but it remains a race worth winning, at least according to Audi. It mounted a concerted campaign at the 63rd running of the event, puffing its support behind two pairs of R8 [MS GT35 entered by the German Phoenix and Belgian WRT teams. This quartet of machines were prepared by Audi and a roster of factory drivers, including DTM champions Mattias Ekstrom and limo Scheider, were on hand to race them. So it was no surprise that Audi dominated, the car driven by Ekstrom, Scheider and Greg Franchi coming through to victory in the best of WRT’s entries. Gary Watkins