The Spa 24 Hour race is the blue riband event and highlight on the GT race calendar for the Blancpain Endurance Series and a true festival of motorsport showing just what these fantastic GT3 cars are capable of. The 24 hours of Spa all takes place against the backdrop of what is undoubtedly Europe’s most scenic and challenging circuit – the legend that is Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Every driver’s favourite circuit usually involves rain, mist and fog, even in the height of summer! But on Saturday, the race was held in beautiful, hot and sunny conditions with 63 cars on the start grid, including 11 Lamborghini’s.
Marco Mapelli, Raffaele Giammaria and Ezequiel Perez Companc in the #19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 started from P28. The trio were fighting to get into the top ten and made steady progress throughout the race and took the chequered flag in P14 after 506 tense and often dramatic laps at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in the 70thedition Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Unfortunately, the teams #63 and #82 suffered an agonising night of racing and inevitably saw both of its Lamborghini Huracán GT3 cars retire from the race.
Mirko Bortolotti, who shared the #63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 with Christian Engelhart and Andrea Caldarelli, took the start from eighth on the grid. He made good progress and at the end of the second hour moved the #63 up to P3. Soon after the fourth hour, Caldarell had damaged the front part of the car in an unavoidable incident. The #63 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 was forced to pit and was also hit with a 30-second stop-go penalty for the collision. After a lengthy period, the team got the car back out and Caldarelli rejoined the race with a 7 lap gap behind the race leader. Unfortunately, the decision was made to stop the race for the #63 because of technical issues caused by the earlier accident.
In the team’s sister car, the #82 and Franck Perera started at the wheel from fourteenth-placed driving alongside Rolf Ineichen and Phil Keen. At the end of his first double stint Perera brilliantly made it up to P6. In the next few hours to follow the #82 battled to get into the top 10, but unfortunately Keen made contact with the #51 Ferrari and picked up a puncture, which dropped the team back down the grid. Keen handed the car to Rolf Ineichen in P28 and just before the red flag the #82 had moved up to P26. The race had been red-flagged in the tenth hour following incidents at Raidillon involving two cars. It was bad luck for the team at the end of the 17th hour, the #82 crew suffered a tyre puncture, which made the car spin and damaging the suspension at Eau Rouge resulting in the team’s second retirement.
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 #19 (Marco Mapelli, Raffaele Giammaria, Ezequiel Perez Companc)
Race: P14 (2:22.227) – 506 laps
Marco Mapelli: “It’s good to finish the 24h of Spa. It’s always a big award for the team, for all of the hard work, even if the result is not what we had hoped for. We came here to win, but we have to face it. Next time we will improve.”
Raffaele Giammaria: “We finished! And this is the most important thing, because each 24h race, in particular Spa is very difficult, because you have many cars around you on the track. But, we finished and it’s a very good result for the GRT team. Of course the target was to finish in the top 10 but it wasn’t possible today, because we faced some problems. We qualified in P28 and after we recovered a lot. Marco and Ezequiel did a very good job too. We have a very good line-up and maybe for the next year we can try to stay at the front more.”
Ezequiel Perez Companc: “It was a good race. We did what we came for and that was to finish the race – that was the team’s first objective. We struggled quite a lot during the 24h but we worked as a team and did an amazing job.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 #63(Mirko Bortolotti, Christian Engelhart, Andrea Caldarelli)
Race: DNF (2:21.738) – 113 laps
Mirko Bortolotti: “I’m super proud of what we did here. There was a lot of effort and hard work from everyone. I’m proud with the performance and the work that we did and of course all the guys in our team. It was a fantastic quali, a great lap in the Super Pole session, two strong first stints, moving from P8 to P3 and fighting together with the two top cars for basically the lead of the race. Then I handed over the car to Christian who did a great job as well. Unfortunately, after that Andrea had a little accident with #58 McLaren, which destroyed our race. That’s why we had to retire and obviously that wasn’t the best outcome for us but it’s part of racing and something that can happen. So, this is the reason why we cannot achieve what we were aiming for. Never-the-less, as I said I want to thank the whole team and all the fans and supporters for a lot of love during this weekend.”
Christian Engelhart: “The whole team did a great job and prepared the car really well. We came here with a solid race car. We had a very good lap from Mirko in the Super Pole session and we started from P8. Then we had a good first stint, a good strategic move to pit early. Then we battled our way to P3. Sadly after my stint Andrea jumped in the car and had an accident with another car so we had to retire. It’s racing, it was a sad day for us because we had a good chance to fight at the front, but we have to wait for the next race and show it’s better.”
Andrea Caldarelli: “It’s so disappointing and unfortunate how this race ended. I wasn’t expecting that there was a battle ahead between a few cars in front. When we were already full throttle, I had heavy contact with the #58 McLaren. The car just slowed down, and I couldn’t do anything to avoid it. I’m very upset because the car felt very good. But a big thanks to all the team who did a fantastic job, we will come back stronger in the next race.”
Lamborghini Huracán GT3 #82 (Franck Perera, Rolf Ineichen, Phil Keen)
Race: DNF (2:21.801) – 311 laps
Franck Perera: “It is so disappointing. After the first puncture that Phil got during the night, we lost the chance to get into the top 10. It’s a shame because I think until that we were competitive enough and we were fighting with the Mercedes #88, then Phil got the puncture and there was a red flag due to the huge crash. I feel so sad for everyone in the team who has worked so hard for this race. It’s unfortunate for the Lamborghini Scuadra Corse and GRT team. But we will come back stronger for the rest of the season.”
Phil Keen: “It’s a shame to end the race the way we did earlier. The result wasn’t what we expected obviously. I was behind the wheel and we were running in the top 10 when I got a puncture after an incident with the #51 Ferrari. I had decided to drive to the pitlane and we lost 2-3 laps. Then we were running in P27, and during my third stint I got a puncture again. There was nothing we could do, and we had to retire.”
Gottfried Grasser, the Team Owner: “One of our car crossed the finish line and I’m really happy for the guys, because in my opinion they did a really good job. As you know in this difficult race to finish first you have to finish. The #19 had trouble in the last three races due to technical issues so today they finished and showed great team performance. Unfortunately, it was a different story for the #63 and #82. As we expected we didn’t have good performance in qualifying but in the race, we did a proper good job. In the first three hours the cars were running in P3 and P6. Then we faced some bad luck with the FCY, but it was for everyone. From the performance side it looked good that we could have achieved a very positive result, but unfortunately the events that unfolded meant that we couldn’t. Sometimes you are unlucky as we were today when we had to stop the #63. My very deep respect to Rolf Ineichen. He showed a great performance during the night stints, fighting amongst such strong drivers as Van der Linde. I think he can be very proud of what he has achieved and his performance, especially on this difficult and tricky track. Keen and Perera did a very massive job, but unfortunately the AM car hit Phil very hard and their race was over.”