With 13 Porsche 911 GT3 R, the Porsche customer teams are well represented at this year’s 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps. The long-distance classic in the Ardennes is considered the largest GT3 event in the world. In the long and illustrious history of the event, which was held for the first time in 1924, Porsche racing cars have clinched eight victories to date. On the last weekend in July, the experienced customer squads are determined to add to this track record.
“The organiser SRO headed by Stéphane Ratel celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. We’re expecting a particularly tough and spectacular grid line-up with a total of 65 cars,” explains Sebastian Golz, Project Manager Porsche 911 GT3 R. “Our customer teams have entered 13 of our GT3 cars. This makes Porsche the most strongly represented manufacturer in the race.
We’re well positioned in terms of both quantity and quality. I’m confident that our five pro-class vehicles manned by world-class drivers will be serious contenders for victory. The key to success lies in the best use of the tyres. During tests, we noticed that the latest renovations and modernisations at Spa-Francorchamps have left some rough ridges and edges in the asphalt and kerbs. What’s more, the new gravel traps pose a risk to the tyres, so it’s important to cover the distance with as little damage as possible. We won with the current generation of the 911 GT3R in 2019 and 2020. We’re now aiming for win number three before our new GT3 car enters the competition in 2023.”
The first 24-hour race was contested in Belgium’s Ardennes in 1924 – making this classic just one year “younger” than the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Until 1949, the track measured about 15 kilometres in length and ran between the towns of Francorchamps, Malmedy and Stavelot. In 1970, the track was shortened to 7.004 kilometres and has remained virtually unchanged until today. Last winter and spring, the storied racetrack underwent an extensive upgrade. As part of this modernisation, new gravel traps, among other features, were added to the famous Eau Rouge/Raidillon passage. The basic layout, however, remained the same. Due to its location in the Ardennes, teams and drivers must expect unpredictable weather conditions at any time.
The 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps is considered the largest single GT3 event in the world. The endurance race is contested as round two of the Intercontinental GT Challenge (IGTC) and is the third race of this year’s GT World Challenge Europe (GTWC).
The customer teams and drivers
In the Pro class, elite professional drivers compete for overall victory. With its customer teams, Porsche is well positioned in this category: works drivers Kévin Estre (France), Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Richard Lietz (Austria) share the cockpit of GPX Racing’s No. 221 entry. This trio won the endurance classic in 2019. The 2020 winners tackle this year’s race in separate cars: Local hero Laurens Vanthoor and Nick Tandy from England share the No. 47 car fielded by KCMG with the Norwegian DTM driver Dennis Olsen. New Zealander Earl Bamber contests the Pro-Am Cup for the Singha Racing team.
The other contenders for overall victory sit in cars campaigned by the customer squads Dinamic Motorsport (#54), EMA Motorsport (#74) and Toksport WRT (#100). EMA from Australia makes its debut at the largest GT3 event in Belgium. Sharing the wheel of the No. 74 EMA Porsche 911 GT3 R are the works drivers Matt Campbell from Australia, Mathieu Jaminet from France and Felipe Nasr from Brazil. Last January, this trio won the GTD-Pro class at the 24 Hours of Daytona. Dinamic’s No. 54 car is driven by Austria’s Klaus Bachler, Frenchman Côme Ledogar and Thomas Preining from Austria. Julien Andlauer from France and the two Germans Marvin Dienst and Sven Müller compete for Toksport.
Herberth Motorsport fields three 911 in the Gold Cup and Pro-Am classes, with Earl Bamber Motorsport (EBM), Allied Racing and Dinamic Motorsport also aiming for victory in the amateur categories. Experienced Porsche drivers such as Alessio Picariello (Belgium), Jaxon Evans (New Zealand) and the former Porsche Junior Ayhancan Güven (Turkey) will tackle the event at the wheel of the 911 GT3 R.
An overview of the cockpit crews in the Spa 24 Hours
KCMG (#47) – Nick Tandy (UK) / Laurens Vanthoor (B) / Dennis Olsen (N)
Dinamic (#54) – Klaus Bachler (A) / Côme Ledogar (F) / Thomas Preining (A)
EMA (#74) – Matt Campbell (AUS) / Mathieu Jaminet (F) / Felipe Nasr (BR)
Toksport (#100) – Julien Andlauer (F) / Marvin Dienst (D) / Sven Müller (D)
GPX (#221) – Kévin Estre (F) / Michael Christensen (DK) / Richard Lietz (A)
Herberth (#9) – Antares Au (HK) / Kevin Tse (MAC) / Dylan Pereira (L) / Jaxon Evans (NZ)
EBM (#16) – Adrian da Silva (MAL) / Brenton Grove (AUS) / Stephen Grove (AUS) / Matt Payne (NZ)
Herberth (#24) – Nicolas Leutwiler (CH) / Stefan Aust (D) / Alessio Picariello (B) / Nico Menzel (D)
Singha (#39) – Piti Bhirombhakdi (T) / Christophe Hamon (F) / Tanart Sathienthirakul (T) / Earl Bamber (NZ)
Allied (#91) – Alex Malykhin (UK) / Julien Apothéloz (CH) / Florian Latorre (F) / Ayhancan Güven (TR)
Herberth (#911) – Ralf Bohn (D) / Alfred Renauer (D) / Robert Renauer (D)
Allied (#22) – Dominik Fischli (CH) / Joel Sturm (D) / Patrick Matthiesen (DK) / Vincent Andronaco (D)
Dinamic (#56) – Giorgio Roda (I) / Mauro Calamia (CH) / Marius Nakken (N) / Mikkel Pedersen (DK)
The new GT3 customer racer in the limelight
The Spa 24 Hours sets the stage for a very special debut. In the paddock, Porsche presents the new customer sport racing car for worldwide GT3 series to the public for the first time. The successor to the winning current model will be on display from Saturday, 30 July.
The schedule (all times CEST)
Thursday, 28 July
10:50 am – 12:20 pm: Free practice 1
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm: Pre-Qualifying
8:40 pm – 10:01 pm: Qualifying in four segments (Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4)
10:20 pm – 11:50 pm: Free Training 2
Friday, 29 July
6:20 pm – 6:50 pm: Warm-up
7:00 pm – 7:30 pm: Superpole
Saturday, 30 July
4:45 pm: Start of the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
Sunday, 31 July
4:45 pm: Finish of the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps
Drivers’ comments before the Spa 24 Hours
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 GT3 R #47): “For me as a Belgian, the race is of course a major highlight, especially since I live almost around the corner from the track. I’ve been quite unlucky at Daytona, Le Mans and the Nürburgring this season. This makes the race in Spa my last chance to win another 24-hour classic this year. That’s our clear objective. I’ve already stood at the top of the podium twice at Spa. On the test day, our 911 GT3 R from KCMG ran extremely well. Nevertheless, we still don’t have a concrete idea of how our performance will compare to the huge competition.”
Mathieu Jaminet (Porsche 911 GT3 R #74): “I’m confident that we have an excellent overall package for the race. The Porsche 911 GT3 R is tried and tested, my teammates Matt and Felipe are extremely strong and the EMA team is super consistent and goal-oriented. My teammates and I won at Daytona in January. We know each other well and tackle the task at hand with a healthy dose of self-confidence. However, we’re certainly not taking the strong competition for granted. Plus, it’s our first time at Spa as a team. Despite this, we have one very clear goal: victory.”
Sven Müller (Porsche 911 GT3 R #100): “The official tests in preparation for this year’s race went very well. We managed to test different set-up options and so we feel well prepared for the race. The Toksport WRT team really exceeded my expectations. I’m really looking forward to tackling the race with my super-fast teammates. Our chances look very good.”
Kévin Estre (Porsche 911 GT3 R #221): “It’s great to have our winning team from 2019 – Michael, Richie and myself – back together with GPX Racing. We joined forces as a trio for the first time three years ago and promptly left the competition in our dust. In light of the packed and powerful grid lineup, it’ll be anything but easy to repeat such a result this year. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to check off our entire list during the test drives, but we’ll definitely be sorted in time for the race.”
Edited Porsche Factory Press Release
Pictures courtesy Porsche AG