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GTWC: It is Mercedes-AMG who returns to the top at the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa

AMG Team Akkodis ASP celebrated its first TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa victory since 2013 by winning the 74th edition of the Belgian endurance classic, which was staged under perfect weather conditions for the entire race.

German marque Akkodis won the world's biggest GT race, followed by its fellow AMG-aligned entry from GetSpeed. Iron Lynx finished third with the #71 Ferrari, a fine result following its overall win 12 months ago.

After falling short from pole position in 2020 and 2021, Jerome Policand and his Akkodis ASP crew had become obsessed with winning. The Spa assault was bolstered by the all-star crew of Raffaele Marciello, Jules Gounon and Dani Juncadella, one of the strongest in global GT racing.

In the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche, Klaus Bachler blew past the #88 Mercedes-AMG almost immediately, and the #88 Mercedes-AMG was relegated to second. Even though this team's race would ultimately end in the dark, the Austrian driver maintained the lead during the opening stint.

At the six-hour and 12-hour mark, the Akkodis ASP car ran third, accumulating important championship points. As the sun rose over Spa-Francorchamps, the car was still firmly in contention, unlike recent editions.

At both points-paying intervals, ROWE Racing BMW #98 was leading. The crew of Nick Catsburg, Augusto Farfus, and Nick Yelloly moved to the front through strategy and then displayed impressive speed. This year's M4 GT3 dominated cold conditions, bringing sister car #50 into contention as well.

Despite starting from the back of the grid due to a brake issue in qualifying, the #47 KCMG Porsche was also a serious contender for the win by the morning. As the morning progressed, the Hong Kong squad gained ground on Davide Rigon (#71 Iron Lynx Ferrari) with Nick Tandy making a move at around 7am.

The morning's race grew more complicated as the contenders dropped away and a handful of clear favourites emerged. At the 16-hour mark, Yelloly pressured Marciello into a mistake and snatched the lead away from him.

During the 20th hour, the #88 Akkodis ASP car was spun around by the #93 Sky Tempesta Racing Mercedes-AMG driven by Jonathan Hui. In an attempt to duck into the pits, the latter clipped Gounon, receiving a penalty as a result.

Due to varying pit strategies, it was still impossible to call the contest at this point. There were also the #47 Porsche, #98 BMW, #71 Ferrari, and #95 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin among the lead cars.

The latter was involved in one of the most dramatic moments of the race after Gounon caught Nicki Thiim in the #95 Aston Martin. After edging ahead into Raidillon, Thiim kept his foot in and made minor contact with the Mercedes-AMG's side, sending the Aston pirouetting across the run-off and back across the track. The Dane stated after stepping out of the car that he was just unable to lift at this late stage of the race.

The exit of one contender was followed by the entrance of another. By optimizing its maximum stint lengths, AMG Team GetSpeed became a serious challenger for the win. In the final two hours of the race, the ROWE squad suffered heartbreak when Nick Yelloly picked up a puncture. After the British driver limped back to the pits, the car could continue, but its hopes of victory were dashed.

Then there were two. AMG Team GetSpeed #2 did not really have the pace to fight Akkodis ASP. Marciello made an attempt into the La Source after catching Luca Stolz on fresher tyres. While going side-by-side, the GetSpeed car squeezed the #88 and Marciello bounced across the gravel, an incident for which Stolz later apologized.

The Akkodis car was able to get another run on the very next lap, despite losing significant time. This time, the Swiss driver took the lead without any drama. The #55 AMG Team GruppeM led until 30 minutes from the end, but the Akkodis crew had done enough to secure victory. Marciello was 31 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor once the #55 had taken its stop.

The Iron Lynx squad completed the podium with its #71 crew of Davide Rigon, Antonio Fuoco, and Daniel Serra, making it a Mercedes-AMG one-two. After a drive-through penalty for a safety car infringement during the morning, the car was never a serious contender for the win. Despite this, it remained competitive, and Fuoco managed to unleash some extra speed during the closing stages as Maro Engel fought to catch up to him.

On its debut at Spa, Engel's #50 ROWE Racing BMW finished fifth after passing Dan Harper. Next up was the sister BMW, followed by the #47 KCMG Porsche and the #38 JOTA McLaren, which again ran at a metronomic pace to earn a strong result. Top-10 finishes were completed by the #51 Iron Lynx Ferrari and the #95 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin.

A tough competition saw a number of contenders fall by the wayside, but the #30 Team WRT Audi claimed Silver Cup honours. With Fabian Schiller at the wheel of its #777 Mercedes-AMG, Al Manar Racing by HRT led the early stages, but was eliminated by a crash at the start of a yellow period.

After Tresor by Car Collection took the lead, its #11 Audi crashed just before the seven-hour mark. During the night, Haupt Racing Team assumed control, but its Mercedes-AMG expired in the morning. It became a battle between the #30 Team WRT Audi, the #99 Attempto Racing Audi, and the #14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini.

Due to its off-sequence pit strategy, the latter was a dark horse, but a dramatic puncture ended its chances. In the end, it was the two Audi squads that ran to the finish, with Thomas Neubauer, Benji Goethe, and Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer taking the class win. Neubauer was overcome with emotion after the chequered flag after handling the closing stages.

Gold Cup win for Iron Dames was resounding and immensely popular. It was the first all-female crew of the GT era to run unaffected by major problems during the early stages, then to cycle to the head of the class order during the night. The #83 Ferrari held the lead at 11 hours and was not challenged thereafter, holding a two-lap lead throughout the second half of the race.

The four women could effectively cruise to the finish, impeded only by technical difficulties or complacency. In the end, they had no problems in either area, taking the checkered flag three laps ahead of their competitors.

Sunday morning was filled with drama as the battle for Pro-Am honours began relatively calmly. It was the #52 AF Corse Ferrari's sixth class win since 2011 and a third for stalwart drivers Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini. With Belgian ace Alessio Picariello at the wheel, the #24 Herberth Motorsport Porsche led early, but disaster struck in the 18th hour.

On the restart after a safety car, the #24 was among a gaggle of cars, including the #19 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini. In the contact between Arthur Rougier and Niki Leutwiler, the Porsche spun into the gravel. An emergency vehicle removed it, but it retired soon after when its left-rear wheel detached.

AF Corse Ferrari #52 was elevated to the class lead shortly after Andrea Bertolini passed Miguel Ramos, restoring Garage 59's lead. It appeared that the race was poised until Ramos' front end was destroyed when the Garage 59 machine collided with the #93 Sky Tempesta Racing Ferrari.

In the same way as fellow Ferrari squad Iron Dames, AF Corse took advantage of their three-lap advantage at the head of the field. On the #52 Ferrari, Stefano Costantini and Alessio Rovera joined Machiels and Bertolini, with Rovera recording the outright fastest lap and setting a new GT3 era record.

It is only two cars that make a motor race, as the Bronze Cup battle proved. Throughout the 24-hour race, the #20 SPS Mercedes-AMG and the #35 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW were often separated by only a few seconds and changed places often. In the end, it was a small mistake that decided the race: an off-track excursion damaged the BMW's floor, forcing it into the pits. This allowed the #20 Mercedes-AMG with its crew of George Kurtz, Reema Juffali, Valentin Pierburg, and Tim Müller to win the event.

In 2022, TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa was back at its best with an official attendance of 73,000 spectators. A bustling paddock atmosphere, Saturday night's music event, and the parade made this an unforgettable week in the Ardennes. After nearly a decade since its last triumph, Mercedes-AMG made an equally spectacular comeback in the marquee race.


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