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GTWC: preview TotalEnergies 24 hours of Spa

Text: Rick Kiewiet

Images: Rick Kiewiet, GPX Racing, SRO


66 GT3 cars. 9 manufacturers. No less than 23 full Pro line-ups. Unleashed this Saturday, the 30th of July at 4:45 PM local time (3:45 PM BST) for 24 hours on the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in the Belgian Ardennes. Will Iron Lynx Ferrari, the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe championship leaders and last year’s winners, be able to take a back to back victory in 2022? Or will WRT Audi finally win its home race again after their victories this season in Misano, Zandvoort, Magny Cours and Imola? Will Mercedes be able to take the honors on Sunday instead of after qualifying on Friday, after claiming Pole in the last three editions? How will the new BMW M4 GT3 perform now it recently booked its first small successes?



Enough to look at, almost every manufacturer has teams and driver line-ups capable to win the biggest race in GT3. We give you a rundown of each manufacturer and their irons in the fire.


But let’s go through some numbers first…


Mercedes is the best represented manufacturer on this year’s grid with 14 entries. Porsche comes second with 13 cars, closely followed by Audi with 12. Lamborghini has 9 entries, Ferrari (5), BMW (5), McLaren (4), Aston Martin (3) and Bentley (1) follow at respectable distance. In the Pro category alone, that consists of 23 entries this year, the odds are spread a bit more even. Porsche and Audi have to share the honors of most entries with 5 cars each. Lamborghini and Mercedes both have 3, Ferrari, BMW and Aston Martin 2 and McLaren 1.


In terms of drivers’ nationalities, Germany supplies the largest share of participants this year, with a total of 32 gladiators. 28 drivers are from France, 25 from Britain, 23 from Italy and 15 from Belgium.


Ferrari

Last year’s winners Ferrari’s center of gravity is yet again Iron Lynx, who runs both Pro entries. Nicklas Nielsen is the only one from the winning driver line-up to return in the #51: Come Ledogar and Alessandro Pier Guidi are replaced by Miguel Molina and James Calado. The whole trio also competes in the WEC with AF Corse: Calado and Molina in the factory 488’s, Nielsen in the LMP2 Oreca 07. Davide Rigon and Antonio Fuoco return in the #71, accompanied by Daniel Serra. Last endurance cup outing at Paul Ricard resulted in a 1-2 finish for Iron Lynx, Rigon, Fuoco and Serra finishing just ahead of Nielsen, Calado and Molina.


Porsche

No less than five Porsche’s in the Pro category this year, spread over even so much teams. GPX Racing is back after a year’s absence with exactly the same race-winning line-up as in 2019: Richard Lietz, Michael Christensen and Kevin Estre.

Laurens Vanthoor and Nick Tandy, who won the race a year later in the ROWE Racing Porsche together with Earl Bamber, drive the KCMG Porsche this year, and are joined by Dennis Olsen.

Come Ledogar, who won the race last year in the Iron Lynx Ferrari, made a switch to Porsche, to the Dinamic Motorsport team to be exact and shares the car with Klaus Bachler and Matteo Cairoli.

EMA Motorsport contracted Matt Campbell, Mathieu Jaminet and Felipe Nasr as their drivers, the TokSport WRT 911 will be in the hands of Julien Andlauer, Marvin Dienst and Sven Müller.


Audi

Audi’s flagship of course is the Belgium Team WRT. Dries Vanthoor and Charles Weerts already scooped up 5 victories this season at Imola, Magny-Cours, Zandvoort and Misano and are leading both the overall and sprint standings. In the endurance cup, Vanthoor and Weerts are accompanied by Kelvin van der Linde in the #32 car, with whom they won the season opener at Imola. With two victories at the last event at Misano, the team appears to be in excellent form ahead of the 24 hours on home soil.

WRT fields a second car in the Pro category built around former MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi. He’s paired with his regular partners Frédéric Vervisch and Nico Müller.

There are three more Audi’s in the Pro category, fielded by Sainteloc (Legeret, Niederhauser and Mies), Trésor (Haase, Drudi and Ghiotto) and Attempto (Feller, Winkelhock and Marschall).


Mercedes

Despite being the best represented brand in this years’ race, only 3 Mercedes’ participate in the Pro category. All three are expected to be capable of going for the win though. The long lasting duo of Maro Engel and Luca Stolz has been split up since this season. Stolz is now in the #2 GetSpeed car together with Steijn Schothorst and Maxi Götz, while Engel shares the #55 GruppeM car with Michael Grenier and Maxi Buhk. Of course, AKKODIS ASP is also fielding the #88 with regular trio Marciello, Gounon and Juncadella.


Lamborghini

Another split-up driver trio this year, following Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli’s move to the United States. They are now back in Europe with K-Pax in the Orange 1 liveried #6 car, joined by Jordan Pepper. Their old teammate Mirko Bortolotti transferred to Emil Frey Racing and now shares the #63 with Albert Costa and Jack Aitken. Emil Frey fields a second car, the #19, in Pro for Leo Roussel, Giacomo Altoe and Arthur Rougier.


BMW

This year the new BMW M4 GT3 make its debut in the Belgian Ardennes. ROWE Racing fields its two endurance cup regulars for the race, spearheaded by the #98 in which heavy weights Augusto Farfus and Nicky Catsburg are joined by Nick Yelloly. The #50 BMW junior team car will have Max Hesse, Daniel Harper and Neil Verhagen at the wheel.


Aston Martin

Two teams represent British Pride Aston Martin at Spa: TF Sport under the banner of Heart of Racing, and Beechdean AMR. Most attention will go out to the #95 Beechdean with the stellar line up of the Danes Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen, otherwise known as the “Dane Train”, joined by Maxime Martin. Last year, Thiim and Sorensen finished on the podium together with Ross Gunn, who’s now in the Heart of Racing Aston, Maxime Martin finished p5 in the KCMG Porsche. Gunn is joined in the #23 by Alex Riberas and another Aston factory driver: Charlie Eastwood.


McLaren

JOTA will be McLarens’ sole entry in the Pro category this year, with Rob Bell and Oliver Wilkinson still driving the #38. Ben Barnicoat is replaced this year by Marvin Kirchhöfer. In 2021 the #38 finished 7th, their best result so far.


Bentley

There’s only one Bentley in this years’ edition of the 24 hours of Spa, and it competes in the Pro-Am cup. The car is shared between Nigel Bailly, Stéphane Lemeret and Antonin Borga.

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