The Spa 24 hours is always a gruelling, high quality affair. Normally, this plays into the hands of the very biggest favourites, the fully factory run entries. In a way, the winners were a factory Audi, and there is no debate of the calibre of Jules Gounon, Christopher Haase and Markus Winkelhock as drivers. But it is nonetheless a small, pleasant surprise that circumspect, clean driving and excellent strategy slingshotted the #25 Audi Sport Team Sainteloc to victory at the fabled 24 hours of Spa.
The opening hours of the race was a battle of the Italians, as the #63 Lamborghini fought the #55 Ferrari hard for the lead of the race. Eventually the #63 dropped back, as the #63 wore out its tyres. The #2 now battled the #55 for the lead as the #117 Porsche and the #1 cars both started to encroach on the leaders.
Burt penalties started to affect many of the cars. Race director Alain Adam was strict throughout the race, particularly regarding corner cutting, so when the #117 made a minor pit infringement the Porsche was hit with a 3 minute penalty. The #14 Jaguar briefly led the race because a radio failure meant Stephane Ortelli did not follow the safety car procedure, overtaking everyone. The #14 was black flagged, and dropped from 8th place to 48th.
The #90 Mercedes also started to fight to the fore, being driven for 14 hours of the race by Raffaele Marciello. Marciello wasn’t without controversy though, when a slightly ill advised move on Marco Cioci in the #55 damaged the Ferrari to the extent it was sent into the barriers at Radillon. The#90 received no penalty. And the #63 bowed out of the race when a brake issue pitched Christian Engelhart into the barriers and out of the race.
In the end strategy left the #90 in the lead, but the #1 Audi of Rene Rast was in pursuit. The two ended up colliding handing the #1 a penalty. The #90 retained the lead. But the AKKA car simply didn’t have the pace and the #25 car was flying when Winkelhock set the fastest lap of the race with 5 hours to go.
In the end the race played out so the #25 led but it was being pursued by Maxime Soulet. The Belgian fought until the end but he could not reduce the gap and the #25 crossed the line to take victory. The #90 still finished third after a heroic effort from Marciello particularly, who could barely stand after the race.