The 70th edition Total 24 Hours of Spa is officially underway, with the first track activity in preparation for this weekend’s race completed this afternoon.
A three-hour Bronze Test kicked off proceedings at the iconic circuit, with the session open to all bronze-graded competitors and any silver drivers who had not previously contested the Belgian endurance classic. A total of 25 cars took to the track under clear blue skies and in high temperatures, making the most of the vital running time on offer.
Ram Racing led the way, with the British squad's #49 machine heading a Mercedes-AMG one-two ahead of the #175 Sun Energy 1 Team HTP entry. Darren Burke was at the wheel for the Ram’s pace-setting lap, recording a 2m21.403s tour of the circuit.
The top-five cars on the timing screen were all Pro-Am entries, with the leading Am Cup runner – the #9 Target Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 – registering the sixth fastest lap of the session. A pair of Group National cars and a single Silver Cup entry were also on-track during the opening run.
Wednesday sees attention turn away from the circuit and towards Spa town centre – though there will be no shortage of high-spec racing machinery involved.
The day is highlighted by the annual parade, which will see an impressive collection of racing and road cars travel from the circuit to the centre of Spa town and back again.
First staged in 2002, the event has grown to become a firmly established tradition, with fans lining the roads to catch a glimpse of the cars participating in the Total 24 Hours of Spa. What’s more, a number of iconic racing machines from the past and several road-going GT cars will join the contemporary equipment in the parade.
Upon arrival in the town the cars will park in front of Spa Casino, giving fans an opportunity to admire them close up. There will also be an autograph session, while the drivers’ briefing will take place in the theatre.
To close, the cars will return to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit ready for a very busy Thursday.
With track activity back on the agenda, Thursday will begin with free practice at 11.45, when the full contingent of cars will hit the track for the first time this year. At 18.10 pre-qualifying will begin, giving the competitors a final chance to hone their equipment before qualifying proper gets underway at 20.50.
In between these two sessions fans will have another opportunity to get a closer look at the cars and drivers, with a pit walk and autograph session scheduled to begin at 19.35.
Qualifying features a revised format for 2018. There will be four 15-minute sessions, one for each driver (three-driver crews will bypass Q1), with the order decided by the average of their best lap times. This sets the grid slots for positions 21 and back, while the top-20 will proceed to Friday’s Superpole session.
Before that, however, comes night practice. This 90-minute session begins at 22.30 on Thursday and will run until midnight, with each driver required to set at least two timed laps in night conditions to prepare for the race
Superpole takes place at 18.30 on Friday and will see each car from the top-20 nominate one driver to complete two flying laps. This will set the first 10 rows of the grid for the race, which will begin at 16.30 on Saturday and end exactly 24 hours later.
Beginning with qualifying, all track activity will be streamed live on the Blancpain GT Series website, including the race in full. Live timing will also be available on the website, allowing viewers to follow proceedings in even greater depth.
What’s more, fans can stay up to speed with the action from the Total 24 Hours of Spa on the Blancpain GT Series social media accounts. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter will all offer a unique insight into events on and off the track, including behind-the-scenes videos, driver interviews and much more.
With the event now officially underway, excitement is building ahead of the landmark 70th edition Total 24 Hours of Spa.