> Outright speed and opportunist strategy help Eng, Wittmann and Yelloly come through from 26th on the grid
> Au wins Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli Independent Cup
> Result: CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa
BMW made it two Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli wins in as many events by claiming a record-extending 25th CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa victory courtesy of ROWE Racing, Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly.
The #98 M4 GT3 beat fellow IGTC nominees Akkodis ASP, Timur Boguslavskiy, Jules Gounon and Raffaele Marciello (Mercedes-AMG) by 11.1 seconds, while Scherer Sport PHX’s Audi completed the overall podium.
ROWE’s victory – its third at this event since 2016 – follows Team WRT’s Kyalami 9 Hour triumph in February. Eng also collected his third Spa win to move level with GT era record holders Eric van der Poele and Michael Bartels.
Porsche scored third and fourth place Intercontinental points courtesy of Manthey EMA and Rutronik Racing whose 911s rounded out the overall top-five.
Further back, Antares Au clinched IGTC Independent Cup victory on his series debut by beating points leader Jonathan Hui. Their respective Huber Motorsport and Sky Tempesta Racing entries finished 13th and 18th overall, as well as first and third in the event’s Bronze class.
Martin Konrad also scored Independent Cup points in Kenny Habul’s absence after the Australian was ruled out of the race following a pre-qualifying accident. But SunEnergy1’s replacement chassis and revised driver crew provided one of this year’s feelgood stories by winning the 24 Hours’ Pro-Am class despite starting from the pitlane.
ROWE WRITES ANOTHER CHAPTER IN BMW’S SPA HISTORY
ROWE’s BMW was among the front-runners for the duration of the race, placing fourth at the six-hour mark and sixth at half distance. But it emerged as the favourite on Sunday morning by pitting early under Full Course Yellow conditions before a stellar stint from Eng culminated in a pass on the #17 Scherer Sport PHX Audi at La Source.
A safety car around noon allowed the leading pack to get back on to a similar pit sequence and set up a four-hour run to the chequered flag. Any remaining questions about the pace of the BMW were quickly answered as Yelloly stretched the lead to more than 10 seconds.
The race remained green for the duration, allowing the #98 BMW to edge further clear without being troubled. It ultimately took the chequered flag with an 11-second advantage over its closest rival after easing off during the closing stages.
Its victory also came from 26th on the grid, marking only the second time since 2001 that a car has won from outside the top-20 starting places.
Last year's winner finished the 75th edition as runner-up. The #88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG of Marciello, Gounon and Boguslavskiy was fast and error free, even if it missed the ultimate pace that would have been needed to topple the BMW.
It was chased for the final few hours by the #17 Scherer Sport PHX Audi, which completed the overall podium thanks to Nicki Thiim, Kelvin van der Linde and Luca Engstler. Thiim pushed Gounon very hard, but their battle also brought the #92 Manthey EMA Porsche into play during the final 30 minutes.
Kevin Estre had designs on the podium, forcing Thiim into defensive action and allowing Gounon to pull clear. The Grello-liveried entry he shared with Julien Andlauer and Laurens Vanthoor was another of those in the mix throughout the 24 hours without ever really emerging as a standout contender.
The same goes for Rutronik’s Porsche which came home fifth overall in the hands of Thomas Preining, Laurin Heinrich and Dennis Olsen.
BMW rounded out the top-six with a car shared by Augusto Farfus, Maxime Martin and Valentino Rossi, while Mercedes-AMG's other manufacturers' points were scored by Al Manar Racing (Lucas Auer/Fabian Schiller/Luca Stolz) in ninth overall.
Further back, Antares Au’s fairy-tale weekend continued with Bronze class victory and maximum IGTC Independent Cup points. Co-driver Matteo Cairoli took overall pole before Tim Heinemann underlined the Huber Porsche’s pace by setting a new lap record.
However, IGTC class victory was by no means assured. Sky Tempesta’s McLaren featuring Jonathan Hui actually appeared the better bet until the final four hours when Cairoli’s pace had a significant impact.
The 75th CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa brought 83,677 spectators to the Ardennes track over the course of the event, with the grandstands opposite the endurance pits and at Raidillon especially packed for the start.
With this year's edition complete, Intercontinental’s attention now turns to the Indianapolis 8 Hour Presented by AWS on October 5-7.