Blancpain GT Series, Round 7, Endurance Cup, Spa 24 Hours – Race:
Jake Dennis and fellow Racing Steps Foundation-backed Ben Barnicoat suffered disappointing early exits from the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup, 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium.
Following a promising qualifying performance in which Dennis at team-mates Jamie Green and Stuart Leonard qualified their #17 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS in 18th position for the seventh round of the championship, Dennis had high hopes for a similarly good race result.
Barnicoat was confident of improvements following a disappointing qualifying performance from the #58 Strakka Racing McLaren 650 S GT3 machine he shares with team-mates Rob Bell and Côme Ledogar; the trio starting from 33rd position.
The WRT Audi squad entrusted the start of the race to Dennis who rapidly made up two places over the opening laps. He was then handed the driving standards flag after 30 minutes following a tussle with the #50 AF Corse Ferrari 488 of Alessandro Pier Guidi.
As Pier Guidi lost ground at Pouhon, Dennis pounced from behind, enabling him to squeeze up the inside of the Ferrari at the Bus Stop Chicane.
As the Ferrari was pushed wide, it responded to outdrag the Audi down the pit straight and retain the position into the La Source hairpin. The Ferrari pitted on the following lap nevertheless to inspect potential damage following the clash.
Ten minutes later, Dennis took advantage of a tussle ahead between the #75 ISR Audi R8 LMS of Franck Stippler and #90 AKKA Asp Mercedes of Raffaele Marciello.
As the pair battled it out up through Eau Rouge, Dennis managed to slipstream behind both as he and Marciello passed by Stippler down the Kemmel Straight with Dennis up into 13th spot.
Over the following hour, Dennis stayed in the car, extending his time into a double stint, finally swapping with team-mate Green during a prolonged safety car period following a heavy crash for the #50 Ferrari now in the hands of Pasin Lathouras at Eau Rouge.
Barnicoat’s team-mate Bell was nominated to start the race in the #58 Strakka McLaren. Like Dennis, he also made up places to 30th position in the opening 15 minutes but following the opening pit stop after the first hour, he was handed a drive-through penalty for track limits infringements.
Bell also pitted during the safety car period, handing the car over to Barnicoat. But upon the race restart, it was the #17 Audi that would suffer first.
With only two and a half hours of the race elapsed, Green spun the car out of Bruxelles, causing substantial damage to both the front and rear of the car and preventing him from returning the car to the pits. The car was therefore retired from the race with a further safety car required so that the car could be removed from the track.
As Barnicoat made his way through a number of slower Pro-Am cars, the race’s early high attrition rate struck once again.
With almost three and a half hours elapsed, Barnicoat stopped on the outside verge of the start of the pit straight, having just missed the pit entry, having suffered an oil pump failure.
Despite being able to get the car restarted and slowly making his way around the track, he was again forced to pull off the track for a second time and park the car into a very early retirement.
Following the conclusion of the 24-hour race, the #25 Audi Sport Team Sainteloc Audi R8 LMS shared by Christopher Haase, Jules Gounon and Markus Winkelhock were victorious. The #8 M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 of Maxime Soulet, Vincent Abril and Andy Soucek took second place, only 12 seconds behind. The #90 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Edoardo Mortara/Michael Meadows/Raffaele Marciello took third place.
|Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps (7.004km / 4.352 miles): Race result (Top 10)|
|Pos||Driver||Team||Car||Time / Gap|
|1||Haase / Gounon / Winkelhock||Audi Sport Team Sainteloc||Audi R8 LMS||24h 00m 51.980s|
|2||Soulet / Abril / Soucek||Bentley Team M-Sport||Bentley Continental GT3||+11.862s|
|3||Mortara / Meadows / Marciello||AKKA ASP||Mercedes-AMG GT3||+52.855s|
|4||Estre / Christensen / Vanthoor||KÜS Team75 Bernhard||Porsche 991 GT3 R||+1m 07.247s|
|5||de Philippi / Mies / Vervisch||Audi Sport Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||+1m 30.566s|
|6||Garcia / Müller / Rast||Audi Sport Team WRT||Audi R8 LMS||+1m 49.955s|
|7||Sandström / Schiller / Baumann||HTP Motorsport||Mercedes-AMG GT3||+1 lap|
|8||Stolz / Christodoulou / Buurman||Black Falcon||Mercedes-AMG GT3||+1 lap|
|9||Kaffer / Stippler / van der Linde||Audi Sport Team ISR||Audi R8 LMS||+3 laps|
|10||Blomqvist / Catsburg / Spengler||Rowe Racing||BMW M6 GT3||+4 laps|
|Drivers’ championship standings (top 10):|
|1||Vincent Abril (MCO)||110|
|2||Mirko Bortolotti (ITA)||107|
|2||Christian Engelhart (GER)||107|
|3||Maximilian Buhk (GER)||89|
|3||Franck Perera (FRA)||89|
|4||Maxime Soulet (BEL)||79|
|4||Andy Soucek (SPA)||79|
|5||Markus Winkelhock (GER)||74|
|6||Andrea Caldarelli (ITA)||71|
|7||Jimmy Eriksson (SWE)||55|
|8||Michael Meadows (GBR)||53|
|8||Raffaele Marciello (ITA)||53|
|9||Stuart Leonard (GBR)||51|
|10||Robin Frijns (NLD)||51|
|20||Jake Dennis (GBR)||9|
|38||Ben Barnicoat (GBR)||2|
Free practice: Barnicoat/Bell/Ledogar 54th, 2m 24.384s, +3.978s; Leonard/Dennis/Green 42nd, 2m 22.847s, +2.441s. Qualifying: Barnicoat/Bell/Ledogar 33rd, 2m 19.435, +0.873s; Leonard/Dennis/Green 20th, 2m 19.026s, +0.464s. Super Pole: Leonard/Dennis/Green 18th, 2m 18.414s, +1.024s. Race: Barnicoat/Bell/Ledogar DNF; Leonard/Dennis/Green DNF.
Photo: Pedro Dermaux / Strakka Racing. Copyright-free Racing Steps Foundation images are available from the RSF Image Bank at www.jakobebrey.com/rsf