After an eventful build up - all set for tomorrows start to the 24 Hours of Spa

Friday, July 29, 2022

The darn day job gets in the way again of another busy week of track preparation from Spa Francorchamps in Belgium, this time for the flagship event of the SRO calendar and the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.

As reported earlier in the week, the tweaks to the Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Racing GT3 entries saw their #97 car swap from their Gold Cup classed full season GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup to that of a Silver Cup entry after Team Principle Andrew Howard stood down for personal reasons which allowed the AMR factory team to place both David Pittard and Charlie Fagg into the car with full season runner Theo Nouet and Spa 'guest' Roman De Angelis but all sadly at the expense of Gold rated driver Valentin Hasse-Clot.

With the team’s #95 Full Pro effort of Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorenson and Maxime Martin remaining unchanged (unchanged apart from their brand new AMR Vantage GT3 being delivered to the circuit in lieu of their older old that turned out to be terminally damaged after Sorenson’s Free Practice crash at Paul Ricard earlier in the season), we also welcomed the American based Heart of Racing team to Europe as they entered a full Pro class entry of their own with drivers Ross Gunn, Charlie Eastwood and Alex Riberas behind the wheel.

The redevelopment of the Spa Francorchamps circuit over the winter months and the addition of various new and/or extended gravel traps around the circuit obviously proved ‘problematic’ for many of the sixty six runners as ALL the sessions so far this week have been blighted with multiple red flags brought about by crews again pushing the boundaries of the race track again and getting stuck all around the circuit on top of the usual number of incidents and accidents that this number of car drivers (of mixed abilities) has around a complex circuit layout such as Spa.

Fortunately, no obvious issues so far this week for any of the Aston Martin Racing powered crews as each ran through their own programme of works as best they could amongst the intermittent running before all headed in Qualifying last night.

The silver classed #97 Beechdean car was out first in Q1 being a four-driver crewed car as Pittard proved his worth finishing his allotted time with a P3 overall best time before all three cars came out for Q2. More red flags interrupted the running of that the second session as the #95 car came home in P11 nearly a second down to the session leader with the #23 Heart of Racing car close behind. The #97 car came returned a lap time suitable of a P45 overall finish but P13 overall in their class.

Q3 and another sub one second deficit to the leading car from the #95 Pro car whilst the #23 Heart of Racing car got hampered with the effects of another red flag interrupted session for them to finish P46 and just over two seconds down whilst the #97 Silver Cup car finished P49 overall and P15 in class after Nouet’s first ever Spa 24 Qualifier.

With the Qualifying session now heavily delayed into the pitch of a summer’s night around the Ardennes circuit, it was the last bash for all to go fast enough to attain a SuperPole Shootout position on Friday and Thiim did just that with a another sub one second deficit time to earn their place in the Shoot-out but sadly the #23 crew would miss out by only the slightest of margins such was the competition at the head of the Pro field.

Then for tonight’s top 20 Super Pole, countryman Maxime Martin was given the honours of qualifying the #95 Beechdean AMR car for Saturday’s race from his mid table start position in P13. This time and within the three laps that were possible, martin best time of 2:17:170 was still 0.949 of a second off the pace as that crew had to settle for a P17 starting position.

Beyond that, the #23 Heart of Racing AMR will start from (rather aptly) P23 in tomorrow’s race whilst the #97 Silver Cup car starts from P43 overall – P13 in class.

After the conclusion of the final support race just after lunch tomorrow, the green flag to this year’s 24 Hours of Spa drops at 16:45 hours local – and is bound to be eventful!!

Photo credits c/o of Kelvin Pope at Red Firecracker Photography
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