Mercedes-AMG is celebrating its first TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa victory since 2013 after AMG Team Akkodis ASP won an enthralling 74th edition of the Belgian endurance classic, which was staged in front of a packed house of spectators and in perfect weather conditions from start to finish.
The German marque finished one-two at the biggest GT race in the world as the triumphant Akkodis car was followed across the line by its fellow AMG-aligned entry from the GetSpeed squad. Iron Lynx finished third with the #71 Ferrari, a fine result following its overall win 12 months ago.
Victory in the race had become something of an obsession for Jerome Policand and his Akkodis ASP crew, particularly after falling short from pole position in 2020 and 2021. Such was Policand’s desire to lift the winners’ trophy, he assembled the all-star line-up of Raffaele Marciello, Jules Gounon and Dani Juncadella, one of the strongest crews in global GT racing, to bolster the Spa assault.
The #88 Mercedes-AMG started the race from pole yet again but was relegated to second almost immediately as Klaus Bachler blasted past in the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche. The Austrian driver remained out front for the opening stint, though this team’s race would ultimately end during the night.
The Akkodis ASP car was at the sharp end throughout the first half of proceedings, running third at the six and 12-hour marks to bank important championship points. Unlike recent editions, the car continued to circulate without significant problems and was still firmly in contention as the sun rose over Spa-Francorchamps.
The #98 ROWE Racing BMW led at both points-paying junctures. The crew of Nick Catsburg, Augusto Farfus and Nick Yelloly moved to the front through strategy and then displayed impressive pace at the head of the field. Indeed, the new M4 GT3 appeared to be the fastest car on the track in cold conditions, bringing sister #50 car into contention as well.
The #47 KCMG Porsche had also emerged as a serious contender for the win by the morning, despite starting from the back of the grid following a brake issue in qualifying. The Hong Kong squad’s remarkable rise gathered pace as the morning progressed, with Nick Tandy putting a move on Davide Rigon (#71 Iron Lynx Ferrari) at around 7am to capture the lead.
At a phase of the race where the contenders usually drop away and a handful of clear favourites emerge, this year’s edition grew more complicated as the morning progressed. The #98 BMW was still out front at the 16-hour mark after Yelloly pressured Marciello into a mistake and snatched the advantage on the run to Blanchimont.
The #88 Akkodis ASP car encountered its only serious drama during the 20th hour when it was spun around at the Bus Stop by the #93 Sky Tempesta Racing Mercedes-AMG driven by Jonathan Hui. The latter clipped Gounon while attempting to duck into the pits, later receiving a penalty for the error.
At this stage the contest was still impossible to call, with varying pit strategies ensuring that there was no obvious leader. As well as the #88 Mercedes-AMG, the #47 Porsche, the #98 BMW, the #71 Ferrari and the #95 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin were also part of the lead pack.
The latter was involved in one of the most dramatic moments of the race after Gounon caught Nicki Thiim in the #95 Aston Martin and went side-by-side through Eau Rouge. The Frenchman appeared to have edged ahead into Raidillon, but Thiim kept his foot in and made minor contact with the side of the Mercedes-AMG, sending the Aston pirouetting across the run-off and back across the track. After stepping out of the car, the Dane said that at such a late stage in the race he simply could not lift.
As one contender departed another entered. AMG Team GetSpeed had run quietly, but by optimising its maximum stint lengths the #2 Mercedes-AMG became a serious challenger for the win. With the event moving into its final two hours the contest appeared to be narrowing to a three-car battle, but there was heartbreak for the ROWE squad when Nick Yelloly picked up a puncture. The British driver limped back to the pits and, while the car was able to continue, its hopes of victory had been dashed.
And then there were two. But having moved into the lead battle through strategy, the #2 AMG Team GetSpeed car did not really have the pace to fight Akkodis ASP. On fresher tyres, Marciello cruised up on finishing driver Luca Stolz and made an attempt into La Source. The pair went side by side, but the GetSpeed car squeezed the #88 and Marciello bounced across the gravel, an incident that Stolz later apologised for.
Despite losing significant time the Akkodis car was able to get another run on the very next lap. There was no drama this time, with the Swiss driver taking the position. Pit sequence meant that the #55 AMG Team GruppeM led until 30 minutes from the end, but the Akkodis crew had done enough to put the result beyond doubt. Once the #55 had taken its stop Marciello was clear to the finish, ultimately taking the chequered flag by 31 seconds.
AMG Team GetSpeed made it a Mercedes-AMG one-two, while the Iron Lynx squad completed the podium with its #71 crew of Davide Rigon, Antonio Fuoco and Daniel Serra. The fastest car in the build-up to the main event, the car was never a serious contender for the win after a drive-through penalty for a safety car infringement during the morning. Nevertheless, it had the pace to stay among the leading group, while Fuoco could unleash a little extra speed during the closing stages as Maro Engel chased him down in the #55 Mercedes-AMG.
Engel had passed Dan Harper in the #50 ROWE Racing BMW, which finished fifth to give the junior line-up a superb result in its maiden run at Spa. The sister BMW was next, followed by the #47 KCMG Porsche and the #38 JOTA McLaren, which once again ran with metronomic pace to earn a strong result in the Ardennes. The #51 Iron Lynx Ferrari and the #95 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin completed the top-10.
Silver Cup honours went to the #30 Team WRT Audi after a tough contest that saw a number of contenders fall by the wayside. Al Manar Racing by HRT dominated the early stages, running as high as sixth overall with Fabian Schiller at the wheel of its #777 Mercedes-AMG, but was eliminated by a crash at the start of a full-course yellow period.
Tresor by Car Collection was the next to take the lead, but its #11 Audi found itself in the barriers just before the seven-hour mark. Haupt Racing Team assumed control through the night, but its Mercedes-AMG expired during the morning. This made the race into a battle between the #30 Team WRT Audi, the #99 Attempto Racing Audi and the #14 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini.
The latter was a dark horse due to its off-sequence pit strategy, but its chances were ended by a dramatic puncture with 45 minutes left on the clock. This left the two Audi squads to run to the finish, the Team WRT crew of Thomas Neubauer, Benji Goethe and Jean-Baptiste Simmenauer taking a deserved class win. After handling the closing stages, Neubauer was overcome with emotion after the chequered flag.
Iron Dames secured a resounding and immensely popular Gold Cup win. The first all-female crew of the GT era ran without encountering major problems during the early stages and then cycled to the front of the class order during the night. The #83 Ferrari held the lead at 11 hours and was not challenged thereafter, holding a two-lap advantage throughout the second half of the race.
As such Rahel Frey, Sarah Bovy, Michelle Gatting and Doriane Pin could effectively cruise to the end, with only technical problems or complacency able to stop them. They suffered from neither, taking the chequered flag three laps clear of the competition.
The battle for Pro-Am honours began in relatively calm fashion, but there was plenty of drama on Sunday morning. The #52 AF Corse Ferrari emerged at the head of the pack, clinching the team’s sixth class win since 2011 and a third for stalwart drivers Louis Machiels and Andrea Bertolini. The #24 Herberth Motorsport Porsche led early on, making significant progress with Belgian ace Alessio Picariello at the wheel, but disaster struck during the 18th hour.
When the race went back to green after a safety car the #24 was amid a gaggle of cars, including the Pro class #19 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini. Arthur Rougier went up the inside of Niki Leutwiler and there was contact between the pair, sending the Porsche spinning into the gravel. It was removed by a safety vehicle, but retired soon after when its left-rear wheel became detached.
This promoted Garage 59 back to top spot, but there was another change shortly after when Andrea Bertolini made a pass on Miguel Ramos, elevating the #52 AF Corse Ferrari to the class lead. The race was finely poised until contact between the Garage 59 machine and the #93 Sky Tempesta Racing Ferrari fired Ramos into the barrier, destroying the front end of the McLaren and necessitating a lengthy repair.
This gave AF Corse a three-lap advantage at the head of the field and, like fellow Ferrari squad Iron Dames, they made the most of it. Machiels and Bertolini were joined in the #52 Ferrari by Stefano Costantini and Alessio Rovera, the latter recording the outright fastest lap of the race and setting a new GT3 era record in the process.
The Bronze Cup battle was proof that you only need two cars to make a motor race. The #20 SPS automotive performance Mercedes-AMG and the #35 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW remained together for the majority of the 24 Hours, often split by only a few seconds and swapping places on a number of occasions. Ultimately it was a small mistake the decided the race: an off-track excursion damaged the floor of the BMW, sending it into the pits for repairs. This allowed the #20 Mercedes-AMG to capture the win with its crew of George Kurtz, Reema Juffali, Valentin Pierburg and Tim Müller.
With the official attendance confirmed at 73,000 spectators, the 2022 edition was the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa back at its very best. The parade, Saturday night’s music concert and a bustling paddock atmosphere ensured a special week in the Ardennes. A one-two finish in the marquee race, almost a decade after its last triumph, was an equally spectacular comeback for Mercedes-AMG.
Raffaele Marciello, #88 AMG Team Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG: “I didn’t win in 2017, last year I had an issue, year before was the same and I’ve always seen somebody else winning this race and it became frustrating watching other drivers and brands win when I’ve come so close and not won it until now. Perhaps we weren’t as fast here this year as we have been before, but we did a good job with the tyres and my team-mate did an amazing job, plus the team was perfect on the pit stops and we hardly had any track limits problems. We were pretty much as perfect as we could be today.”
Jules Gounon, #88 AMG Team Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG: “The emotion is pretty amazing. Last year was very difficult for us, but we knew we had the car for it, but it was heart-breaking when we had the mechanical failure. But I was lucky enough to win this race when I was 22 and at the time I didn’t realise quite how tough it was to win this race. Then coming here in years since and not winning it you see the challenge and you know that winning here is something very special. I think to win this race you need everything; the team-mates, the team, the car… everything to succeed. I think it was just our day today.”
Dani Juncadella, #88 AMG Team Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG: “You could see the emotion of the team and Jerome. He’s been chasing this win for so long and had a super-quick car in qualifying the last three years, and great driver line-ups, yet we didn’t seem to make it happen before. It’s such a long race with so many things happening. I always have the feeling that Spa chooses you and all race I had the feeling that things were going our way. There was one situation I want to explain. Before the red flag I got in and the pedal box was fully loose, and I could not drive as the pedals were moving up and down and I was trying to go flat-out. After three corners there was a full course yellow, and I tried to fix it then but couldn’t, and then the safety car I couldn’t do it either, but then the red flag came and I could stop and get out and work with my mechanic to fix it. Otherwise it would have been race over pretty much, and these are the little bits of luck you need to win a race like this. My team-mates did such a great job and the team was great with the strategy. This time we put in a perfect show and things played our way and here we are, winners of Spa.”
Maxi Götz, #2 AMG Team GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG: “It was time to win for AMG, been a while: nine years now since my last win back in the day, so to get a double podium and double finish for AMG is really great. We couldn’t believe it before we started the weekend. We hoped for a result like this and we pushed for it but you never know and nothing is guaranteed in races like this. Of course we also had issues with the car and the pedal box and contact in the pitlane, which got us a penalty we had to fight back from. It was not a clear race and we lost a bit of pace due to damages on the car and ultimately we didn’t deserve P1, but we did deserve P2. The team did a great job and also Steijn and Luca did a great job and we didn’t give up. We were far back we changed the strategy a little bit during the race to say ‘ok, it’s all-in now, finish on the podium or be last’ and it paid off in the end. This is something special. On this track you need to believe in yourself and hope that you get some luck.”
Luca Stolz, #2 AMG Team GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG: “Actually, the fight with Raffaele at the end was a little too close. We had some shitty traction and then the two of us touched and he went in the gravel a little, which wasn’t on purpose and I already apologised for it. But the lap after he got me because he just had a stronger car and they deserved to win so congrats to them.”
Steijn Schothorst, #2 AMG Team GetSpeed Mercedes-AMG: “Yeah this counts as a career highlight. This is my first podium in a 24-hour race so I’m really happy and to have it on this race, such a big race, is a great feeling. I have to thank the team and my team-mates for giving me the chance to be here.”
Antonio Fuoco, #71 AF Corse Ferrari: “At the beginning of the weekend we looked quite strong, but we lost a bit of pace before the other sessions and didn’t improve as we wanted and lost a little pace. But we are quite happy with the podium because we maximised our pace and did a good job with the track limits and we have to thank the team for doing an amazing job throughout the weekend.”
Davide Rigon, #71 AF Corse Ferrari: “The drive-through was a key point for the race for us, and I found that frustrating because I didn’t feel I did anything wrong to earn it, but we have to respect the rules the race director gives to us to and the marshalling system. I felt sorry because we were leading at the time, but to be honest we didn’t have the pace of the Mercedes this weekend. So in the end this podium makes us very happy because the race was not easy after the penalty but we look at the positive things and to be here on the podium, scoring big points, is great. We also have a great team here and I love driving with Daniel and Antonio and the whole Iron Lynx team.”
Daniel Serra, #71 AF Corse Ferrari: “For sure the objective is to go for the Endurance Cup title. I want to thank the team and my team-mates for this weekend. We didn’t have the pace to fight for the victory as we’d have liked but we had to do the best we could do and I think we did a good job. The points are very important for the team and I don’t know exactly where we are in the championship now, anyway I’m probably not in for the full season as I have my stock car commitments in Brazil so I won’t be in for the next one but I wish the best luck for Davide and Antonio for the next race.”
Thomas Neubauer, #30 Team WRT Audi: “I’m not so much into the emotions, but this one was like I did everything. Honestly, it’s just the work we have done with the team, my team-mates, the engineers, the mechanics, everybody just everybody in WRT did a crazy job. I think we have had an amazing season in terms of luck, but clearly this one is not about luck. We made no mistake, no penalty, nothing, we really worked hard with our heads down, really focused on ourselves. I’m giving everything on every lap, every corner I’m trying to push as much as I can, I’m giving everything. So, yes, in the end it feels like a big win.”
Jean-Baptiste-Simmenauer, #30 Team WRT Audi: “It was not that easy, we had to fight to keep the pace. It was good, good to finish like this, we had a lot of stops during the race, sometimes dropping back a lot of places, so we had to fight to come back to where we are. So it’s good to be here.”
Benjamin Goethe, #30 Team WRT Audi: “Honestly, coming into this weekend I was dreaming of this situation. The 24 Hours of Spa is the biggest GT3 race in the world and to be standing on the top step of the podium. It’s such a big achievement for the team and us drivers. Yeah, it’s a dream come true for all of us.”
Andrea Bertolini, #52 AF Corse Ferrari: “On the emotional side, this one is special because I won Spa five times, two times overall when I was young in GT1 and three times with Louis. But every year is more tough because the level is increasing year by year, and this year was really difficult. From the beginning we had a problem and we started from the pit, but Friday night I sent a picture to Louis because we won here ten years ago and we started then from the pit as well. So probably the next race we can start from the pit.”
Louis Machiels, #52 AF Corse Ferrari: “Of course, it was quite difficult, especially the track limits. I think it is a good system. In the meantime, congratulations to the guys who didn’t have any track limits. The track changed quite a lot, it’s nice. Especially with the gravel, the thing is if you get in the gravel, then you are finished. If I were to come back in ten years, I would do it again but then I am 61 so I hope to be back.”
Stefano Costantini, #52 AF Corse Ferrari: “For me, it’s a dream here. I can’t believe we won the race in Pro-Am. It was a very difficult race as we started from the pit. My team-mates did a real good job and Alessio set the fastest lap and did an amazing job. The car was very very fast and we didn’t have a problem for the race. The track changed completely in the race because of the gravel. Maybe we are very lucky with the weather because we had good weather all week.”
Sarah Bovy, #83 Iron Dames Ferrari: “It’s amazing. I was Doriane’s age the first time I did this race. 15 years later I’m so proud to be back here with this amazing team, and you know, my team-mates. Our whole crew did such a brilliant job over the whole week. Every single decision that was taken by the engineers was great and everything went smooth. We couldn’t dream of a better race and we fought hard, right until the last lap. I’m just so happy that I can live this with my friends and family here. It’s fantastic.”
Rahel Frey, #83 Iron Dames Ferrari: “This feels like a big result historically. It’s a very good sign and a very good message to send out. We want to motivate more girls to come and achieve the same, to encourage them to join us within the motorsport world. We drive in pink suits in a pink car and this is just underlining the message we want to spread about getting females involved in motorsport. But as Sarah said, it was a tough race and we keep fighting as hopefully more successes can follow this.”
Doriane Pin, #83 Iron Dames Ferrari: “It was just amazing. The race was incredible and so emotional. We did an amazing job and made no mistakes and had good pace. I also got to do my first stint in the night and it was just an amazing job from my team-mates and the team. I want to cry every second right now…”
Michelle Gatting, #83 Iron Dames Ferrari: “I struggled with a few track limits, and I think I was probably the only one on the team getting the warning – I got two, which was actually quite impressive for a 24-hour race. But in the end leading by two laps of advantage meant it wasn’t too bad getting those warnings. But as the others have said we are so proud of this. It’s actually a little bit difficult to believe we are here and have stood on the top of the podium. When the week started and after qualifying the pace was not really as we expected. Honestly, I didn’t expect we would win this specific race. This race is one of the ones I feared most in my career, but also one that I always wanted to do. Now we did it for the first time as Iron Dames and we won it as Iron Dames on our first try. We’ve set the bar quite high because of this, but we’ll use it as motivation to keep achieving for the rest of this project.”
George Kurtz, #20 SPS automotive performance Mercedes-AMG: “It was just a great race. Coming from the U.S., this has always been a bucket list, so kudos to my entire team and the SPS team for putting a great car together. We’ll be the title sponsor next year, so to see CrowdStrike here, actually have our guests here and get the results in such a brutal race, it’s really special.”
Reema Juffali, #20 SPS automotive performance Mercedes-AMG: “It’s the first thing I said to them [the Iron Dames], it makes me proud and happy to see them on the podium, and hopefully we’ll see more and more females out there in all facets of the sport. I also have to thank my team-mates and SPS, it was a super, super tough race for us. At 12 hours, oh my god, there’s another 12 hours and it was brutal. It was super tough but super fun at the same time, and rewarding. I’m just really happy to finish the race and come up to the top step. I’m definitely up for more of this and hopefully we’ll see more women up there, congratulations girls again.”
Valentin Pierburg, #20 SPS automotive performance Mercedes-AMG: It was a really tough race and we had a lot of problems during the race and we managed them very well. The pit crew did an amazing job and thank you to all you guys. It was a great experience and I’ve ticked that part of my bucket list as well now, so you won’t see me again in Spa.”
Tim Müller, #20 SPS automotive performance Mercedes-AMG: “It’s hard because it is a different level. Also, you do your race and win your race, on the other hand you have professional race drivers around you, so you have to find out a way to manage all this. I’m proud to be in this team and proud that we have a lady in our team and I’m looking forward to working with more ladies with such performance.
Source. SRO Motorsports Group