ONE OF THE CRAZIEST SPA 24 HOURS EVER SEEN, WITH RAIN, RED FLAGS, ACCIDENTS AND INCIDENTS – BUT PIRELLI TYRES SHOW PERFECT RELIABILITY
PIRELLI’S BIGGEST-EVER SINGLE MOTORSPORT EVENT, WITH MORE THAN 15,000 SLICK AND WET TYRES TAKEN TO SPA EVENT
The GPX Racing Porsche crew of Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre, and Richard Lietz won the Total 24 Hours of Spa, which is exclusively supplied by Pirelli, after one of the most chaotic and eventful races in recent memory.
Intermittent heavy rain made conditions extremely treacherous, eventually leading to the suspension of the race for more than five hours from just after 05:30 on Sunday to 11:00. Even before then, the action had been constantly disrupted by Full Course Yellow flags from the very start: there was barely an hour of uninterrupted running at any given time.
Despite these unprecedented issues and an irregular rhythm to the race, both the Pirelli P Zero DHD2 slick tyre and the Pirelli Cinturato WH (for wet weather) – which were used in about equal measure – demonstrated perfect reliability and performance in extreme conditions.
With a record-breaking 72 cars at the start, Pirelli also supplied a superlative number of tyres: more than 15,000 in total (including the tyres for FFSA French GT4 and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, supporting this year’s 71st Spa 24 Hours). With the constantly changing conditions, the team of 54 fitters were working at maximum capacity to deliver a minimum of around 300 fitted tyres every half-hour as the cars cycled between slicks and wets whenever the weather became uncertain.
The race got underway behind the safety car at 16:30 on Saturday on wet tyres, with the number 4 Black Falcon Mercedes of Maro Engel leading the way, which had gone fastest in qualifying and Super Pole – by just 0.017 seconds. But it wasn’t long before the top drivers were moving to slicks and finding good grip, even though the track was still damp.
This set the tone for the rest of the race, as the teams tried to balance the constantly-changing demands of the track with the need to spend as little time in the pits as possible. Often, the slicks and wets were on track at the same time, with the obvious answer not being immediately clear. The identity of the winner remained in doubt right up to the closing stages, with the winning margin – a full 24 hours after the start – being just 3.347 seconds.
This illustrated perfectly the close competition between all 13 manufacturers represented at this year’s Spa 24 Hours, with two different marques on the podium and five different brands in the top 10. At the end of the 24 hours, 51 cars had crossed the finish line – as well as a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup-based replica ‘Herbie’ Volkswagen Beetle, celebrating 50 years of the ‘Love Bug’ movie and raising money for charity.
Pirelli’s next major GT engagement will be at the Suzuka 10 Hours in Japan, the following round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge held towards the end of August. In stark contrast to Spa, weather conditions could be extremely hot.
Matteo Braga (Pirelli circuit activity manager):
“This was one of the most intense Spa 24 Hours that we can remember; run in incredibly unpredictable conditions and full of action from start to finish – despite the long stoppage on Sunday morning. The stop-start nature of the race, with the succession of Full Course Yellows and safety cars meant that it effectively turned into a series of short sprints, with the top cars still physically fighting for position right into the final laps. As a result, the demands placed on our fitting village were greater than they have ever been, with the cars tending to change tyres at every stop under the safety cars, and very little double-stinting because of the changeable weather. At one point during the night we were fitting tyres faster than the teams could collect them – and there was still a constant requirement for new tyres to be fitted onto rims. Another consequence of the mixed conditions was the fact that cars were often out with slick tyres on a wet track, or wet tyres on a drying track. Both types of tyre proved their adaptability to the wet and dry but understanding the crossover point and anticipating the race circumstances as well as the evolving weather proved key to gaining a strategic advantage during this most unpredictable of races.”
Michael Christensen (first place #20, GPX Racing, Porsche 911 GT3 R):
“The mixed conditions with slicks and just a bit of drizzle were probably our strongest part of the race – but there were a lot of laps like that! I think we were able to put the energy into the tyre and keep the temperature up from when we left the pits to create the grip we needed: that’s where we were maybe a little stronger than the others. The tyre felt good: I was quite surprised by the level of grip in the mixed conditions. There was even spray sometimes when we were driving with the slicks, and it was still driveable, which is not normal! The wets were great too: of course it was raining a lot, so that was important.”
Fact of the day:
This year’s Spa 24 Hours was Pirelli’s biggest-ever engagement in a single motorsport event. Transporting the 15,000 tyres was a fleet of 33 trucks that also contained equipment and even a mobile restaurant for the 145 staff, serving more than 300 plates of pasta every day.Numbers of the day:
5. There were five Porsches in the top 10. This was Porsche’s first win at the Spa 24 Hours since 2010 (with the very first win for Porsche at Spa coming in 1967).
23. The winning Porsche was shown as having completed 23 pit stops by the finish, which was actually three more than the second-placed Rowe Racing Porsche of Fred Makowiecki, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy. The third-placed Black Falcon Mercedes of Yelmer Buurman, Maro Engel and Luca Stolz was a further 14 seconds behind and also did 20 stops. In total, four cars finished on the same lap.363. The number of laps completed by each car in the top four, equivalent to around 2542 kilometres.
1200. The approximate number of people who visited the P Zero World facility throughout the race: a dedicated area in the Spa paddock that showcases the wider world of Pirelli’s Italian design beyond tyres, including skiing, watches, powerboats, and road bikes.
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