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My 2018 top 6…… #6

My 2018 top 6…… #6

Reviewing my 2018 season, I have written up my top 6 highlights of the season for all the cool things I’ve got upto! Make sure you visit back in the final days of December to read up on these highlights! Enjoy!

#6 Watching Walkenhorst Motorsport win the Spa24hrs!

The Spa24hrs. The blue ribbon event of the Blancpain GT season! The most competitive GT3 race in the world! And to add to the prestigue, 2018 was the 70th running of the twice round the clock Belgium classic! It was also the only of the “big 3 24hr races” (alongside LeMans & Nurburgring 24hr) that I hadn’t attended, so now that I was driving for a team with 2 cars in the race it made perfect sense to get myself to the event!

Having driven down Friday evening, I arrived at the track Saturday morning. I had watched qualifying on Thursday at home, and then Super pole at the Eurotunnel terminal as I waited out my 3hour delay as saw that the team had great potential for the weekend. The #34 car driven by Christian Krognes, and BMW Factory drivers Phillip Eng & Tom Blomqvist had qualified on provisional pole in qualifying with a best average qualifying time from all 3 drivers, with Eng putting the car on P8 in the Super Pole session. This was Walkenhorst’s first entry into the Pro class, so to have these results this early in the weekend was very positive!

To help the team out, I was looking after some Total & Walkenhorst guests in the Radion Chateau based overlooking Eau Rouge! I talked about what the drivers & team members would be going through over the following 24-36+hours! After that it was a chance to say hello to the team, look around the pits and cars during their final prep before the race! The day rushed past very quickly and before I knew it, I was back at the Radion Chalet watching 62 cars taking the start which was awesome to watch! Eng in the #34 car would start the race making up 3 places in the first stint to be running P5, however disaster would strike the AM class #36 car as contact in the first 15mins would damage the steering up Eau Rouge, meaning an unscheduled pitstop and putting the team on the backfoot.

The #34 car would continue to run in the top 5 thoughout the evening as the track fell into darkness. Nothing too exciting or out of the ordinary happened to the #34 car, all the team members and drivers performed like clockwork putting in very fast stints, (it was quite special to watch Eng in the car. He was so quick and so consistent lap after lap compared to his rivals around him!) and benefitting from small mistakes from their rivals to now start running into the top 2 with the #7 Bentley throughout the night.

As the sun came up and I started to flag…. I kept falling asleep in the garage on the chairs, the mechanics and engineers continued to do their faultless jobs, I hid in the truck and caught a couple of hours sleep to get me through the rest of the day!

The team managed to overcome a couple of lap deficite due to taking their technical pitstop earlier than others to be running P1 & P2 depending on the pitstop strategies and safety cars. It was becoming a 2horse race between the #34 car and the #99 Rowe Racing who were swapping places all the time due to pitstops, which was working towards the #99 car due to the positioning at the hour of the race. However with around 4hours to go, a safety car came at the right time which meant all the top 5, all on the same lap still, all ended up on the same strategy! It became a straight race between pit crews and the drivers!

All 3 drivers again drove faultlessly, especially Philipp Eng who drove a triple stint at the end of the race, over 2.5 hours under huge pressure managing a 20sec gap to P2, against fellow BMW works driver Alexander Sims.

Eventually, the little team that is Walkenhorst Motorsport, with their first PRO entered car, crossed the line first ahead of the “works” entered Rowe Racing #99 BMW, a historical 1-2 for BMW Motorsport, another reason for celebration!

I joined the (emotional) team at the base of the podium to watch the 3 drivers pick up the GIANT Spa24hrs winning trophy as well as team manager Henry Walkenhorst collect the team managers trophy and spray plenty of champagne, before retiring to the BMW hospitality to celebrate with the team!

I don’t think my first Spa24hrs experience could have been any better! It was a brilliant experience to be a fly on the wall with the team, see how they operate, see how the drivers manage their race weekend which is such a strain on both body and mind! Watching the start from the Chataue overlooking Eau Rouge, I felt I had the 63rd best seat in the house (After all the drivers!), in the future I hope to have one of those 62 seats!

Watch my VLOG “Winning the Spa24hrs behind the scenes” on my YouTube channel below: