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Spa 24hrs 2019

Spa 24hrs 2019

The end of July saw the 71st running of the Spa 24hrs, 12 months on from when the Walkenhorst team won the biggest GT3 race in the world!

The Blancpain Endurance Championship’s crown jewel of the calendar is the 24hrs of Spa, bringing together the European Blancpain Endurance championship, and the worldwide Intercontinental GT Challenge, therefore meaning a record entry of 72 cars from around the world in a single class, which is the biggest grid in the world.

It would be David’s debut in the super competitive championship with Walkenhorst and the BMW Motorsport M6 GT3. David’s introduction would be in the AM class, which compromises of 3 Bronze Graded, Amateur drivers & 1 Silver Semi Pro driver who would be limited on driving time.

The week would start off with the Bronze driver test, allowin ght Bronze drivers to acclimatise themselves to the challenging Ardennes circuit on the Tuesday, before the famous Spa Parade taking place where all 72 cars drive on the public roads to the town of Spa which provides an amazing spectacle and allows the fans to get up super close and personal to the drivers and cars.

Thursday would then see the first serious track action taking place, with Free Practice, Pre Qualifying, Qualifying & Night practice. A very busy day for team and drivers! Couple that super busy day on track and air temperatures of 40degrees made it a super challenging day.
Due to the super hot temperatures the M6’s struggled with power and straightline speed, with the car being over 15kph down vs the 2 day test earlier in the month.
As the drivers cycled through the PRO #34 car with defending champion and David’s VLN team mate Christian Krognes coupled with regular Intercontinental GT Challenge BMW Factory drivers Nicky Catsberg and Mikkel Jensen, and #36 AM car team owner Henry Walkenhorst, Walkenhorst regular Norwegian Andrea Buchart and European debutant, American Don Yount for the 4 sessions of qualifying where an average time would determine the starting grid outside the top 20. Unfortunately the PRO BMWs could only manage #42 31st, #34 35th and the AM car qualifying 62nd and 8th in class.

After a super busy Thursday, Friday is a rest day as superpole takes place for the top 20 cars.

The weather could not be more different as race day started, as the super hot and humid conditions turned into summery storm conditions with a lot of rain forecast. Starting the race under safety car due to the amount of rain that was coming down, however with 72 GT3 cars with a large amount of aero operating on the cars, just after the first hour of the race was completed, the switch to slicks was happening. Due to pitstop strategy and impressive driving from starting driver Buchart, the #36 car made its way upto 41st from its 62nd placed grid start and 6th in class.

However a wheelnut failure on the outlap to slicks caused the car to loose a wheel and get stranded between Pouhon and the Pif Paf. Due to the rules, when the car can’t make it back to the pits under its own power the car has to be retired, meaning the #36 car was out before the race had barely begun. A very disappointing end to the great race.

“To experience the Spa24hrs, the European Blancpain Endurance championship and the Intercontinental GT Challenge, was an amazing experience. To be on the timing sheets with some of the drivers I’ve always looked upto was brilliant and to debut with the reigning champions gave me a great amount of confidence. To be team mates with BMW factory drivers and learn from them helped me massively, and to match all the factory drivers in qualifying, my first time qualifying on Pirelli tyres, was what I set out to achieve which gave me a huge confidence boost. It was a shame not to have a run in the race, especially with such mixed conditions, which is where I feel I really excel. However after my performance in qualifying, I felt I had achieved everything I needed to personally, but I would have liked to have had a go in the race!”