Rowe Racing has done it! They have won the 24 Hours of Spa 2016 after leading for most part of the 24 hours in the #99 BMW M6 GT3 piloted by Alexander Sims, Philipp Eng and Maxime Martin. Sims was at the wheel when they crossed across the finish line to mark what was the first major victory of the BMW M6 GT3.
AKKA ASP scored second place on the podium in their #88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 leading the #28 WRT Audi R8. Bentley Boys from the #8 Bentley Continental GT3 finished fourth, and were among the race leaders changing places with the #99 BMW from time to time. HTP Motorsport rounded off the top five in the #86 Mercedes-AMG GT3 which was running second prior to serving a penalty for unsafe release during the final minutes of the race.
The Pro-AM win went to the #76 IMSA Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Pilet, Maxime Jousse, Raymond Narac and Thierry Cornac. They shared the podium with the #74 ISR Audi R8 LMS in second and the #666 Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
The AM Cup win went to Kessel Racing with the #888 Ferrari 458, leading the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 and the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari to complete an all Ferrari podium in the AM class.
@ROWE_RACING wins the #Spa24h 2016. Congrats boys! pic.twitter.com/W0mw7nxVcF
— Karanja Earl Simmons (@Earlsimxx) July 31, 2016
The 69th edition of the 24 Hours of Spa kicked off to a thrilling start filled with all sorts of unseen incidents. Barely 3 minutes after the start, the first full course yellow appeared after Marco Seefried in the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari ran wide and got stuck on the gravel trap. Rene Rast in the #28 WRT Audi R8 LMS had started from pole which he inherited after a stewards decision overruled the superpole results that had six Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the top six.
Prior to the FCY, four of the six unfortunate Mercedes-AMG cars pitted to serve their five-minute stop and go penalty. After restart Rast had very little advantage over his rivals in terms of pace, Mirko Bortolotti in the #63 Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan as well as Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #50 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 passed the leader at the same time.
The #28 Audi got back in first after one hour, leading the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental GT3 and the #6 Audi Sport Team Phoenix R8 LMS.
After Three Hours: 24 Hours of Spa 2016
The #6 Audi R8 LMS was now leading the race away from the #7 Bentley M-Sport Continental GT3 and the #28 Audi R8 LMS to complete the top three. The session had experienced a lengthy 70 minutes safety car period after an accident involving the #77 Attempto Racing Porsche and the #53 AF Corse Ferrari. Both cars crashed on the Kemmel Straight before spinning out and eventually hitting the guardrails.
After Six Hours: 24 Hours of Spa 2016
The #99 Rowe Racing BMW M6 GT3 was now leading at the sixth hour mark, and by doing so they claimed the first full points of the 24 Hours of Spa 2016. The #6 Audi Sport Team Phoenix and the #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT R8 were in second and third respectively.
The first full points of the race were handed to the #99 Rowe Racing BMW with Alexander Sims at the wheel, he picked up 12 points in total.
There was a brief shower at the track which slowed things down a little, the second interruption however came when the #15 BMW Team Italia crashed at the Raidillon corner, prompting the second safety car period. After the restart, the #28 Audi Sport Team WRT R8 was involved in a crash with the #114 Emil Frey Jaguar while fighting for fifth.
In the Pro-Am Cup, it was the #44 Oman Racing Team Aston Martin that took full points.
After 8 Hours: 24 Hours of Spa 2016
Rowe Racing were still leading the 24 Hours of Spa 2016 after 8 hours, holding a slight advantage over second placed #6 Phoenix Audi R8 and third placed #1 WRT Audi R8. The third safety car intervention appeared when the #24 Team Parker Bentley hit the barriers at Combes, the driver was ok but the damage sustained on the car was heavy enough to force them into retirement.
The #52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 now led the Pro-Am cup away from #100 Attempto Racing Lamborghini and the #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari. Meanwhile, the #49 Kaspersky Motorsport Ferrari still lead the Am Cup, followed closely by the #888 Kessel Racing Ferrari and the #51 AF Corse Ferrari
After 12 Hours: 24 Hours of Spa 2016
Bentley was in command of the 24 Hours of Spa 2016 halfway through the race when the 12-hour mark hit. Again, points were been awarded at this point and it was the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport’s Wolfgang Reip, Maxime Soulet and Andy Soucek that happened to be in the lead after a smooth lengthy battle with the #99 Rowe BMW M6 GT3 who had dominated most part of the race.
The BMW had to serve the five-minute mandatory technical stop allowing the Bentley to inherit the lead. The #6 Audi thus picked up the second bonus points for being in P2 at that time while points for third went to the other Bentley of Steven Kane, Guy Smith and Vincent Abril.
There was another FCY caused by the #41 Classic and Modern Racing Ferrari which began leaking oil on the track. During this interruption most cars dived into their respective pits, in the meantime, the #74 ISR Audi claimed full points for leading the Pro-Am Cup with Franck Perera at the wheel. He was followed closely by the AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG and #11 Kessel Racing Ferrari.
After 16 Hours: 24 Hours of Spa 2016
Rowe Racing were back in the lead with the #99 BMW M6 GT3, after the #8 Bentley M-Sport dropped back to second while serving a drive-through penalty. The Bentley Boys were well ahead of the pack, which at some point comprised of both M-Sport Bentleys in the top three and the resilient #6 Phoenix Audi.
The #7 Bentley dropped back when serving the mandatory technical stop while the #8 sister car was handed a drive through penalty for time infringement. Rowe Racing thus inherited the lead, followed by the Bentley and the #6 Audi. Running fourth was the pole winning #28 Audi R8 after making a comeback in the top field. Laurens Vanthoor managed to set the fastest time of the race on 2’18.793 in the Audi.
The #74 ISR Audi was still leading the Pro-AM Cup while the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 led an all Ferrari top three in the Am Cup. In the Intercontinental GT Challenge, the top three comprised of the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport Continental, #6 Audi Sport Team Phoenix R8 and the #28 Audi Sport Team WRT R8.
After 20 Hours: 24 Hours of Spa 2016
Rowe Racing continued to hold a comfortable lead in the race, followed by the #8 Bentley and the #6 Audi. Rain came back just before noon and again things slowed down a little bit, that also allowed the Bentley to close in on the leading BMW.
The lead changed hands again when the #99 BMW stopped for a driver change allowing the Bentley to reclaim P1 again. But drama unfolded when the #6 Phoenix Audi caught fire at the Pouhon corner, the fire erupted after a puncture. The #28 Audi thus moved up to third after passing the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes.
Unlucky moment when Christopher Mies's Audi caught fire, he was running P2. #Spa24h pic.twitter.com/R1s8yCcWJm
— Karanja Earl Simmons (@Earlsimxx) July 31, 2016
The #76 IMSA Performance Porsche had managed to take the lead in the Pro-Am Cup after passing the #74 ISR Audi. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari had a two lap lead over the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari in the AM Cup.
Final Hours: 24 Hours of Spa 2016
Rowe Racing managed to get back into first place changing places with the #8 Bentley. Third place however was a new face, the #86 HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3. The car was among the six AMG cars that were penalized for violating regulations. The #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes was now fourth leading the #28 WRT Audi with less than 30 minutes left in the race.
The #76 IMSA Porsche continued to lead the Pro-AM Cup while the #888 Kessel Racing Ferrari was in charge of the AM Cup.
Rain attacked the track in the final 30 minutes, a FCY took effect after several cars spun on the wet track.
For full results of the 24 Hours of Spa 2016, see the Blancpain GT Series results page.