Lap Record: 1:47
Most manufacturer wins: BMW (24)
- 1st: Nick Tandy / #98 Rowe Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R (margin of win: 4.6 seconds)
- 2nd: Patric Niederhauser / #66 Audi Sport Team Attempto Audi R8 LMS GT3
- 3rd: Matteo Cairoli / #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3-R
The number one complaint I have about this race or more to the point the broadcast of this race is that it isn’t broadcast on networks in the states, instead I was forced to find an online stream to watch the action. That pet peeve aside, I love this race! This year’s installment featured 56 cars from 10 manufacturers. Click on the Spotter Guide to see the entire field.
This race had a lot in common with other large scale events this year in the time of COVID, no fans, and rescheduled from its original July date to October. There was foreshadowing in the days leading up to the Saturday start in the form of a nasty crash during a support race. So nasty in fact that the 3:30PM start time on Saturday was pushed to 4PM to allow the course workers time to repair the damaged barrier.
The Intercontinental GT Challenge is 5 year old European race series with a schedule of 4 races featuring cars built to FIA GT3 standards, running on tracks across 4 continents.
Long time fans of the venue know that the weather in the Ardennes is subject to change quickly, and this year was no different. At the 21st hour mark, the drizzle turned into a steady downpour, reducing visibility, and catching a few teams out on the wrong tires. Full Course Yellow (FCY) was instituted on Lap #469 because of the deteriorating conditions, and the #33 WRT Belgian Audi R8 LMS going into a tire barrier. Couple the wet conditions, low visibility from the white water plumes kicked up by all the cars along with the lower track temps (48-50 degrees Fahrenheit), and you have a recipe for a very exhausted driver and race engineer. Remember the 24H Nurburgring was red flagged for several hours because of the weather.
The 21:30 mark found Patrick Pilet in the # 12 GPX Racing 911 Porsche finding himself in a disappearing gap entering a turn with Sergey Sirotkin in the #72 SMP Racing 488 Ferrari GT3 causing Sergey to spin off course. The event was deemed a Racing Incident with no penalties awarded, Sergey would be able to rejoin the race. The # 4 Team HRT Racing Mercedes GT was awarded a 10 second time penalty for causing a collision tagging the #22 Frikadelli Racing 911 Porsche GT3-R. Truth be told there were more Yellow Flags issued, the ones I mention were the ones I caught while watching.
The Drive of the Race award (An award I made up) in my opinion has to go to Matteo Cairoli. In the final minutes, battling for position with those outside the top 3 fighting to break onto the podium, with only 14 minutes left, the 3rd place #51 AF Corso Ferrari 488 GT3 was attempting to fend off the hard charging #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3-R driven by Cairoli. The Porsche closed some of the distance to the Ferrari at La Source, and then closed the remaining distance, almost touching the Ferrari’s bumper, at the Bus Stop. Onto the grid they ran side by side down to Eau Rogue, and then just before Raidillon the Porsche overtook the Ferrari and closed the door running up Kemmel just before the Kemmel Straight. The announcers described the side by side action as so narrow as to be unable to slip a cigarette paper between them. An exaggeration? By my eye, not by much if at all. It was hard to see light between both cars at times, and it was just clean hard racing with drivers near exhaustion at the end of 24 hours. Honorable mention goes to Nick Tandy as his 911 experienced moderate to severe mechanical issues during the final 2 laps (gearbox?), and yet still managed to fend off Niederhauser.
Amazing circuits, unpredictable weather conditions, 24 hours to wear on both car and driver, and facing the challenges of day and night conditions are just a few of the reasons why I love endurance racing.