Nick Tandy took the chequered flag to win the 2020 Total 24 hours of Spa for ROWE Racing in the #98 Porsche 911 GT3-R he shared with teammates Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor.
2015 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Tandy crossed the line 4.687 seconds ahead of the #66 Audi Sport Team Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3, Patric Niederhauser behind the wheel of the entry he shared with Mattia Drudi and Frederic Vervisch.
Completing the overall podium positions was the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche piloted by Matteo Cairoli, Christian Engelhart and Sven Muller, Cairoli driving the final stint and passing Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari for third place with less than 15 minutes remaining.
Victory in the Silver Cup category went to the #5 HRT Mercedes-AMG GT3 driven by team owner Hubert Haupt with teammates Sergey Afanasiev, Gabriele Piana and Michele Beretta. Second in class went to #84 HTP Motorsport Philip Ellis / Indy Dontje / Russell Ward-crewed Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The Pro-Am Cup class was won by the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracan GT3 piloted by Sandy Mitchell, Rob Collard, Ricky Collard and Leo Machitski while class honours in the Am Cup category were taken by the #108 CMR Bentley Continental GT3, crewed by Stephane Tribaudini, Stephane Lemeret, Romano Ricci and Clement Mateu.
In a race that was run in highly unpredictable weather and in which rain played an important part in planning and strategy, Nick Tandy finally took the lead for the #98 Porsche at the start of the final hour. The car, which had a mechanical problem as it entered its final lap, had to fend off pressure from the #66 Audi and was only two seconds ahead as the contest entered its final minutes. Niederhauser, however, was not able to take advantage of the plight of Tandy’s Porsche and had to settle for second.
Raffaele Marciello, at the wheel of the #88 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP led the field away from pole position and pulled out a gap to Mattia Drudi in the #66 Audi Sport team Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS and Christopher Mies in the #31 Audi Sport Team WRT Audi.
Dennis Lind in the #63 Orange 1 FFF Racing team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 moved from eighth to second within the first two hours.
Marco Mapelli moved the #63 Lamborghini into the lead after a quick stop and the race seemed to be between the #63 car and the #88 Audi as Marcielllo and Fraga shared the driving duties, denying Timur Boguslavskiy a stint as the team looked to maximise the points scoring opportunities at the six and 12-hour marks.
At the half-way mark, the #88 Mercedes held the lead with the #63 Lamborghini slotting in behind as the #98 Porsche moved up and down the order due to a different pit-stop strategy.
There was drama, however, for the #88 car as a brake exploded taking the wheel with it. Fraga limped the car back to the pits but the race was run for the #88 crew and the car retired after 263 laps.
Despite looking a strong favourite for the win, Dennis Lind lost control of the #88 Lamborghini whilst leading and had a heavy impact with the tyre barriers. The Lamborghini was out and Lind sat slumped in a marshal’s chair, inconsolable in his anguish.
Treacherous track conditions as daylight broke meant that there were multiple incidents and race control was kept particularly busy up to 9.00am and, indeed, for the remainder of the race.
As the contest entered the final four hours, rain started to fall again and although Marcus Winkelhock was leading in the #25 Sainteloc Audi, Frederic Vervisch in the #66 Attempto Audi was on wet tyres and rapidly catching the leader.
Winkelhock struggled at the Bus Stop and Vervisch was able to take the lead as the paid went through La Source. Vervisch’s tyre advantage enabled the #66 driver to pull out a lead of close to a minute and a half by lap 467 before he pitted.
A further race neutralisation was required when Benjamin Goethe in the #33 Audi went off at Eau Rouge. Goethe was uninjured but the car was embedded in the tyre wall and 30 minutes was required to extract it.
As the race entered the final 90 minutes, Nick Tandy in the #98 Porsche was on a charge and the British driver passed Alessandro Pier Guidi for in the #51 Ferrari for third and then set about chasing down Dorian Boccolacci in the #25 Audi for second.
As the race entered its final hour Tandy was in the lead but entering the final lap a mechanical problem developed and Tandy was forced to nurse the #98 Porsche over the line.
Tandy was happy and relieved to able the bring #98 ROWE racing Porsche home to take victory in the 2020 Total 24 Hours of Spa.
“Halfway through the penultimate lap I had a small lock-up into Turn 8, and when I exited the corner, I heard this loud knocking noise,” said Tandy. “I thought a driveshaft joining had broken, but the car was still running. Apparently, the gearbox casing was broken as well, and unfortunately for our competitors we coated the track with oil. We can only apologise for this, but it kind of saved us.
“I had to drive the last lap and a half without pushing, and I had to coast through the corners in order not to cause more damage. But in the end, to win this with [Vanthoor and Bamber], it is an incredible feeling. And to be able to share this with all the team at ROWE… they have been so good this week, and I’m so happy that they could win Spa and Nürburgring in the same year.”
Porsche now lead the Intercontinental GT Challenge manufacturers standings on 79 points, 29 ahead of Mercedes-AMG as the grid now heads to the final round at Kyalami on December 10 – 12.