crankandpiston.com selects some of its favourite images from the recent 2016 Spa 24 Hours, in which BMW sailed to its second successive event victory.
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You can always rely on a 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps to produce a cracker. The 2016 Spa 24 Hours was no different, with the final podium contenders only booking their slots after a late deluge of rain.
Ultimately the #99 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 of Alexander Sims, Philipp Eng and Maxime Martin took the chequered flag after hitting the top spot at third distance. The result marked not only the second year in succession that BMW had won the Belgian enduro, but also the 23rd in total and the first for the M6 GT3 in its debut year of competition. More fittingly, it also helped Maxime Martin emulate his father Jean-Michel, a four-time winner of the Spa 24 Hours in ’79, ’80, ‘87 and ’92.
It was behind the leading Bimmer though that things started kicking off. At one stage, M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3s ran first and third overall, but the late shower, plus confusion in the pits during the final stop, meant the #8 M-Sport entry of Maxime Soulet, Andy Soucek, and Wolfgang Reip was leapfrogged in the closing stages by both the #88 Team AKKA Mercedes AMG GT3 and #28 Belgian Club WRT Audi R8 LMS, dropping the British squad off the podium as a result. Factor in power steering problems for the sister #7 Continental that, and Spa was a race Bentley would probably prefer to forget.
Not that the #88 Mercedes and #28 Audi had the easiest of 24 hours, of course. Pre-race penalties for the top six qualified Mercedes (which ironically awarded the #28 Audi pole position by default) saw the AMG GT3s on the backfoot from the off. A hefty accident and a prolonged safety car period in the first three minutes of the race at least allowed four of the six to get their mandatory five-minute penalties out of the way early.
Contact with a backmarker in the early hours saw the #28 Audi drop back too, three laps in the pits required to fix the damage. Thereafter, and much like the #88 Merc, the R8 LMS was on a charge, setting fastest lap en-route and benefitting from Bentleys issues to haul them back into contention, albeit a lap down. The late shower, plus a late drive-through penalty for the #86 Team HTP Mercedes that relegated it to fifth place from a potential second, saw the Audi and Mercedes battle throughout the closing stages, the #88 AMG just pipping the #28 R8 for second by two seconds. The #28 Audi teammates must have been wondering what might have been. Ditto Team Phoenix, whose #6 Audi R8 LMS erupted into flames on-track with just four hours to go when a punctured tyre ruptured an oil line.
Those of you who pretty much ignored the above (understandably) can instead skip to part one of the 2016 Spa 24 Hours video highlights below. Do take some time out before doing so to skim through our favourite images from long-time crankandpiston.com mate Eric Fabre.