Karim Ojjeh – the outcome of the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours !
Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours are finally over ! Karim Ojjeh comes back on the main events and highlights of this rainy and highly entertaining competition…
When I last wrote, I had mentioned a couple of records for this 2019 edition of the 24 Hours of Spa. Another followed at the end of this edition: the lowest completed distance of all times, with 363 laps, compared to the most in 2003 with 479 laps. It should not be a surprise, as the race was stopped from 5:42 AM in the morning until 11:30 AM. Reason: rain, rain and again rain!
The treacherous conditions did not fail at the infamous Spa circuit, surrounded by its beautiful forest. It all started with the Bronze test on Tuesday afternoon, under a blazing sun – 33 degrees, which was to be coolest day of the week. We had two new drivers that had to adjust to the car, so in 3 hours I only got drove 5 laps. We had Wednesday partially off, with driver parade, driver briefing and driver autograph – 35 degrees. Thursday testing – 37 degrees. Free practice went to plan, but some red flags did not allow me to drive. It was followed with qualifying.
Unfortunately, our driver in Q1 (first qualifying) had an off at the exit of corner 13 and damaged the car, so no qualifying laps for the rest of us, which meant starting the race last. It was followed by night practice. The car repaired we were required to each complete 2 laps. We used the end of the session to adjust our lights and high-beams. Friday – 38 degrees, day off.
The weather completed changed on Saturday just before the start with heavy rain showers. The race started under the safety car. After three laps the safety car pitted and the race was on. Within the next 3 hours we had 3 full course yellows and 3 safety cars. Cars were spinning left and right with changing conditions – dry then rain, then rain again. The treacherous conditions took their toll at 5:42 AM on Sunday morning, when the race director simply stopped the race. It had been agreed by all team principles. A new meeting took place at 10:30 AM and the teams agreed that racing could resume as the conditions and track dried out.
At this point, were we still in the race, but far behind. We had lost position from the start due to a co-driver’s spin and hood repair. We lost some more time as the hood had to be repaired for a second time. Then during the night another co-driver lost the car in Blanchimont and hit the rear. The car was damaged but drivable without repair. We continued at 11.30 AM when the race resumed and simply did our best – going around without taking any risk and wanting to finish the race. The conditions kept on changing – wet, dry, wet. Until the end cars spun and unfortunately crashed. 2 full course yellows and a safety car were engaged 30 minutes before the end. At 16:30 the checkered flag came out and we crossed it! 5 BMWs started the race. Only 2 finished. This was my 6th time at the Spa 24 hours and I finally finished – 1/6!
Thanks to the whole team, crew, mechanics, engineers, tire guys, staff, physio … Olivia and Olivier. We finally did it! Thanks for those that followed and my fans!