Spa 24h 2022…disappointed

It’s a tough feeling as a racer to leave a track and hearing the cars behind you race on track, especially at Spa at La Source – both cars, you and the racing car going the opposite direction.  

La Source is a hairpin corner in 1st gear which once you exit takes you to Eau Rouge/Raidillon.  You are flat out at the exit of La Source to Eau Rouge.  As you leave the circuit behind, you can hear the exhausts of the racing car behind you at their maximum revs going up the gears … 2nd, 3rd, 4th and then 5th before hitting the bottom of the Raidillon at 241 km/h … no lift, flat up the hill.  

You keep this image, running in your head, as you drive off.  Going flat into the Raidillon a quick left followed by a quick right as you go up, your right foot stuck to the floor.  What a feeling.  But what a disappointment having to leave it behind.  Your gut twisting in your stomach.  It hurts!

It all started on Tuesday afternoon at 14:55 with the bronze test.  Having spent close to 12 hours in the simulator (sim) we were ready to go.  The sim proved us right, with the right strategy as I was in the top 5.  Had I aligned my sectors (there are 3 timing sectors at each track) with my best time, I was up in the top 3.  We put new tires for a second time.  As I got to the middle of Les Combles the car oversteered (the back of the car sliding in the front) causing it to spin in the gravel! The test was over and the car was brought back to the garage.

Wednesday was off.  It was the official parade, driving the cars to the middle of Spa, the city, to show them to the public.  At 19:30 we had our drivers’ briefing.  Then back to the track for the official Audi picture.

Thursday; free practice, pre-qualifying and qualifying.  A complete disaster for the team!  Too many red flags causing us limited time on the track, which was true for all the cars.  Qualifying was a complete mess for us all.  We simply did not get it together!  We qualified 48th overall out of 65 cars!

Saturday the race.  At 16:45 the green flag was given for the biggest GT3 in the world, the 24 Hours of Spa.  Every manufacturer wants to win this, as it is a showcase for their on-road cars.  Porsche took the lead and Benjamin started his way up.  After a double stint (2 hours in the car), Antoine took the wheel.  A good strategy during a full course yellow (maximum speed at 80 km/h) allowed us to move 18 places overall and 1st in class.  I was next to take the wheel again under a full course yellow.  Everything went to plan until 6 laps into my stint.  I went a little wide in turn 9, missing the apex by 1 meter ending in the dirt.  I put the throttle down.  The car slightly oversteered. I correct it.  But the correction was too pronounced and the car hit the tire barrier … and into the gravel.  I was pushed out and rejoined the boxes.  The team repaired the car.  We lost 3 laps!  I finished my stint.  Gutted, disappointed.  We had everything to win.  

The night came and the car ran until 3am the next morning when Benjamin during a safety car procedure hit the car in front, braking the left suspension.  He was not able to bring the car back and it was over.  The team started to pack.  They slept a few hours before continuing to pack.  By 13:00pm we decided to leave with the cars still racing in the distance.  Our heads down trying to have enough energy to leave.  

Time for a vacation!  But Hockenheim is only 4 weeks away …