Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps
MARC VDS TRIUMPH OVER ADVERSITY IN 24 HOURS OF SPA
The Marc VDS Racing Team experienced the highs and lows of endurance racing during the 63rd edition of the 24 Hours of Spa. The low came five hours into the race when the team's BMW Z4 retired with a mechanical problem, while the high came 19 hours later with the #41 Ford GT reaching the chequered flag in 11th position.
The BMW Z4 started the race from pole position and Maxime Martin, Bas Leinders and Marc Hennerici were running in a strong tenth place before a differential mount fractured and put them out of the race at the five hour point.
With the exit of the BMW Z4 the responsibility for upholding the honour of the Marc VDS Racing Team in their most important race of the season fell to Markus Palttala, Antoine Leclerc and Jonathan Hirschi in the #41 Ford GT.
The Marc VDS trio had worked their way through the field and into seventh place by the halfway point in the race, but then a collision in the 13th hour meant time lost in the pits for repair, with Palttala rejoining the race down in 22nd position.
Consistency during the early hours of the morning paid dividends for Palttala, Leclerc and Hirschi, as they worked their way back through the field to retake 13th position as the race entered the final quarter.
Palttala broke back into the top ten during the penultimate stint, but a splash and dash by the car immediately behind pushed the #41 Ford GT back one place as the race entered the final hour. Despite chasing hard, Hirschi was unable to retake the position and was forced to settle for 11th place at the chequered flag.
The Marc VDS supported Ford Mustang GT3, running in Belgian Racing colours and with Jean-Michel Martin, Eric Bachelart and Marc Duez sharing the driving duties, finished in 28th place, after losing valuable time during the closing stages to a recurring power steering problem.
The "Papy's Racing Gang" who, between them have won the 24 Hours of Spa an incredible seven times, battled gamely throughout the 24-hours, running as high as 13th position as the race approached the halfway point.
The 24 Hours of Spa was the third round of the Blancpain Endurance series, with the next round scheduled to take place at the Magny-Cours circuit in France over the weekend of
Antoine Leclerc: Marc VDS Ford GT - 11th Position
"I'm happy to have finished the race, but a little disappointed because I think a top five finish was a real possibility if we hadn't had problems during the night. I overtook the Mercedes, but then he hit my left rear and the car was quite badly damaged in the collision. We lost 13 or 14 laps in the pits, which dropped us out of the top ten, and lost us any chance of finishing higher up the order. But I enjoyed the race and I hope to come back and contest it again, hopefully with the Marc VDS Racing Team. The team spirit here is amazing, with everyone pushing towards the same goal. As a driver, everyone in the Marc VDS Racing Team is a real pleasure to work with."
Marc Duez: Belgian Racing Ford Mustang GT3 - 28th Position
"The Ford Mustang GT3 was fun to drive and, with the exception of the steering problem, the reliability was outstanding. Pit stops were pretty much limited to changing tyres and brake pads, adding a bit of oil and giving the windscreen a quick clean. Unfortunately the steering problem meant the car was on the stand for nearly three hours. The mechanics changed pretty much everything on the car, but every time we returned to the track the problem reappeared, forcing us to play like Bulgarian weightlifters! I enjoyed the race, but this was my last 24 Hours of Spa. Marc van der Straten would have to put a gun to my head to get me to do it again!"
Bas Leinders: Marc VDS BMW Z4 - DNF
"Obviously I'm very disappointed not to have finished the race, but we can still take some positives away from this weekend. We saw during the race that the BMW Z4 has a lot of potential. We got a decent start and the car was really easy to drive; up until my first stint in the race I hadn't driven the car on slicks, but I was able to hit, and even exceed, my target lap times straight away. On my last stint I started feeling a slight nudge with every shift, which I reported on the radio as a possible propshaft or differential problem, but when it started to get worse I decided to slow and return to the pits. Unfortunately, by that time, the damage had been done and it just wasn't possible to repair the car and rejoin the race."
Jean-Michel Delporte: Team Manager
"Obviously I'm disappointed we were forced to retire the BMW Z4 due to what was a minor mechanical issue, but we now know the car has real potential, which was illustrated again with a BMW Z4 taking second place here today. The support we've had from BMW over the past few weeks has been exceptional and this support, together with the car's obvious potential, made the decision to continue with the BMW Z4 for the remainder of the season an easy one. I have to say congratulations to the drivers and everyone in the team for getting our Ford GT and the Belgian Racing Ford Mustang GT3 to the finish line. It's a shame the #41 car was involved in an incident when it was running so high up the order; without the collision and the subsequent damage a top five finish could have been possible. As for the Ford Mustang, what can I say? The fact that it finished the race is fantastic, but it was incredible to see it running as high as 13th before an issue with the electronics lost the team so much time in the pits. So, it's been a weekend of highs and lows, but that's endurance racing for you!"
By: Marc VDS