Why Timur Boguslavskiy has added incentive in the Spa 24 Hours

Right now, a 20-year old from Kazan in Russia is one of the most successful Mercedes drivers in GT racing. But this weekend he must pass a very special test if he’s to join Lewis Hamilton at the end-of-season Mercedes party…

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Many car brands organize a special function with their drivers from different series attending. And if Mercedes does that this winter, of course, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are going to be the megastars. But who might step on to the red carpet next?

DTM stars? Well, there’s no more Mercedes in DTM. Its 24 Hours of Nurburgring heroes? This year they led but allowed the win to slip to their BMW rivals. Stoffel Vandoorne? Second in FIA Formula E was not bad at all, but the Belgian got only a half of the points that champion Antonio Felix da Costa collected.

So don’t be surprised if Timur Boguslavskiy would be the next in line after Hamilton. He’s spent this season behind the wheel of Mercedes-AMG GT supercar – and leads GT World Challenge Europe with two rounds to go. And the most crucial race – the 24 Hours of Spa – is happening this weekend.

#88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: Timur Boguslavskiy, Felipe Fraga

#88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: Timur Boguslavskiy, Felipe Fraga

Photo by: SRO

What is so cool about GT World Challenge?

It’s a proper supercar battle – if you admire German technological genius, but aren’t a fan of Mercedes, then here are also Audi R8, BMW M6 and Porsche 911 machines. In love with Italian beauties? Here you can support a Ferrari F488 or Lamborghini Huracan. Consider Japanese cars to be the most sophisticated? To win here, you have to drive faster than the Lexus RC F and Honda NSX. Can’t imagine a race without British cars? You’ll find McLaren 720S and Bentley Continental GT right here too.

“I started my circuit racing career with local and national series in Russia,” says Timur. “And then for a couple of years I’d been testing and racing quite a range of cars, from Renault Clio to LMP3 prototype. And compared with other cars built around standard bodies, GT3 is the most attractive from the pilot’s point of view. They are fast due to the powerful engines, and rear-wheel drive makes them much more interesting than TCR cars, for instance.”

There are two types of racing in GT World Challenge Europe – and two separate series. The Sprint Cup consists of short, one-hour races (Timur finished 2020 season in second place) and the Endurance Cup schedule consists of three-, six- and 24-hour events (Timur is second at the moment, with two races to go). Obviously, driver can’t be successful in both types of racing without changing approach.

“For sure, endurance races is a quest to find a compromise between your pace and tyre wear,” Timur says. “During Sprint races there’s no need to think much about the tyres. So you must just extract everything out of everything – car, tyres, yourself. Drive as fast as you can. It’s flat-out all the time.”

#88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: Timur Boguslavskiy, Felipe Fraga

#88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: Timur Boguslavskiy, Felipe Fraga

Photo by: SRO

Mercedes is the car to beat in Formula 1 – is it the same in GT?

Not at all. GT World Challenge organizers were the first to implement balance of performance system – so no model can be much faster than others. If you want to win, you can’t only rely on the speed of your car. This season, for example, we’ve seen a very close fight between Mercedes and Audi.

“Mercedes has got two key advantages,” explains Timur. “One can be very confident in the fast curves due to high downforce level. And at the same time car is quite gentle on tyres, usually you’ve got no problem with controlling tyre wear. But there are also some lows – like top speed deficit.”

That’s why races and even championships can be decided by smallest details. For example, once Timur’s crew became a victim of improper speed chosen by the leader approaching the rolling start.

“Rules say you can’t be too slow while approaching the line,” he says. “And the leader was driving around 60 km/h. It’s too slow and for Mercedes it’s the most inconvenient speed to start acceleration to the first corner. We just can be as fast as competitors after hitting a throttle at 60.

“So my teammate fell from second place to fifth – and the race was so close that we couldn’t get back to the top three. The pole sitter finally got a penalty – but it didn’t help us much.”

And if those points weren’t lost, Timur would probably finish the Sprint Cup as champion, not as runner-up.

#88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: Timur Boguslavskiy, Raffaele Marciello

#88 AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3: Timur Boguslavskiy, Raffaele Marciello

Photo by: SRO

So he instantly became nearly the best among 100 European drivers?

Sure, it was not that simple. Timur couldn’t get that high without support from his team and teammate. The French team ASP sponsored by AKKA engineering company is one of the best in GT racing with more than 20 years’ experience. Timur shares the drive with Raffaele Marciello who is an ex-FIA F3 Europe champion, with a year as Sauber test driver and four F1 FP1 sessions in his background.

“The team does its job just perfect, since the first test and till the latest race,” he says. “I don’t think I can mark any certain strong point. It’s just put together like you’ve got all the pieces of puzzles in the proper order – and you’re just attaching one to another without losing time.

“As for Raffaele, he’s not that open-hearted person – and I can’t say we became best friends straight away. But we got on well, very fast – and at the moment we don’t just discuss set-ups or tyre wear details but also play video games in the box!

“But the most important thing, for sure, is Raffaele’s ability to drive a car on the limit, to extract the maximum out of the car. Both in terms of setting the car up and in terms of driving. So, for me, racing is at the same time constant learning from Raffaele.”

This weekend’s Spa 24 Hours is a nice opportunity for Timur to show what has he learnt this year. Spa stage is the most complicated – due to longest distance, changeable weather in Ardennes and highest level of competition (with a lot of one-off appearances – from DTM racers, for instance). Also this race can seriously shakeup the standings, as points will be awarded not just after the finish but also after six and 12 hours.

You can follow Timur and his team on Motorsport.tv. Broadcasting starts at 16:00 Moscow time – and since Thursday it will also be possible to follow practice and qualifications.


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