TOTAL Spa 24H: Part Two

5 August 2013

Things were hotting up, and that wasn't just the weather...

Even a few days on from the TOTAL Spa 24 Hours it’s hard to reflect on such a massive event. As mentioned in the Paul Ricard piece, this year has been a year of firsts for me. And this included three of the biggest (arguably the biggest) 24H races in the world. It started with a last minute trip to the ADAC Zurich Nurburgring 24 Hours, then moving onto the 24 Heures du Mans and finally, to complete the trio, the TOTAL Spa 24 Hours.

Each event has a different flavour, and a different atmosphere. I’m not going to compare events at this current moment in time but the Belgian event certainly had its own unique take on things.

Looking away from the cars for one moment and you’ll see that the place is full of enthusiastic, knowledgeable, sometimes drunk, Belgians who genuinely have an interest in the race.

The off-track entertainment, like Le Mans, is heavily based around loud music, alcohol and whatever the local favourite food is. This certainly isn’t a bad thing and the party around Redfoo’s (yes, this is apparently his name) gig was very big and still filled with enthusiasm – even at 3AM.

The cars are certainly different to what other 24H races have on offer; unlike both Le Mans & the Nurburgring this is predominantly a one-class series being GT3. Although the classes PRO, PRO-AM and GENT all exist they run identical machinery. Some people see this as a bad thing as it doesn’t give fans a clear visual indicator of what cars are which; others see it as a good thing as it provides some super close racing. The cars themselves aren’t exactly slow either. Ferrari, Aston Martin, Nissan, Lamborghini, BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, McLaren and Porsche all feature in the race – the ultimate supercar showdown.

Like every 24H I’ve attended there are some clear home favourites competing for the win, in this case Manthey were certainly well supported – but the sheer amount of MarcVDS team wear being worn outside of the paddock showed where the local support rested.

I think one of the things to make clear about the 24 this year was that it was hot. Very hot. I’d heard some rumours on the grid walk that it was 30 degrees. It must have been pushing 35-37 by the time race start came around, needless to say meant there were a lot of sweaty photographers. Bizzarely for a 24H race it didn’t even cool down in the middle of the night causing a slightly restless sleep for those who attempted to get some shut eye.

The night is one of my favourite bits of 24H racing, there’s nothing quite like it. Standing at Eau Rouge in the early hours of Sunday is something I won’t forget in a hurry. It was genuinely one of those moments that the mixture of sights, sounds and smells (carbon burning) was amazing. Although, I have to admit pretty scary.

I’m certain that I’ll have more coverage from the TOTAL Spa 24 Hours in the future, maybe focusing some more elements and comparing the three 24H races I’ve visited this year. But for now that just about wraps up the coverage before I move onto my next event – the Avon Tyres British GT Championship at the brilliant Brands Hatch GP loop.