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FIA WEC at Spa-Francorchamps: BMW M Team WRT suffers setbacks at the home round.

With sun, summery weather, and a new FIA WEC attendance record (excluding 24h Le Mans) with 88,180 spectators trackside, the stage was set for BMW M Team WRT’s home race in the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC). However, the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL), round three of the 2024 season, proved to be disappointing for the team and for BMW M Motorsport.

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Spa-Francorchamps. With sun, summery weather, and a new FIA WEC attendance record (excluding 24h Le Mans) with 88,180 spectators trackside, the stage was set for BMW M Team WRT’s home race in the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC). However, the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps (BEL), round three of the 2024 season, proved to be disappointing for the team and for BMW M Motorsport. In the Hypercar class, the two BMW M Hybrid V8s finished in positions 11 and 13 after six hours of racing, which were interrupted for nearly two hours by a red flag. The two BMW M4 GT3s, fielded by Team WRT in the LMGT3 class, retired through no fault of their own.

 

In Friday’s qualifying, BMW M Team WRT managed to make it into the Hyperpole session with a Hypercar, just as they did at the second round at Imola (ITA). That meant BMW M works drivers Robin Frijns (NED), Sheldon van der Linde (RSA) and René Rast (GER) started the six-hour race from ninth place in the #20 BMW M Hybrid V8. Their team-mates, Dries Vanthoor (BEL), Marco Wittmann (GER), and Raffaele Marciello (SUI) started from 12th place with the #15 BMW M Hybrid V8.

 

Following strong performances at Imola, the aim was to challenge for a podium again at Spa-Francorchamps. However, the race proved challenging for both crews of the BMW M Hybrid V8s, and they were not able to make progress through the field. Consequently, car #15 finished in 11th place after six hours of racing, while car #20 ended up in 13th position.

 

In the LMGT3 class both Team WRT BMW M4 GT3s, following their 1-2 result at Imola, had chances for podium finishes but their race was ended prematurely through no fault of their own. In the LMGT3 Hyperpole, Ahmad Al Harthy (OMA) secured second place on the grid for the #46 BMW M4 GT3, which he shares with Valentino Rossi (ITA) and Maxime Martin (BEL). However, in the race, car #46, while running in fourth place, was heavily hit as a result of a chain reaction following an unfortunate racing incident and crashed into the track barrier. Car #31 of Augusto Farfus (BRA), Sean Gelael (INA), and Darren Leung (GBR), steadily progressed from twelfth on the grid, but was also heavily impacted by another car while in fourth position after over four hours of racing. Following this incident, the race was red-flagged for nearly two hours as extensive repairs to the track barriers were required. Al Harthy and Gelael, who were at the wheel at the respective times, remained unhurt.

 

The fourth of eight races in the FIA WEC 2024 season, the 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA), will take place on 15th/16th June.

 

Reactions to the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps:

 

Franciscus van Meel (CEO of BMW M GmbH): “This weekend didn’t go as we had hoped. After Imola, it was a setback. We started fairly well, had a lot of bad luck, but also made some mistakes ourselves. Now, it’s time to look ahead. The next race is Le Mans, and with all the bad luck we’ve had here, maybe we’ll have more good luck there.”

 

Andreas Roos (Head of BMW M Motorsport): “It was overall a challenging weekend here at Spa. The pace of our BMW M Hybrid V8 was definitely there, but unfortunately, we couldn’t convert that into a good result. I think we simply made too many mistakes during the race which we now need to analyse in detail. However, it was good to see that the speed was there again. We continue to work hard to come back even stronger. In the LMGT3 class, it was, of course, very disappointing that both cars were involved in accidents that were not their fault and consequently retired. After the very good result with the 1-2 at Imola, this is naturally a hard setback for the LMGT3 crew as a strong result with important points would have been possible again here at Spa. Thanks to BMW M Team WRT and BMW M Motorsport for their hard work so that we can get closer to our goal of winning races.”

 

Vincent Vosse (BMW M Team WRT Team Principal): “I think that we have got some good information to take with us but one of those bits of information is that you cannot make a good result without having a clean race, and unfortunately we did not have a clean race. We have to analyse why and make it better. In LMGT3, it was a real shame to see how much work we have put together with the #31 and #46 cars and that was gone and not through the fault of our drivers. It is tough to swallow. Now let’s see what we can do at Le Mans to recover all of those points we have lost here.”

 

Raffaele Marciello (#15 BMW M Hybrid V8, 11th place Hypercar): “It has been a difficult race. We were fighting for points and were running in the top ten. Then unfortunately, I made a mistake and we got a penalty. That was quite unfortunate but let’s see how to improve and to do better next time.”

 

René Rast (#20 BMW M Hybrid V8, 13th place Hypercar): “It was not a great day. Everything went wrong somehow. We got a lot of penalties and have always been kind of at the wrong end of everything. A technical issue, penalties, so overall no points today. We need to learn from that. I think that pace wise, we were in the mix. That is one positive at least but we just need to perform better and make less mistake and hopefully in the next race we will be better.”

 

Augusto Farfus (#31 BMW M4 GT3, DNF LMGT3): “All drivers in the #31 executed a very good race. Every single driver fulfilled his own task. Unfortunately, we’ve got both LMGT3 cars taken out by Hypercars and that should be a sign that this is something that needs to be reacted to.”

 

Maxime Martin (#46 BMW M4 GT3, DNF LMGT3): “It’s a pity. We’re certainly not at Spa to retire after one and a half hours. But it’s part of the game, that’s racing. It’s indeed a shame because Ahmad was doing a good job and we could have scored some important points. But that’s the way it is. Now we focus on the next race, the most important, the 24 hours of Le Mans.”

 

 

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