The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps and its daunting corners including Eau Rouge, Pouhon, and Blanchimont loomed large last weekend as KRT Motorsport and dozens of other teams took to the track for iRacing’s second annual 24 Hours of Spa.
In last year’s event, our two-driver lineup of Karl Modig and Corey Davis led the GT class with four hours remaining, but a crash at the aforementioned Blanchimont spelled the end of their chances in the McLaren.
This year, the team returned with a four-driver lineup, welcoming in Bryan Carey and Andy Fuller for their first 24-hour race attempt since the Masters of Endurance 24 Hours of Spa in January 2015. Our fearsome foursome brought a new car this year — the #80 Audi R8 LMS GT3 — to compete against its GT3 brethren.
In the first race attempt on Saturday morning, Bryan started near the back of the second split, and despite making forward progress during the opening stint, a crash at Les Combes around the one-hour mark brought an early end to that race.
However, iRacing provided a backup plan in the form of another race session a few hours later. For take two at Spa, the team unloaded a backup car and Karl got behind the wheel for the start, gridding seventh out of 39 cars in the first of two splits.
In his race-opening double stint, Karl moved inside the top five and enjoyed a close battle with the #39 Speed Asylum Red Mercedes. He then handed over to Bryan, who had a decidedly cleaner and less eventful double stint compared to the earlier false start.
Even in the first few hours of the race, strategy was well in play as economical fuel usage presented the opportunity to eliminate at least one pit stop and avoid the long, slow trek down Spa’s combined pit lanes. While other teams pitted early, we stretched our fuel mileage, and ultimately, all four drivers enjoyed time in the race lead: Bryan for six laps, Karl for four laps, and Andy and Corey for one lap each.
Double stints by both Andy and Corey rounded out the first eight hours of racing. Karl then got back in the car for a single stint before Bryan and Andy each ran another double, cycling between second and third position throughout the late night hours.
At that point in the race, our main opponents were clear: the pole-sitting, race-leading, and overall fastest-qualifying #3 GTros Spanish Simracing Team’s Audi; the #2 Atomic Motorsport Yellow Mercedes; and the #6 VirtualDrivers RW Mercedes.
As Karl climbed aboard once again in the early morning, the complexion of the race changed for each of the four leading teams, beginning with KRT.
On lap 399, contact from a lapped BMW entering the Bus Stop damaged the right rear suspension on our #80 Audi, which left Karl fighting to hang on until he pitted two laps later. After one minute and 45 seconds of repairs, our Audi returned to the track healed up but having lost valuable time and positions, slipping from second to fourth.
While our team made repairs on the pit lane, the third-place Atomic Motorsport team had even bigger problems when their driver crashed at Blanchimont, reminiscent of our crash at the same spot in last year’s race. The damage knocked them out of contention and eventually out of the race entirely.
Even the race-leading GTros team, which led by as much as three laps at some points in the race, fell out of contention with a crash on lap 471. That moved the VirtualDrivers RW team, which had enjoyed a problem-free race, into the lead and KRT with Corey behind the wheel into second place.
In the final three hours, with the leader edging away and facing no pressure from behind, Bryan and Andy finished out the race with more safe and fuel-efficient stints. A full 600 laps and 24 hours after the race started — and 28 hours after our first race attempt began — Andy crossed the finish line in second place to put KRT on the podium.
The VirtualDrivers RW team finished one minute and 48 seconds ahead to take the win while the GTros team rebounded after extensive repairs to finish third.
The race marked the first endurance racing podium for Andy and Bryan, and it continued a successful endurance racing year for Corey and Karl. After Corey won the 24 Hours of Daytona with the iRacing Today Motorsports team, he and Karl combined to win at Sebring in the McLaren, at the Nordschleife in the Ruf C-Spec, and finish third with the same car at Watkins Glen.
With a taste of success, at least one of our drivers is eager for more.
“Is it weird I want to do another 24-hour race already?” asked Bryan afterwards.
He won’t have to wait too much longer. With iRacing’s impending release of the Circuit de la Sarthe, our team is set for an attempt in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in late October. Until then, our drivers have plenty of time to prepare, practice, and catch up on lost sleep after 24 hours at Spa.