British GT vice-champion Alexander Sims claimed his maiden Total 24 Hours of Spa overall victory this afternoon after he and Rowe Racing co-drivers Philipp Eng and Maxime Martin overcame a strong challenge from Bentley, Audi and Mercedes-AMG.
There was also good news for British GT Championship contenders Jon Minshaw, Phil Keen and Barwell Motorsport who, along with domestic rival Joe Osborne and Oliver Gavin, finished third in the prestigious event’s Pro-Am class.
But the day undoubtedly belonged to Sims whose metronomic performance aboard the all-new BMW M6 GT3 was enough to thwart the advances of faster rivals. The Rowe Racing driver, along with his crew mates, didn’t put a foot wrong throughout a 24 hours punctuated by several Full Course Yellow periods, sporadic showers and a heavy late downpour that accounted for several aquaplaning cars with under 30 minutes remaining.
Former British GT driver Wolfgang Reip and his Bentley M-Sport co-drivers Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet came closest to toppling the #99 car but ultimately suffered too many penalties before slipping to fourth in the final reckoning thanks to the late rain.
The result sees Sims score his third consecutive Total 24 Hours of Spa podium after helping Barwell, then running BMWs, to Pro-Am rostrums in 2014 and ’15.
And the Surrey-based squad’s streak continued 12 months on thanks to the efforts of British GT’s Keen, Osborne and Minshaw who led the class early on before a jammed wheel gun stymied their progress during the race’s opening quarter.
The incredibly competitive Pro-Am field ensured making up the lost time would be a tough ask, but Barwell stuck at it to eventually cross the line 17th overall with its #666 Lamborghini Huracan that was sporting the same distinctive Demon Tweeks livery as it has done throughout this season’s British GT campaign.
Minshaw’s third place has also seen him climb to fourth in the Intercontinental GT Challenge standings and just 10 points behind the leaders with only the Sepang 12 Hours remaining this December.
The outfit’s second Huracan also enjoyed a mechanical problem-free run into Sunday before 2014 British GT champion Marco Attard, who also scored a podium on his only outing this season at Silverstone, crashed at Blanchimont late in the race.
Meanwhile Motorbase Performance, running under the Oman Racing Team banner with reigning British GT champion Jonny Adam and former GT3 runner-up Ahmad Al Harthy on its driver roster, lead the race early on before contact and damage during the night restricted it to seventh in the Pro-Am category. But that was still enough for Al Harthy to score enough points to remain in Intercontinental GT Challenge contention.
Elsewhere, erstwhile Blancpain GT Series championship leader and Ecurie Ecosse British GT ace Rob Bell’s Garage 59 McLaren was running fourth overall when co-driver Come Ledogar made contact with another car during the night. Although the resulting damage was repaired, the 650S lost too much time to renew its challenge but did reach the finish in 32nd overall.
Team Parker Racing, whose quest for a first outright British GT title continues at Snetterton this weekend, had a race to forget at Spa where of its Pro-Am and Am Cup-entered Bentleys failed to finish.
Sims will be back on the British GT grid, and in the familiar surroundings of Barwell’s Lamborghini Huracan alongside championship contender Liam Griffin, at Snetterton this weekend.
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