Porsche claims 1-2 at 24 Hours of Spa
Porsche clinched victory at the 24 Hours of Spa to climb the top step of the podium for the first time since 2010.
Five Porsche 911 GT3 Rs finished among the Top 10, with the GPX Racing squad winning with factory drivers Kevin Estre, Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen.
Australian Matt Campbell was ninth in the second ROWE Racing Porsche, while second fastest qualifier Earl Bamber was two spots further back.
The #20 Porsche was the star of Saturday’s opening stages, with Estre scything through the field from 11th on the grid to run second by the time the opening round of pit stops began.
Maro Engel led the early stages from pole in the #4 Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon entry, which would prove a challenger throughout.
However, the race winning Porsche hit dramas when it received a a drive-through penalty for a pit stop infringement, which dropped the car well over a minute off the lead.
Battling over the next few hours, the squad returning to the top 10 by the time morning broke.
Heavy rain made conditions near-impossible and led to a red flag shortly after 0540, only resuming again at 1115.
The final battle took shape with the #1 Audi Sport Team WRT machine out front.
The Belgian outfit’s roster of Rene Rast, Robin Frijns and Nico Müller had threatened from the first stint and were out front as the race moved towards its final two-hour sprint.
As the race built towards its conclusion, the #20 Porsche overhauled the #4 Black Falcon car, with Estre passing Engel on the run down the Kemmel Straight.
Just one lap later he closed on Müller as they headed into Les Combes, where Müller briefly lost control of his car and made rear contact with the outside barrier.
Estre then set about building an advantage, pulling clear at the front while the battle for second continued.
Engel eventually came under pressure from the charging Nick Tandy, whose #998 ROWE Racing Porsche was rapid during the final hours.
The crucial move came with an hour remaining, with Tandy overcoming Engel after battling from Bruxelles to Pouhon.
A full-course yellow and Safety Car period began with just 25 minutes remaining after the #16 Modena Motorsports Porsche crashed out from third in the Pro-Am class.
Estre looked to have successfully dealt with his final restart, only for the #1 Audi Sport Team WRT machine to make contact with the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche and bring out another full-course yellow and Safety Car.
The French driver eventually secure the Porsche’s seventh overall win at the Belgian endurance classic with the #998 ROWE Racing machine shared by Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki second, and the #4 Mercedes-AMG of Engel, Luca Stolz, and Yelmer Buurman third.
Silver Cup honours were secured by the #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini, which went one better than its 2018 result to take victory.
The #97 Oman Racing with TF Sport Aston Martin took out Pro-Am honours with Ahmad Al Harthy, Salih Yoluc, Charlie Eastwood and Nicki Thiim.
The #33 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari bagged Am Cup honours, the squad’s second win in as many years.
Despite finishing as runner-up, two of the #77 Barwell Lamborghini’s crew – Adrian Amstutz and Leo Machitski – clinched the Endurance Cup crown with a round to spare.
Nick Foster and Nick Cassidy were early retirements with just over an hour on the board, while Josh Burdon was 39th overall in a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3, and in 34th was the Shae Davies Team WRT Audi.
The Blancpain GT World Challenge next moves to the Nurburgring at the end of August for its fourth Sprint event of the season.