Mostert praises Habul for Spa 24 Hour dream

The SunEnergy1 Racing quartet on the podium at Spa. Picture: Supplied

Supercars ace Chaz Mostert has praised fellow Australian Kenny Habul for taking a “punt” on him and providing an opportunity for his Pro-Am class victory at today’s Spa 24 hour in Belgium.

Habul’s SunEnergy1 Racing turned a nightmare into a fairytale by winning the Pro-Am class in dramatic circumstances at the world’s biggest and most prestigious GT event.

After a crash in practice on Thursday which destroyed his car and broke his back, Habul rallied his program from his hospital bed and he was rewarded for his commitment, which included the purchase of a brand new Mercedes-AMG GT3.

“To even come to this race was a pipe dream for me, but Kenny (Habul) made it happen,” said Mostert, who celebrated the victory with a infamous “Shoey” on the Spa podium.

“I think him taking a punt on me at a place where I haven’t raced, and in a car that I had not driven, says alot about his commitment to racing and to Australian drivers.

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“The fact that he made such a major investment to keep us in the race after Thursday’s crash is just incredible, especially when he knew he had no chance of driving in the race.

“I’m just so proud that we could get the job done for him after having so much thrown at us.

“Hopefully we get a chance to come back here and win it with him in the car.”

After a crash in practice on Thursday which destroyed his car and broke his back, Habul rallied his program from his hospital bed and he was rewarded for his commitment, which included the purchase of a brand new Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Mostert, Dutchman Nicky Catsburg, Austrian Martin Konrad and local German Adam Osieka combined in the replacement car to win the Pro-Am class by just 14.2 seconds after starting the race from pitlane.

Habul, a US-based Australian, was taken to hospital by ambulance for x-rays and CT scans in Verviers on Thursday before he was later transferred to Liege where he underwent back surgery on Friday.

Between scans, Habul made a call to invest in a new racecar when it was confirmed it could be delivered and prepared in time for the race after two “all-nighters” by the team’s mechanics.

Amazingly the car made Friday night’s warm-up and was then returned to the garage where full race preparation took place through the night.

Australian driver Liam Talbot was contacted as a replacement for Habul as a qualified Bronze driver and got straight on a flight from Brisbane, Queensland to Belgium.

After on-going discussion with the event stewards, it was confirmed that Talbot must take part in the pre-race sighting laps to be eligible for the race, but after considering every available option, the team decided the timelines would be too tight to take a risk on Talbot doing the race and the Australian GT ace stops his travels in Doha and returns home.

At that point local bronze driver Osieka agreed to become a “super sub” for the weekend.

Because it missed qualifying, the new car was required to start the race dead last from pitlane behind the 71-car field.

While the drivers faced the usual handling variables during the race, the car ran almost faultlessly and charged through the field.

A valuable triple-stint from Mostert and a couple of fast double stints from Catsburg gave the team a serious shot at a class victory.

Adding to the drama, the team was handed a late 30-second penalty for a pit lane violation which saw a gap of almost a minute to the second-placed car reduced to just a nine-second lead.

That advantage was later further reduced to four seconds, before Catsburg got into a serious rhythm late in the race and breakaway to clinch the class win by just over 14 seconds from a Porsche driven by German Nico Menzel.

Habul watched the race from his hospital bed.

“This was not the Spa 24 Hour, it was the Spa 48 Hour for our team,” said Habul.

“Those boys just drove the wheels off the thing and we got the reward.

“Obviously we had many challenges after Thursday, but everyone at AMG, HRT and SunEnergy1 Racing worked tirelessly to make this a reality.

“I am proud to have won this event with a Mercedes-AMG and to fly the Australian flag at such a prestigious event.

“I will not lie, I have been in terrible pain here and pretty restricted and while I was not there to drink the champagne with the guys, I am sure we will make up for it soon.

“I have to thank Chaz, Nicky and Marty for such an incredible job and Adam for subbing at the last minute. I am delighted SunEnergy1 Racing could give him a Spa 24 Hour trophy.

“I have mentioned Eric and Jono and the boys before this week, but if it was not for a couple of all nighters from those guys we simply would not have been in the race.”

The win added to Habul’s Bathurst 12-hour victory in Australia in February.

Unfortunately, today’s result cost Habul his lead in the Intercontinental GT Challenge, which has two more rounds in Indianapolis (October 7-9) and Abu Dhabi (December 8-10).

Habul has won the last two Intercontinental GT Challenge Pro-Am Championships.

Mostert will arrive back in Australia on Tuesday night and will travel to Townsville on Wednesday for the next round of the Australian Supercar Championship.

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