“It starts with weather, the number of cars … it’s like a car every couple hundred feet or something, so traffic is a big challenge. And the track itself; when you talk about Spa and the elevation change and Eau Rouge and Blanchimont and some of the other high-speed turns there, it’s a big-commitment track. And it’s dark.”
So George Kurtz explains the attraction and the challenge of racing in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the first round in 2021 of the Intercontinental GT Challenge that next visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October. Kurtz, who regularly competes with Colin Braun in Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS in the No. 04 CrowdStrike Mercedes-AMG GT3 fielded by DXDT Racing, partnered with Braun, Valentin Pierburg and Dominik Baumann in the SPS Performance Automotive Mercedes-AMG for his second attempt at the race, finishing sixth in the Pro-Am category.
The 24 Hours of Spa has a long history, and is considered one of the premier GT races in the world. Fifty-eight cars started, with nearly every GT3 manufacturer represented, and a host of the biggest names in sports car racing making up the entry list. “Some of the best drivers in the world are there,” notes Kurtz.
The 2021 edition culminated with Alessandro Pier Guidi executing a stunning pass for the Pro Cup and overall lead in his Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 on Dries Vanthoor in the Team WRT Audi R8. And he did it with less than 10 minutes to go, in an absolute downpour — the type of side-by-side racing in tough conditions that certainly supports the argument for the quality of the drivers.
Even the Pro-Am Cup is populated by stellar line-ups — including the likes of Miguel Molina and Jordan Pepper — making Kurtz’s desire for a podium a big challenge, but one he believes is possible.
“With a little bit of luck we might have had a podium, and I think a podium is certainly in the cards for us if we continue to execute. It’s extremely competitive and when you look at the driver line-up in the Pro-Am category … some of the Bronze-rated drivers are aged-out professionals that have been driving for 30 years, sometimes in factory programs. You have to look at the teams we’re up against, the drivers, the cars that are well-prepared … to get a podium at Spa is a tough challenge, but I think we’re up for it and that would be our next goal,” he says.
While his role as co-founder, president and CEO of CrowdStrike keeps him more than busy, Kurtz has been expanding his racing activity as much as possible, with international races and even adding some American endurance races. He, Braun and Jon Bennett won the 12 Hours fo Sebring in the LMP3 class, for example. He plans to do the Indy 8 Hour, which will also serve as the final for GT World Challenge America, and would love to get more international racing in next year if COVID allows.
“The SPS guys that we raced with, they really did a fantastic job, so my hat’s off to them and big thanks to our co-drivers, Valentin and Dominic. There’s some interest in them coming over and doing some races, Valentin in particular. SPS is top shelf and if we have the opportunity to work with them in Europe or even over here, we’ll definitely look at that for some future races,” says Kurtz.
Kurtz had little time to recover from Spa, heading to Nashville for the inaugural Music City Grand Prix where GT America was running with the NTT IndyCar Series. From an F1-grade circuit to a bumpy street course was quite the change, but Kurtz survived and sits second in the GT America SRO3 standings. He and Braun are also second in the GT World Challenge America Pro-Am points. Both series return to action at Road America on Aug. 27-29.
Speaking of 24-hour races…
Many GT World Challenge America regulars are racing this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Inception Racing is partnering with Optimum Motorsport and Kessel Racing in a Ferrari 488 for Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy and Ben Barnicoat in the GTE-Am class. Inception Racing with Iribe and Millroy joined GT World Challenge America at the third round at COTA, making an immediate impression with a win in the Pro-Am class.
Ryan Dalziel will be looking to add to his 2012 LMP2 victory at La Sarthe. Dalziel, who races with DXDT Racing principal David Askew in a Mercedes-AMG, will be partnering with Dwight Merriman and Kyle Tilley in an IDEC Sport Oreca in LMP2. Robby Foley will be making his Le Mans debut in a Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR with Dennis Olsen and Anders Buchardt in GTE-Am. Foley races a Turner Motorsports BMW M6 with Michael Dinan in the Pro category.
Rodrigo Sales, who has partnered with Matt McMurry for two weekends in Pro-Am in the Compass Racing Acura NSX, will be in a JMW Motorsport Ferrari in GTE-Am. Also in a GTE-Am Ferrari, fielded by Rinaldi Racing, will be GT4 America competitor Jeroen Bleekemolen, who races with Tim Pappas in the Black Swan Porsche.