“This really is the biggest GT3 race in the world,” is how Darren Law, program manager for K-PAX Racing describes the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. Now the European round of the SRO Motorsports Group’s five-races-on-five-continents Intercontinental GT Challenge, and part of the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS Endurance Cup since 2011, the race’s history is much longer, beginning in 1924. The Spa 24 has cycled through touring cars and the FIA GT Championship, but the present-day story is as one of the most prestigious GT3 races on the planet, so its no wonder American teams and drivers are flocking to it.
“I think it’s just such an historic race, historic track,” says George Kurtz, half of the Crowdstrike Racing with Riley Motorsports duo in Fanatec GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS with Colin Braun, but competing at Spa with SPS automotive performance. “Any F1 track that I can get to, particularly in Europe, is a lot of fun. When you look at the level of competition there, you know that you’re on the same track with just incredible folks from around the world. I mean, this is the top in sports cars. It’s really exciting and to be part of the whole event, I think, is inspiring. And this year is even better, because we’ll have the parade, all the fans are there and it’s really back in full force.”
Kurtz is only one of more than a dozen drivers familiar to Fanatec GT World Challenge fans, and if you expand that idea to IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the American round of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, the Indy 8 Hour, the number of drivers familiar to American followers of sports car racing balloons. Indeed, a solid third of the field has competed on U.S. soil in the past year.
Orange1 K-PAX Racing, as the team is known for the Spa race, is one of three current GT World Challenge America teams competing in this year’s event, the others being Samantha Tan Racing with Tan, Nick Wittmer, Harry Gottsacker and Maxime Oostens competing in the Silver Cup category in the No. 28 BMW M4 GT3; and Winward Racing with Russell Ward, Lucas Auer, Lorenzo Ferrari and Jens Liebhauser in Gold Cup with the No. 57 Mercedes-AMG GT3. Going for the Pro class win with defending GTWCA champs Andrea Caldarelli and Jordan Pepper, joined by Marco Mapelli, this is K-PAX’s second attempt at the race, and the first with Lamborghini.
“I think Spa in the modern day of GT3 now is the most competitive worldwide 24-hour, and I’d put it out there as the most competitive 24-hour in general because of the number of Pro entry cars and in other classes as well,” declares Pepper. “It’s so extreme, and it makes the [competition] level so high. Going into my sixth 24 Hours of Spa — my fifth in the Pro class — I hope luck is more on my side. I’ve led the race and been in the hunt, but never finished it leading. We have a great package this year. It’ll be my first time doing it in the Lamborghini, and it should be something very special. I’m back at Spa with K-PAX Racing too, which showed great promise with a 10th-place finish in 2020.”
Other GTWCA regulars include Robby Foley and Michael Dinan in the No. 34 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 with Richard Heistand and Jens Klingmann; Giacomo Altoe in the No. 14 Lamborghini Huracán for Emil Frey Racing; and Mercedes-AMG pilots Phillip Ellis (No. 75 SunEnergy 1 by SPS) and Mikael Grenier (No. 55 AMG Team GruppeM Racing).
In all, 65 cars across four categories are entered for Spa, with 21 in the Pro class alone. The race begins at 4:45pm local time, or 11:45am ET, with the full race streamed on the GT World YouTube Channel, and a pair of two-hour recap shows on CBS Sports Network on Sunday.