- Field of 23 Pro crews gunning for overall victory at Belgian endurance classic
- Stacked roster of drivers includes 14 past winners
- Track action scheduled for 28-31 July at iconic Ardennes venue
On the afternoon of 30 July a field 66 GT3 cars representing nine different brands will plunge into Eau Rouge and then make the climb up through Raidillon, kicking off a full day and night of competition at the 74th TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa.
Among this bumper grid, 23 Pro crews will be gunning for overall glory in the Ardennes, the majority featuring factory drivers from the world's biggest brands. With so much talent spread throughout the entry list, it is difficult to know where to begin when assessing this year's hopefuls.
But, as we must start somewhere, the logical choice is Ferrari and its top-tier representative Iron Lynx. In 2021 the Italian squad ended the Maranello brand's 17-year wait for overall victory in the Ardennes with a sensational charge to the front, while a one-two finish last time out at Circuit Paul Ricard has ensured that it tops the Fanatec Endurance standings ahead of this season’s trip to Spa.
Both of its cars feature a full complement of Ferrari Competizione works drivers, though just one of last year's winners are among them. That man is Nicklas Nielsen, who shares the #51 entry with James Calado and Miguel Molina. The championship-leading #71 crew packs just as strong a punch, with the vastly experienced Davide Rigon joined by young gun Antonio Fuoco and Brazilian ace Daniel Serra.
So this is the team to beat, but there is no shortage of highly qualified opposition. Motivation will be especially strong within the Mercedes-AMG ranks: its most recent overall triumph came in 2013 and you can be sure no one within this mighty brand will want to mark 10 years without a win. The #88 AMG Team Akkodis ASP entry has earned back-to-back Super Poles courtesy of Raffaele Marciello, who forms arguably the strongest crew on the entire grid alongside fellow factory drivers Jules Gounon and Dani Juncadella.
AMG Team GetSpeed has a revised line-up for the big event, with regular drivers Luca Stolz and Steijn Schothorst joined in the #2 car by 2013 race winner Maximilian Götz. AMG Team GruppeM Racing is a one-off entry and can call upon top factory driver Maro Engel, who moves across from the GetSpeed stable to join Mikaël Grenier and another 2013 winner in Maxi Buhk.
Audi is also looking to end a winless streak. Its most recent victory was 2017, though it came agonisingly close last year thanks to a brilliant comeback drive from the #32 Audi Sport Team WRT entry. The same line-up of Dries Vanthoor, Charles Weerts and Kelvin van der Linde remain in situ for 2022 and should be considered among the absolute favourites for the win.
The sister #46 Audi Sport Team WRT car will garner considerable interest as MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi gets set for his TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa debut. In fact, this will be Rossi's first racing engagement on the legendary circuit, which should make the support of veteran teammates Frédéric Vervisch and Nico Müller all the more important.
The Ingolstadt marque’s most recent win came courtesy of Audi Sport Team Saintéloc, which has an all-new line-up sharing its #25 machine. There’s every chance of more success, with experienced factory drivers Chris Mies and Patric Niederhauser joined by youngster Lucas Légeret. There's a fresh line-up at Audi Sport Team Attempto, too. The 2020 runner-up has secured the services of double race winner Markus Winkelhock, who partners fellow factory representatives Dennis Marschall and Ricardo Feller.
Audi Sport Team Tresor is a new addition to the grid, but the Italian squad hit the ground running with a fine fourth-place finish at Imola. Its driver line-up is impressive, with 2017 winner Christopher Haase joined by fellow Audi Sport man Mattia Drudi and single-seater graduate Luca Ghiotto.
Porsche re-established its position as a Spa powerhouse with back-to-back wins in 2019 and 2020; with five very strong crews and a wealth of factory drivers on the entry list, it should be a contender again this year. Dinamic Motorsport will field its full-season Fanatec Endurance line-up, which sees reigning winner Côme Ledogar link up with Porsche experts Klaus Bachler and Matteo Cairoli. This team excels in changeable weather, an ideal quality for a successful Spa assault.
No fewer than four squads will field Porsche machinery on a one-off basis this year. GPX Martini Racing has reunited the line-up that won in 2019, with Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Richard Lietz sharing the #221 car. KCMG also has the potential to be a serious player, with two-time race winner Laurens Vanthoor joined by 2020 winner Nick Tandy and 2019 Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli champion Dennis Olsen.
EMA Motorsport makes its TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa debut this term with an impressive line-up. Experienced factory drivers Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet link up with former grand prix racer Felipe Nasr, who recently joined the Porsche works ranks. Toksport WRT completes the set, fielding its regular driver Marvin Dienst alongside Porsche experts Julien Andlauer and Sven Müller.
No brand has more TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa wins than BMW and, with a new car making its debut this term, there's even greater interest in the Bavarian manufacturer. ROWE Racing will look after a pair of M4 GT3 entries as it chases the marque’s 25th overall win. The #98 machine features a trio of factory drivers in Augusto Farfus, Nick Yelloly and Nicky Catsburg, the latter a winner in 2015. The sister #50 car will be driven by BMW junior drivers Daniel Harper, Max Hesse and Neil Verhagen, whose relative inexperience was quickly forgotten during a fine run to fourth last time out at Circuit Paul Ricard.
In terms of raw speed, Lamborghini could conceivably have won the past two editions of the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa. This year its search for that elusive overall triumph will be led by a pair of full-season cars from Emil Frey Racing. The #63 crew of Mirko Bortolotti, Albert Costa and Jack Aitken is especially potent, while the sister #19 of Giacomo Altoè, Arthur Rougier and Léo Roussel could also be a factor.
There's further firepower from across the Atlantic. Two years after its maiden outing with a Bentley, American squad K-PAX Racing returns to Spa with backing from Orange1 and an ace driver line-up. Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli share a car for the fourth year in succession, joined by the talented South African racer Jordan Pepper.
Aston Martin will chase its first win since 1948 with a pair of Pro cars. Beechdean AMR's line-up of Nicki Thiim, Marco Sørensen and Maxime Martin is among the strongest on the grid, with the latter arguably the most popular man among Spa’s spectators. A one-off entry from The Heart of Racing with TF Sport also comes with a crack driver line-up, combining Aston Martin works drivers Ross Gunn and Charlie Eastwood with experienced international racer Alex Riberas.
JOTA completes the Pro runners with its #38 McLaren. A fine run to seventh last year gave the British brand its best-ever finish in the Ardennes, though the early part of the 2022 season has been challenging for the squad. Nevertheless, the line-up of Rob Bell, Marvin Kirchhöfer and Ollie Wilkinson has plenty of Spa experience and is certainly capable of producing another strong run this year.
Strictly speaking, any of the 66 cars on this year's entry list could take overall victory. But while the increasingly high level of the leading Silver Cup crews means that we could see an interloper in the top-10, it is all but certain that the winner will come from the Pro ranks. The combined expertise of teams and drivers is as high as ever this year and whoever emerges on top will have truly earned their success.
To find out who takes the big prize, fans can follow the action live thanks to free-to-view online streaming. Commentary is available in English, German, French and Italian on the GT World YouTube channels, with further live streams available via the event’s social media channels.