After Le Mans the Spa 24 Hours has to be the next biggest race to win in the road-side of motorsport. After 24 hours of hard racing, Jacob Tofts, Luis Emerton, Chris Skinner and Mirko Dautanac were able to bring the #116 SIMSPORTNews Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 home in seventh place in fourth split.
The team started all the way down in 59th place, dead last, and were able to make their way up to the top 15 after just six hours of racing. But whilst Jacob Tofts was in the car, he came across some lapped traffic that was 14 laps down, and for an unknown reason they were defending position and not allowing Jacob to pass. After two laps of trying and losing over two seconds each time Jacob went for a move at Bruxelles, the lapped car then turned into Jacob, who had left more than enough space for the lapped car. Jacob was pushed into the barrier with no where to go, although he was able to continue driving only a second off the pace, when he came in to hand the car over to Luis for the second time the optional repairs moved the team back down to 25th place. They had a lot of work to do over the next 15 hours if they were to achieve their goal of a top ten finish.
As Mirko and Chris got underway for their night stints, Luis and Jacob got some rest before getting in the car in the morning to run to the finish. By the morning the pair had got the car up to 11th place with six hours left, an amazing job by Chris and Mirko who were still driving a slightly damaged car and were still able to lap within a second of the leaders.
With the rest of the cars in front of the team by at least a lap they had a lot of work to do, after his final stint Mirko said, “It was so difficult getting past all the other cars on the track, because we ended up having to race a lot of them for position when it came down to it, they were defending position as well, and we still had to save a lap of fuel per stint so we didn’t have to do a splash and dash with 15 minutes to go.”
Jacob would be in the car for the final hour to bring the car home, at the time the car in sixth place were a full lap ahead. Before he got in the car he said, “I’d like to consolidate our position now, save fuel and not have to stop for the splash and dash, but I’d like to set some quick laps to try to un-lap us from sixth place. We’ve been running quicker than them all race, and if we didn’t have the crash last night I think we would be in front. But that’s the way it is and to finish Spa, if we do, will be an amazing feet.”
After driving in fuel mix one for half of the stint, and matching sixth places lap times, Jacob was given the all clear to push on mix three by Mirko, after four laps he’d closed the once six second gap to the car and only took half a lap to make his way past and un-lap the car. He then continued to push in an attempt to get the teams fastest lap, something that he missed out on by just one tenth to the time that Chris set in the night.
Once the drivers had finished the debrief Chris Skinner said, “I feel so happy to finish, of course it’s a shame about the night, but overall, for my first endurance race with the team I’m chuffed, we were all on the pace and competitive with most of the cars apart from the winners, and I think that we have some great potential within the group for Le Mans in a months time, wether it be in the LMP1 or the GTE we will be a really strong group.”
With the biggest of them all, Le Mans, up next in just over a months time preparation will already be starting.