July 2, 2024

The Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed quartet of Oman’s Al-Faisal bin Khalid Al-Zubair, Austrian Dominik Baumann, Canadian Mikaël Grenier and Swiss team debutant Philip Ellis finished the demanding Crowdstrike 24 Hours of Spa in seventh overall and claimed a stunning outright victory in the Gold Cup category on Sunday.

After starting the second round of the 2024 Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS Endurance Cup from fourth place in the Gold category, the team managed its strategy to perfection with heavy rain dampening spirits during the night session.

Grenier drove the final stint and stayed clear of any late trouble to take the chequered flag well clear of Gold Cup runners-up Saintéloc Racing  after 477 laps of racing on one of Europe’s most demanding race circuits.

The Comtoyou Racing Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 Evo, crewed by Mattia Drudi, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen, claimed a dramatic outright victory after a stationery Lamborghini blocked access to the pit lane for over a minute and dropped the long-time leading AF Corse Ferrari down to an eventual second place when Alessandro Pier Guidi was obstructed from entering the pits. 

Al-Faisal said: “It was a great race. We were not sure how it was going to be initially. We had a strong driver line-up and a team package to really come with something strong. We were very happy with how everything turned out. We kept it clean with no track limits and all my team-mate were quick in the race.

“The most important thing was to bring back the win but also not only finishing as Gold Cup winners but also seventh overall out of 66 cars was something special and something to be very proud of.  To do this under the Omani flag was something I was very happy to do. For what we have done in the past few years this was definitely at the top of the list. It was such a hectic race. It is the 100th edition and that makes it more special. The drivers and the team did an amazing job.”

Sixty-six cars lined up for the start of the centenary edition of the 24-hour classic and Baumann finished the opening lap in 11th place and fourth in the Gold category behind Glenn Van Berlo, Jim Pla and Arjun Maini.

Eighty per cent of the track had been resurfaced before the race and it gave for better grip on the dry surface, as Baumann maintained his position through the first half an hour of the race before pitting after 40 minutes and climbing a place to 10th once his rivals had followed suit. Baumann then moved up to ninth shortly before the first hour mark.

Al-Zubair took over for stint number two and maintained ninth and moved up to third in the Gold Cup. The crew climbed to eighth through the four-hour mark but dropped back to 22nd and second in the Gold category through one-quarter distance.

They were back up to 11th overall and leading the Gold section after midnight during the night session and maintained that position before day break with heavy rain and a lot of standing water on the track forcing the safety car to take to the circuit for over two and a half hours.

As the race entered its 15th hour, the Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed crew had climbed to eighth and a comfortable lead in the Gold category. At three-quarter distance, after 18 hours of racing and 335 laps, they were classified in sixth overall, well clear of their closest Gold rivals and sandwiched between two Pro Cup cars.

But they were on a charge now and Ellis headed into the remaining four hours holding fourth overall behind the Rowe Racing BMW, the Comtoyou Racing Aston Martin and the Team WRT BMW. Driver changes followed and Ellis found himself temporarily in the lead. With 2hr 50min of the race remaining, Ellis bedded into sixth place and retained control of the Gold category before handing over to Grenier.

Grenier headed into the remaining 2hr 25min in eighth place after 416 laps and retained the Gold Cup advantage in sixth overall into the last hour when the course went into a brief full course yellow after a car stoppage on the circuit.

The Canadian held on through the closing laps to confirm the Gold Cup win and seventh in the overall race standings.

Sporting the new one-off livery for the Spa race, the crew carried out a test session before pre-practice on Thursday morning, a time of 2min 16.392sec being the best during the opening official stint.

Qualifying was split into four sessions and the crew were classified fourth of the Gold Cup runners in Q1 with a best run of 2min 16.917sec in a stint where their rivals from CSA Racing topped the times. The Al-Manar Racing by Getspeed Mercedes was classified fourth of the Gold Cup entries in Q2 with a run of 2min 15.891sec, fourth again in Q3 and topped the times in Q4 with a lap of 2min 15.9816sec. With the times combined after the four sessions, they lined up in fourth on the grid amongst the Gold Cup runners with pole position going to the Saintéloc Racing Audi R8.

Night practice followed and that was followed by a super pole session on Friday and a final warm-up before the Crowdstrike 24 Hours of Spa fired into life on Saturday afternoon.