Spa-Francorchamps – Black Falcon was the best of the four Mercedes-AMG customer teams with the near-production SLS AMG GT3 in the 24h race at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. After the race twice around the clock, Kenneth Heyer/Thomas Jäger/Stéphane Lémeret finished third, 10 laps behind the winners. After a total race distance of 545 laps and 3,817 kilometres, this is a gap of only 70 kilometres. British twins David and Godfrey Jones, both 58 years old, also underlined the excellent performance of the gullwing car, improving by 19 positions against strong competition and coming home seventh together with their “junior” partner Mike Jordan, 53.
After the 24h race over the legendary Nürburgring five weeks ago, this was another highlight of the Mercedes-AMG customer sports programme. Seven gullwing cars based on the production Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG which had all been entered by private teams had started the race twice around the clock on Saturday at 16:00 h. Graff Racing with Phillippe Haezebrouck/Massimo Vignali/Mike Parisy/Gilles Vennelet were the fastest qualifiers with the gullwing car in ninth place.
The podium finish of the car with starting number 35 was also a nice anniversary of the first success of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.8 AMG. 40 years ago, Kenneth’s father Hans surprisingly drove that touring car to a class victory and second place overall in the 24h race at Spa which was the car’s first outing. The Black Falcon SLS AMG GT3 was coloured in the same red and had the same starting number.
Thomas Jäger: “We are very happy about our podium finish today after such a demanding race. The Spa-Francorchamps circuit is not only one of the most beautiful, but also one of the most challenging circuits in the world. After a few incidents in the beginning, we drove a consistent race. Performance and reliability of the SLS AMG GT3 were the keys to today’s success. This is good also for the other three gullwing cars which saw the flag – they all improved significantly from the respective grid positions.” - In the course of the best possible support of Mercedes-AMG for their customer teams, test driver Thomas Jäger is racing alternately for the teams.
The results of the Mercedes-AMG customer teams in detail:
Black Falcon, start no. 35, Kenneth Heyer/Thomas Jäger/Stéphane Lémeret: 19th on the grid. Despite a few smaller incidents during the opening stages, the car improved continuously with consistent and fast lap times and finished the race on the podium in third position.
Team Preci-Spark, start no. 90, David Jones/Godfrey Jones/Mike Jordan: Grid position 26. The British twins with their partner moved up 19 positions and came home seventh, ending up second in the Pro-Am class. The Jones brothers’ car was the first SLS AMG GT3 which had been delieved to customers in March.
Black Falcon, start no. 38, Andrii Lebed/Bret Curtis/Peter van der Kolk/Jeroen van der Heuve: Grid position 40. The second Black Falcon SLS AMG GT3 finished the race in 12th place.
KRK-Racing Team Holland, start no. 16, Raf Vanthoor/Marius Ritkes/Bernhard van Oranje/Dennis Retera: No ranking in qualifying following an accident. After repairing the gullwing car, the Belgian team moved up from the back of the field to 16th at the chequered flag.
Graff Racing, start no. 55, Phillippe Haezebrouck/Massimo Vignali/Mike Parisy/Gilles Vennelet: Ninth on the grid and best gullwing car in qualifying. They retired after 367 laps.
Graff Racing, start no. 54, Olivier Panis/Eric Debard/Grégoire Demoustier/Nicolas Lapierre: 18th in qualifying. The team with former Formula One and McLaren Mercedes test driver Olivier Panis stopped after 364 laps.
KRK-Racing Team Holland, start no. 15, Mike Hezemenas/Anthony Kumpen/Koen Wauters: Position 12 in Qualifying. The faster of the two KRK SLS AMG GT3s retired after 151 laps due to an accident.