August 2, 2022.- Samantha Tan Racing completed its first TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa this weekend, securing a 9th place finish in the Silver class at the team’s maiden attempt at the long-standing endurance racing colossus.
The 2022 TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa marked ST Racing’s first GT World Challenge Europe event as well as the Canadian outfit’s first visit to the vaunted Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The 74th annual running of the event welcomed back thousands of fans and featured the return of the Spa parade, absent from the 24 Hours of Spa for two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Anticipating a challenging weekend with an enormous field of 66 cars, ST Racing relished the opportunity to prove itself amongst the most competitive GT3 teams around the globe.
Thursday’s opening practice session proved to be a difficult one – a brief affair with the barriers on top of Raidillon cut even further into ST Racing’s already limited practice time. Thanks to a timely repair by the experienced crew, the Canadian team rejoined later in the pre-qualifying session and went on to qualify 17th in the Silver class and 58th overall with a combined time of 2m 21.479s from drivers Samantha Tan, Nick Wittmer, Harry Gottsacker and Dutch newcomer Maxime Oosten. The field looked extremely competitive ahead of race day but the team remained confident that race pace, consistency and pit strategy would be the keys to success at the historic venue.
During the opening hours of the race, Samantha and Harry each put in solid stints, flying through the Belgian forest consistently lap after lap until sundown. As night fell and Nick Wittmer took over for his first stint, trouble struck: a broken diffuser mount cost ST Racing nearly 20 laps. The crew jumped into action to repair the issue as quickly as possible. Following the repair, each of the STR drivers – who were either new to the track or new to the car – drove incredibly well throughout the night into the next day, staying clean and putting out metronomic lap times in their BMW M4 GT3. The team climbed up to 9th place in-class and 36th overall by the end of the full 24 hours of running.
Although the race was more competitive than initially anticipated, ST Racing is extremely proud of their performance at the 2022 24 Hours of Spa, bringing the car home top 10 in-class during their very first outing at the challenging circuit.
Samantha Tan, co-owner/driver: “Wow. What can I even say? We finished our first ever running of the 24 Hours of Spa 9th in-class and made up 22 positions over the course of the race. Despite the challenges we had — including no experience at the track, extremely limited practice time, and a mechanical issue in the first few hours which set us back 17 laps — we faced them head-on and accomplished exactly what we came here to do. I want to dedicate this finish to my team, who had less than five hours of sleep each night, worked countless hours to setup and repair the car after the Raidillon incident during free practice, and ran flawless pit stops every single time. I’d also like to thank my amazing co-drivers for embarking on this adventure with me, for their faith, trust, and endless support. This was by far the toughest race we’ve ever competed in, one where we went up against the best of the best in GT3 amongst the top drivers and teams in the world. I’m so proud we made it to the finish line!”
Kenneth Tan, team principal: “What a race weekend! It’s our first time ever at the biggest and most important GT3 race in the world and it did not disappoint; the atmosphere was electric yet relaxed. So many fans came out to watch the top GT3 teams in the world endure 24 hours of hard battle. And how did we do? I have to say, we did pretty well, all things considered. We came here to see where we stand as a team against the best of the best, and aside from another rear diffuser issue, our car was reliable throughout and we were happy with its performance. Our drivers did outstanding jobs preserving the car while keeping decent lap times, even though it was their first ever GT3 race at this very challenging track. We leave Spa happy but even hungrier and cannot wait to return next year. Now that we have experience, we know what needs to be done.”
Harry Gottsacker, driver: “I am very proud of our Samantha Tan Racing team for a P9 finish in the Silver Class of the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa! We worked hard all week on our BMW M4 GT3 and our constant improvement in the race showed that. This iconic event was a great experience for the team and me, and I am thankful for them for putting their trust in me! I am already looking forward to the next one!”
Maxime Oosten, driver: “It was my first 24-hour race and my first real experience in a GT3 car, which was really special for me. I made a small mistake in one of the practice sessions, which bruised my ego a bit, but I adapted and moved on for qualifying. From there, we made big progress each session. There was an issue with the diffuser around midnight but the whole team put in a great effort and handled the situation very well to fix the car as quickly as possible. It was an incredible feeling to be a part of this event, and I’m really proud of everyone at ST Racing and what we achieved this weekend during my first 24-hour race!”
Nick Wittmer, driver: “We had an incredible race! We started P58 and were making up ground until we discovered a little issue with the diffuser heading into the night. We had to pull the car into the garage and lost roughly 20 laps in the process, but once we got back out there everyone put their visors down and got the job done by putting in clean laps and avoiding silly errors. By the end, we managed to climb up to P9 in class and P36 overall which everyone at ST Racing is extremely proud of, especially at such a historic track with no room for error. Thank you to ST Racing for doing an amazing job all weekend!”