An essential part of the week-long festivities, the event was received as enthusiastically as ever ahead of the race’s landmark 70th edition.
While the 24 Hours can celebrate a history that stretches back to 1924, not all of its traditions are quite this old. First staged as recently as 2002, the parade has quickly become an immensely popular and firmly established part of the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Each year has seen the event grow bigger, both in terms of the participating machinery and the number of fans who attend, and 2018 proved to be no exception.
As ever, all of the cars that will take part in the Total 24 Hours of Spa were part of proceedings. That meant no fewer than 13 different brands were on show, representing a roll call of the world’s premier GT manufacturers.
What’s more, a number of iconic racing machines from the past and some highly impressive road-going GT cars joined the contemporary equipment on the parade route.
Among the procession was the legendary BMW 3.0L CSL, nicknamed the Batmobile for its distinctive aero styling. The same model was victorious at Spa in 1973 and 1976, accounting for two of BMW’s record 23 wins at the event.
While the CSL offered a glimpse into the past, the stunning Zerouno Coupe is a thoroughly modern machine. The high-end Italdesign Giugiaro car was also part of this year’s parade, providing a striking contrast between old and new.
There were more than a dozen other modern and historic machines on display during the parade, including the Ford Capri that won the 24 Hours in 1979 – the first race on Spa’s current 7km layout – and the Porsche 911 that triumphed in 1967.
Upon arrival in the town centre the cars were parked in front of Spa Casino, giving fans an opportunity to admire them up close. Drivers then signed thousands of autographs for the enthusiastic public.
The day concluded with a return journey to the Spa-Francorchamps paddock in preparation for a very busy Thursday at the circuit.
Thursday was all about the action on the track, including free practice, pre qualifying and four qualifying sessions.
The 70thedition Total 24 Hours of Spa has attracted professional and amateur drivers in a single race that has always been at the heart of endurance motorsport, and this remains as true as ever at Spa.
A total of 35 cars will compete outside the Pro category in 2018. They are spread across four classes, each of which will provide its own dramatic twists and turns throughout the 24 Hours.
A total of 11 cars will contest the Pro-Am category, with the return of Honda which will give its new NSX GT3 a first outing on European soil, having already found success in Asia and the U.S. The factory-backed effort will deploy an impressive Pro-Am line-up, with Honda drivers Bertrand Baguette and Esteban Guerrieri leading the line.
They will be joined by motorsport legend Riccardo Patrese, a veteran of more than 200 Formula 1 races and winner of six. The line-up is completed by Loic Depailler, whose late father Patrick was a grand prix star of the seventies and a contemporary of Patrese.
Black Swan Racing will also add an impressive one-off entry to the Pro-Am class, with its #540 Porsche 911 GT3 R including 2003 winner Marc Lieb and team owner Tim Pappas. The American squad will make its first racing appearance at Spa as part of a full-season assault on the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
Sun Energy 1 Team HTP Motorsport will also travel to the Belgian Ardennes as part of its Intercontinental GT Challenge programme. Fielding a Mercedes-AMG GT3, Kenny Habul and Marcel Konrad will compete as the team’s Am drivers, while Pro representation comes from Thomas Jäger and two-time Spa 24 Hours winner Bernd Schneider.
Brussels Racing will add local flavour to the Pro-Am class, with its #100 Aston Martin V12 Vantage being piloted by an all-Belgian crew. Tim Verbergt will return to the 24 Hours for the first time since 2012 as the team’s Gold-graded driver.
The remaining seven Pro-Am entries are competing full-time in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup this season, and all have added additional driving strength for the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Reigning class winner Black Falcon #5 Mercedes-AMG will be competing with Strakka Racing #42 machine with driver David Fumanelli. Ram Racing will also run Mercedes-AMG equipment – making the German marque the best-represented in Pro-Am – and adds highly-rated single-seater ace Felix Rosenqvist to its driving talent.
Team Parker Racing will field Andy Meyrick as an additional Gold-rated driver in its Bentley Continental GT3, where he will link up with fellow Welshman Seb Morris.
The remaining Pro-Am entries will field Ferrari 488 GT3s. Two of these come from the AF Corse stable, with long-time teammates Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin anchoring the #51 machine, while Niek Hommerson and Louis Machiels do likewise in the #53 entry.
Finally, Rinaldi Racing will run its 488 GT3 for regular drivers Alexander Mattschull and Rinat Salikhov, who are joined for the 24 Hours by Daniel Keilwitz and 2017 Am Cup winner David Perel.
There will be 11 cars competing in the Am Cup category and each will run a four-driver crew, taking advantage of the opportunity to add a Silver-graded competitor.
The Garage 59 trio of Alexander West, Chris Harris and Chris Goodwin have scored two Am Cup victories and in an effort to secure the biggest win of all they will be joined by Andrew Watson, who moves across from the British squad’s Pro entry.
AKKA ASP Team has adopted a similar tactic with Nicolas Jamin. The French ace has competed in various classes for the AKKA squad this season, even scoring an outright pole position at Misano, and represents an impressive teammate for the race-winning crew of Eric Debard, Philippe Giauque and Fabien Barthez.
The #26 Sainteloc Racing Audi R8 LMS has switched to the Am Cup class for Spa with a line-up that includes young guns Nyls Stievenart and Simon Gachet.
Barwell Motorsports adds Finnish rising star Patrick Kujala to its crew of Leo Matchiski, Adrian Amstutz and Richard Abra. The British outfit will be one of four squads fielding a Lamborghini Huracan GT3, with Target Racing, Antonelli Motorsport and Attempto Racing also putting their faith in the Italian machine.
Fellow Italian brand Ferrari will be represented by two Am Cup squads: Rinaldi Racing will field its #488 machine, while Blancpain GT Series Asia entrant T2 Motorsport will also be present in the Belgian Ardennes.
Finally, Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup regular Walkenhorst Motorsport will fly the flag for BMW, while fellow German outfit Herberth Motorsport will do likewise for Porsche.
The Silver Cup category will be part of the Total 24 Hours of Spa for the first time this year and features nine cars representing six different brands. Eight of these are full-season Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup entrants.
The #6 Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 crew of Hubert Haupt, Gabriele Piana and Abdulaziz Al Faisal currently lead the Endurance Cup standings and must therefore be considered strong contenders at Spa, where they will be joined by Manuel Metzger.
But their competition will have other ideas. The #54 Emil Frey G3 Jaguar has shown impressive pace in 2018 and the young crew of Alex Fontana, Adrian Zaugg and Mikael Grenier will be keen to give the car a fitting send-off in its final appearance at the 24 Hours.
AKKA ASP Team will also be vying for class honours with its #90 Mercedes-AMG GT3. The regular Endurance Cup trio of Jack Manchester, Nico Bastian and Jules Szymkowiak will be reinforced by Fabian Schiller at Spa, forming an impressive crew for the French squad.
Lamborghini will be the best-represented brand in the Silver Cup, with Ombra Racing, Barwell Motorsport and Daiko Lazarus Racing all fielding the Huracan GT3. Among them, the Barwell squad has already shown race-winning pedigree at Circuit Paul Ricard in 2018 and will fancy its chances in the long-haul Spa contest.
Sean Walkinshaw joins the regular trio at Nissan outfit GT Sport Motul Team RJN, while Ross Gunn is the fourth man at Oman Racing with TF Sport aboard its Aston Martin V12 Vantage. The Silver Cup field is completed by one-off entrant Aust Motorsport, which will field an Audi R8 LMS. Among the driver line-up will be Blancpain GT Series Sprint Cup regular Loris Hezemans, whose farther Toni and elder brother Mike are both past winners of the 24 Hours of Spa.
Four cars are set to contest the Groupe National category, which is open to single-make Cup machinery and always attracts interest from Belgian competitors wishing to participate in their country’s biggest endurance race.
Last year’s class winner was the Speedlover outfit, which lived up to its Belgian heritage with a livery consisting entirely of Smurfs.
Speedlover will be challenged by Mühlner Motorsport, which will field a pair of 991 Cup cars. Finally, the GDL Motorsport squad will deploy a Lamborghini Super Trofeo machine for a crew that includes local racer Sarah Bovy, who will be the sole female driver contesting this year’s Total 24 Hours of Spa.
The 70th edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa will start at 16.30 CET. By Melissa Warren