Porsche won the battle of the heavyweights at Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup in Belgium after beating fierce rivals Mercedes-AMG and Audi to climb the top of the podium for the first time since 2010. The German marque captured a one-two finish in the world’s toughest GT race, to clinch victory at the 24 Hours of Spa 2019.
It came in a year that has seen Porsche place significant emphasis on conquering the Belgian endurance classic, with six 911 GT3 R machines contesting the Pro class at this season's race. Five of those would finish among the top 10, but ultimately it was the GPX Racing squad that secured the win with a full-factory line-up of Kevin Estre, Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen at the wheel.
The #20 Porsche was the star of Saturday's opening stages, with Estre sweeping through the field from 11th on the grid to run second by the time the opening round of pit stops began. Maro Engel led the early stages from pole in the #4 Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon entry, which would prove to be one of the GPX Porsche's biggest challengers for the win.
The #20 was hit with a drive-through penalty for a pit stop infringement, which dropped the car well over a minute off the lead, but the crew battled back over the next few hours, returning to the top 10 by the time morning arrived at Spa-Francorchamps. By this stage heavy rain was falling over the circuit, making driving conditions near-impossible.
The concluding battle took shape with the #1 Audi Sport Team WRT machine out front that looked to be a threat from the first stint. Having always looked to be in contention, the #20 GPX Porsche really came alive shortly before the 22-hour mark. First it overhauled the #4 Black Falcon car, with Estre blasting past Engel on the run down the Kemmel Straight.
Just one lap later he closed on Müller as they headed into Les Combes, where Müller briefly lost control of his car and made rear contact with the outside barrier. Incredibly the Audi was able to continue with almost no damage – but the lead had fallen to the Porsche.
Estre then set about building an advantage, pulling clear at the front while the battle for second continued. Engel eventually came under pressure from the charging Nick Tandy, whose #998 ROWE Racing Porsche was as rapid as the GPX effort during the final hours. The crucial move came with an hour remaining, with Tandy overcoming Engel after an entertaining battle from Bruxelles to Pouhon.
The race now looked to be settled – but there were a few late twists to follow. A full-course yellow and safety car period began with just 25 minutes remaining after the #16 Modena Motorsports Porsche crashed out from third in the Pro-Am class. Estre looked to have successfully dealt with his final restart, only for the #1 Audi Sport Team WRT machine to make contact with the #54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche and bring out another full-course yellow and safety car.
The French driver made one last push for the finish, eventually bringing the #20 GPX Porsche home to secure the marque’s seventh overall win at the Belgian endurance classic. The #998 Porsche ROWE Racing machine shared by Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki completed a fine run to second, with the #4 Mercedes-AMG of Engel, Luca Stolz and Yelmer Buurman third after a faultless showing in the Ardennes.
“During the night it was extremely difficult out there, with a lot of aquaplaning. In fact, the whole race was difficult. Due to the changing conditions, we were almost never on the right tyres, but we survived and took the win,” said Kevin Estre, #20 GPX Racing Porsche.