This weekend marks the 71st running of the 24 Hours of Spa, and those of us with an interest in the virtual world might want to keep an eye on the action.
It’s one of motorsport’s flagship GT3 endurance races, with cars from Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Nissan, Bentley, Aston Martin and others vying for the crown. However it’s some of the drivers that we’re taking an interest in — those with direct links to Gran Turismo via GT Academy.
That includes GT Academy’s very first winner (and GT Sport World Tour Spanish language commentator), Lucas Ordonez. As we reported earlier in the year, Ordonez is a Bentley Boy for 2019, and he’ll duly take his place on the grid in the Bentley Continental GT3. It’s an incredibly special time for the marque, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, so it’s an opportunity for Ordonez to etch his name in the ($250,000, diamond-encrusted) history books.
Joining Ordonez in the Bentley team is Alex Buncombe. Although Buncombe was already a professional racing driver, he was also integral to the success of GT Academy as a driving partner for many of the graduates, and he became a NISMO Athlete alongside them. The duo will be driving cars 110 and 108 respectively.
There’s another pro-turned-NISMO Athlete on the grid as well. That’s Katsumasa Chiyo, who raced with Ordonez and Buncombe in the NISMO team from 2014 to 2017. He’s still with Nissan, and will drive the familiar 35 car for KCMG.
A fourth NISMO Athlete also features on the grid. International GT Academy winner Ricardo Sanchez is taking to the wheel of the Honda NSX GT3. The Mexican driver is reuniting with RJN Motorsport as part of Jenson Button’s “Jenson Team Rocket RJN” squad, driving the 22 car. That’s competing for the Silver Cup category, which will see him fighting with the 333 Rinaldi Ferrari that counts GTPlanet member David Perel among its squad.
You’ll be able to watch the entire race below:
The real-world racing action comes a week after the racing boot was on the other foot, when the professionals were showing gamers how it was done in the iRacing Spa 24h.
Two of the 20 current F1 drivers took part in the virtual race last weekend, and claimed the top step of the podium with some 30s to spare. Lando Norris of McLaren and Max Verstappen of Red Bull, both well known for their love of sim racing, partnered with Max Benecke and Max Wenig to win the race in the Audi R8 LMS.
It wasn’t a race without drama. Verstappen’s driving rig — specifically the brake pedal — fell apart with the checkered flag almost in sight, resulting in Norris jumping in to take the last few laps.
Images via official 24 Hours of Spa website.