- Spa-Francorchamps welcomes 68 cars for two days of testing ahead of 29 June – 2 July contest
- Comtoyou Racing Audi fastest overall after impressive showing from event newcomer
- First track activity for 75th CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa now less than five weeks away
The contenders for the 2023 CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa have completed two days of running at the iconic Belgian circuit to launch the final phase of preparations for this year's race.
The official Prologue to the twice-around-the-clock contest brought 68 cars representing eight manufacturers to the Ardennes to undertake a busy testing schedule, with 16 hours of track time spread across four sessions. It comes just over a month before practice begins for the 75th edition of the long-distance classic, which will once act as the blue riband event for both Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe Powered by AWS and the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli.
Tuesday was dominated by Belgian squad Comtoyou Racing, which led both the morning and afternoon sessions with its #11 Audi. In the former, Christopher Haase set his time on a dry track before rain prevented any significant improvement. The weather was clear during the afternoon, allowing the German ace to shave more a second off his own benchmark. A time of 2m16.741s would prove to be the best of the day, edging the #92 Manthey EMA Porsche by just 0.058s.
Wednesday brought sunny conditions, though there was no change to the team at the top of the order during the morning session. It was a different car, however, with the #21 Comtoyou Racing Audi leading the way thanks to a 2m16.627s from Max Hofer. The Belgian outfit was finally beaten in the afternoon run, which saw Porsche squad Rutronik Racing emerge on top courtesy of a 2m16.875s from Thomas Preining. Nevertheless, the #21 Comtoyou Racing Audi remained the fastest overall at the test thanks to Hofer's morning effort.
In addition to topping the overall order, the #21 Audi was also the quickest Gold Cup entrant at the test. Among the other class contenders, the top performer in the Silver Cup was the #99 Tresor Attempto Racing Audi courtesy of a 2m16.960s on Wednesday morning. The best Bronze Cup time was posted by the #23 Grove Racing Porsche, which was P2 overall on Wednesday afternoon thanks to a 2m16.967s. In Pro-Am, Haupt Racing Team led the way with a 2m17.040s from its #64 Mercedes-AMG.
Both days featured a significant number of red flags. The rain-hit Tuesday morning session proved to be the quietest with only one stoppage to proceedings, but there were regular interruptions thereafter. A number of incidents occurred at Raidillon, Les Combes and Pouhon, though in each case the driver was able to walk away unharmed.
With the Prologue complete, the countdown to race week has now begun. It will kick off on Tuesday 27 June with the first official practice session, the Bronze Test, while Wednesday brings the traditional parade to downtown Spa and the popular driver autograph session. Track action resumes on Thursday 29 June with practice and qualifying sessions, followed on Friday by the decisive Super Pole contest. The event will reach a crescendo on Saturday 1 July as the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa sets off on its 75th running at 16:30 CEST.
The programme will also include a packed line-up of support action from the Lamborghini Super Trofeo, Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine, GT4 European Series, GT4 Scandinavia, GT1 by Curbstone and the all-new McLaren Trophy Europe. There will also be virtual action courtesy of the Fanatec Esports GT Pro Series and the new SRO Esports SIM Pro Series, both of which will be staged on-site at the Fanatec Arena.
There will be a wealth of off-track entertainment, too, highlighted by Wednesday's parade and the Saturday night music concert. The paddock will be alive with activity from Thursday onwards, with exclusive presentations from leading brands, the Pirelli Experience and the Fanatec Arena among its attractions. Pit walks and demonstrations will take place during the evening hours, while the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa Fan Zone and Monster Village will add even more options for fans.
A variety of ticket options are available for this year's event, ranging from Thursday and Friday access through to the fully immersive General Entrance + Paddock ticket. This ensures admission from Thursday through Sunday and allows access around the circuit and to grandstands, the Fan Village, the Saturday night music concert and the paddock.
The upcoming CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa represents the 75th edition staged since the race was created in 1924. An entry list comprising more than 70 GT3 cars will tackle the gruelling twice-around-the-clock contest, which is acknowledged as the toughest and most competitive GT race anywhere in the world.