Race winning pace let down by contact at the 24 Hours of Spa

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The Total 24 Hours of Spa is the biggest race on the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup calendar and for Salih Yoluc and the RAM Racing team, they again proved to be the fastest in the Pro-Am category, leading practice, qualifying and the race, only for contact to end chances of a second victory of the season.

“I think we should have won the class and finished in the top ten overall in this race,” Salih said. “We were leading the category and then unfortunately we had the contact. From that point it wasn’t possible to get a good result as we lost 20 laps.

“The speed was there; the speed was always there,” Salih continued. “I overtook the leaders when I was on track, so we are clearly the fastest Pro-Am car out there - so we should have won this race, even though it is never easy – just like we should have won at Paul Ricard when the engine let us down, so I’m gutted with the P8 result.

“The result is especially painful given that our championship rivals had issues and we could have 90 percent have finished the championship here and gone to Barcelona with no pressure. We had our problem before the six hour point and that cost us any chance of decent points from Spa.

“Now I look forward to Silverstone in WEC. I’ve won my last three races there, so I’m hoping we can turn speed into points this time.”

It was a long week in the Ardennes for Salih, starting with the Bronze test on Tuesday which he and teammate Darren Burke topped the session by half a second in the #49 Mercedes-AMG GT3. The traditional driver parade followed on Wednesday evening in Spa town where Salih, Darren, Euan Hankey and Felix Rosenqvist signed autographs for the fans and soaked up the atmosphere.

The serious action got underway on Thursday with practice and pre-qualifying where the team again set the pace ahead of qualifying. This was the pressure session with all four drivers out for quick runs and the average time determining the grid position. Salih ran second, the car still relatively heavy on fuel at this point, and once all of the drivers had completed the runs, claimed a sensational class pole position by three-tenths of a second, 25th of the 63 runners.

Having shown such dominant form, it was of little surprise to see Felix leading the field once the 24-hour race got underway on Saturday afternoon. A battle followed between RAM Racing and the #175 Mercedes at the front of the class followed, with Felix soon regaining the position at the front.

The pivotal moment of the race came in the evening. Running as high as fourth overall and leading the class, there was contact at final chicane. The team boxed immediately and began a lengthy process of changing the radiator. This cost Salih and the team any chance of a strong result, dropping to the tail of the field, 11th in class, some 20 laps adrift.

The team fought back valiantly with Salih back out and running late at 8pm and again as dawn broke at Spa-Francorchamps. The #49 Mercedes ran flawlessly throughout the reminder of the race, taking the chequered flag after 489 laps of competition in eighth position in class, 33rd position overall.

Salih’s next race is with TF Sport in the FIA World Endurance Championship on 19 August.