Bullitt Racing completed its very first GT3 24-Hour race Sunday (02.07.23) afternoon, securing a solid sixth-place finish in the Silver Cup class in the Crowdstrike 24 Hours of Spa with drivers Jacob Riegel, Jeff Kingsley, Romain Leroux and Ruben Real del Sarte.
A frustrating car niggle aside, it was a near-flawless performance from both the team and drivers alike, equalling its best result of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup. Crucially, the result provides momentum heading into the next round of the championship at Nurburgring.
The whole week in the Belgian Ardennes was special, especially given the trials and tribulations the team had been through over recent weeks. The brand-new #33 Aston Martin Vantage (Chassis 16A-018-1) made its debut this week following an incident in testing that destroyed the chassis that started the season. The hard work paid dividends as it completed one of the toughest challenges in global GT racing, passing the gruelling test with flying colours.
The opening stint of the race from Romain was impressive, gaining six positions on the track and three in the Silver Cup class to run P7. Ruben jumped in to make his GT3 race debut, and this was a more difficult stint, losing time in the pits and finding the green track challenging in terms of dealing with the understeer.
Jeff was next up, but by this point, an electrical issue with the centre switch panel meant that some crucial functions were unavailable to the driver, including creature comforts. This made for difficulties opening stints for both Jeff and Jacob.
The replacement panel took ten minutes to fix, unfortunately under green flag conditions, and this put the #33 Vantage firmly at the back of the Silver Cup class by two complete laps. By midnight, the team had pressed on and moved to P8.
There were several lengthy safety car periods in the early hours, and by sunrise (no sun, grey and chilly), the drivers had cycled through multiple stints without too much drama and ran sixth in Silver Cup and inside the top 50 overall for the first time. However, with six laps separating us from the #26 ahead in P5, it would take attrition over the final eight hours to make further gains.
Into the closing stages, Romain moved fifth as a rival hit trouble and into the final pitstop with 45 minutes to go, and all seemed to be well. However, a left rear shim failure meant a frantic final stop and the loss of the fifth position. Romain ultimately took the chequered flag and secured the team’s first 24-hour race finish in sixth position.
Steffan Pattrick, Team Manager
“I am happy that we completed the race and took the chequered flag, albeit not in the position we were hoping for. Along with many of our rivals, it’s a challenge, and we suffered from some technical issues which hampered us in our ability to fight for a podium position.
“Nonetheless, we managed these issues very well. The electrical issue meant that we had to problem solve on the fly – especially during the night – just to survive whilst staying within the regulations. The boys did a good job behind the wheel, very consistent and cautious, which is not easy when all your instincts tell you to push. They understood the limits and did what they needed to ensure we finished the race.
“Next year, we plan to be back, and we will be making incremental changes to mitigate against some of these issues we have had and to capitalise on the pace of the car and the consistency that the platform brings. Overall, I am very proud of the drivers in a gruelling race. They have shown good rates of development with the team, engineers and together, we have managed to get there in the end.”
“This was my first 24-hour race in what is my first GT3 season, and it is special to finish this race and to be honest, it doesn’t matter in what position! We had some bad luck in that last pitstop where we had to change a part that cost us our P5, so P6 it was in Silver; what a mega experience! It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, and I cannot thank the team enough.
“The race was intense, only a few safety cars, no red flags, so we had to push for so long, but it was a pleasure to drive here, and my first Spa 24 will be one to remember.”
“We have had our ups and downs, but I am really happy that from us – the drivers – and the team – we could secure this finish. Success at the 24 hours of Spa is crossing the line at the end, so I am proud of the team for that.
“We all learned a lot, and that has helped bond us all together, and you can see progress from the lap times we started at and those we finished with. My abiding memory is trying to sleep and watching the guys in the night as they coped with the lack of sleep, but we can all be very happy with this result.”
“It really is an endurance, and our aim from the start was to try and stay out of trouble and get to the end, which we managed to do. We had some issues, but that is the same for everyone, and the team managed it all very well. The car was consistent over the whole race – as it should be – and we didn’t hit anything or have to change any bodywork – which is a miracle!
“There was a lot of driving, obviously, but overall, I am very happy to finish our first 24-hour race at such a high level.”
Ruben Real del Sarte
“I am grateful for the opportunity of participating in this race as it has been a dream for me. This race is one of the biggest in the world, and to race alongside such high levels of competition has been very special. The result is not that important – P6 with some issues – but I am really pleased we finished the race.
“A really good effort, especially when you look at some of the other cars that did not make it; we did with some very nice memories.”