With its sights set on TCR Championship of the Continents glory in 2022, AC Motorsport returns to the 24H SERIES this weekend at its home event at the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS.
Words - James Gent
Images - Petr Frýba
2021 Overall TCE Teams’ runner-up AC Motorsport makes its return to 24H SERIES competition at this weekend’s Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS – the Belgian team’s home event – as the Belgian team remains focused on Championship of the Continents glory in 2022.
AC Motorsport ran team patriarch Stéphane Perrin, Mathieu Detry, and former Overall TCE Drivers’ champions Yannick Mettler (2019, Continents) and Miklas Born (2020, Europe and Continents) aboard its #188 Audi RS 3 LMS at the season-opener in Dubai, where, despite losing the sister #199 entry to a heavy accident during Free Practice, went on to finish 2nd overall in TCE. This marked the Belgian team’s second podium in three years at the Hankook 24H DUBAI having taken outright victory in 2020.
While a date clash prevented it from competing last time out in Mugello, AC Motorsport returns to action at this weekend’s Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, the first of two European rounds at which the team will compete as it looks to secure TCE title honours in this year’s Championship of the Continents.
“The main difficulty of this 2022 season, where everything is finally resuming its course, are the date clashes,” Stéphane Perrin explains. “After Dubai, we will take part in the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, which is the home event for the team. Then there will be the Hankook 24H BARCELONA, at the beginning of September, then the double round the clock at Sebring, which will close the season. This leaves us little room for error, but the challenge is all the more exciting!
Stéphane Perrin will once again team with Detry on the TCR BenLux race winner’s home soil, with both set to partner Mettler again aboard the #188 Audi. Though pace issues compared with the CUPRA León Competición of Thailand’s BBR, a two-time winner already this year, and the second generation Audi RS 3 LMS of three-time Overall TCE Teams’ champion Wolf-Power Racing remain key rivals for AC Motorsport, the Belgian team is confident its home circuit knowledge can pay dividends. On the most recent running of the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS in 2019, AC Motorsport finished 3rd in TCR. The team also picked up 2nd in PRO/AM at the exploratory, CREVENTIC-organised TCR SPA 500 later that year.
“When a team is lucky enough to take part in such an important event in its country, the objective is to win," Stéphane continues. “But it is not as simple as that. The absence of an update to the Balance of Performance for TCR-type cars equipped with a DSG gearbox, such as our Audi, allows more modern cars with sequential gearboxes to display increased competitiveness… The goal will therefore be to take advantage of our knowledge of the circuit to close the gap that may separate us from these two cars.
“There will therefore be a part of the unknown on our return to Spa, especially since, with more gravel traps to contend with now, we’ll need to redouble our attention. But the trio that we form, with Mathieu and Yannick, is as fast as it is homogeneous, which is clearly a good omen.”
So far, AC Motorsport is one of nine entries registered for the TCR class. Alongside Wolf-Power Racing and BBR, this also includes category frontrunners Holmgaard Motorsport and NOKER racing team, multi-time 24H BARCELONA TCR podium finisher Baporo Motorsport, and the returning GSR Motorsport, PCR Sport and TOTCAR Sport.
Free Practice for the 2022 Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS gets underway at 13.50 hrs local time on Friday 22 April, with three 10-minute qualifying sessions for both the GT and TCE divisions set to follow at 15.50 hrs later that afternoon. The green flag for the race proper will be flown at 12.25 hrs on Saturday 23 April, and, following the traditional ‘overnight intervention,’ the remaining 6.5 hours of the 12-hour race will be completed from 11.20 hrs to 17.50 hrs on Sunday 24 April.