Although a post-race penalty ended up dropping the Belgian team to 3rd in-class post-race, a podium at the Hankook 24H BARCELONA means AC Motorsport is still in contention for the TCE Championship of the Continents heading into the 24H SERIES season finale in Kuwait.
Words – James Gent
Images – Petr Frýba
AC Motorsport finally put a run of bad luck at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya behind it this past weekend by securing a TCR-class podium finish at the Hankook 24H BARCELONA.
Coming into the event, AC Motorsport had just one top five finish at the event (2021) to its name across four editions, though the Audi RS3 LMS DSG to be classified 3rd in-class at the 2022 edition.
The Belgian team’s weekend got off to a solid start during Friday’s qualifying session when the returning Stéphane Perrin – on his first 24H SERIES weekend since his on-track collision earlier this year at Spa-Francorchamps – Charles Dawson, and the returning Vincent Radermecker secured the #188 Audi 6th on the TCE grid. Momentum Radermecker took into his first stint by circulating in the TCR top five during the first hour before moving into the top four after the opening round of Code 60-affected pit stops. From the seventh hour onwards, the Audi RS 3 would run no lower than 3rd in-class behind long-time TCR leader Wolf-Power Racing and championship leader BBR.
Following the shock retirement of polesitter Wolf-Power Racing early morning on Sunday (the result of gearbox failure), AC Motorsport eventually moved up to 2nd on the road behind the #158 CUPRA TCR of eventual winner, BBR, “stomach issues” for Stéphane Perrin and an early departure for teammate Mathieu Detry (the Belgian was also competing at a Legends Cars Cup Europe event that weekend) the team’s only concerns as the Audi went on to finish 2nd.
Sadly, a data-logger discrepancy meant the Belgian team was handed a 30-second penalty post-race, which ended up dropping AC Motorsport back to 3rd in-class, 20 seconds behind BBR’s #159 CUPRA Leon Competición TCR. Despite this disappointment, the team was still pleased to put its recent run of misfortune at Barcelona behind it.
“This is endurance. You must never give up!” Stéphane explains. “With our DSG-type gearbox, we knew that we were less efficient than the CUPRAs and their sequential gearboxes. We were hoping for a lack of reliability on the part of the Thai team’s cars, which are very well-driven, but it is clear that this type of equipment is now able to cover such a distance without showing any real signs of weakness. Under these circumstances, to take the fight all the way to the end says a lot about our level of performance in Barcelona.
“Officially, we are ranked 3rd, even though on the track, we emerged victorious from this breathtaking duel for the silver medal.
“But this is still our first podium at this event… and honestly, it was hard to hope for better. Congratulations to the whole team for the job done, it was just perfect.”
A podium finish at the Hankook 24H BARCELONA means AC Motorsport has now pulled to within six points of BBR’s #159 CUPRA, the Belgian team’s main rival for this year’s TCR Championship of the Continents. Unsurprisingly, both title contenders have confirmed their entries for this year’s season finale at the inaugural Hankook 12H KUWAIT on 30 November to 2 December. The event will also be the final race outing for AC Motorsport’s Audi RS 3 LMS.
“Over a distance of a single clock revolution, TCR cars equipped with sequential gearboxes are almost unbeatable.,” Stephane continues. “We saw in Barcelona that they can also win after a 24-hour test. We are therefore going to think about how to approach this final meeting of the season. Decisions will be taken shortly within the AC Motorsport team, and we will keep you posted.”