Despite issues during qualifying dropping the McLaren 720S GT3 to back of the grid, 24H SERIES newcomer JP Motorsport ended an impressive recovery drive at the 2023 Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS to finish 4th, just a lap off the overall GT podium.
Words – James Gent
Images – Nico Mombaerts
JP Motorsport team owner Patryk Krupinski has praised his team’s “strong performance” at the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, at which the 24H SERIES powered by Hankook newcomer finished 4th overall despite starting a lowly 40th on the grid.
The Luxembourg squad, which fielded Krupinski, GT World Challenge Europe race winner Norbert Siedler and ex-Formula 1 driver and Le Mans podium finisher Christian Klien at Spa, was forced to start well down the field when a tyre issue during the first 12-minute qualifying session on Friday prevented a higher grid position. Thereafter though, the JP Motorsport McLaren 720S GT3 – the only example in the field – scythed its way into podium contention on Saturday, despite the wet-dry-wet conditions, translating this into a top four position on Sunday.
Though frustrated at missing out on a potential podium spot, Krupinski was full of praise for his team’s 24H SERIES debut.
“4th place is not the result we had hoped for,” Krupinski explained in an official team statement. “Nevertheless, the whole team showed a strong performance, which I am satisfied with! We were able to fight our way up from 40th place on the grid to fourth place, which is a strong performance, especially given the difficult weather conditions.”
Krupinski himself was at the wheel of the #69 McLaren during Q1, and was forced to pit ahead of his fast lap with a suspected puncture (or what teammate Klien described on the grid as “a slight issue with one tyre.”) With insufficient time left in the 15-minute session to set a lap, the Erkelenz-based team’s chances of posting a competitive aggregate time across all three sessions was gone, though Siedler was at least able to show the car’s pace by posting the fourth fastest GT3 lap during Q2.
A scintillating opening stint from Krupinski on Saturday meant the McLaren was already up into the top 20 after 15 minutes, and up to 7th after 30. With several of the frontrunners pitting early, the McLaren was into podium contention when the first rainfall arrived 45 minutes in, and even led outright shortly before and after the second Code 60 of the afternoon was called to retrieve Wolf-Power Racing’s #117 Audi RS 3 LMS. This marks the first time a McLaren 720S GT3 has led a 24H SERIES event overall since Inception Racing by Optimum’s time at the front of the Hankook 6H ABU DHABI in 2021.
Though the field continued to be stymied by the weather throughout the afternoon, JP Motorsport was able to remain in contact with the frontrunners and finish ‘part one’ of the Hankook 12H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS in 5th, the last of the leaders to take Sunday’s restart on the lead lap.
The McLaren sadly slipped away from the leaders during the opening stages, and serving 40-seconds of time penalties – of an eventual 60 – for track limits infringements meant the Luxembourg team had slipped back to 6th, two laps down, by the end of the seventh hour. Consistent running thereafter though, plus the inevitable fall of 992 leaders Red Camel-Jordans.nl and Red Ant Racing out of the top five as the race progressed, meant JP Motorsport was quickly back into the overall top four, a position JP Motorsport held to the chequered flag.
The result is the highest placement yet for a McLaren 720S GT3 in the 24H SERIES, besting the 10th overall Inception Racing by Optimum took at the 2021 Hankook 24H DUBAI.
After a convincing series debut, JP Motorsport has shown an interest in returning for CREVENTIC’s 2023 / 2024 Middle East Trophy, set to begin with the second Hankook 12H KUWAIT on 6-7-8 December, and to be headlined by the 19th annual Hankook 24H DUBAI on 12-13-14 January.