JOTA gains first privateer Hypercar victory in tumultuous Spa 6 Hours

Hertz Team JOTA scored a historic maiden overall WEC victory in the 2024 running of the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps Saturday, battling through a race that was red-flagged and extended after a major incident on the Kemmel Straight involving the Cadillac Racing V-Series.R and No. 31 WRT BMW M4 LMGT3.

The red flag occurred four hours and 13 minutes in when Earl Bamber — driving the No. 2 Cadillac in a fight with the No. 99 Proton Porsche for third overall — hit the concrete wall on driver’s right hard after swiping the front of Sean Gelael’s No. 31 WRT BMW. The contact occurred as he moved across the track to get alongside the Porsche. This resulted in Bamber getting air while spinning after hitting the wall head-on.

Thankfully Cadillac and BMW quickly confirmed that Bamber and Gelael were OK after the violent incident, which also sent the BMW into the barriers on driver’s left.


“Great that Caddy built strong chassis, so it’s nice to walk away from that one,” Bamber said after the incident. “It’s a real shame for the result because I think we were on to something real good today. I think we had good strategy, good speed, so again we showed like in Qatar that if we have things go the right way we can definitely challenge for podiums in this championship. It’s good to realize that. Imola was just a bump on the radar performance-wise. Now we look forward to Le Mans.”

After nearly two hours of cleanup work and barrier repairs, the record crowd of more than 88,000 fans trackside was treated to more than an hour of intense racing. The safety car set up a thrilling sprint finish, in which Hertz Team JOTA stole the show a year on from its Hypercar debut at the same circuit.

The race simply fell into the hands of the British team’s No. 12 Porsche — and the No. 6 Porsche Penske 963 — as both pitted just before the red flag, giving the two a sizable lead when the race resumed — the rest of the field stopped either for emergency service under safety car and then again under green, or for fuel shortly after the race restarted.

As the red flag came out, Ferrari looked in control, with the No. 51 having risen to the lead in the fourth hour and the No. 50 second after a fight from the back of the grid. Like most of the field, they needed to pit both cars, which meant the chances of a 1-2 finish evaporated.

In the run to the flag, with the rest of the pack a minute behind, it became a duel between Callum Ilott and Kevin Estre. Estre was unable to catch Ilott and pass, despite the fact that the factory car had a full set of fresh tires for the final stint, while JOTA opted to change just the left side Michelins on its contender to gain track position. The No. 6 drivers still lead the championship standings heading into Le Mans, though, with a third consecutive top-three finish.

Ilott eventually crossed the line 12.3s in front, scoring JOTA its first WEC overall win, the first privateer win of the Hypercar era and the first privateer FIA WEC overall win since Rebellion’s LMP1 victory at CoTA in 2020.

“It’s great. It’s a year since we got the car and the team just do a fantastic job all the time. We got lucky, but you make your own luck. It’s a shame Norman [Nato, occupied with Formula E this weekend] isn’t here with us, but I couldn’t be happier,” said Will Stevens.

“We just executed at the end; everyone did an amazing job. What a day!” Ilott added.

Ferrari’s No. 50 499P — disqualified after qualifying — took the final spot on the podium after a strong recovery drive from the back of the field by Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina and Nicklas Nielsen.

The sister car would come home fourth in yet another WEC race in which the Ferrari 499Ps had the pace and consistency to win but failed to do so.

Proton Competition’s No. 99 Porsche completed the top five after an astonishing performance from the German team.

The car held the lead at the halfway mark after Julien Andlauer stormed to the front in the opening stint. After Neel Jani handed over the driver’s seat, Andlauer added to his mesmeric effort by making a series of daring moves up the inside at Eau Rouge/Raidillon on an Alpine and both Toyotas to haul the car back into contention. Leaving the final result to one side, in many ways Proton was the more impressive privateer Porsche team at Spa.

The two Toyotas ended up a disappointing sixth and seventh, with the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari eighth.

Porsche wound up with double-success at Spa, with the Manthey Porsche LMGT3 team taking class honors as well. Motorsport Images

In LMGT3, a last-lap move at Les Combes decided the order of a 1-2 for Manthey and Porsche, when Richard Lietz dived up the inside of Klaus Bachler to score the EMA 911 its first win of the season. It also secured a double win for the German marque on the day.

That pass relegated championship leader Pure Rxcing and its new car to second place. It was nevertheless a remarkable performance from Alex Malykhin, Joel Sturm and Bachler after starting 10th following the team’s incident in qualifying that forced its crew to build up a new chassis overnight.

Heroic work was done after a dramatic moment that saw Iron Lynx’s Lamborghini take a splash of fuel at the start of the final lap from the lead, dropping the car to third.

“I had no information from the team; I thought maybe [the others] were struggling with tires,” race-winner Lietz said.

“It was only when I passed him (Klaus Bachler) that I was told that he was low on energy.  I think our friends from the Italian side, the Lambos, they also had an issue with energy at the end, so I think the race restarted at the correct time for us. Some fuel saving some tyre management and at the end, some luck.”

Off the podium, the No. 85 Iron Dames Lamborghini, which started from pole and built a comfortable lead early on, took fourth. The team lost crucial seconds to a delay at its final stop and contact with the No. 7 Toyota at La Source.

Like Iron Lynx’s Huracan, United Autosports’ No. 92 McLaren GT3 EVO came achingly close to claiming its first win of the season. James Cottingham, Nicolas Costa and Gregoire Saucy were in the fight throughout after Cottingham’s strong start, often locked in a battle with the Iron Dames Lamborghini for the lead.

The way its strategy panned out, the red flag restart shuffled the pack significantly and forced the McLaren to pit for a splash with 10 minutes to go, dropping the car to fifth.

The red-flag incident wasn’t the only significant crash in the race, as the action was interrupted earlier on by a lengthy safety car in the second hour for barrier repairs after a three-car accident at Bruxelles.

Rene Rast in the No. 20 WRT BMW M Hybrid tagged Phil Hanson in the No. 38 Hertz Team JOTA Porsche, sending Hanson into Ahmad Al Harthy in the No. 46 WRT BMW, who was a passenger as the M4 was sent veering off the road and into the barriers.

The hit for Al Harthy was hard, the car retiring on the spot with heavy front-end damage. Hanson, meanwhile, after ending up backing into the tires, briefly got the car fired but was unable to get back into the race. The contact occurred because Hanson was lifting and coasting into the braking zone down the hill while overtaking the No. 46 BMW. Again, thankfully both drivers were OK.

Vincent Vosse, team principal of WRT, said he believed it was a racing incident, with “the cars in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

In general, the attrition rate was unusually high at Spa. Eight cars retired — the ones damaged in the two crashes, plus four others: the No. 95 United Autosports McLaren, gearbox oil leak; the pole-sitting No. 5 Penske Porsche, crashed out at Blanchimont while running third; the Lamborghini SC63, suspension failure; and the No. 81 TF Sport Corvette, withdrawn with a gearbox issue.


Story originally appeared on Racer