Harold Primat survived an incident-packed 90th anniversary 24 Hours of Spa to finish sixth in the Pro Cup category and ninth overall at the Blancpain Endurance Series’ blue riband event this weekend (July 23-27).
Primat has therefore reached the chequered flag at all three of his international endurance events this season after finishing second at Bathurst and seventh at the Nordschleife, while the #84 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 maintained its record of featuring in the top-six at all four Blancpain Endurance Series rounds held so far.
And although it wasn’t the result Harold and his HTP Motorsport team-mates – Bernd Schneider and Nico Verdonck – had been hoping for, it was nevertheless yet another championship points scoring finish for the #84 car in a race marred by bad luck and the heavy accidents of others.
Indeed, there had already been several serious incidents before the clock struck midnight on Saturday, one of which necessitated an hour-long race stoppage. But while other teams struggled, Primat and his co-drivers managed to avoid the carnage and, after starting seventh, were running third as darkness descended over the Ardennes.
Unfortunately it would be one of those resultant caution periods that first stymied the crew’s progress when Harold, who had just taken over the car, was held at the end of pit-lane while waiting to re-join at the tail of the next Safety Car train. The loss of half a lap instantly dropped the car to 15th.
But it would be nothing compared to the several issues that continually delayed the Mercedes throughout the night after Primat had handed over to Schneider and then Verdonck. First, the German legend was forced to complete an entire lap of the 7km-long circuit with a broken brake disc before repairs could be made in the pits. Another unscheduled stop was subsequently required to replace a punctured tyre, before yet more precious time was lost while fixing the front splitter.
All of that ensured the Mercedes was well out of the reckoning by the time Primat climbed back aboard at dawn on Sunday. But with no signs of the earlier misfortune returning, the Swiss ace was able to continue his team-mates’ good work by helping to fight back into the top-10 overall.
Their collective determination eventually saw the #84 car cross the line nine laps behind the winners, albeit having racked up enough points in the process to occupy fifth in the drivers’ championship standings with one round remaining.
“After a race like that I’m not really sure what more we could have achieved,” reflected Harold afterwards. “The car wasn’t all that easy to drive in truth, while the Audis and BMWs would have been too fast for us even without all the issues during the night. But despite everything that’s happened we’ve managed to salvage a decent points haul, which means we can still technically win the championship at the final round, although a top-three finish looks a more realistic target.
“The first few hours were crazy out there, with all of the accidents and Safety Car periods. It seemed like there was one after another. I’ve never competed in a race like it and just hope everyone involved is okay.
“The team gave absolutely everything as always, as did Nico and Bernd. Collectively I think we made the most of the cards we were dealt and never gave up, even during the night when the car seemed to be a magnet for problems! Hopefully we can end the season with a strong run at the final round and perhaps even finish in the top-three. That’s certainly the aim, anyway.”
The final round of this season’s Blancpain Endurance Series takes place at the Nurburgring on September 19-21.