ONE MORE “BIG ONE” VICTORY FOR LEONID MACHITSKI

It was a weekend to remember for Leonid Machitski and the Barwell Motorsport Team with the Russian adding another of the ‘big ones’ to his roll of honours as he proudly took a triumphant win at the Total 24 Hours of Spa with teammates Sandy Mitchell, Rob Collard and Ricky Collard.

It was an intense and challenging weekend at Spa-Francorchamps in the penultimate round of the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup, that fulfils all its ambitions for Machitski and his team this year. With the iconic Spa 24 race starting a little bit later this year conditions couldn’t have been more adverse and challenging for the drivers during the race weekend – it was darker, wet and windy in the Ardennes circuit, which added to the challenge.

Track activity started on Thursday and the team could focus and advance well planning the work through the sessions. However, Spa-Francorchamps wouldn’t be Spa without rain.

In Friday’s practice sessions beautiful sunny weather beamed bright across the circuit, before the ‘heavens opened-up’ as the sun set creating very slippery track conditions just before the green light for Qualifying, making it the first official wet running of the day. In the combined qualifying Machitski, Mitchell, Rob and Ricky Collard put Vimetco Extrusion and Renaissance Construction backed #77 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO in P4 in the Pro-Am category.

On Saturday the 2020 edition of the biggest GT3 race of the year had sadly been delayed to 16.00 CEST due to an accident in the earlier Lamborghini Super Trofeo support race, which necessitated repair work to be done to the trackside barriers on the endurance pit straight.

Finally, it was lights out and the race got underway with 55 cars on the grid! It was a brilliant start from Rob Collard as he got behind the wheel for the first stint. He did one stint before handing over to Sandy Mitchell who showed a great performance during his double stint. It was adrenaline-rushing racing as the Barwell Motorsport #77 began racing through the grid, whilst protecting the position as they had the Pro-Am Cup Championship to win.

As is the case at every edition, there were several bad luck stories during the 24hour race, but it perfectly encapsulated the emotion and passion that drives competitors to test themselves at the Total 24 Hours of Spa. There is no bigger test that driving through into the night around the exciting Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, with nothing but the other cars illuminating the track ahead.

On Sunday morning Leonid took over the #77 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 EVO and drove a strong race to add a Pro-Am win to his 2018 Am Cup victory, while father-son duo Rob and Ricky Collard brought an ideal blend of experience and speed to the effort and sealed an emotional result. The star of the show was also a young Sandy Mitchell, whose pace and poise on a wet track was crucial to Barwell’s success.

After an emotionally charged 521 laps around Spa-Francorchamps Leonid Machitski and the Barwell Motorsport team once again claimed victory with a fantastic 15th place overall!

The next and final race will be at Circuit Paul Ricard on 13-15 November where the Pro-Am championship will be decided. Currently Leonid is third in the Driver’s Pro-Am ranking with 52 points, and the leaders have 59 points. It’s all still to play for.

Leonid Machitski: “2020 has been difficult for everybody. With Barwell we have had a pretty good run here at Spa, winning the Am Cup in 2018, but it seemed like we were out of luck this year. This was my seventh Total 24 Hours of Spa, and I have finished a couple of times on the podium before, but this is a very, very nice one. Being the first Lamborghini at the finish, beating the Silver Cup winners and some former F1 drivers in the process… A big thank you to everybody in the team, they are absolute legends and it’s a pleasure to work with all of them.”

Sandy Mitchell: “Well yeah it was an awesome race and it had a lot of driving in the dark, it was wet and cold this year with the race being in October. The whole team did a fantastic job and the car was excellent. Leo, Ricki and Rob were on the ball all the way through and we worked very well as a team especially when talking about things in the car and also the race strategy. We had a couple of small mistakes, but we nailed it when it mattered and that’s what gained us valuable time back. The strategy was perfect and we had a quick car so I’m really happy to come away with the win at Spa. There’s been a great atmosphere within the team this year and a pleasure to share the celebrations with them.”

Mark Lemmer (Team Principal): “Obviously a 24hr race is a long time and with our experience we know that a race can come back to you in the end and after lap 2, we had spun and picked up a puncture which meant we were dead last. But we came back and fought our way with a strong race strategy, some brilliant driving and a great team effort to take the victory at Spa against some of the toughest conditions we have ever faced. So, I’m really proud of everyone in the team, it really was a race of driving skill, strategy and tyre choices and everyone stepped up and we did it.”