Adam Christodoulou was left to rue his misfortune after a rollercoaster weekend for the no. 57 Black Falcon team at the 24 Hours of Spa, round four of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup.
27-year-old Christodoulou was the highest placed of the AMG contingent in forth position and in contention for a possible podium when the Mercedes-AMG GT3 he shared with Andreas Simonsen and Hubert Haupt developed a suspension problem with seven hours remaining. After a quick stop for repairs, the problem returned and necessitated a spell in the garage which dropped the car out of contention.
The team’s race came to a dramatic end inside the final hour when Simonsen was collected by an out-of-control rival during a heavy rain shower. Fortunately, the Swede emerged with only minor bruising, a testament to the strength of the new-for-2016 Mercedes-AMG GT3.
It was a poor reward for a strong drive from the pitlane after engine problems were detected during Thursday practice that required it to be changed.
The engine change also meant the No. 57 team missed the entirety of the pre-qualifying and qualifying sessions, only emerging mid-way through night-qualifying, which was used primarily as an extended test session and to get acclimatised to the challenge of driving the 7 kilometer Spa-Francorchamps circuit in full darkness.
Second in the Saturday warmup hinted at what might have been possible in qualifying, but starting from the back would consign them to playing a waiting game as others hit trouble.
Despite two punctures during Hubert’s opening stint, this strategy was beginning to pay off as back-to-back double stints through the night from Simonsen and Christodoulou elevated them into the top-five by half-distance.
However, lady luck was not on the side of Nürburgring 24 Hour winner Christodoulou on this occasion, as Simonsen reported a problem with the wishbone caused by a loose bolt. Unfortunately, the problem was more severe than it first appeared and meant several laps were lost while the car sat in the garage.
“We went back-to-back doubles between Andreas and I for a few hours, and it was all looking great,” Christodoulou said. “Around the half-way point we were up to fourth, our pace was good and we were thinking that a podium was in range, but unfortunately something started to rattle its way loose when Andreas was in the car and he had a bit of play in the steering, so we came in and fixed it in the pitlane. Unfortunately we then had to come back in again, which dropped us out of the top 20 within a matter of a few minutes.
“It’s a real shame how our race ended after all the hard work the Black Falcon guys put in to get everything ready, but Mercedes-AMG build a strong car and Andreas was able to get out under his own steam after such a big impact.”
Whilst the end result was highly disappointing after such a competitive showing, Christodoulou was pleased with the way the team overcame their early setbacks and thrust themselves into contention, which bodes well for the final round of the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup at the Nürburgring in September.
“I was happy with the performances of everybody on our car, all of my stints were extremely clean and I was able to make good progress,” he added. “The crew executed everything very well at the pitstops and our strategy was on point as well, but sadly the final result didn’t reflect the work we put into it. Hopefully we can set that right on our return to the Nürburgring!”