Jonathan Venter drove the endurance race of his life during the Total 24 Hours of Spa, running as high as fourth in class during the weather plagued endurance event. Running 6th in the Pro-Am class and 14th overall out of the 58 car grid, the Oman Racing Team #44 was on its way to a solid result, with Venter’s three faultless double-stints contributing greatly as he battled through the grid of top international drivers.
Unfortunately though, after 22 hours of punishing racing which pushed both man and machine to the limit, a failed engine belt caused the #44 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 to lose oil to the engine, forcing their retirement after 444 laps. The #44 car was eventually classified 30th despite never seeing the last two hours of the race. Venter has come away learning a great deal from the race itself and his three young teammates, praising them for their pace and consistency.
The 67th edition of the 24 Hours of Spa began under torrential conditions and several cars were caught up in incidents early on. This saw the safety car take to the track on multiple occasions and for extended amounts of time as repairs were carried out on the barriers. This brought about a period of strategic gambles in the pit lane and caused the positions at the front of the field to change constantly.
The race progressed through the terrible weather and the #44 Aston Martin kept out of trouble and settled into a rhythm, showing good pace right from the start. After five hours of trouble free running, Ahmad Al Harthy pulled into the pit lane and handed over to Venter for his first stint. It was the young Australian’s first time at Spa but that did nothing to stop him from impressing right from the start.
He had a two hour stint to complete and kept the pace on the boil as the race descended into total darkness. Venter drove an incredible run, keeping pace with many of the factory drivers on the track and proving that even on his Spa debut he was one to look out for. After a strong drive he returned to the pits to hand over to fellow Aston Martin Evolution Academy driver, Daniel Lloyd.
The Oman Racing Team kept pushing and was making good headway throughout the night. It was now Jonny Adam’s turn to handover to Venter at 03:30am as the race approached the halfway mark. Tackling another difficult stint in complete darkness was a true challenge for Venter but the international GT driver applied his confident driving style and produced consistently quick lap times to keep the #44 car towards the front of end of the field. Venter returned the car to Al Harthy after his two hour session and the Motorbase Squad performed another fantastic pit stop before sending the Omani driver on his way.
The Aston Martin continued with its attack and everything had been running smoothly throughout the night. All four drivers completed faultless stints and avoided any racing incidents which helped them move up to fourth in class, giving them a good shot a top result. With the daylight hours now in full swing, it was time for Venter’s last stint, which began at 9:30am.
Continuing the hard charge, Venter knuckled down and with the clearing weather conditions was able to push the car even further. As the race proceeded, mechanical stress was beginning to take its toll on the Aston martin. A piece of floor on the front-left side of the car had become dislodged and caused a puncture. After the resulting pit-stop, #44 was now 6th in the pro-am class and 14th overall. Venter completed his final run and handed over to Al Harthy who went out to try and claw back some of the time lost to the puncture.
As the race entered the final stages, the #44 was running strong but it was not meant to be. With just over two hours left, debris entered through the exposed section and worked its way into the engine bay, severing a belt that prevented oil from reaching the engine. This ultimately led to the retirement of the Oman Racing Team and any hopes of a finish at the historic race were dashed. Venter is now focusing on his next race, the Three Hours of Sepang which will be held in September. The Craft-Bamboo Racing driver is now leading the GT Asia Series drivers’ championship and will be looking to extend his lead by using the knowledge and experience gained from his incredible drive at the 24 Hours of Spa.
“It was a real privilege to have been able to drive with Motorbase Performance in their Oman Racing Aston Martin. They did a great job all week and are a very professional team.”
“The race itself was long and challenging with myself having to do 4 of the 7 hrs in the dark and another 2 in the morning. It was a great experience having to always adapt to the changing track conditions and stay out of trouble.”
“I learnt a lot throughout this whole week and took away some priceless experience. Hopefully in the future I can return to this great race and have another go at it. For now it’s focusing ahead to the next GT Asia race at Sepang which will be a 3 hour race.”