Angus ace Sandy Mitchell was edged out of a sensational Spa victory by an agonising two seconds after a Total 24 Hours of Spa thriller.
“It doesn’t get much closer than that,” said the Forfar teenager after the 70th running of the biggest GT3 event in the world and the blue riband race of the Blancpain Endurance Series.
After 504 laps of the iconic 4.35-mile Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the tightest of margins separated the top-step rivals in the Silver Cup class.
“It was a real nailbiter at the end, but it’s a great achievement to finish on the podium at Spa, and a proud day for the team,” said British Racing Drivers’ Club Rising Star Mitchell.
Driving a 190mph Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and backed by Huntly-based Black Bull Whisky, the young Spa 24H debutant was partnered by Italian Michele Beretta, Croatian Martin Kodric and Dutchman Rik Breukers.
Their Barwell Motorsport machine started from sixth in the Silver Cup category and 39th overall on the packed grid of 63 cars for a race which lived up to its fearsome reputation as one of high attrition in the Ardennes Forest.
With two-and-a-half hours remaining, Mitchell had fought his way through to within 20 seconds of the class-leading No 12 Lamborghini, but was helpless when a safety car intervention stretched the gap to 95 seconds.
“That was annoying – we’d really started to haul in the class leader, then when the safety car came out it picked up the overall leader who was sandwiched between the two of us,” he added.
Undeterred, the Lamborghini Squadra Corse GT3 Junior Program member again set about closing the gap and his searing pace slashed it to 35 secs when he handed the car over to Kodric just half an hour later.
The Croatian then reeled in the lead Lambo, but couldn’t find a way past on the way to the chequered flag.
“Martin threw everything he had at the lead Lamborghini over the closing laps,” said Mitchell, a winner in the previous Blancpain round at Paul Ricard.
“Of course it would have been fantastic to win my first 24 hours= race, but we threw everything at it and just fell short in that final push.
“All the guys at Barwell, and the three other drivers maxed-out their performance. We have to be really pleased with what we’ve achieved,” he added.
The result eased Mitchell and his team-mates into second in the race for the Blancpain GT Endurance Silver Cup, and they head to the season finale in Barcelona in September determined to overhaul the 15-point gap.
“We’ve got quicker and quicker as the season’s gone on and we’re determined to win the final race of the season, and hopefully lift the title.”