With no pre-event testing and having only completed a few laps in a GT3 car in his career, Habsburg knew his 24 Hours of Spa race debut would be a challenge, but he was determined to make his maiden outing as an Audi Sport works driver a success.
He and team-mates Dennis Marschall and Matthieu Vaxiviere instantly clicked and they were quickly dubbed the ‘Call-Up Crew’ – a trio of youngsters called-up to fill the gaps left by absent drivers amid COVID restrictions. And, the ‘Call-Up Crew did not disappoint.
Despite the lack of testing and preparation, and after just 16 dry practice laps in daylight in the Audi, Ferdinand was thrown onto the Spa track in pitch black, wet and cold, for his 15-minute qualifying and finished P14 out of the world’s top GT drivers. Click HERE to see his session results.
After all three had completed their laps, they qualified P15 and made it through to the extremely competitive SuperPole shoot-out.
“I was absolutely buzzing when we got through!” said the REMUS Sports Exhausts-sponsored driver. “The Spa SuperPole is notoriously hard to get into and there were more than 20 pro line-ups on the grid that have more experience and preparation than we had. We went out there in really tough conditions – not ideal in a car you have very little experience in – and made it through. I knew then that this was going to be an awesome weekend.”
And awesome it was. After starting from 17th, Ferdinand and his team-mates cycled through the running order in some of the coldest track conditions the GT3 teams had ever experienced and, despite dropping back down the order early on in the race, they never stopped pushing.
“The conditions were tough but more so when it was drying that when it was wet,” he continued. “The drying line was warm and grippy from the 50 cars racing on it but, step off it slightly, and the damp track was freezing – many cars fell victim to this. The night was long – it was my first 24-hour race so I just wanted to stay up all night and watch everything but I also knew that I couldn’t influence anything from the pits so needed to get rest so I could do my best when I got back in.”
After 24 hours, the ‘Call-Up Crew” crossed the line in fourteenth place. This was the highest finishing result for WRT and the third highest result for Audi Sport.
“I really want to say thanks to Audi Sport for having the trust in me and for WRT for such an incredible experience. My first event as a factory driver will stay with me for life and I hope that the 24 Hours of Spa becomes a permanent fixture in my race calendar for a long time to come. Hopefully next time we won’t be the last-minute ‘Call-Up Crew but even if we are, I’ll be there in the drop of a hat!”
Ferdinand next races in the DTM season finale at Hockenheim on 06-08 November. He sits in ninth place in the championship, which includes many of the world’s best racing drivers.