"It was a tough race for sure; my most challenging one yet" - After claiming class pole position, Reema Juffali's first 24 Hours of Spa was all but plain sailing, as the SPS Automotive Performance team endured all sorts of troubles during the iconic race. With true endurance racing spirit, the Saudi racer fought back and claimed victory in the Bronze Cup class.
As tweeted by fellow competitor Samantha Tan, out of 235 drivers at last weekend's 24 Hours of Spa - one of the biggest motor racing events in the world and the top GT3 competition - six were women, and five of them won their class. Alongside the historic Iron Dames victory in Gold Cup, there was more history being written at the Belgian race, with Saudi racing star Reema Juffali claiming a really hard-fought victory in the Bronze Cup category. Juffali - who shared the #20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes AMG GT3 with Tim Muller, Valentin Pierburg and George Kurtz - claimed class pole position on Thursday night qualifying, with a combined laptime of 2:21.716 - well clear of the #35 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW in second. The Saudi 30-year-old racing driver started competing internationally in 2019 and switched to GT racing in 2022, with her first participation at the 24 Hours of Dubai - where she finished second with SPS Automotive Performance. She then entered International GT Open in her first GT3 campaign, sharing a Mercedes AMG GT3 with Adam Christodolou in her own Theeba Motorsport entry. Juffali's progression in GT3 racing has been nothing short of impressive, but the 24 Hours of Spa represented her most challenging race to date, in a field of some of the world's most experienced sports car drivers. At the race start on Saturday afternoon, Tim Muller took the start in the #20 Mercedes and initially retained the class lead. What seemed like a smooth run, soon turned into a real rollercoaster. A shock-absorber failure required extensive repair in the opening stages of the race, delaying the #20 SPS Mercedes by three laps. The car eventually went back out on track and retained second place in class, with Pierburg and Kurtz alternating behind the wheel. But there was further trouble, as a contact in pit lane caused damage to the front end of the car - requiring more repair.
When Reema Juffali took over the reins of the #20 AMG GT3 during the night, her winning chances looked slim. Nevertheless, the team never gave up and Reema drove a solid first stint and carried the team through the complete darkness of the night in the Ardennes; she kept her cool and didn't make mistakes, chasing the class leaders. With metronomic pace and good strategy, the quartet settled in second, two laps down. She handed over to Valentin Pierburg, before getting back in the car for her second driving shift of the race in the early hours of Sunday morning, with 10 hours and 45 minutes left on the clock. Such iconic endurance races mean demanding conditions for drivers and vehicles alike - and the leading #35 Walkenhorst BMW hit trouble entering the 18th hour. With Muller behind the wheel, the #20 SPS Mercedes cut the gap and reclaimed the class lead. The following hours continued to be drama-filled, as the battle for the class win was on. A few more hiccups and a penalty for a longer stint driving time put the #20 crew on the back foot, as Kurtz/Pierburg/Muller/Juffali dropped back to second at the 20 hour mark. The two battling Bronze Cup contenders remained on the same lap and George Kurtz hunted down the leader Donald Young. With less than three hours to go, the #35 Walkenhorst BMW went off at Blanchimont and slid across the grass at speed - tearing off the diffuser. Young pitted for repairs and Kurtz made it back into the class lead. It was then Reema Juffali's turn to bring the car home, for her final 90 minute stint. Reema drove confidently and managed the lead, ultimately crossing the finish line in P34 overall and claiming victory in the Bronze Cup class. "It was a tough race for sure; my most challenging one yet" - Juffali told us. "We had problem after problem, and our focus ended up being to make it to the finish." "It was definitely thanks to the hard work from my co-drivers and the SPS team that got us to the finish line and with the win. Spa 24H you did not disappoint!" It was indeed a race full of challenges for Juffali and her teammates, but ended up being a rewarding one. Juffali congratulated her Iron Dames colleagues before the podium, in a truly historic moment that saw five women climbing the highest step of the podium. And it is with role models like all of them that there is now real hope for change in motorsport, as their achievements have the power to inspire the younger generations.