Christopher Mies believes the growth in competition and highly specific driving style required by the latest generation of GT3 cars will make winning the Spa 24 Hours harder than ever before.
The 27-year-old, whose programmes in Blancpain Sprint Cup, VLN, GT Masters and Australian GT make him one of the most prolific drivers in Audi’s customer pool, has finished on the podium in each of his previous four visits to Spa, but is yet to add victory to a CV which includes wins at the Nürburgring 24 Hours and Bathurst 12 Hours.
Mies had to settle for the third step in 2013, 2014 and 2015, coming closest in 2012 when the WRT Audi he shared with Christopher Haase and Stephane Ortelli finished second to the Phoenix example driven by Andrea Piccini, René Rast and Frank Stippler.
“To win big races nowadays, Bathurst, Spa, Nürburgring, it’s so much more difficult than 10 years ago,” said Mies, who won a thrilling VLN 5 with a last lap pass on Jorg Bergmeister last weekend. “So far I was on the podium every year in Spa since I started; I never won but I was always second or third. Of course it’s always hard to win a race, but it was not as hard as it is today.
“The first win I took at Bathurst was the first year with GT3 allowed when there was just our two Audis, a Porsche, a Ferrari and that was it. The 24 Hours Nürburgring in 2006 when Manthey won, they only had two or three competitors, but now you have forty possible winners. It’s so much harder than a couple of years ago and it’s getting harder every time. The GT3 cars are such different concepts, but still from P1 to P20 in Blancpain is around one second.”
Mies believes that this can be partly attributed to the very particular driving style that is required to make the increasingly specialised GT3 cars go quickly. Since they are designed to suit the needs of gentleman drivers, GT3 cars are relatively straightforward to drive, but renowned for being very difficult to extract the final few tenths from.
As long ago as 2011, Audi DTM stars Timo Scheider and Mattias Ekstrom won at Spa with Greg Franchi, but as Mies told Racing.GT, it’s now much harder for guest drivers who don’t race GT3 cars regularly to feature at the front.
“When GT3 Customer Sports started, you could have a DTM guys jump into the Audi and be quick because it was mainly a road car with a rear wing, a splitter and some slicks. It was totally easy to drive that car, but nowadays as the category of GT3 developed it got more and more specialised,” Mies explains.
“We have some DTM guys with us for testing because they do single events like 24 Hours Nürburgring or Spa or whatever and if they are within one second to us then they’re doing well. I drove a guest start in a Porsche Carrera Cup last year in Australia and it was horrible for me because I was jumping straight from the GT3 car into the Cup Porsche and I couldn’t handle it, it was totally different. GT3 has become a very unique, special driving style you need. It’s not like a road car anymore, it’s totally different but I think that’s a good thing.”
Mies will drive the No. 6 Audi Sport Team Phoenix R8 LMS with Frank Stippler and Markus Winkelhock. It is one of only two fully factory-backed Audis in the race, alongside the No. 28 Audi Sport Team WRT entered for Laurens Vanthoor, Nico Müller and René Rast, who finished 19th on his DTM debut at Zandvoort last weekend in place of the injured Adrian Tambay.