Though Marc VDS was formed in 2001, I can’t pretend to have had an avid interest in motorsport for quite that long. In fact, it was only earlier on this year that I really allowed myself to tumble into the weird and wonderful, motorland utopia.
It was my good friend Josh who introduced me to the 24 hours of Le Mans. Previous to him bringing it up in conversation, I had absolutely no idea what the hell it even was. As somebody who has a habit of sticking to what he likes and not looking too far outside of that, it’s perhaps not all that surprising that I had a very, very false perception of what I imagined Le Mans to be all about.
I’m not going to sit here and pretend I watched Le Mans all the way through. Did I hell. But it lit the blue touchpaper and whetted my appetite for endurance racing. So much so, that I found myself booking the 24 Hours of Spa off work! Did I watch all of it? Almost… I was awake at silly o’clock catching every grain of footage I could from onboard shots from the #23 Nissan. Quite what the point of having a 24 hour race and then not showing the full 24 hours is, I do not know…
The Spa 24 Hours was my first real exposure to Marc VDS as a car racing team. One hell of a late stage to be introduced, as it turns out, but the livery pulled at my heartstrings. The predominantly silver shell with dashes of maroon and yellow was a thing of beauty and an eternal trademark of the team throughout their years of involvement on four wheels. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I were to learn that many VDS fans became so obsessive and attached to the team due to their colourway and livery. I’m an Audi fan in pretty much every branch of motorsport they compete in and even I must admit to having had a huge soft spot for the Belgian team. Hence I found it impossible to stop myself from writing this.
My memory of the Spa 24 Hours is about as bleary as my eyes were during the night stages, but I do remember VDS making a solid start to proceedings in Spa’s typically changeable conditions. After the first 2 hours, the #45 BMW Z4 of Maxime Martin, Augusto Farfus and Dirk Werner found itself in 1st position with Markus Paltalla, Lucas Luhr and Nick Catsburg 3rd in the #46. 2 hours later, the #45 had fallen slightly behind the #1 WRT Audi (I wasn’t complaining at the time).
Still, Marc VDS were remarkably consistent throughout the race until the #45 was forced to retire due to a technical issue, while leading! But when the #46 finally wrapped it up, you really felt you’d witnessed a moment of real motor-racing history. Or at least I did. Especially while listening to the commentary, put it that way.
VDS were one of the most unfortunate teams when it came to the 24 hour races:
The team retired from the 24 Hours of Zolder in 2012, while leading the race, due to a broken differential.
In 2013 at the 24 Hours of Spa, the team had to retire all three cars, with #14 retiring due to an engine problem, the #4 of Catsburg was binned due to an electrical failure leaving the car without any power and then in the 13th hour, and the #3 car newly under the control of DTM driver Maxime Martin suffered a damaged wiring loom thanks to the car’s extinguisher misbehaving.
The team did then get onto the podium in 2014 thanks to Lucas Luhr, Markus Palttala and Dirk Werner, who missed out on victory by just six seconds, BUT (of course there’s a but) the #66 car of Augusto Farfus, Maxime Martin and Jörg Müller retired after a hare decided to splat against the radiator. Standard.
Perhaps the 2015 win at Spa had been coming. It was certainly a deserved reward for the bad luck that’d come before and, in hindsight, it serves as an emotional memory and moment in history for the thousands of Marc VDS fans out there who will, despite no longer having a team, be able to proudly boast ‘We won the 24 Hours of Spa in our final year’.
Having witnessed the heroics of Paltalla, Luhr and Catsburg at Spa and having heard the VDS story while they were crossing the line to complete their fairytale, I must admit I’ll miss this team a hell of a lot. I didn’t see nearly enough of them as I wish I’d have done, but I fully appreciate what they meant to so many people and I sincerely hope that one day they’ll return to put smiles back on faces and contribute to more enthralling motorsport storylines sometime in the future.
For now, farewell to Marc VDS and best of luck to all those who were involved, in finding new work. I’m sure you won’t have a problem finding it!
Please bear in mind that this article was originally written and published at the end of the 2015 season. Originally done for another blog.