Total 24 hours of Spa three-quarter distance report After the earlier heavy rain the track continues to dry out after warm and very humid conditions overnight.
Hour 13 sees the continuation of the 79 BMW Motorsport’s 1 lap lead despite a tap from a back-marker and 16 minutes of running under the Safety Car; the 91 EBRT Porsche 911 Cup put a dent in its GT4 podium aspirations by hitting the wall hard at Blanchimont, aka Turn 17, and ending in a dangerous position, before somehow managing to rejoin the race 40 minutes later!
The British entered Ford GT 71 spun and graveled at Turn 9 before rejoining, unlike the Marc VDS entered 98 Ford GT that was officially retired after its incident in hour 12.
The lead GT3 Audi 50 of Kumpen, Marc ‘The Duck’ Fassler, and Rockenfeller didn’t get the rain that they prayed for but did take third overall in a strong showing and we ended the hours with GTN leading GT2 leading GT3 for the first time.
Hour 14 saw the incident of the race so far occurring when the 2 AF Corse Ferrari with Eric van der Poele at the wheel came up behind the 50 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 of Anthony Kumpen after pitting and ceding the position. Add a slower GT4 Porsche and the first rays of sunlight into the mix and wham! The Audi having been shunted from behind by the Porsche, spins into the path of the Ferrari causing a further collision from which they both sustain heavy damage bringing out the safety car.
Vav der Poele was quoted as saying “it was quite a big shunt. As Anthony passed the Porsche on the right-hand side at the exit of Stavelot, the Porsche thought he had gone left and hit the back of the Audi. I was going left past them both and the Audi crossed the track and hit me. I was just cruising and didn’t see him coming. It was a big shunt. It’s finished. It’s over.”
Kumpen was less forthcoming, simply stating “Something crashed into the back of me, what can I say?”
Racing resumed after 25 minutes with the 79 BMW continuing its lead.
The 15th hour saw no such drama with things as settled as the weather. Chief Dirk, Herr Muller in the leading BMW had a 1 minute lead over the 23 BMS Porsche of Romain Dumas, himself leading GT2. The lead GT3 was the 73 WRT Belgian Audi club of Mollekens and GT4 continues to be headed by the 59 Jota Sport Aston Martin despite a spin in Turn 11 on lap 315. Also spinning was the 86 Lamborghini that very nearly collected Waltrip's Ferrari in the process, which would have been a real shame as the #1 car had made steady progress over night to be placed 12th overall and 5th in class. Also in GT2 the #7 Trackspeed Porsche sat 3rd in class and 7th overall. In GT3 there were 3 Audi R8's in the overall top ten, the third of which was the #68 car of Eddie Cheever in a strong 9th overall.
Hour 16 brought out the safety car when Andrea Piccini in the remaining Phoenix Racing Audi crashed into the tires at L'eau Rouge destroying the front-end of the car. Eddie Cheever's Audi briefly inherited 2nd as a result before being beaten by a superior pit stop from the 53 Muhlner Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3R. Dirk Muller continued to set a blistering pace and improved on his fastest lap of the race so far with a 2:21.430 as the sun intermittently broke through the clouds promising a fine morning.
The 26 runners remaining at 9am local time, Hour 17, were still all following a BMW as the 79 BMW Motorsport M3 continued to dominate proceedings holding a 1 lap lead over the second placed 23 BMS Porsche that was having its own GT2 battle with the 16 IMSA Matmut Porsche. As the sunshine took hold, bathing the Ardennes Forest in a brilliant morning light, the two BMWs led GTN followed by the 81 Gravity International Mosler in third 51 laps behind the class leader after it had spent so long in the pit at the beginning of the race. The GT3 73 Belgian Audi Club R8 led the 99 Marc VDS Ford GT by 5 laps, which held a 2 lap cushion over the United Autosports 68 Audi.
Hour 18 continued dry with the BMWs profiting as a result as the chasing Porches were thought to be quicker in the wet. Jorg Bergmeister said, after getting out of the 23 BMS car, “the BMWs are a second or two a lap faster than us. We are flat out but it will be tough to catch them”. The smart money would agree but, as with the last thing out of Pandora’s box, there is always hope.
The hour was incident free and saw the official retirement of the 98 Marc VDS Ford GT. The third place podium in GT2 remained an open race as both the 1 Ferrari of AF Corse and the 4 Prospeed Porsche were separated by a single lap. The third contender, 17 Matmut 911, having suffered a clutch problem that similarly affected the 7 Trackspeed 911. The 91 Porsche that had been running 3rd in GTN retired in the pit lane leaving only the Jet Alliance Porsche and the Marc VDS Mustang in the class. Bringing up the rear of the runners was the excellent little GT4 Aston of Jota and the two Speedlover entries. Nathan Heywood reporting from Spa