Spa: 24-hour race report

A thrilling race saw the closest finish yet since the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa has been part of the FIA GT Championship. After 558 laps of non-stop combat round the beautiful and challenging circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, the nr 2 BMS Scuderia ...

A thrilling race saw the closest finish yet since the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa has been part of the FIA GT Championship. After 558 laps of non-stop combat round the beautiful and challenging circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, the nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello of Lilian Bryner, Luca Cappellari, Fabrizio Gollin and Enzo Calderari finished a lap ahead of its race-long rival, the nr 11 GPC Giesse Squadra Corse Ferrari 575 M Maranello of Philipp Peter, Fabio Babini, Vincent Vosse and Mika Salo. This was the first time that a female driver has taken overall victory in the 24-hour race, which moreover took place on the Swiss national day, providing a fitting celebration for Bryner and Calderari.

In a race which saw only 22 cars cross the finish line, Freisinger Motorsport claimed a fine one-two-three in N-GT; the three yellow and green Porsche 996 GT3-RS cars finished third, fourth and fifth overall, led by the nr 50 car of Ortelli, Collard and Dumas.

Weather: Unusually for Spa, the weather remained dry throughout : hot and humid, the cars and drivers suffered in the heat instead of in 2003's rain.

GT: Victory for BMS Scuderia Italia

Starting from pole position, the nr 2 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello claimed a fine win in the 2004 Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, following on from the second place it claimed in 2003. Running like clockwork, the team and drivers put in a fantastic job, taking the lead from the nr 11 GPC Giesse Squadra Ferrari 575 M Maranello by virtue of fewer problems and shorter pit-stops. Third at the six-hour point, the crew of Gollin, Cappellari, Bryner and Calderari led at both the twelve-hour and full race distance, scoring 18 points in total. The race was significantly closer than the previous three rounds of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa run as part of the FIA GT Championship, and the total race distance covered was thirty laps more than the previous highscore.

The nr 11 GPC Ferrari 575 M of Babini, Peter, Salo and Vosse finished second after leading for much of the race. They took the maximum points at the six-hour mark, and were leading from just after the mid-race until lap 443, when a longer pit-stop to fix a broken diffuser at the rear gave the BMS car the advantage. This is the new team's best-ever result, and with a total score of twenty over the race, GPC Giesse Squadra Corse have taken a comfortable second place in the GT Teams classification.

Third place went to the second BMS car, the nr 1 driven by Bobbi, Gardel, Livio and de Castro. The strong line-up had a crash around midnight, and a long pit-stop dropped them back. They recovered to finish in seventh overall. Fourth went to the nr 17 JMB Racing Ferrari 575 M Maranello of Longin, Wendlinger, Müller and Corthals, with the Force One Chrysler Viper in a fine fifth for Alliot, Jakubowski, Gilbert and Labhardt. The second GPC car, which suffered from clutch problems, finished sixth, with the nr 18 JMB Ferrari the final GT car classified. Among those which retired, special mention should go to Zwaan's Racing, whose all-Belgian nr 10 Chrysler Viper put in an excellent performance, running third at the mid-race point. The nr 9 car did not set a lap, failing at the start, but driver Val Hillebrand earned the applause of the public, pushing his Viper single-handedly back up the hill to the pit-lane, in order to give the car to the mechanics.

In the points, Gollin and Cappellari have further strengthened their lead, with 62 each ahead of Bobbi and Gardel's 48.5. Babini and Peter both have 40; the end of the season promises to see a close fight ! In the teams, BMS Scuderia Italia has a over twice as many points as GPC Giesse Squadra Corse, in second place. Vitaphone Racing Team, whose Saleen was an impressive early race leader before going out with possible fuel pump problems, has dropped down one place to fourth.

N-GT: Freisinger One Two Three

After the historic victory in 2003, Freisinger Motorsport has continued its tradition of overall podium finishes at Spa, with its third consecutive top-three finish. The nr 50 Freisinger Yukos Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS of Ortelli, Collard and Dumas finished third overall and first in N-GT. The trio completed 545 laps of the circuit, and had a two-lap lead over the nr 77 Freisinger Yukos car of Berhard, Bergmeister and Vasiliev. Maassen, Luhr and Lieb were fifth overall and third in N-GT, having recovered after a difficult early part of the race, when they lost time in the pits following a trip into the gravel. The JWR Racing Porsche of Jordan, Jones and Jones was the 'best of the rest' in fourth, ahead of the father-and-son Proton Competition Porsche, driven by Gerold and Christian Ried, Horst Felbermayr father and son. The Autorlando Porsche, which had recovered after Liz Halliday put in an amazing effort to remove her car's broken wheel and get back to the pits on just three wheels, finished sixth, with the Cirtek Motorsport Porsche in seventh and last of the classified cars.

In the points, Ortelli and Collard have 66 ahead of Maassen and Luhr on 55.5. De Simone and Pescatori, whose GPC Ferrari 360 Modena made a premature exit after a heavy crash, are on 36. For the next race, in Imola, Ortelli and Collard will have 75 kg penalty weight.

In the Teams classification, Freisinger Yukos Motorsport have 100 points, ahead of 55.5 for the sister team, Freisinger Motorsport, with GPC Giesse Squadra Corse third.

G2: BMW wins through

BMW Motorsport's nr 142 BMW M3 GTR won the G2 category for cars from national championships. Hans-Joachim Stuck, Jörg and Dirk Müller had a difficult start, with a number of extra pit stops due to vibrations and then a loose starter motor cable, but made steady progress afterwards to finish a fine sixth overall. The team's second car had been lying third overall during the night, but went out with electric problems, stranded at Stavelot.

G3: Mühlner Motorsport dominates

A fine one-two for Belgian team Mühlner Motorsport saw the nr 123 and 124 Porsche 996 GT3 Cup cars finish tenth and eleventh overall, winning the G3 category for cars from single-make cups and trophies. The winning team included Vanina Ickx, Jean-François Hemroulle and Swiss journalist/racer Peter Wyss. With Sylvie Delcour on the podium in third place in the nr 115 EBRT Lotus Elise, in third place, this made three women drivers on the podiums at Spa, plus a points finish for Liz Halliday - a good weekend for women's motorsport !

-fia-

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Fabrizio Gollin , Dirk Müller , Hans-Joachim Stuck , Mika Salo , Vanina Ickx , Vincent Vosse , Val Hillebrand , Christian Ried , Fabio Babini , Liz Halliday , Enzo Calderari , Lilian Bryner , Sylvie Delcour , Philipp Peter , Jean-François Hemroulle , Peter Wyss