Numerous changes of leader, three safety car periods and torrential rain -- the first three hours of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa have been action-packed and have included all of the features expected from the spectacular Belgian track. After...
Numerous changes of leader, three safety car periods and torrential rain -- the first three hours of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa have been action-packed and have included all of the features expected from the spectacular Belgian track. After three hours, the leading N-GT car, the nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-RS is also leading the race, behind the safety car. The leading GT car, the 14 Lister Storm, which had started the race from the back of the grid, was in second place.
The 2003 running of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa finally got underway after three formation laps, starting at 16:10, with the nr 2 Konrad Saleen S7-R soon getting ahead of the pole position holder Fabrizio Gollin and pulling away. The Vipers began to overtake the Ferrari cars, with first the nr 4 Force One car and then the nr 1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper moving up to slot in behind the Viper. In N-GT, the nr 61 EMKA Porsche was the leader in the early laps, with Tim Sugden at the wheel. There were mixed fortunes for the Lister Storm cars, with the nr 15 making an early pit stop for a tyre change, while the nr 14 made rapid progress up the field, lying 8th after 12 laps.
The safety car came out after 30 minutes of the race, when the nr 4 Force One Chrysler Viper GTS-R, with Mike Hezemans at the wheel, hit the tyre barriers at the top of the Raidillon, burying itself under the tyres. Mike was unhurt, but the car was severely damaged, and the safety car stayed out for 40 minutes, while the barriers were rebuilt. "I am OK, but I have no clue what happened, " Mike said afterwards. "I came in as usual and the car just wouldn't steer to the right." During that time, the nr 18 Zwaan's Racing Viper also had problems, stopping on the side of the track with possible transmission problems, while the nr 25 Paul Belmondo Viper took advantage of the safety car period to pit after stopping with clutch problems.
Shortly after 17:00, with the safety car still on the track, it started to rain lightly, growing heavier but not heavy enough to bring the cars in for rain tyres. When the safety car procedure finished, the nr 2 Konrad Saleen was still in the lead, ahead of the nr 1 Larbre Viper, with the nr 9 JMB Ferrari third, having got ahead of the nr 23 BMS car at the restart. In N-GT, the leading nr 61 EMKA Porsche was up to 14th place, closely followed by the nr 52 JMB Ferrari and the nr 50 Freisinger Porsche, which had overtaken the TMC cars.
At 17:27, the safety car came out again when the nr 115 G3 class BMW Z3 went off the track, being stranded in the middle of the car, making a total of 4 cars out of the race in less than two hours. The safety car stayed out for 15 minutes, during which time most of the GT cars made their first pit stops, meaning that the N-GT cars rose up to the top, with the nr 61 EMKA Porsche leading the race after 30 laps, closely followed by the nr 15 Lister Storm and the nr 52 JMB Ferrari 360 Modena.
The race was officially declared wet on lap 31. The race leader, the nr 61 came into the pits and the nr 52 JMB car took the lead, followed by the nr 7. A third safety car period allowed the nr 18 Zwaan's Racing car, which had stopped again alongside the track, to be recovered. After the race restarted, 18 minutes later, the rain had become torrential. Three new race leaders succeeded each other at the front - the nr 66 Autorlando Porsche, the nr 77 RWS Yukos Porsche with Daoudi at the wheel, and the nr 14 Lister Storm, which moved up to the lead from the back of the grid. As the heavy rain continued, the nr 14 Lister Storm remained in the lead, ahead of the nr 50 Freisinger Porsche and the nr 15 Lister Storm. On lap 50, after nearly 2 hours and 40 minutes of racing, there was a scare for the leading Lister when it went wide under braking for La Source, but the car recovered and retained the lead, the nr 50 car closing on the leader.
Just after 19:00, there was a collision on the straight before Malmedy, affecting the nr 51 Freisinger Motorsport and the nr 107 Morgan Aero, which brought out the safety car again. Under the safety car period, just before the three-hour consecutive driving limit, the nr 14 and 15 Lister Storm cars, came in for driver changes, with Tom Coronel taking over the nr 14 car and David Sterckx taking over the nr 15 car. The nr 50 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche took the lead behind the safety car.