Spa: 24H race report

Sunshine and a few drops of rain, the beautiful circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, a race which kept everyone guessing until the very end, three different makes on the podium -- the 58th Edition of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa delivered everything...

Sunshine and a few drops of rain, the beautiful circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, a race which kept everyone guessing until the very end, three different makes on the podium -- the 58th Edition of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa delivered everything that could have been wished for. Vitaphone Racing claimed a second consecutive win, while AF Corse took a fine one-two in GT2. Manthey Racing won the G2 class with the new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, and Signa Racing was victorious in G3 with the Dodge Viper Competition Coupe.

PROXIMUS 24 HOURS OF SPA -- VITAPHONE MASERATI MC 12 CLAIMS SECOND WIN

The showpiece of the FIA GT Championship, the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, delivered a stunning race, with the result in doubt right until the final round of pit-stops. The nr 1 Vitaphone Racing Maserati MC12 came out on top, just a handful of seconds ahead of the nr 5 Phoenix Racing Aston Martin after a titanic race-long battle. The final podium place went to the nr 4 GLPK Carsport Corvette C6.R

24-hour races are often decided long before the finish, with a leader several laps clear able to treat the final hour as a cruise to the flag. Not at Spa; the result was decided with less than 20 laps remaining, when the final stop for the two leading cars was made. That stop saw the nr 1 squad of Eric van de Poele, Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini retain the lead, and that was enough for them to claim victory, ahead of the nr 5 team of Stephane Lemeret, Jean-Denis Deletraz and Andrea Piccini, which had led the field for much of the race, and claimed full points at both six and twelve hours.

That the nr 4 GLPK Corvette crew of Mike Hezemans, Bert Longin, Anthony Kumpen and Kurt Mollekens took third is a tribute to the strength of the engine, as the team were having to top up the oil at every stop over the closing stages, as well as shortening the length of each stint.

Aston Martin Racing BMS finished fourth with the nr 23 car of Pescatori, Babini, Enge and Kox. Brno winners Zakspeed had looked certain of a podium finish for the Saleen S7, running strongly until the closing sections of the race, until a broken wishbone dropped them back the order. They finished 6th in GT1 after stopping with a cooling liquid leak. PSI Experience put in a fine performance, placing both their Corvette C6 and C5 cars in fifth and seventh respectively. The final point went to Race Alliance, the last car classified, despite stopping with a transmission problem.

AF CORSE DOMINATE ALL-FERRARI PODIUM

AF Corse utterly dominated the GT2 category, their two Ferrari 430 GT2 cars holding first and second for more than three-quarters of the race. At the flag it was the nr 59 team of Mika Salo, Rui Aguas and Timo Scheider who took first ahead of Matteo Bobbi, Jaime Melo and Stephane Ortelli in the sister nr 58 car. The nr 62 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 430 GT2 of Nathan Kinch, Andrew Kirkaldy and Marino Franchitti took third, over ten laps back.

The Spyker Squadron C8 Spyder finished fourth for Bleekemolen, Kane and Crevels after a strong performance. The nr 66 Team Felbermayr-Proton car was the leading Porsche , with a fifth-place finish for the two father-and-son teams running together. Considering that Porsche has won the GT2/N-GT class every other year at Spa, this is indicative of the real change in the category this year. Ebimotors, whose drivers Collard and Riccitelli were leading the Drivers classification before Spa, had a difficult race. The nr 75 had a problem early on, stopping at the bottom of the pit-lane and forcing Collard to push it back up towards the line where the mechanics could reclaim it. Later on, a puncture in the Raidillon saw him crash out. The nr 74 car also failed to finish. Collard and Riccitelli are now lying third in the points.

The second Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari finished sixth, just ahead of the leading G2 Porsche. The Ice Pol Racing Porsche was seventh, ahead of the RSV Motorsport Ferrari

MANTHEY RACING AND SIGNA RACING CLAIM G2 AND G3 HONOURS

Although Manthey Racing did not come under serious threat for the G2 win, their Porsche cars did not have an easy 24-hour race, as technical problems beset the brand-new car. The winning car, the nr 197 Porsche of Lucas Luhr, Sascha Maassen and Marcel Thiemann, lost time changing a rear upright, while the sister nr 111 crew of Timo Bernhard, Marc Lieb and Pedro Lamy spent an entire hour in the garage changing a gearbox, yet still finished 13 laps clear of the nr 179 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena of Didier de Radigues, Charles de Pauw, Alain Van den Hove and Paul Belmondo.

G3 saw many lead changes, mostly as cars hit problems; the nr 116 Signa Racing Dodge Viper Competition Coupe of Patrick Chaillet, Laurent Nef, Loic Demans and Christophe Geoffroy took the honours at the flag, seven laps ahead of Francois Duval, Christophe Kerkhove, Christian Kelders and Pascal Nielssen-Grade in the nr 195 Prospeed Competition Porsche 997 GT3 Cup. Third went to the nr 113 Pouchelon Racing Dodge Viper Competition Coupe of Gilles Duqueine, Gael Lesoudier, Benoît Rousselot and Stephane Lacroix Wasover, another 20 laps further back. An excellent result for the new GT3 cars, as they proved they could last the full 24 hours.

BERTOLINI AND BARTELS STRETCH OUT POINTS LEAD

Scoring 18 out of a possible 20 points, Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels have further strengthened their lead in the GT1 Drivers Classification. This is their third win out of four races, and Vitaphone Racing Team has now a 22-point lead over Phoenix Motorsport in the Teams Classification.

Jean-Denis Deletraz and Andrea Piccini have leap-frogged Janis and Bert in the points, to be lying second.

AF CORSE DRIVERS LEAD THE GT2 DRIVERS CLASSIFICATION

With the nr 59 and nr 58 Ferrari 430 GT2 cars sharing the first and second places at each scoring position in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, all four regular AF Corse drivers are now tied on 36 points. They are followed by Collard and Riccitelli, Kinch and Kirkaldy, all on 20 points. The GT2 class is definitely very close this season !

Four different classes with four different makes taking victory; three different makes standing on the GT1 podium; the result in doubt until the final 45 minutes. In complete contrast to last year's race, the weather was almost entirely sunny and hot. This was one of the greatest 24-hour races in the FIA GT Championship -- once again, Spa has produced a classic. Next stop -- Paul Ricard and the fifth round of the FIA GT Championship, on August 20th.

-fiagt.com

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About this article
Series Blancpain Sprint
Teams Aston Martin Racing , AF Corse , Prospeed Competition , Team Felbermayr , Phoenix Racing , Team Zakspeed