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Spa: Hour 4 report

Weather Hot and humid, but overcast. After four action-packed hours of racing, the nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello is leading the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. It is followed by the nr 11 GPC Ferrari 575 M Maranello, with the nr 2...

Weather
Hot and humid, but overcast.

After four action-packed hours of racing, the nr 1 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello is leading the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa. It is followed by the nr 11 GPC Ferrari 575 M Maranello, with the nr 2 BMS car, the previous leader, third after a drive-through penalty. The N-GT leader, the nr 77 Freisinger Yukos Motorsport Porsche, is fifth, with the nr 10 Zwaan's Racing Chrysler Viper an excellent fifth. The G2 leader, the nr 143 BMW M3 GTR, is fifth overall, despite losing a wheel after the Raidillon.

A thrilling first hour of the 2004 Proximus 24 hours of Spa saw the nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen of Uwe Alzen take an early lead, overtaking the pole setting nr 2 BMS Ferrari and immediately pulling away from the pack of followers, led by the second BMS car, which also passed its sister car at the start. In lap 8, the nr 62 Ferrari, which had lost the N-GT lead at the start to the nr 50 Freisinger Porsche with Collard at the wheel, hit the barriers at Les Combes. The crash damaged Pescatori's car badly and put an end to the race of the N-GT Championship leaders. "It's really terrible for the race and the Championship. We were very well prepared. But the car is almost destroyed, so it's finished," Fabrizio De Simone said right after the shunt.

The safety car was brought out while the wreck of the Ferrari was moved away - an opportunity plenty of drivers used to pit. When the safety car pulled off again in lap 11, the two BMS Ferraris were leading the race with the nr 7 Saleen of Graham Nash Motorsport in third position, neither of them having pitted during the safety car period. It was only in lap 24 that the leading nr 1 Ferrari and its sister car came into the pits. Livio took over from Bobbi, who explained: "Before the race we thought to do a double stint for me and the tyres. But the track is very dirty, it's a long race, so we didn't want to take any risks, and we're changing both."

With all the front-runners having been refueled, the nr 5 Saleen retook the lead, staying in front up to its second stop in lap 32 when Bartels took the wheel. The leader's pit stop briefly saw the nr 2 Ferrari taking over again, but they went on to pit a couple of laps later. Behind the once again leading nr 5 car and the Ferrari, the G2 nr 143 BMW with Antonio Garcia behind the wheel was in third position overall, while its sister car, the nr 142, was in trouble. Within a few laps, the BMW stopped at the garage four times after Jörg Müller had reported a problem with vibrations, and later with an air pressure pipe problem. On lap 76, they finally rejoined the race after a 34-minute pit-stop. Meanwhile, fortunes had turned for the second BMW as well, as it lost a wheel along the main straight after the Radillon and slowly maneuvered back to the pits.

On lap 78, drama struck race leader Michael Bartels. His nr 5 Vitaphone Saleen S7 slowed down dramatically and finally stopped at the side of the track, apparently suffering from a fuel pump problem, which buried their hopes of seeing the chequered flag and gaining as many points as possible from the race. The incident left BMS with a double lead, the nr 2 ahead of its sister car, with the nr 11 GPC Ferrari third and the leading N-GT car nr 50 in fourth position. But the nr 2 couldn't hold on to its lead for long, a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane demoting them to third. The nr 50 lost its position as well, after a technical problem forced them into the garage on lap 91. They rejoined the race shortly after, but lost positions and found themselves back in eighth overall and second in N-GT behind their sister car within Freisinger Yukos Motorsport, the nr 77 Porsche of Vasiliev, Bergmeister and Bernhard.

-fia-

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