Vitaphone leads with six hours complete in Spa 24H

Vitaphone Racing's Maserati MC12s currently hold the top two positions overall in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, with six hours complete. Darkness has fallen over the Ardennes, with teams racing into the night around the classic Spa-Francorchamps ...

Vitaphone Racing's Maserati MC12s currently hold the top two positions overall in the Total 24 Hours of Spa, with six hours complete. Darkness has fallen over the Ardennes, with teams racing into the night around the classic Spa-Francorchamps circuit. However, there has been a major shakeup at the top of the leaderboard shortly before the quarter-distance mark, as the No. 5 Phoenix Carsport Racing Corvette C6.R of Alex Margaritis stopped on-track and caught fire, bringing out the first safety car period of the race.

Margaritis had been running solidly in the top-five overall, leading for much of the fifth hour thanks to a super stint put in by co-driver Uwe Alzen. However, midway into hour six, his Corvette spun, giving the lead back to the sister No. 6 entry of Mike Hezemans. Margaritis regained control of the car but then went off for a second time, this time stopping on track in flames. The car was taken away on a flatbed and presumably has been retired.

As the safety car was deployed on the 7.004-km circuit, the two Vitaphone Racing machines ended up out front, as Hezemans came into the pits for service a few laps earlier. This put Andrea Bertolini in the No. 1 Maserati in the lead, ahead of the sister No. 2 entry of Xandi Negrao. Hezemans dropped back to fourth, behind the No. 10 Gigawave Motorsport Aston Martin DBR9 of Darren Turner in third. These positions proved crucial for championship regulars, as half points were awarded at the six-hour mark (and will be at 12 hours, too).

Hezemans and co-drivers Marcel Fassler, Fabrizio Gollin and Jean-Denis Deletraz in the No. 6 Phoenix Carsport Corvette have been the team to beat so far, leading the majority of the opening six hours. The Corvette started from the first position after the pole-sitting Larbre Competition Saleen S7-R was destroyed in a devastating warm-up accident. Steve Zacchia, who was aboard the Saleen at the time, was uninjured but the car was not repairable for the start of the race.

After making repairs following its accident on Thursday, Selleslagh Racing Team's Corvette C6.R made the start, but didn't last long in the race. Xavier Maassen in fact led the opening few laps after starting from the third position, only to quickly run into brake problems. The Dutch driver suffered two offs, the second incident causing bodywork damage to the Corvette. Once Maassen limped the car back to the pit lane, the team elected to call it a day due to lack of spare parts.

The race has also been greeted with on-and-off sprinkles of rain, but the majority of teams elected to stay on slick rubber under the damp conditions in the opening hours. However, the rain began to pick up during the safety car period at the end of the sixth hour, forcing many to pit for wet weather tires.

The battle for the GT2 crown has been a mixed affair, with the No. 77 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari F430 GT of Paolo Ruberti currently up front, followed closely by the No. 50 AF Corse Ferrari of Toni Vilander, which has moved up to second after starting the race from the pit lane. The No. 61 Prospeed Competition Porsche of Marc Lieb runs in third.

IMSA Performance Matmut's Porsche of Richard Lietz, Patrick Long and Raymond Narac led the way during the middle hours but have since dropped to fourth. The fight between the Ferraris and Porches has never been closer, and looks to continue into the night.

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Series Blancpain Sprint
Drivers Fabrizio Gollin , Darren Turner , Marcel Fassler , Patrick Long , Mike Hezemans , Marc Lieb , Andrea Bertolini , Paolo Ruberti , Steve Zacchia , Xavier Maassen , Toni Vilander , Richard Lietz
Teams AF Corse , Prospeed Competition , Larbre Competition , IMSA Performance Matmut