This morning at twenty minutes past eleven the field of almost 50 cars crossed the starting line for the Le Mans Series ‘Autosport 1000 km of Silverstone'. The last race for SNORAS Spyker Squadron this season was one of mixed results; the #94 Speedy Racing Team car finished 8th after being hit by another car in the early stages of the race. The #85 Spyker Squadron car finished 4th.
Although the morning started in foggy and cold conditions, the sun appeared an hour before the start. The weather conditions remained good throughout the race. Two Spyker's appeared at the start this morning; the #85 SNORAS Spyker Squadron car was driven by regulars Alexei Vasiliev and Ralf Kelleners. As Peter Dumbreck had other obligations in Japan, the drivers in the #85 were joined by Dutchman Tom Coronel, who last drove a Spyker in the 2006 Donington round. The #94 Speedy Racing Team car was again driven by Benjamin Leuenberger and Andrea Chiesa.
The race had a spectacular opening - in the first corner the #1 Audi and the #7 Peugeot collided - but it was also the first proof of the many accidents to follow in the later stages of the race. Fortunately the rest of the field had a clear start and the #85 car that qualified 6th could maintain its position.
Only 25 minutes in the race Andrea Chiesa reported over the radio that his #94 Spyker was hit by another car. Although his left rear suspension was damaged he was able to return to the pit box. The damaged car was pushed into the box -- allowing more mechanics to work on the car -- but it took the crew 16 minutes to replace the damaged suspension before it could rejoin the field.
After just over an hour in the race the other car was also hit by another car. fortunately it was not damaged and continued to slowly move forward in the competitive GT2 field. The first safety car came out after an hour and twenty minutes of racing after one of the leading Peugeot LMP's hit a slower GT car in the side.
Both Spyker's returned to the pit lane to make a quick stop while the safety car was still out. After twenty minutes both cars involved in the accident were removed from the track and green light was given to race again. The #85 car, with Tom still behind the wheel, was now running in a 5th position.
At a quarter to two o'clock the safety car went out again and Tom returned the car in P4 to hand it over to Russian Alexei Vasiliev. Alexei rejoined in fifth place and was able to reclaim P4 before handing over to Ralf Kelleners after about an hour. Ralf pushed hard to close the gap with the Ferrari running in third place. He reduced the gap to just over 20 seconds when both cars returned to the pit lane for new tires, fuel and a driver change. The Spyker pit stop was very quick and, when both cars returned to the track, the gap was limited to just 5.2 seconds. Although both Ralf and Tom improved their quickest times in the final hours of the race, it was impossible to close the gap further and the #85 SNORAS Spyker Squadron car finished in a fourth place.
Ralf Kelleners: "Everything went well today. We did not have the best setup of the year but still we had a strong car and in the race we were lucky and smart enough to stay out of trouble. It was great to fight the Ferrari's and it shows the progress we are making".
In the final stages of the race, the #94 was again hit by another car. The mechanics quickly fixed the damage and the car could rejoin. The Speedy Racing Team car finished 8th, the best place possible after having lost a lot of valuable time in the box.
Benjamin Leuenberger: "I tried my best but it was quite difficult today. We have been hit twice by another car today. When I got in the car the left mirror was missing due to our earlier contact. The steer was a also bit off due to the accident and the car was somewhat understeering. In the end I was hit by an LMP which pushed me to the left causing me to hit a Ferrari. There were a lot of accidents today and the ACO should be careful letting drivers join the Series with limited experience".
Peter van Erp: managing director Spyker Squadron: "The lap times of the Speedy Racing Team car were good and similar to the cars running for position 4 to 6. The Spyker Squadron car had a clean race and even had a fight for the 3rd place. I am happy with today's results and it gives us good hope for next season. The drivers did a great job and I also want to compliment the team: our pit stops are still among the quickest of the field! And finally I would like to thank all our sponsors and partners for their encouragement and support this season. From now till the beginning of next season we are planning to test and further improve the car".
Victor Muller CEO Spyker Cars: "We are very pleased with today's result although it is a pity we missed the podium just with the #85 car. This season should be seen as a general rehearsal for next year having recovered from 2007 in which we simply did not have the funds to develop our cars further. That has all changed now and we are anxious looking forward to the 2009 season after having executed an intense winter development program. We will not rest until we win".