It was a frantic start to the 1000km at Spa at 13.00 CET, where Werner Lupberger started in ninth position. Although rain was forecast, the race started dry but with drop of rain, and Technical Director John McNeil kept a close watch on the...
It was a frantic start to the 1000km at Spa at 13.00 CET, where Werner Lupberger started in ninth position. Although rain was forecast, the race started dry but with drop of rain, and Technical Director John McNeil kept a close watch on the skies for signs of approaching rain from the rolling clouds.
The first lap was dramatic, as the Zytek of Minassian and the Audi of Kaffer touched at Eau Rouge, the hill after the start. The Zytek pitted with a puncture, losing its lead place. The two Audis then made contact at the next bend, leaving Capello to take the lead in the Team Goh Audi. On lap 10, Kaffer took back the lead, and the Ayari's accident in the Pescarolo at Pouhon brought out two safety cars, but they did not place themselves correctly among the runners and in the confusion many of the cars lost a lap. At this point Werner was ninth in the Nasamax, and quickly pitted to refuel. At 20 laps, heavy rain started on the pits straight but the sun reappeared within minutes, making tyre choice difficult.
The number 8 Audi entered the pitlane after contact with a TVR, with bodywork missing and the rear of the car well alight, incredibly running the full length on fire to return to its pit. At this one hour point, Werner had jumped to fourth on the leaderboard as a result of the attrition and pit stops, and called in for wet weather tyres at 14.25.
Werner handed over to Romain Dumas at 15.05, the Nasamax changing to slicks in the drying conditions.
Werner: 'My start was very good, I got the Lister but he got me back quickly! It was very quiet in the traffic for about 15 minutes, and then it started. It was raining in three to four places around the track but you could tell it was not going to last. John's call for wets was spot on, one lap sooner or later and we could have spun, but they were just right for the track conditions at the time. We felt really quick out there with them, really comfortable. There were back markers every other lap, you have to be very careful. The track has such different grip, sometimes grippy and sometimes slippy in the wet.'
'The Pescarolo went off on oil someone had dropped before, and there was not dust put down on it, the marshals did not do anything.'
At 15.30, after most cars have pitted for tyre changes again, the Nasamax with Romain Dumas at the wheel lies in fifth place after 52 laps, 2 laps down on the Audi leader, in drying conditions, following the safety cars again after the Rollcentre Dallara went off at the top of Eau Rouge, badly damaging the car.
BIZARRE ACCIDENT ENDS PROMISING SHOW
At 16.15, while in fourth position, Romain Dumas was a passenger as the Nasamax Judd went off into the gravel trap at Pouhon, the other side of the circuit from the pits. TV pictures showed that the car had hit the tyre wall hard and suffered extensive damage to the front, but with no action pictures the team had to wait for Romain's return to the pits to hear the full story.
On his return, the story proved bizarre. Five minutes into his stint, he found his right racing boot was caught on something at the side of the accelerator pedal and he could not lift off around the left hander. Braking hard with his foot stuck on the accelerator as he crossed the gravel, he managed to pull his foot away just before the car struck the tyre wall.
When the car was brought back to the pits, the damage from the impact was evident to the right front corner, the floor and the right front bodywork. Data from the cars bears out Romain's story. During the repairs after the off in the warm up, new bolts were used through the side of the footwell which protruded further, and the ends may have been the cause of the chafing that frayed enough leather to get caught.
On his 68th lap, Romain had been flying behind the 2 Audis and the MG Lola, with the leading Audi unable to overtake for over four laps. It looked as though a third place and podium position might be possible.
Romain: 'At the moment I braked, a stitch at the side of my boot stayed under the throttle in some way, the throttle stayed open at 20%. I braked with my left foot, but it was too late, the car was gone. The instant the car hit the gravel, my boot freed itself, but I couldn't do anything and I hit the wall very hard. I am really pissed off, everything was going so well since the beginning of the race, and we had to pull out because of a bloody shoe.'