Proximus 24 Hours of Spa Round 7 of the FIA GT Championship Race after 16 hours Sunday morning, 8 am. The cars have been running for 16 hours -- equivalent to five normal FIA GT races. Dawn has broken over Spa Francorchamps, with the rain...
Proximus 24 Hours of Spa
Round 7 of the FIA GT Championship
Race after 16 hours
Sunday morning, 8 am. The cars have been running for 16 hours -- equivalent to five normal FIA GT races. Dawn has broken over Spa Francorchamps, with the rain settling in after a dry, chilly night, when temperatures dropped as low as 7°. The race leader, with eight hours to go, was Jean-Philippe Belloc in the nr 7 Larbre Competition Chereau Chrysler Viper GTS-R. The Viper, which he shares with Christophe Bouchut and Marc Duez, had completed 400 laps of the track. He was followed by the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper, 38 seconds behind, with the second Larbre car, the nr 17 Bourdais/Dumez/Goueslard Viper, in third place. The N-GT class was led by the nr 77 RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R, which had just pitted for Dieter Quester to hand over to Luca Riccitelli. Stephane Ortelli was second in the nr 57 Freisinger Porsche, with the Perspective Porsche in third place. The category 2 leader was the nr 78 PSI Motorsport Team Porsche 996 GT3-R, with category 3 being led by the nr 95 Alexander Frei Lamborghini Diablo GTR.
A few minutes after the midnight fireworks, the leading Larbre Chrysler Viper nr 7, driven by Bouchut, came into the pits on three wheels, having lost the rear left wheel. The car rejoined the race after a quick stop, having retained the lead, but its margin on the sister nr 17 car of Bourdais-Dumez-Goueslard had been reduced from 2 laps to 1:15.
There were more problems for the Belmondo Chrysler Viper nr 11, driven by Bouvy, Derichebourg and Defourny, which had already lost a number of laps to replace two broken gearboxes. The American-built car hit the barriers at the Raidillion with Defourny at the wheel. It managed to come back to the pits, but the car had massive damage on the right side. The car is still in the pits, having spent nearly eight hours there since the start of the race.
The JMB Ferrari nr 62 rejoined the race with Terrien at the wheel, after a 26-minute 39-second stop for changing the alternator. They had been fourth in N-GT before the stop, but dropped to 18th overall, 7th in the N-GT, 18 laps behind the class leader. Shortly before 01:00 am, the nr 18 PSI Motorsport Porsche - Geboers, Cohen and Mollekens - withdrew with a broken gearbox.
In the N-GT category, the battle continued between the Freisinger, Art Engineering and RWS cars. The nr 54 Art car had been leading at midnight, but by 1 am, Chiesa in his Freisinger Porsche nr 57 had closed the gap to less than one minute, with the third-placed RWS Porsche nr 77 a further 30 seconds behind. However, soon afterwards the nr 54 hit the rail, with Collini at the wheel, and returned to the pits for a short stop. However, due to the highly competitive field, this put him back in third place.
Problems continued for the Paul Belmondo Vipers, with the nr 12 car losing time in the pits to repair the bonnet clasps, dropping from third to eighth. The same car came back in twenty minutes later, having lost the front left wheel, and was later awarded a stop and go penalty for not stopping at the red light after missing the Bus Stop chicane. Their nr 10 Viper also had a lengthy stop to change the front left wheel hub, rejoining in 15th position. In the meantime, the nr 3 Carsport Holland, which had led early on, recovered to third place, after losing time due to exhaust problems.
The leading GT cars were close together during the night hours, meaning that position changes took place as they came in for their routine stops. The Larbre cars were duelling at the front, with Bourdais and Duez swapping personal best times. The N-GT cars were close too. The nr 54 Art Porsche pitted and lost five laps in the pits, and the nr 55 Perspective Racing Porsche moved up to third place in N-GT.
Mid-way through the race, Duez's Larbre Viper nr 7 had covered 267 laps and led with a 28-second margin over the team's sister car nr 17 and a 33-second over Tassin's Carsport Viper nr 3. The Silver Racing Viper nr 26 was fourth three laps behind ; Vosse's Belmondo Viper nr 12 was fifth six laps from the leader.
On the same lap as the Belmondo Viper was the nr 21 GLPK Viper and the leading car in the N-GT class: the RWS Porsche nr 77, followed by the nr 57 Freisinger Porsche. The nr 54 Art Porsche had lost 16 laps behind the N-GT lead after a series of pit stops to solve misfiring problems; the Italian team was forced to change all the spark plugs and coils twice, and the ECU once.
Just after 4 am, Thierry Tassin set a new fastest lap, with a time of 2:24.140 in the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R. The two Larbre Vipers and the Carsport car continued to exchange the lead as they made their stops. A longer stop for the nr 17 Larbre dropped them down to third place.
In the early morning, at 06:35, the NGT class-leader, nr 57 Freisinger Porsche, stopped with a broken radiator. The RWS Porsche nr 77, which had earlier lost time with fuel feeding problems, moved back into the lead. Ortelli rejoined after 21 minutes, third in his class and 6 laps behind the leader. The nr 55 Perspective Porsche was second. Ortelli responded by setting the fastest N-GT race lap so far, with a time of 2:29.022.
At 07:30, the rain made an unwelcome reappearance at Spa Francorchamps, with a brief but heavy shower bringing some cars in for intermediate tyres, while Belloc, in the leading nr 7 Larbre Viper, stayed out on slicks. Shortly before the rain, the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper, with Mike Hezemans at the wheel, had set a new fastest lap, with a time of 2:23.001.
Race notes and quotes
David Terrien - nr 62 JMB Ferrari: "Our car is so easy and perfectly balanced ; it is real pleasure to drive it through the night. We are keeping a smooth pace to save the engine and transmission. We are a bit handicapped by the sporting regulations that limit the stints to three hours ; with this fuel consumption we could stay longer."
Wim Daems - nr 21 GLPK Viper: "At the beginning of the race we had some problems in organising the pit-stops, but now everything is working very well. The car is fantastic and we don't have any problems in maintaining fifth position."
Paul Kumpen - team owner nr 21 GLPK Viper: "We are really happy because we started as an underdog, with one of the drivers who had never even driven the Viper before, and now we are fighting just behind the podium positions. It's an outstanding performance for a team that is very young and has still a lot to learn."
Emmanuel Clérico - nr 12 Belmondo Viper: "We had a lot of stupid problems that cost us so much time. Then the stewards gave me a penalty. But nothing is lost yet, the race is still so long !"
Sébastien Bourdais - nr 17 Larbre Viper: "I believe that we have adopted the right strategy. We are not having reliability problems, but I really risked having a big shunt when I made a scary spin at Blanchimont sliding on the oil lost by a Porsche. I was lucky not to touch any of the barriers. I am crossing my fingers, hoping that luck will continue to stay with us."
Claude-Yves Gosselin - nr 10 Belmondo Viper: "Now the fatigue is becoming more and more apparent, for us and for the car. We had so many technical problems in the first half of the race that now the car is very difficult to drive."
Further information and photos available on http://www.gtracing.net and http://www.spa24hours.com