Rain. Sunshine. Numerous leader changes. A Ferrari leading in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa for the first time in decades. N-GT cars challenging their more powerful rivals. 40,000 spectators watching the start. And already a race distance covered...
Rain. Sunshine. Numerous leader changes. A Ferrari leading in the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa for the first time in decades. N-GT cars challenging their more powerful rivals. 40,000 spectators watching the start. And already a race distance covered longer than the usual FIA GT Championship race. Spa has fully lived up to its reputation. After four hours of the 53rd running of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa, 90 laps of the Spa Francorchamps have been covered, and the nr. 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper is leading the race, followed by the nr 5 Rafanelli Ferrari 550 Maranello, with the nr 7 Larbre Competition Chereau Chrylser Viper in third place. The N-GT class is extremely close, with pit-stops determining the leader, but as four hours approached, the nr. 57 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R was leading ahead of the nr. 77 RWS Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R, with the nr. 54 Art Engineering Porsche 996 GT3-R third.
Category 2 was led by the nr. 79 Seikel Porsche 996 GT3-R, in an excellent 5th place overall, while the Land Motorsport Porsche Carrera 996 led the category 3.
The race started calmly, with Mike Hezemans pulling away from pole, and building up a comfortable lead on a dry track. He was followed by the nr. 5 Rafanelli Ferrari 550 Maranello, with Emanuele Naspetti at the wheel, while Sebastiaan Bleekemolen in the nr. 4 Carsport Viper and Christophe Bouchut, having risen rapidly up the field from 11th on the grid, fought for third place. The nr. 17 Larbre Viper was the first to pit, having made a wrong gamble on intermediate tyres, while the nr 11 Paul Belmondo Viper dropped right back after two successive gear-box changes.
However, the rain, ever a threat at Spa, was not long in coming. After 45 minutes, a shower meant that teams had to choose between staying out on slicks, or pitting for intermediate tyres. Sebastiaan Bleekemolen led the race for three laps, before pitting and leaving Vincent Vosse, in the nr 12 Paul Belmondo Chrysler Viper GTS-R, in the lead.
There was a short safety car period after one hour, caused by the nr 93 Lamborghini Diablo hitting the barriers, which closed the cars up. The rain ceased, and as the track dried, the cars began pitting for slicks once more. Vosse remained in the lead, but, Stephane Ortelli, in the nr. 57 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R, who had stayed out on slick tyres, rose up to an amazing second overall, with Xavier Pompidou in the nr. 58 Freisinger Porsche just behind him in third.
As the track dried, the GT cars retook the command, with Jeroen Bleekemolen in the nr. 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper chasing race-leader Vincent Vosse. When the leaders pitted, the Rafanelli Ferrari 550 Maranello was left in command. This historic moment came 48 years after a Ferrari last won the 24 Hours of Spa. His lead lasted for two laps, before 4-times winner Thierry Tassin took the lead back. Ortelli having handed the nr. 57 Freisinger Porsche to his team-mate Andrea Chiesa, Luca Riccitelli was leading the NGT class, in fourth place overall. After a long stint of 2 hours and 40 minutes, he handed over to Dieter Quester, with the nr. 54 ART Engineering Porsche 996 GT3-R inheriting the class lead. A second brief shower took place after 2 hours and 30 minutes of racing,
A spectacular crash took place on lap 78, when Jean Michel Martin had just taken over the nr. 4 Carsport Holland. He spun off the track, coming to rest alongside the barriers. The car was suddenly hit by the rear of the spinning nr. 10 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper, which bounced off and went back on to the track. The safety car came out again, with racing resuming at 3 hours and 39 minutes into the race.