Night finally fell over Spa Francorchamps, and as temperatures fell, the cooler air refreshed the hot engines. After the hectic early laps, the field settled down slightly during the second four-hour period. At midnight, the race was led by ...
Night finally fell over Spa Francorchamps, and as temperatures fell, the cooler air refreshed the hot engines. After the hectic early laps, the field settled down slightly during the second four-hour period.
At midnight, the race was led by Championship leaders Bouchut and Belloc , supported by local star Marc Duez, in the Larbre Chrysler Viper nr 7, followed by Vosse/Clerico/Helary in the nr 12 Belmondo Viper and Bourdais/Goueslard/Dumez in the nr 17 Larbre Viper. The FIA N-GT class is led by Babini, Collini, Malcharek and Peter in the nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche while the PSI Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R, driven by de Groodt, Tollenaire and Palttala, is leading Category 3 and the nr 95 Lamborghini Diablo GTR, of Frei, Velay ,Lorent and De Winter is leading the Category 4.
After four hours, the nr 3 Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper was still leading, but a pit stop of 6.55 minutes, to change a cracked exhaust, dropped the car back by over two laps. Hezemans gave the wheel to Jeroen Bleekemolen who fought back to the third position by lap 125. This long pit stop handed the lead of the race over to Eric Van de Poele in the nr. 5 Ferrari. On lap 106, Van de Poele pitted to give the car to Belgian driver Philippe Steveny. The nr 7 Larbre Competition Chéreau Chrysler Viper, which had continued its gradual rise up the field, took the lead of the race shortly before 21:00; the first time that the Championship leader had been in command at Spa this weekend.
The Ferrari and the Larbre Chrysler Viper continued to swap the race lead, the Ferrari moving to the front when Duez pitted to hand over to Bouchut, and the Viper regaining the advantage when Steveny went to the pits to hand over to Chouvel.
On lap 140, the race took a dramatic turn with the retirement of the nr. 58 Freisinger Porsche, driven at the time by Tim Verbergt. Following a collision with the nr. 94 Porsche, the car had its wheel torn off. The nr. 79 Seikel Motorsport went into the gravel trap trying to avoid the collision and the oil spread on the track by the nr. 94 Porsche. This series of events resulted in the intervention of the safety car for 4 laps as oil was spread over the track.
When the safety car pulled off the track, the nr. 3 Carsport Holland Viper made another unscheduled pit stop, for a second intervention on the exhaust. This lost them 4 positions in the classification. There was great disappointment for the Rafanelli team when, on lap 150, Martial Chouvel brought the nr 5 Ferrari 550 Maranello into the pits. The car was pushed into its garage "It must be either the exhaust, or the engine but there is definitely a strange noise", the driver said. It was later confirmed that the car had retired from the race due to an engine failure.
After the nr. 3 Carsport Holland Viper’s series of exhaust problems, and the retirement of the nr. 5 Rafanelli Ferrari, the nr. 26 Silver Racing Chrysler Viper rose to second position overall, before dropping back to fourth as first the nr 12 Belmondo Racing and then the nr 17 Larbre Competition Vipers overtook it. Patrice Goueslard, at the wheel of the Larbre Viper, was happy with the car’s progress. "Sebastien and I are still learning the Viper but the atmosphere here in Spa is great. The moon is beautiful and it does not rain. We do not take any risk and come back slowly to the front. We have no pressure".
In lap 159, the safety car came out again for the fourth time, due to an accident involving the nr. 79 Porsche and stayed on the track for 3 laps. The car later retired ; it had been leading Category 2 at the time.
In the N-GT class, the nr. 57 Freisinger Porsche driven by Stephane Ortelli led for most of the time until it was among a group of 12 cars which were all awarded 60 seconds stop and go penalties for overtaking the safety car. Furthermore, the car’s radio system failed and Ortelli came in for fuel in lap 137 unexpectedly. The ART Porsche nr. 54 therefore inherited the lead in the class.
The N-GT Championship leading JMB Ferrari 360 Modena, which had been keeping to a steady race pace, was in fourth position in its class when Andrea Garbagnati put it in the gravel. The car came back to the pits, smoking, shortly before midnight, and was pushed into the garage to change the alternator belt.
Gabriele Rafanelli– team owner nr. 5 Ferrari– "It’s a shame. We have started our strategy to move our attack during the night. We were about to give the car back to Naspetti and he had the order to push at the limit. Anyway, we have proved that the car can also be competitive in long distance races."
Mario Cavagnero– motorist nr. 5 Ferrari : "Something broke in the engine, it may be the camshaft. But we are very satisfied because for seven hours, we have been fighting for the lead. Considering that all the top teams were here but the Lister, we are expecting good results in the next rounds."
Eric de Doncker– nr. 26 Silver Racing Viper : "We are not surprised to be in the top positions as we knew since the beginning of the season that our car was very good. We had some bad luck in the previous rounds. We benefit from Massimo del Prete’s experience (Italtecnica engineer) who chose a fantastic set up for the car. I’ve been rather surprised I could easily follow and overtake the Larbre and Belmondo Vipers tonight."