ALD Automotive / Vita4One Ferrari Spa 24 Hours Report

Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps

ALD Automotive and Vita4One Ferrari experience a hallucinating 24 Hours of Spa

The ‘Belgian’ Ferrari 458 GT3 entered by ALD Automotive and Vita4One Ferrari, with Nico Verdonck and Eric van de Poele, teamed up with Jean-Karl Vernay, had disappeared from the race several hours earlier, when a highly improbable event took place for the team. Around the midday hour the two remaining Ferrari 458 cars were lying within the top-5, with a brilliant third place for the quartet comprised out of Louis Machiels, Niek Hommerson, Andrea Bertolini and Michael Bartels. In his last pit stop Louis Machiels took off rather too soon and for that was penalised with a drive-through, which due to a faulty on-board radio communication he did not immediately receive. For that the Belgian ALD Automotive driver received the most severe penalty: disqualification. With that not only was a podium place lost, but on top of that also victory in the Pro-Am class and taking the lead in the Blancpain Endurance Series championship. “Devastating, exaggerated and pure injustice”, is how Matthys Hoffmann, the Deputy General Manager of ALD Automotive, summed up the situation. The team’s only highlight was the hard fought for and well deserved fifth place gained by the Frank Kechele (D)-Matteo Bobbi (It)-Giacomo Petrobelli (It) trio in the ALD Automotive and Vita4One black-red Ferrari. In the intermediate European Championship rankings of the Blancpain Endurance Series Frank Kechele comes out well.

#1 Vita4One Ferrari 458 Italia: Eric van de Poele, Nico Verdonck, Jean-Karl Vernay
#1 Vita4One Ferrari 458 Italia: Eric van de Poele, Nico Verdonck, Jean-Karl Vernay

Photo by: Lucien Harmegnies

Matthys Hoffmann: “During a pit stop the engine of the Ferrari started up just before the car was back on the ground and for that we were awarded a drive-through penalty, which implies driving back through the pit lane. You are only allowed to start the engine once the four wheels are on the ground. Due to a radio communication problem Louis did not immediately hear the penalty and as such only came back in to the pits one or two laps too late, which is not allowed. But to disqualify him, and the entire team of the car bearing #2, and on top of that to rob them of a class victory, an overall podium place and placing them in the lead of the championship is something that I just cannot swallow. In the past I have seen things, not the least in the GT World Championship last year, happen on the track which were far worse and which remained unpunished. Two measures and two weights? I don’t know, however I do know that Niek and Louis are completely devastated and in the future might well drop Spa. Any form of nuance, whereby any difference between the letter and the spirit of the law might be taking into consideration was definitely not noticeable here. The Clerk of the Course could just as easily have given a three or five minute penalty; I would not have had any problems with that. I’m truly deeply disappointed and I’m now going to look everything through.”

In the meanwhile the Ferrari 458 GT3 manned by Eric van de Poele, Nico Verdonck and Jean-Karl Vernay had retired earlier from the race following a series of problems , as compared to the car of Frank Kechele -Matteo Bobbi-Giacomo Petrobelli, who finished in a brilliant fifth place, and a debut for the Ferrari in long distance events..

Frank Kechele: “You need to remember that this car has only been competing for a mere four months, in which time we have run in two races with a victory for the team in Navarra. It goes without saying that we might well have finished higher up, but this fifth place, with still two other Italian GT3s in the de top-10, clearly proves the strength of the make. The team was absolutely super and I’m now going flat out to clinch the title in the Blancpain Endurance Series.”

By: ALD Automotive and Vita4One

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About this article
Series Endurance
Drivers Eric van de Poele , Michael Bartels , Matteo Bobbi , Andrea Bertolini , Nico Verdonck , Giacomo Petrobelli , Jean-Karl Vernay , Niek Hommerson , Louis Machiels , Frank Kechele
Tags ald, ferrari, van de poele, verdonck, verna, vita4one