The first six hours of the 65th edition of the Total 24 Hours of Spa, the penultimate round of the Blancpain Endurance Series, looked like a true sprint race. There were several different leaders, the result of magnificent duels on the Spa-Francorchamps track. The BMW Z4 #4 of the Marc VDS Racing Team (Nicky Catsburg, Henri Moser, Markus Palttala) is leading the Pro-category. Niek Hommerson, Louis Machiels, Andrea Bertolini and Marco Cioci (AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia) are first in PRO-AM and the SOFREV ASP Ferrari 458 Italia (Jean-Luc Blanchemain, Patrice Goueslard, Fred Bouvy) is leading the Gentlemen Trophy.
At 16:30, in front of packed grandstands and under hot sunshine, Stefan Mücke and his Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 #99 led the pack through the first corner. Alessandro Pier Guidi (SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia), second on the grid, spun his car at Eau Rouge, but without touching any of the other competitors.
What followed were some lively opening laps. Stefan Mücke and Nicky Catsburg (Marc VDS Racing Team BMW Z4) fought a close battle during several laps. Driving the McLaren MP4-12C #7 Alvaro Parente tried to keep in touch, before heading for the Hexis Racing box with an overheated engine.
The race was neutralised after the crash of Alex Buncombe (Nisan GT Academy Team RJN - Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3) at Raidillon. After ninety minutes another car crashed at the same spot, the Blancpain Racing Lamborghini LP560-4.
The two safety car interventions that followed meant that the strategies of several of the protagonists in the race were no longer in sync. That meant that the HTP Motorsport Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 #84 could briefly take the lead.
After three hours of racing the picture in front became a little clearer. The Marc VDS Racing Team BMW Z4 #3 and #4 took on the Manthey Racing Porsche 997 GT3-R #150, but the #84 Mercedes and its different strategy was never far away.
Because of quicker pitstops and by doing stints that were one lap longer the BMW #4 of Nicky Catsburg, Markus Palttala and Henri Moser scored full points after six hours, in front of the Porsche #150 and the BMW #3.
In the Pro-Am category, which early on was dominated by the Aston Martin of Stefan Mücke, the consistency of Niek Hommerson, Louis Machiels, Andrea Bertolini and Marco Cioci (AF Corse Ferrari) was rewarded with full points after six hours of racing.
The Gentlemen Trophy saw some driver changes as well. The Kessel Racing Ferrari 458 Italia #111 briefly took over the lead of the Sport Garage Ferrari #52, before it lost some time because of a puncture. That meant that it was the SOFREV ASP Ferrari #20 that was leading after six hours, in front of the Ferrari’s #52 and #57.
Meanwhile, the race continues and some rainstorms are expected during the night.
Henri Moser, BMW Z4 #4, Marc VDS Racing: “Our strategy is different than the one of the BMW #3, because we only drive simple stints. We satisfied with the result, because after six hours we scored full points. The other car of the team was in the top-3 as well. At the moment it is very hard to cope with the traffic, which explains the ever changing gap between the cars.”
Bernardo Serra, Team Manager, Ferrari 458 Italia #50, AF Corse: “We focussed on our top drivers in the opening hours of the race. Niek Hommerson drove a great stint, which gave us the lead. We pushed our strategy to the limit, by taking our pit stop just after the six hour mark.”
Jérôme Policand, Team Manager, Ferrari 458 Italia #20, SOFREV ASP : “Our strategy was very aggressive during the opening hours. Frédéric Bouvy and Patrice Goueslard drove long stints, to obtain a good position. Now it is up to Jean-Luc Blanchemain and Jean-Luc Beaubelique to drive. When it starts raining, Bouvy and Goueslard will take to the track again.”
Total 24 Hours of Spa – Standings after six hours
PRO CUP :
1 #4 Nicky Catsburg - Markus Palttala - Henri Moser BMW Z4 Marc VDS Racing 141 laps
2 #150 Marc Lieb - Richard Lietz - Patrick Pilet Porsche 997 GT3 R Manthey Racing 141 laps
3 #3 Maxime Martin - Yelmer Buurman - Bas Leinders BMW Z4 Marc VDS Racing 140 laps
4 #84 Bernd Schneider - Maximilian Buhk - Maximilian Götz Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 HTM Motorsport 140 laps
5 #26 Stephano Colombo - Greg Franchi - Frank Kechele BMW Z4 Vita4One Racing Team 139 laps
PRO AM CUP :
1 #50 Niek Hommerson - Louis Machiels - Andrea Bertolini - Marco Cioci Ferrari 458 Italia AF Corse 140 laps
2 #25 Ludovic Badey - Henry Hassid - Pierre Thiriet -Mathias Beche BMW Z4 TDS Racing 139 laps
3 #35 Lucas Ordonez- Jann Mardenborough - Peter Pyzera - Wolfgang Reip Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN 138 laps
4 #70 Alexey Basov -Matteo Bobbi - Alessandro Pier Guidi - Alexander Skryabin Ferrari 458 Italia SMP Racing 138 laps
5 #71 Mika Salo - Kirill Ladygin - Victor Shaitar - Maurizio Mediani Ferrari 458 Italia SMP Racing 138 laps
GENTLEMEN TROPHY :
1 #20 Jean-Luc Blanchemain - Jean-Luc Beaubelique -Patrice Goueslard - Fred Bouvy Ferrari 458 Italia SOFREV ASP 136 laps
2 #52 Romain Brandela - Leonardo Gorini - Stephane Lemeret - Thierry Prignaud Ferrari 458 Italia Sport Garage 135 laps
3 #57 Wilfried Merafina - Manu Orgeval - Pierre Perret - Michael Petit Ferrari 458 Italia Sport Garage 133 laps
4 #111 Pablo Paladino - Paolo Andreasi - Gaetano Ardagna Perez - Giuseppe Ciro Ferrari 458 Italia Kessel Racing 130 laps
5 #49 Yannick Mallegol - Jean-Marc Bachelier - Howard Blank - Francois Perrodo Ferrari 458 Italia AF Corse 128 laps
Provisional points standings after 6 hours:
Pro Cup Drivers Top 3:
1 Cesar Ramos/Davide Rigon/Daniel Zampieri 45 pts; 2 Bas Leinders/Maxime Martin/Yelmer Buurman 38 pts; 3 Edward Sandstrom 31 pts.
Pro Cup Teams Top 3:
1 Marc VDS Racing 57 pts; 2 Kessel Racing 48 pts; 3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT 39 pts.
Pro-Am Cup Drivers Top 3:
1 Alex Buncombe 51 pts; 2 Niek Hommerson/Louis Machiels/Andrea Bertolini 45 pts; 3 Henry Hassid/Ludovic Badey 42 pts.
Pro-Am Cup Teams Top 3:
1 Nissan GT Academy Team 58pts; 2 AF Corse 45 pts; 3 Thiriet by TDS Racing 42pts
Gentlemen Trophy Drivers Top 3:
1 Jean-Luc Blanchemain/Jean-Luc Beaubelique/Patrice Goueslard 74 pts; 2 Filipe Barreiros/Francisco Guedes 40 pts; 3 Beniamino Caccia 39 pts
Gentlemen Trophy Teams Top 3:
1 SOFREV Auto Sport Promotion 80pts; 2 AF Corse 48pts; 3 Sport Garage 47pts;
Kings Cup standings after 6 hours:
1. Ferrari 2. BMW 3. Porsche
Blancpain Endurance Series - Total 24 Hours of Spa
Spa-Francorchamps Circuit, 4.35-mile, 20-turn race circuit, Francorchamps, Belgium
July 25th – July 28th, 2013
Blancpain Endurance Series: Round #4 of 5
Race Duration: 1 x 24 hours
Total 24 Hours of Spa - Online Broadcast:
Streams available in French and Dutch on www.total24hours.com and in English on www.blancpain-endurance-series.com.
Streaming Schedule (All times CET):
Sunday 28th July 2013: 08:00 – 12:00 & 13:30 – 17:00 CET