The journey to this year's Total 24 Hours of Spa has begun in earnest with the first of two days of running at the historic Belgian circuit.
It comes a little under four weeks before the 71st edition of the event gets underway and coincides with the announcement that 72 cars will contest this year's race. This establishes a new record for the GT era, while the Intercontinental GT Challenge will also set a new benchmark with 28 nominated entrants.
The day kicked off with three hours of running between 09.00 and 12.00, which concluded with the #117 KUS Team Bernhard Porsche at the head of the order.
A lap of 2m19.257s sent the 911 GT3 R to the top of the times on what proved to be a strong day for the crew of Timo Bernhard, Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber. The Team Bernhard car is one of six Pro class entries from the Stuttgart marque, placing it level with fierce rivals Audi and Mercedes-AMG as the best-represented top-tier brand.
A total of 58 cars logged laps during the morning, which ran with only one interruption, caused by an accident that ended the #00 Goodsmile & Type Moon Mercedes-AMG's participation for the day.
The five-hour afternoon session saw SMP Racing carry its fine form in the Blancpain GT Series over to the Spa test. The #72 crew of Mikhail Aleshin, Miguel Molina and Davide Rigon currently lead the Endurance Cup drivers' standings and went quickest with their Ferrari 488. A lap of 2m19.127s saw the SMP car edge out the #42 BMW Team Schnitzer effort and top the afternoon and overall times, while the Team Bernhard Porsche remained second-quickest overall.
The afternoon run gave the marshals more to do, with a number of red flags breaking up the five-hour session. The longest of these followed an accident for the #63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini, driven by Mirko Bortolotti, which crashed at Radillon.
A second day of running will take place tomoroow at the Belgian circuit, with the sessions again scheduled to run from 09.00 until 12.00 and 13.00 through 18.00. Access to the circuit is once again free for all spectators, which brought a large number of fans out to catch a glimpse of the cars and drivers on Tuesday.
• Morning session results
• Afternoon session results