The #4 Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon car led the Total 24 Hours of Spa after the first 90 minutes, but the all-German crew faced stiff opposition from the fast-charging #20 GPX Racing Porsche.
The race began under safety car conditions after heavy rain left the Spa-Francorchamps circuit drenched in the hour leading up to the race. As such, the 72-car field circulated for four laps before the green flag flew.
Maro Engel was at the wheel of the pole-sitting #4 Mercedes-AMG and edged away from the chasing pack, which was initially led by the #117 KÜS Team75 Bernhard machine of Earl Bamber.
But the star of the opening 90 minutes was Kevin Estre in the GPX-Porsche, who made rapid progress through the field after starting 11th. The Frenchman completed a daring pass on Fred Makowiecki (#998 ROWE Porsche) around the outside of Blanchimont, then immediately passed Bamber for second spot.
The first round of pit stops saw the majority of the field move to slicks. The leading duo held on to their positions, but the race was soon neutralised when the #227 HubAuto Corsa Ferrari of Nick Foster crashed out of contention at Jacky Ickx Corner.
Racing resumed just as the 90-minute mark arrived and Engel once again retained his lead. Estre was in hot pursuit, however, with just a few tenths separating the pair at this stage. Rene Rast ran third in the #1 Audi Sport Team WRT machine with Bamber close behind.
The race was then neutralised once again when the #37 3Y Technology BMW suffered a big crash on the approach to Les Combes, causing the third full-course yellow of the race.
There were further early problems for a handful of cars. Among the front-runners, the most notable was the retirement of the #59 Garage 59 Aston Martin, which lasted only 15 laps before Jonny Adam was forced out of the race with a front hub failure. The #109 Bentley was also an early retiree after suffering an oil pressure issue.
Follow full coverage of the race here.
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