After eighteen hours The 2011 Total 24 Hours of Spa continues to claim teams, falling by the wayside with mechanical problems or incidents out on track. After the hours of darkness at the Belgian track the Audi 1-2-3 from midnight has been reduced to a single R8 LMS in the lead of the race.
Both the Team Phoenix run R8s hit their trouble shortly after midnight. The ongoing gearbox problem for the no.98 finally hit a crucial point, resulting in a lengthy pitstop after running third. In total the repair lost the team over 90 minutes, initially down as far as 37th place, but had rallied to 21st by the end of the 18th hour with no further serious problems.
The sister Phoenix Audi of Frank Stippler, Marc Basseng and Christopher Haase had dominted much of the race, taking the lead in the opening hours and holding the advantage at midnight. However, with Haase at the wheel the car crashed out on track, causing extensive front end damage to the car bringing out a safety car and an end to the race leaders' assault on the race.
That left the odd-Audi-out from the earlier 1-2-3, the no.33 Belgian Audi Club entry leading the race. Drivers Mattias Ekstrom, Greg Franchi and Timo Scheider holding a two lap advantage over the Need For Speed liveried BMW Z4 of Edward Sandstrom, Claudia Hurtgen and Dirk Werner. The trio – as is often the case in endurance racing – have steadily climbed up the order throughout the race, picking up places through greater reliability as much as greater speed.
The no.2 Vita4One Ferrari continues in third overall and a comfortable leader in the Pro-Am category with a five lap advantage over the no.20 Ferrari in class. The Mercedes SLS of David and Godfrey Jones and Mike Jordan has risen into the top ten overall in ninth overall, a further lap behind the Pro-Am leading Ferrari.
Fourth overall is the Aston Martin from the French Hexis squad, with the no.35 Black Falcon Mercedes in fifth overall despite its eventful start to the race in which it was spinnee (hit by Stephane Ortelli at Les Combes) and spinner (hitting Alain Li's United Autosports Audi at the Bus Stop Chicane)
Despite the own suspension problems in the early hours of the the trio of Alex Buncombe, Jordan Tresson and Christopher Haase lead the GT4 class for RJN Motorsport and Nissan, the team fairing much better than last year, when they retired very early.