Endurance Racing

2011 Total 24 Hours Of Spa: Audi Lead After Early Stints

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After the opening three hours of the 2011 Total 24 Hours of Spa the Audi Sport Team Phoenix Audi leads the way with nine other cars on the lead lap.

While the car, driven by the trio of Marc Basseng, Christopher Haase and Frank Stippler has survived the opening exchanges, others have already struck problems.

The front row starting no.75 Prospeed Competition Porsche was taken out under breaking for the Bus Stop chicane by Ludovic Sougnez in the sister Prospeed entry, running in the Pro-Am class. After diving down the inside for the corner Sougnez suffered a puncture, limping round a further lap before pitting, but the no.75 entry, obviously hopeful of a good result was delayed further with significant front damage, including to the radiators secreted in the nose of the Porsche.

Both cars were able to continue in the race, but with the no.75 19 laps off the pace with 21 hours remaining.

However, the main incident of the opening hour was an accident for Andrew Kirkaldy in the no.59 McLaren MP4-12C. Contact with a slower BMW at the La Source hairpin spat the CRS Racing principal into the tyre wall on the outside of the corner, bouncing back across the track to the wall on the inside of the track.

The stranded, destroyed McLaren prompted the first of two early safety cars, with Kirkaldy being taken to a local hospital after complaining of back pain. The other safety car was during the second hour, when Nikolaus Mayr-Melnhof rolled his Reiter run Lamborghini in the pit entrance, presumably after a moment at the Bus Stop, though exact explanation has proved elusive.

Problems were continuing even until the final moments of the third hour. After running strongly, and taking the lead in the opening stints Andrea Piccini pitted from the lead for what seemed to be a regular stop, with the Italian remaining in the car. However, the Audi crawled to halt at the end of the long pit exit at the top of Radillion, losing touch with the then lead group and falling outside the top ten even once Piccini managed to coax the car back into action once more.

The Haribo Team Manthey Porsche ran second behind the lead Audi, with the Belgian Audi Club no.33 in third – the car boasting DTM stars Mattias Ekstrom and Timo Scheider among the three man driving squad. The Blancpain Endurance Championship leaders AutOrlando Sport run fourth.

Of notable British involvement Archie Hamilton's DB Motorsport BMW Z4 lies in 16th place. The only MP4-12C that has run without serious delay – the McLaren GT run no.60 in 26th place.

The Ecurie Ecosse Aston Martin lies 31st, keeping pace with their mid-pack start.

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