As the 2013 Total 24 Hours of Spa raced into the dark hours in the Ardennes the race revealed a surprising character with the race enjoying a long green flag run that begun in the second hour.
With the relentless pace came waves of retirements and problems. High flying Belgian squads Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and Marc VDS Racing both lost a car. Marc VDS’ third car – the #14 pulled off the track by Jens Klingmann was a confirmed retirement with an engine failure. The Audi team’s problems hit harder with gearbox problems taking out the #1 R8 LMS ultra before darkness fell.
The hours also brought the retirement of United Autosports’ Audi, another with engine failure. Their British GT rivals Fortec Motorsports also exited the race. Karl Wendlinger had incurred a drive through penalty after punting Marco Schelp into retirement in the ARC Bratislava Porsche. Ironically, Alex Brundle, Wendlinger’s co-driver with Oli Webb, pulled the Mercedes into the same hole in the wall where Schelp’s car had been pulled to.
The gap in question, tucked on the inside of the exit of the Paul Frere Corner, also became host of the #5 Boutsen Ginion Racing McLaren after the machine lost a wheel.
At the front of the race the pace whittled down the cars on the lead lap to just ?? with the battle for the lead increasingly between the #4 Marc VDS Racing BMW and Manthey Racing’s Porsche works driver crewed entry.
Palttala in in the BMW caught Richard Lietz in the Porsche, but the lead pair came across one of the clumps of traffic still dotted around the track. While Lietz got by Palttala was held up, the gap almost quadrupling from half a second out to nearly two in the space of the lap. The Finn did finally take the lead when Lietz pitted to hand over to starting driver Patrick Pilet. Palttala pitted a lap later, staying in the car and keeping the lead.
The HTP Motorsport Mercedes briefly took second, the all German team still bouncing up and down the order with off-sequence pitstops though the laps where they peaked in the lead have ended. After only a handful of laps between the BMW and Porsche Maximilian Buhk pitted to complete the teams driver rotation with Bernd Schneider taking his first stint in the car which fell to fourth overall when the first Blancpain Endurance Series points were handed out.
The maximum points therefore went to Marc VDS Racing and the team of Palttala, Nicky Catsburg and Henri Moser. The points – awarded in teams’ and drivers’ standings in each class – came as the Kessel Racing team of Daniele Zampieri, Davide Rigon and Cesar Ramos down in 18th overall and 12th in the Pro Cup class – out of the points paying positions.
The #50 AF Corse Ferrari in fifth is the first car off the lead lap, but leads the Pro-Am Cup class with the TDS Racing BMW second in class. Jann Mardenborough had pulled the best of the remaining Nissan GT-Rs into eleventh and third in class, the Welshman and the rest of the Nissan Gt Academy Team RJN team benefitting in part from problems for early leaders Beechdean AMR when a piece of debris lodged in the front-left wheel of the car.
Six laps off the pace the SOFREV ASP #20 Ferrari leads Gentlemens’ Trophy.
2013 Total 24 Hours of Spa class standings after six hours:
1 – #4 Marc VDS Racing – Catsburg/Moser/Palttala
2 – #150 – Manthey Racing – Lieb/Lietz/Pilet
3 – #3 Marc VDS Racing – Buurman/Leinders/Martin
1 – #50 AF Corse – Bertolini/Cioci/Hommerson/Machiels
2 – #25 TDS Racing – Badey/Beche/Hassid/Thiriet
3 – #35 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN – Mardenborough/Ordonez/Pyzera/Reip
1 – #20 – SOFREV ASP – Beaubelique/Blanchemain/Bouvy/Gouselard
2 – #52 – Sport Garage – Gorini/Lemeret/Prignaud
3 – #57 – Sport Garage – Merafina/Orgeval/Perret/Petit