Laurens Vanthoor led throughout the opening hour of the 2014 Total 24 Hours of Spa, converting the pole position he won in Friday’s SuperPole session into an early lead.
Aboard the #1 Vanthoor broke free of the chasing pack on the approach to Eau Rouge after the green flag and was never really challenged through the first hour of the race. Alessadro Pier Guidi converted his own from row spot into second place, holding onto the Pro-Am Cup lead in the process. As the top two pulled away from Stef Dusseldorp in the #85 HTP Motorsport Mercedes Pier Guid kept his AF Corse Ferrari in second place, only one or two seconds behind Vanthoor, the gap only starting to open to its largest extent shortly before Pier Guidi pitted the car.
As the end of the hour fell amongst the first scheduled pitstops the order was significantly shuffled. As he ran one of the longer stints Vanthoor held the lead, but Edwards Sandstrom was promoted to second in the Sainteloc Racing Audi having been fourth for much of the hour when Dusseldorp pitted Maxime Martin was promoted to fifth in BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS’ #66 after spending most of his stint in lower half of the top ten.
The same was true of the Pro-Am class, Beechdean AMR’s Stefan Mucke and Alexander Sims in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW taking over the top two spots in the the class after 60 minutes after fighting on the fringes of the top ten through the hour against the likes of the Guy Smith’s M-Sport Bentley and the pair of Marc VDS Z4 GT3.
The first hour was relatively quiet in terms of incidents. However, with the 61 car grid packed together in the opening laps some contact was inevitable.
Antoine Leclerc in the #8 Bentley was the first to slow with a problem, contact having bent the steering on his charge. He limped back to the pits, the team repairing the car to return the Continental GT3 to the track.
Problems also found M-Sport’s Blancpain Endurance Series title rivals, ART Grand Prix. From running comfortably in the top Kevin Estre limped the #99 McLaren into the pits, stopping in the narrow pit entry needing a two into the main pitlane. There the Frenchman began to affect a repair himself, lifting the engine cover to replace a fuse while the team ran across the Spa-Francorchamps paddock to assist.
Estre’s problems, though he was quickly returned to the race, allowed teammate Alvaro Parente to move up another place in the #98 MP4-12C that started from the rear of the grid having missed qualifying after crashing in practice. The Portuguese made ground early on through the Gentlemen Trophy class and into the midst of the Pro-Am runners just outside the top 30. There, however, his progress would be stopped by a right-rear puncture, forcing him to limp back to pits, undoing all the good work he had down.
The most obvious contact of the hour, was between the #188 Fach Auto Tech Porsche and Katsumasa Chiyo’s #35 Nissan GT Academy Team RJN Nissan. Chiyo was turned around at the Bus Stop, damaging the Nissan’s suspension and cleaving a portion from the left-front of the Porsche’s bumper.
Martin Ragginger in the car seemed to have survived the incident. However, as the hour came to the close karma came calling as he spun on his own fluid at Les Combes while – at almost the same time – the stewards gave him a drive though penalty for hitting the Nissan.
Oman Racing Team also had to visit the pits during the hour, their Aston Martin Vantage GT3 suffering a suspension failure.
Total 24 Hours of Spa class standings after 1 hour:
1 – #1 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT (Rast/Vanthoor/Winkelhock)
2 – #26 Sainteloc Racing (Guilvert/Ortelli/Sandstrom)
3 – #85 HTP Motorsport (Afanasiev/Dusseldorp/Maassen)
4 – #3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT (Mies/Nash/Stippler)
5 – #66 BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS (Farfus/Martin/Muller)
1 – #107 Beechdean AMR (Adam/Howard/Lloyd/Mucke)
2 – #79 Ecurie Ecosse (Bryant/McCaig/Sims/Smith)
3 – #52 AF Corse (Lowndes/Piccini/Rugolo/Wyatt)
1 – #51 AF Corse (Guedes/Mann/Mezard/Talkanista)
2 – #42 Sport Garage (Bontempelli/Broniszewki/Frezza/Piccini)
3 – #228 Delahaye Racing (Al Azhari/Bordet/Lemeret/Viron)