2016 Total 24 Hours of Spa – Hours 18-21: Even rain and fire can’t stop the lead battle

The #99 ROWE Racing BMW M6 GT3 being shared in this stint by Alexander Sims and Maxime Martin held the lead as the 2016 Total 24 Hours of Spa reached three hours to go but rain and fire for one of the lead runners meant it wasn’t an easy four hours.

Highlighting hours 18 to 21 was the coming and going of Ardennes rain that can strike at a moments notice and disappear just as quickly. With five hours and 40 minutes to go the rain came down in a rapid burst causing teams up and down the two pitlanes to decide what tyres they should be going on. Most decided to stay on slicks, but the Audi Sport Team Phoenix car gambled on wets and it seemed to be working for a time.

However, the rain quickly abated but the team decided to keep the car on wets to see if it could survive through to the next stop. That was a big mistake as 40 minutes later, even though the rain started, the rear-left tyre punctured and ripped itself to pieces tearing the rear of the car apart, rupturing fuel lines and turning the rear of the car into an Audi R8 LMS barbecue. Christopher Mies managed to get out unharmed but their run in the top five was over.

There was a 12 minute full course yellow to put the fire out and clear the car away and as soon as the track went green again the Am-Cup #30 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 hit the barriers coming out of T11 as the car hit one of the many rivers that form at Spa in the rain. It managed to continue back to the pits but it didn’t come back out again.

After that it tended to settle a bit with Maxime Martin and Alexander Sims set about chasing down Maxime Soulet in the Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 for the lead, a move the BMW managed to make as this stint near enough ended as Soulet pitted just as a full course yellow – for the #23 Nissan breaking down on the pit straight – was lifted.

In the Pro-Am Cup, the lead around Spa was held near enough throughout by the Kodak-liveried IMSA Performance Porsche 911 GT3R with Maxime Jouse behind the wheel. Such was that car’s pace, there was three cars between Jouse and second in class Franck Perera in the ISR Racing Audi.

The Am Cup continued to be led by the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 with Rino Mastronardi remaining with a comfortable lead down in 31st place overall.