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FIA WEC: Spa Francorchamps, Hour 4 Report

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As the teams and drivers reached the halfway mark of the race, the two Toyotas continued to scrap for fourth place overall, with Mark Webber’s #17 Porsche close behind. Webber hung around until finally making the move for fifth, getting past Anthony Davidson at the exit of Radillion running down the Kemmel Straight, and then Sarrazin to take fourth a lap later.

The #8 Audi which was sitting third sparked a series of mechanical troubles just as the race began to truly calm down to keep the factory boys on their toes. Lucas Di Grassi behind the wheel limped into the pit lane and was immediately pushed into the garage with electrical problems. The mechanics changed the ECU and performed a nose change too, following contact on the front-right.

ByKolles and Toyota were also suffering woes, with CLM eventually having to retire after spending a considerable amount of time in the garage. The #1 Toyota was pushed into the garage with mechanical issues of its own as we heard the news from ByKolles. When it came out, it only managed a couple of laps before the throttle problem persisted and it started circulating slowly once again.

At 20 mintues past the hour, André Lotterer took the lead in the #7 Audi after a longer stop by the #18 Porsche to complete a driver change. It came as a reminder that we still have a race for the lead on our hands.

In the GT classes, the stalemate continued. Aston Martin continued to control both classes, with a 1-2 in Pro when the #97, which has been running an alternative strategy, is in sync with the rest of the runners, slotting in second.

The #98 Vantage in Am continued to hold a lap lead over the rest of the field, with the #83 AF Corse and #72 SMP Ferraris making up the top three. Jota Sport continued to lead LMP2 convincingly, but Simon Dolan was being reeled in by Romain Rusinov’s #26 G-Drive Ligier throughout the first half of the hour.

René Rast was on the move in the #9 Audi with half the hour gone. A bold move round the outside of the #2 Toyota of Mike Conway at the Bus Stop handed the German fourth place.

With three and three quarter hours run, the GTE Pro started hotting up, with the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Toni Vilander and #92 Manthey Porsche of Richard Lietz scrapping for what was then second in the class. (The #97 had made its early stop.) The #92’s challenge ended prematurely though, after receiving a penalty for abusing track limits.

To end the hour, a fight for the lead broke out between André Lotterer and Marc Lieb on track. The pair slalomed their way through the traffic just a few tenths apart, with a side-by-side moment going into Les Combes which saw Lotterer shut the door on the Porsche.

Stephen Kilbey