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Blancpain Endurance Series: Spa 24, Hours 20 & 21, VDS Strengthens Its Lead

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SUMMARY: VDS strengthened its lead as the end of the race approached. Clever tactics during a FCY period gave the Belgian team more breathing room between it and the WRT Audi.

The lead out front continued to grow for the sole-remaining VDS BMW of Nick Catsburg. After a further 10 minutes out front, the gap had extended to over 30 seconds between himself and Stephane Ortelli.

Wolfgang Reip managed to limp back to the pits in the #23 Nissan after a fuel-pump issue caused it to stop out on track. The mechanics were able to get the GT-R going again after a handful of minutes repairing the problem in the back of the garage.

A drive-through penalty was handed to the Am Cup leading Team Parker Audi for exceeding track limits. It didn’t cost the British squad the lead, but they were far less comfortable with the #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari now waiting and ready to pounce.

At the next round of pit stops for the leaders the VDS Z4 had to have an extended stop to top up the car’s fluids, meaning some of Catsburg’s efforts were nullified. The gap when the leading pair were back in sync was down to 26 seconds.

With 20 hours gone, the leading trio, the #99 ROWE Mercedes continued to sit third, were still within a minute of each other, the VDS BMW unable to pull away much from the chasing pair.

There were a few un-answered questions with only a few hours remaining. Did the #6 still have to undergo a brake change? Did the VDS BMW have to make an extra stop at the end? It could be a very interesting final few hours!

A full-course yellow was deployed by the organisers with three hours and forty minutes remaining in the race, after the #50 AF Corse Ferrari had stopped at Pif Paf in the middle of the track. It handed the VDS BMW a significant advantage, as it was able to dive into the pits under the FCY, meaning it could stop while everyone else was running at a reduced speed. The green flag conditions returned soon after Luhr dived in, but precious seconds were at stake.

Oman Racing’s quiet run to the sixth in Pro Am was under threat, as Daniel Lloyd stopped the #44 Aston at the Bus Stop, causing a full-course yellow. Lloyd managed to return to the pits however, and the race went green again without too much disruption. It would however, cause the team to lose a few spots in the standings.

As the 21st hour ended, it was a stalemate up front, it’s all still to play for in the remaining three hours to go.

Stephen Kilbey