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Spa 24 Hours: Hours 7-8 (22.30-00.30) Top 10 Still Close

#90 AKKA Mercedes heads closely matched leading group

The seventh hour of the 2017 Spa 24 Hours opened with a heavy shunt for 24-hour racing debutant Jimmy Eriksson in the #84 HTP Mercedes. The crash was reminiscent of Kobayashi’s in qualifying, with seemingly too much left-hand curb being taken on the way up the hill from Eau Rouge to Raidillon. The car was heavily damaged and an instant retirement.

Leader Cioci pitted the Kaspersky Ferrari under the FCY (which then became a safety car), as he was simultaneously warned by race control for excessive flashing of his lights while lapping other cars – the rules stating that you can’t flash more than three times between any two corners.

After the restart, Cioci continued to lead from de Phillippi in the #2 Audi, Bortolotti in the #63 Lamborghini, Marciello in the #90 Mercedes, Haase in the #25 Audi, Baumann in the #85 Mercedes and van der Linde in the #76 Audi – all covered by just over 15 seconds. Pro-Am was now led by the #16 Black Falcon Mercedes, with Max Gotz at the wheel, just behind Rast in the penalty-delayed #1 Audi. Absent from the top 10 by this stage was the #43 Strakka McLaren, sidelined with engine issues after earlier running strongly in the hands of Sam Tordoff.

A full-course yellow was thrown just before 11:30pm, with the second-place #2 WRT Audi and Pro-Am first and second-place Black Falcon Mercedes among those to pit. It wasn’t immediately clear why the FCY was thrown, but the track went back to green very shortly and the leading #55 Ferrari hadn’t been in the right place to make a stop.

The next incident saw the #912 Porsche circulating without a front-left wheel after contact at turn one, Ralf Bohn having to complete a full lap with three wheels on the car. Race control messages indicated the incident that caused the damage also involved the #19 Grasser Lamborghini and #43 Strakka McLaren – although by the time stewards issued a drive-through penalty, the latter car had already been brought into the garage for attention.

The Kaspersky car then made a routine stop for Cioci to hand over to Calado, dropping to car to the lower part of the top 10 as expected, but still comfortably in the leading group and on the lead lap. It pitted again for a short stop when the safety car came out for the recovery of the #56 Cup class Porsche by flatbed towards the end of the eighth hour, after contact with the #7 Bentley that left the latter car with a puncture.

Also in the pits at that point were the leading trio of the #8 Bentley (long stop), #2 Audi (short stop) and #63 Lamborghini (long stop), further solidifying their advantage over the Kaspersky car, which had made its previous stop under green. The #90 AKKA-ASP Mercedes, meanwhile, also made a short stop, allowing it to leapfrog into the lead as the race entered its ninth hour.