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Spa 24 Hours: Hours 11-12 (02.30-04.30) Rain & Technical Stops Add Intrigue

Race reaches half-distance

Another FCY was called in the early stages of the race’s 11th hour when Hubert Haupt went off at Les Combes in the #18 Black Falcon Mercedes, which had been running second in Pro-Am and well into the overall top 20. The top three at the time (#55 Ferrari, #2 Audi and #1 Audi) all pitted immediately, and as the FCY became a safety car, the rest of the top 10 or 15 runners followed suit.

Shortly after the race went green, the long-forecast rain shower appeared, but then stopped almost as quickly as it started. Team75’s efforts to get back into contention were also dealt a minor setback when the car was handed a drive-through penalty for causing the collision that put paid to Haupt’s Mercedes.

Into the second half of the hour and it was FCY and then SC time again as the #00 Goodsmile Mercedes of Tatsuya Kataoka and #3 WRT Audi of Jon Venter had a nasty coming-together on the way into the Bus Stop, leaving the latter car stranded by the barrier and the former limping back to the pits with heavy front-end damage.

The race went green again seven minutes into the 13th hour, with Fisichella, Rast, Mies, Catsburg, Mortara, van der Linde, Schiller and Christodoulou making up the top eight. Then, the rain returned and seemed to catch Rory Butcher in the #53 Spirit Of Race Ferrari off-guard, the car leaving the track at the Bus Stop and hitting the barrier.

With it now raining heavily, the race director gave authorisation for wet-tyre pitstops to be made, allowing teams to pit for suitable rubber unencumbered by the usual time restrictions. However, the increase in rain also happened to coincide with the opening of the window for the five-minute ‘technical’ pitstop and WRT was quick to perform both a tyre and brake change on the #1 and #2 R8s, with the #4 Mercedes doing the same a little while later – but staying on slicks.

Fisichella pitted the Kaspersky Ferrari and took on both fuel and a new set of slicks, with the rain looking like it was easing somewhat. There were some hairy moments for Engelhart in the #63 Lamborghini, who hadn’t stopped either for wets or a brake change and was also braving it out on slicks. A further full-course yellow towards the end of the 12th hour saw the #63 come in for a new set of Pirelli slicks.