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Spa 24 Hours: Hours 21-22 (12.30-14.30) Close Fight To The Finish In Prospect

Winkelhock surges into contention in #25 Sainteloc Audi

First, an update from Barwell Motorsport (following the accident between the #77 Lamborghini and #11 Kessel Ferrari just after 5:30am), informed us that Adrian Amstutz, driver of the Lamborghini, has been transferred to Liege hospital having sustained second-degree burns and a broken rib in the incident. The team was eager to point out that the injuries are not life-threatening and he is in good spirits, talking to Barwell’s MD Mark Lemmer and team-mate Martin Kodric. Both cars retired from the race in the incident.

The battle on track with four hours to go was between the two Audis, the #1 WRT with Nico Muller and the #25 Sainteloc car with Markus Winkelhock at the wheel. This was for second place overall, but in reality Sainteloc had the advantage because of being on a slightly later refuelling schedule. Winkelhock surged past on lap 450.

Winkelhock quickly established a gap between himself and Muller, the WRT Audi seeming to struggle on a track that seemed to be ever-changing as the effects of the overnight rain were overcome, but more and more pick-up and debris needed to be avoided. Ahead, Edo Mortara in the #60 Mercedes was keeping the gap respectable from Winkelhock.

Vincent Abril in Bentley #8 was not giving up and continuing to prove the Bentley’s pace, by closing in on the two Audis. A podium looked to be within the grasp of the British car.

Just before 1pm, there was a brief full-course yellow to remove some debris (most likely an inner wheelarch) from the track at the entrance to the chicane (T18). It was the perfect example of how to use the procedure, as it was removed again in less than 50 seconds.

Mortara pitted the #90 Mercedes from the lead on lap 464 (about 1:10pm) and once again Raffaele Marciello was standing by, ready to get in. Completion of the stint would bring him to a driving time of over 12 hours.

With three hours to go, the pitstop cycle was complete again: both the #25 Sainteloc Audi (Winkelhock) and the #117 Team75 Bernhard Porsche (Estre taking over from Christensen) took turns at leading before the #90 Mercedes resumed its position. The gaps were frighteningly small, though, four seconds between first and second; 10 seconds between second and third and Soucek in the #8 Bentley fourth, only 11 seconds behind the #1 WRT Audi (Muller).

However, Markus Winkelhock in the #25 really began to fly as the clock ticked on to 2pm. He was closing in Marciello in the Mercedes at a rate of almost half-a-second a lap and was sitting on the bumper of the AKKA car when Marciello headed for the pits at 2:15pm.

At the same time, Andy Soucek got the Bentley onto the back of the #1 WRT Audi, which pitted, as usual, just after the #90 Mercedes. Unusually for WRT, there was a minute delay for the pit stop as Muller handed the car over to Rene Rast, a minute that was very costly at such a late stage, but was a deliberate move on the team’s part to ensure it would only have to stop once more before the flag.

Winkelhock handed over to Christopher Haase at 14:27, although the Audi’s stop was four seconds longer than it could have been.