UPDATE ON RED FLAG:
The race was Red Flagged at 03:15am, after an incident involving the #666 Attempto Lamborghini of Jurgen Krebs and #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley of Andy Meyrick. An SRO spokesperson told the media that both drivers have been taken to the medical centre, concious. There are no further details at this time.
With just under 12 hours of racing at Spa, the #34 Walkenhorst BMW now leads the way, after drama struck multiple Pro class runners, including the #8 Bentley, #98 ROWE BMW, #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin and #114 Emil Frey Lexus.
Second and third are the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes and #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes respectively, both cars having a stealthy run to the front. It is close though, in the top 10, with the pit cycle causing the order to change drastically at times.
As it happened:
Once the pit cycle that ran across the transition between Hour 7 and Hour 8 had finished, the #29 Land Audi resumed as the leader with Sheldon van der Linde driving, having extended his lead over the #8 Bentley which sat second, to 25 seconds. The #34 Walkenhorst BMW slotted, back into third, with the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes of Maro Engel just outside the top three in fourth, but ahead of the #98 ROWE BMW of Tom Blomqvist which held fifth but was just five seconds behind.
With 16 hours to go though, Bentley’s challenge up front took a turn for the worst, the #8 Continental of Maxime Soulet slowing out on track, coming in for a trip to the garage. When it was pushed back into the garage, the machanics began working on the underside of the car, the problem eventually revealed as a steering issue. The problem stemmed from contact with the Am class #488 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari.
Following the Bentley’s issue, the top three now consisted of the #29 land Audi, #34 Walkenhorst BMW and #4 Black Falcon Mercedes, all three running within 42 seconds of each other.
In the other classes, the #42 Strakka was continuing its dominant run in Pro-Am as the ninth hour began, while the #12 Ombra Lamborghini was leading the Silver Cup class by just a handful of seconds over the #78 Barwell Lamborghini. Barwell was also continuing to enjoy its run in Am, its #77 Huracan holding a strong lead by over a lap.
Drama then struck the R-Motorsport crew, its #62 Aston Martin (now up to fifth after its early refuelling issue), was forced to make an unscheduled stop for a brake change. Dominik Baumann brought the car in, and explained to the TV feed that he felt a problem with the brake pedal, and the team opted to bring him in as a precaution. Unfortunately, while it was a quick stop – just two minutes long – the team will still have to make a mandatory technical stop later in the race anyway.
When the car rejoined the race with Maxime Martin driving, the car was down to a lowly 23rd place. As that happened with 15 and a half hours remaining in the race, the #98 ROWE Racing BMW, which had been running fifth in Hour 8, was sent to its garage with alternator issues.
Then, drama really struck, Stephane Ortelli in the #114 Emil Frey Lexus, which early in the race ran in the top three, went head-on into the barriers at Eau Rouge, the car bursting into flames after the impact. Fortunately, Ortelli was able to get out of the car under his own [pwer, and sent to the medical centre for checks. The incident unsurprisingly brought out a lengthy Safety Car period, which lasted about 20 minutes.
When the race went green again, the #34 Walkenhorst BMW led the way (the #29 Land Audi, on its alternate strategy, down the order having pitted before the Safety Car), with the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes just 8 seconds back. 25 seconds behind the leader in third was the #88 AKKA ASP Mercedes, which like the #4 had spent most of the first eight hours slowly rising the order, staying out of trouble.
The Safety Car had bunched much of the front-running cars up, the #88 AKKA in third, down to the 12th place #99 Rowe BME were all within a 25 seconds of each other. At this time, the order from fourth to 11th at the beginning of Hour 10 was the #88 AKKA Mercedes, #117 Team75 Bernhard Porsche, #2 WRT Audi, #23 RJN Nissan, #25 Sainteloc Audi, #76 R-Motorsport Aston, #911 Manthey Porsche, #7 M-Sport Bentleu, #29 Land Audi.
In the other classes, there was one key change, the #78 Barwell Lamborghini, getting ahead of the #12 Ombra Lamborghini for the Silver Cup lead.
By the halway point of hour 10, there were plenty of on-track battles for positions in the top 10, a highlight being Rene Rast (#2 WRT Audi) tussling with Timo Bernhard (#117 Team75 Porsche), Rast eventually taking fourth by force.
Then, at the end of the hour, the lead changed. Jeffrey Schmidt in the #29 Land Audi was unable to keep pace with the front runners, and when the field got back into sync, the Audi was second behind the #99 Rowe BMW which after its ninth stop managed to climb from 12th to first! Alex Sims in the M6 then proceeded to edge away from Schmidt, who had to keep an eye on his mirrors as Philipp Eng in the #34 Walkenhorst BMW looked to get past.
Schmidt pushed hard, but couldn’t keep Eng behind, the German getting past at Speakers Corner to take second. Shortly after the move was completed, Schmidt and Sims then pitted, allowing Eng through to take the lead for Walkenhorst once again. At this point the field was so out of sync, that the pit cycles were drawn out for almost the entirety of each hour. It appeared though, that the true leader was in fact the Walkenhorst M6, which would go on to lead the field into Hour 11.
The field got into a rythmn for the next 25 minutes, before a Full Course Yellow was called for the #666 Attempto Lamborghini of Jugen Krebs going off at Turn 7. It was at that point that the Eng in the Walkenhorst BMW dived into the pits, taking the chance to pit while the field was neutralised.
The race then went green 10 minutes later after the clear up, with Eng having made a stop and holding the lead. But the green flag running didn’t last long, as the #666 went off again after contact with another car on the run down to Eau Rouge, causing him to veer across the grass on driver’s right, and hit the barriers at the top of the hill. A Full Course Yellow was called just again.
The race was then Red Flagged at 03:15am, after an incident involving the #666 Attempto Lamborghini of Jurgen Krebs and #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley of Andy Meyrick. An SRO spokesperson told the media that both drivers have been taken to the medical centre, concious. There are no further details at this time.