The first round of points for the 2019 Total Spa 24 Hours has been awarded with the six-hour mark being passed.
The leaders had finished 118 laps with the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari with Mikhail Aleshin in the car leading the #63 GRT Lamborghini and #88 Akka ASP Mercedes at the head of the field as the rain started to fall and multiple cars started to pit for wets.
These three hours largely ran under green-flag conditions, with the third hour getting underway with the green flag waving after the long period of yellow for barrier repair at Les Combes.
However, the green period wasn’t to last long as Ryan Ratcliffe in the #31 Team Parker Bentley spun and hit the barrier heavily at the Paul Frére corner. Ratcliffe was running on the outside curb when the car twitched then snapped, sending the Bentley heading backwards to the outside wall. The car hit with the rear and lifted a few metres. All involved were okay, but the barrier repairs shifted to Paul Frére, leading to the 30-odd-minute yellow flag period.
The yellow-flag periods saw a number of cars receive penalties, most notably, the #117 Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor and the #998 Rowe Porsche of Nick Tandy receiving drive-through penalties for setting a best sector time under a double waved yellow flag.
The second-placed #563 Orange1 FFF Lamborghini with Andrea Caldarelli at the wheel also received a drive-through penalty for overtaking in pit exit, rounding out a time where the drivers were making a raft of mistakes leading to penalties.
This dropped the #998 Porsche to 42nd, while the #117 emerged in 20th and the #563 in 38th. As the racing returned to normal and the field shook out, it was the #1 Audi of Robin Frijns that led from #72 Ferrari of Davide Rigon and #519 Lamborghini of Giovanni Venturini.
As the fourth hour of the race developed, there was a fierce six-car battle with the #4 Black Falcon Mercedes of Lucas Stolz, the #999 GruppeM Mercedes of Lucas Auer and the #20 GPX Racing Porche of Richard Leitz. The battle came to a head with contact between Auer and Stolz, but both continued without serious damage.
However, errors under past full-course yellows would continue with Lietz receiving a penalty, taking him out of the battle, along with the #14 Scuderia Praha Ferrari, which was running in 39th.
The remainder of the fifth hour continued without a safety-car period, though there were some big incidents.
The #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin with Matt Parry behind the wheel spun at Stavelot in a crash that was reminiscent of the Parker Bentley’s. While the damage wasn’t as major as the Bentley and the car was able to make it back to the pits, it was later confirmed a retirement.
There were also spins for the #9 Boutsen Ginion BMW (Gennaro Bonafede) and the #133 Scuderia Villorba Corse Mercedes (Ivan Jacoma), though they were able to continue.
The penalties were more significant, with a drive-through for Dries Vanthoor in the #2 WRT Audi for pitlane speeding. He was running third at the time and dropped to 23rd. The invitational-class #50 ‘Beetle’ Porsche received a black flag for driving at night infringements and the #27 Daiko Lazarus Lamborghini for yellow-flag violations.
That all meant that at the start of the sixth hour, it was Nico Müller leading in the #1 WRT Audi with 95 laps in the books. Vincent Abril in the #88 Akka ASP Mercedes was in second and Christophe Hasse was in third in the #25 Sainteloc Audi.
While the race finally settled into a rhythm, the #444 HB Ferrari, a previous Am-class leader went into the tyres with Thomas Neubauer at the wheel. It was able to continue but lost a lot of time. The car had another off near the end of the sixth hour, losing further time.
The #00 Goodsmile Mercedes meanwhile suffered a small spin but is still inside the top 20. Also, the #93 Tempesta Racing Ferrari got a 30-second stop-go penalty for a stint time violation. Meanwhile, the #91 Herberth Motorsport Porsche received a drive-through for a too-short pitstop, dropping it out of the top 40.
At the six-hour mark, leading Pro-Am was the #97 TF Sport Aston Martin, while the Silver Cup was being led by the #55 Attempto Audi and the Am Cup by the #77 Barwell Lamborghini, which passed the #188 Garage 59 Aston Martin for the lead at the end of the sixth hour.
Official retirements included the #31 Parker Bentley, the #762 R-Motorsport Aston Martin and the #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin after its trip into the barrier. The #37 3Y BMW is also a retirement after its earlier big shunt.