Report: Race Report, Spa-Francorchamps 2006
Proximus 24 Hours of Spa – the agony and the ecstasy
The showpiece of the FIA GT Championship, the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa delivered a stunning race, with the result in doubt right until the final round of pit-stops. The nr 1 Vitaphone Racing Maserati MC12 came out on top, just a handful of seconds ahead of the nr 5 Phoenix Racing Aston Martin after a titanic race-long battle. The final podium place went to the nr 4 GLPK Carsport Corvette C6.R
24-hour races are often decided long before the finish, with a leader several laps clear able to treat the final hour as a cruise to the flag. Not at Spa; the result was decided with less than 20 laps remaining, when the final stop for the two leading cars was made. That stop saw the nr 1 squad of Eric van de Poele, Michael Bartels and Andrea Bertolini retain the lead, and that was enough for them to claim victory, ahead of the nr 5 team of Stéphane Lémeret, Jean-Denis Deletraz and Andrea Piccini.
That the nr 4 GLPK Corvette crew of Mike Hezemans, Bert Longin, Anthony Kumpen and Kurt Mollekens took third is a tribute to the strength of the engine, as the team were having to top up the oil at every stop over the closing stages, as well as shortening the length of each stint.
AF Corse utterly dominated the GT2 category, their two Ferrari 430 GT2 cars holding first and second for more than three-quarters of the race. At the flag it was the nr 59 team of Mika Salo, Rui Aguas and Timo Scheider who took first ahead of Matteo Bobbi, Jaime Melo and Stéphane Ortelli in the sister nr 58 car. The nr 62 Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari 430 GT2 of Nathan Kinch, Andrew Kirkaldy and Marino Franchitti took third, over ten laps back.
In similar fashion Manthey Racing didn’t come under serious threat for the G2 win, although this was more due to the failures of others, as the victor, the nr 197 Porsche 997 GT2 of Lucas Luhr, Sascha Maassen and Marcel Thiemann, lost time changing a rear upright, while the sister nr 111 crew of Timo Bernhard, Marc Lieb and Pedro Lamy spent an entire hour in the garage changing a gearbox, yet still finished 13 laps clear of the nr 179 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena of Didier de Radigues, Charles de Pauw, Alain Van den Hove and Paul Belmondo. This is a great result for Manthey as they are racing the new Porsche 997, against cars with proven competition heritage such as its predecessor, the Porsche 996, Dodge Viper and Ferrari 360.
G3 saw many lead changes, mostly as cars hit problems; the nr 116 Patrick Chaillet Dodge Viper Competition Coupe of Patrick Chaillet, Laurent Nef, Loic Demans and Christophe Geoffroy took the honours at the flag, seven laps ahead of François Duval, Christophe Kerkhove, Christian Kelders and Pascal Nielssen-Grade in the nr 195 Prospeed Competition Porsche 997 GT3 Cup. Third went to the nr 113 Pouchelon Racing Dodge Viper of Gilles Duqueine, Gael Lesoudier, Benoît Rousselot and Stephane Lacroix Wasover, another 20 laps further back.Four different classes with four different makes taking victory; three different makes standing on the GT1 podium; the result in doubt until the final 45 minutes. In complete contrast to last year’s race, the weather was almost entirely sunny and hot. This was one of the greatest 24-hour races ever in the FIA GT Championship – once again, Spa has produced a classic.2006-07-30
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