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One month on from its commanding race win at Mugello, Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha is in the top spot again after the first four hours at Spa-Francorchamps. Race win number two though is far from in the bag just yet…


A6 – Ferrari leads as GRT closes in

Such was the pace of Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11) in the opening stages, some were ready to write off the Hankook 12H SPA as another Ferrari whitewash after just a few laps: by lap nine, pole-man Matteo Mallucelli was already 10s ahead of Philip Ellis having in the Winward Racing / HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#25).
 
Don’t let that two-minute advantage at the chequered flag fool you, however. For one thing, a suspected puncture over Spa’s notoriously high kerbs meant Mallucelli’s first pit stop came barely 30 minutes into the race, handing the lead to Ellis. Briefly. On his tail was Robert Renauer in the Herberth Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R (#91), and just behind that lay a charging Christian Engelhart in the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (#63). The Mercedes couldn’t hold either back heading into La Source, and it wasn’t long before the Raging Bull had muscled past into the lead.
 
Higher-than-expected tyre wear and the resultant pit stops meant the lead was soon being handed to the IDEC SPORT RACING Mercedes-AMG GT3 (#17), while fuel tank-pushing runs for the Ferrari 488 GT3s of both HB Racing by Herberth Motorsport (#41) – a Renauer in a Ferrari? – and Wochenspiegel Team Monschau (#22) meant each also took a turn at the head of the field. Such was the turnaround that, already, the overall lead has changed hands 13 times between six different teams.
 
Blistering pace from Josef Kral in the #11 Ferrari, plus a strategic late pit stop under Code 60, meant the Czech team had resumed its lead as the chequered flag flew, but the GT European Championship standings leader couldn’t quite overhaul the sheer pace of Mirko Bortolotti in the new-for-2019 Lamborghini, meaning both the prancing horse and the GRT machine will re-start tomorrow’s race on the front row of the grid AND on the same lap. Juicy.
 
Shepherding them will be the Herberth Motorsport Porsche (#91), the former Champions of the Continents now holding both the final spot on the outright podium and the A6-Am lead simultaneously after its now customary climb through the field. It’s a solid result for the Bavarian team that, unfortunately, had to retire its sister entry (#93) before the race had even started following a colossal shunt into the barriers at Eau Rouge proved too hefty to repair. Hofor-Racing (#10) no doubt sympathises, the former series champions having already retired from this year’s Hankook 12H SPA after discovering significant chassis damage on the Mercedes-AMG GT3 during Thursday’s private test session.
 
Another pair of teams ruing missed opportunities to fight for an outright podium spot are WRT (#27) and Wochenspiegel Team Monschau (#22). The Audi R8 LMS, which finished on the overall podium in Dubai, had been running comfortably in 3rd before being struck down with two rapid-fire, rear left punctures, and has since dropped to 18th. Lacerated rubbers would also fell the Ferrari, which has since dropped back to 9th after running the kerbs too aggressively through the final sector. It’s been an unfortunate run so far in this year’s 24H SERIES for the German team, which ended its Mugello weekend with the lead 488 on fire.
 
All this has left the door open for Car Collection Motorsport (#34) to move into 5th outright and 3rd in A6-Am, despite the Audi R8 LMS receiving a clout from the IDEC SPORT Mercedes. It’s been a surprisingly quiet race so far for European Championship drivers Charles Putman, Charles Espenlaub and Joe Foster too in the CP Racing Mercedes-AMG (#85), which lies just one lap further back in 8th. 

Overall (GT) Top 3 (so far)

1. Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari) – 81 laps
2. GRT Grasser Racing Team (#63, Lamborghini) – 2m 38.775s
3. Herberth Motorsport (#91, Porsche) – + 1 lap 


A6-Pro Top 3 (so far)

1. Bohemia Energy racing with Scuderia Praha (#11, Ferrari) – 81 laps
2. GRT Grasser Racing Team (#63, Lamborghini) – 2m 38.775s
3. PHOENIX RACING (#5, Audi) – 80 laps 


A6-Am Top 3 (so far)

1. Herberth Motorsport (#91, Porsche) – 80 laps
2. Winward Racing / HTP Motorsport (#25, Mercedes-AMG) – +31.487s
3. Car Collection Motorsport (#34, Audi) – + 41.673s 
 


991 – Modena out front, MRS GT-Racing on a recovery charge

Though DUWO Racing (#909) has quietly pulled one lap clear during the opening four hours, much like the A6 runners, the lead in 991 has been far from a foregone conclusion. Series returnees Modena Motorsport (#916) started the race from pole position, and held the lead intermittently throughout the opening two hours, but often found the hard-charging MRS GT-Racing Porsche 911-II Cup (#980) snapping at its heels. It was a remarkable turn-around for a car that looked unlikely to start at all after a monster shunt during Thursday’s private test session. Indeed, the German team had to have a brand new car transported to Spa-Francorchamps overnight or risk missing qualifying altogether.
 
Having worked its way into the lead during the opening laps, MRS GT-Racing’s chances were dealt another almost literal blow when the left rear tyre delaminated shortly before the first hour ticked by. Delays have since dropped the Hankook 24H DUBAI 991-class runners-up to the tail of the class, just ahead of Speed Lover (#978), which crunched itself against the wall on pit exit just 10 laps into Sven Van Laere’s first stint (cue Code 60 number four), and B2F competition (#935), which has already retired from the event with terminal engine and gearbox failure.
 
Despite suffering a heavy shunt during Thursday’s private test session – one that wrote off the Porsche altogether and forced the reigning 991 European Champions to substitute their gen I 991 – the first of two Porsche Lorient Racing entries (#912) currently lies 3rd in-class, just ahead of Teichmann Racing (#903).
 
991 Top 3 (so far)

1. DUWO Racing (#909, Porsche) – 76 laps
2. Modena Motorsports (#916, Porsche) – + 1 lap
3. Porsche Lorient Racing (#912, Porsche) – 1m 05.371s 

 

SPX – Cor Euser’s race of two halves

As ‘Yoda’s Uncle’ commented on Twitter – hey, we like it! – ‘if it wasn't for his bad luck, Cor Euser wouldn't have any luck at all.’ It’s difficult to argue against that point.
 
On its first 24H SERIES race with the brand new MARC II V8 (the team’s tenured BMW now VERY retired), Cor Euser Racing (#717) may have missed SPX pole position by the narrowest of margins, but the endurance racing legend more than made up for this with an extraordinary first stint. Aided by both a well-timed Code 60 caution period – thrown when the CWS Ginetta went up in flames , but more on that shortly – and the resultant pit stop, Cor Euser had worked his way into 1st in the SPX class after the first hour and, incredibly, the overall GT division top five. Fate would deal a savage blow though when the team’s mechanics were unable to replace the right front tyre during the second pit stop. Almost an hour was lost removing the upright in its entirety to dislodge the recalcitrant wheel hub, losing the MARC more than 20 laps. Shortly before the end of the race, and just a couple of laps after returning to the circuit, the #717 MARC went head first into the barriers at Les Combes, ironically damaging the right front hub all over again. Fortunately, driver Einar Thorsen walked away unscathed.
 
With Cor Euser Racing now 31 laps out of contention, SPX polesitter Vr Racing by Qvick Motors (#709) – which also ran as high as 5th outright at one stage, interestingly – now leads its class at its home event. Particularly fitting, given that the second gen MARC made its 24H SERIES debut at last year’s Hankook 12H SPA. Further back, series regulars JR Motorsport (#202) have moved past Cor Euser Racing into 2nd with the BMW M3 F80.
 
SPX Top 3 (so far)

1. Vr Racing by Qvick Motors (#709, MARC) – 76 laps
2. JR Motorsport (#202, BMW) – 75 laps
3. Cor Euser Racing (#717, MARC) – 45 laps 


 
TCR – All to play for at the TCE sharp end

As is often the case, one of the closest fights for victory in the 24H SERIES comes courtesy of the TCR class, which will see no fewer than four teams start on the same lap after tonight’s intervention.
 
Head of the tin tops so far is AC Motorsport (#188), an incredible result given that most of the Audi RS3 LMS’s front end had to be rebuilt overnight after a heavy accident during Thursday’s private test session (spot a theme here?). After brutal bad luck dropped the Belgian team out of the lead in Dubai earlier this year on the run to the flag, AC Motorsport and local boy Vincent Radermacker will surely want to retain this position over the final eight hours.
 
Equally as impressive is the run so far from Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing (#112). The Dubai and Mugello TCE winner actually started the race from the very back of the grid, having missed qualifying altogether with crippling drivetrain problems. Within 20 minutes, the VW was up to 5th in the TCR class, and come the second hour, the Swiss team had (momentarily) hit the front. Don’t count them out yet.
 
In 3rd is Holmgaard Motorsport (#102), the Danish team on another impressive run just ahead of the Red Camel-Jordans.nl (#101) that had started on TCE pole position and headed the TCE field during the early stages. A puncture, a broken stabiliser and two unscheduled pit stops threatened to drop the orange CUPRA off the lead lap, but superb pace from Rik Breukers, who is also a reserve driver for the WRT Audi this weekend, allowed the reigning TCR European Champions to hold on by their fingertips.
 
Having been in the mix early on, GDL Racing (#157), devoid of its GT Lamborghini in favour of an Audi RS3 LMS in Spa, now lies 5th in-class. One sport further back is Sorg Rennsport (#151), who recovered from an unusual incident during the second hour when the Audi lost all power heading into Eau Rouge – yikes! – only for the engine to fire up again on the climb back up the hill.
 
At the tail of the TCR field – for now – is GSR Motorsport (#105), a raft of gearshift issues for the Volkswagen Golf GTI having cost the all-Lithuanian team a huge amount of time in the pits during the race, as well as a higher starting position in qualifying as well.
 
Overall (TCE) and TCR Top 3 (so far)

1. AC Motorsport (#188, Audi) – 75 laps
2. Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing (#112, Volkswagen) – + 1m 25.854s
3. Holmgaard Motorsport (#102, Volkswagen) - + 2m 14.321s 

 
 
SP3 – CWS is on fire. No, literally!

Back for its second 24H SERIES start with the brand new Aston Martin Vantage GT4, and its first in the TCE division full-stop, reigning GT European Champion PROsport Performance (#1) demonstrated its ever-increasing pace by jumping to the head of the TCE division shortly after the race got underway. Aided, it must be said, by a much better restart for Nico Verdonck after the race’s first, very early, Code 60, a restart that caught both Red Camel’s Rik Breukers and AC Motorsport’s Vincent Radermacker completely off-guard. Even Colin White in the CWS Engineering Ginetta G55 (#378) was playing catch up in the early laps after an uncharacteristically hesitant start.
 
An early pit stop for PROsport though, plus Colin White’s wily experience as a seasoned 24H SERIES competitor, meant it was the Ginetta rather than the Aston that led the SP3 standings as the first hour ticked by though. That was until a build of tyre debris in the G55’s front left wheel arch began to smoke heavily as Colin White made his way through Eau Rouge, the smoke soon erupting into flames as the reigning class champion made his way through Campus and into Stavelot, bringing back memories of the conflagration that engulfed the team’s sister Ginetta last year at Barcelona.
 
Though quickly extinguished on-track by two diligent fire marshals, and despite Colin, incredibly, returning to the pits under the car’s own steam, significant fire damage to the front left wheel housing and body panel meant the Ginetta lost more than 30 minutes on pitroad affecting repairs. As we’ve seen many times before in the 24H SERIES though, you can never count out Colin White, and there are still eight hours to go…
 
Qualifying meanwhile has thus far been the highlight of Intersport Racing’s weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. Not seen on a 24H SERIES grid since the 2017 Hankook 24H SILVERSTONE, the BMW M3 (#614) got off to a good start by claiming the A3-class pole position by more than SIX seconds. Re-located to the SP3 class for the race proper, Peter Hardman’s first race at Spa in more than a decade lasted just two laps before the throttle failed, and the BMW M3 has yet to re-emerge from the garage. Not the end to the 24H SERIES “break” that team owner Kevin Clarke was hoping for…

SP3 Top 3 (so far)

1. PROsport Performance (#1, Aston Martin) – 70 laps
2. CWS Engineering (#378, Ginetta) – 49 laps
3. Intersport Racing (#614, BMW) – 2 laps 

 

A3 – Diesel power

Back in A3, superb fuel efficiency from the only diesel-powered car in the field means the admittedly smoking BMW E46 123D of Winkler Tuning (#666) has already built up a one-lap lead over the first of two Dan Agro Racing Peugeot RCZs (#685). Don’t forget, the latter claimed its first 24H SERIES class win last time out in Mugello, and has a lead in the A3-class European Championship to uphold this weekend.
 
One lap further back lies former 24H TCE SERIES champion, Synchro Motorsport (#676). Following a tussle on-track, the brand new FK8-spec Honda Civic Type-R has already suffered rear right bumper damage, the subsequent unscheduled pit stops for repairs dropping the team British squad out of the healthy lead it had spent almost 90 minutes building up. On the plus side, not only does the British team have three-time British Touring Car Champion Matt Neal on driver detail this weekend, but the Honda tank is brimmed heading into tomorrow’s restart. That, plus an A3 fastest lap more than two seconds quicker than any other rival shows the pace of which the Honda is capable.
 
Unfortunately, terminal mechanical gremlins already appear to have sidelined BMW Team van der Horst (#602) on the Dutch team’s series debut, the BMW E90 330i unable to complete even a single lap of the race so far.
 
A3 Top 3 (so far)

1. Winkler Tuning (#666, BMW) – 71 laps
2. Dan Agro Racing (#685, Peugeot) – 70 laps
3. Synchro Motorsport (#676, Honda) – + 1m 40.875s 

 
*Results from ‘part one’ of the 2019 Hankook 12H SPA can be found HERE, and live streaming of tomorrow’s can be enjoyed HERE

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