Four different manufacturers in class leads after six hours of racing at Spa
Sunday 2nd July, 2023 - 6:47am
Despite a wet start to the race, which began behind the Safety Car and stayed under caution during a lot of its early phases, the rain held off for most of the first six hours. Several reports of drops being seen in the pit lane did not manifest into anything significant and the track dried up completely during the daylight hours.
Charles Weerts claimed the overall lead for the #32 WRT BMW 23 minutes before the six-hour mark. Following a round of pit stops he overhauled the #17 Scherer Audi that had led much of the race until that point, into Speaker’s Corner.
In the Gold Cup, Calan Williams was leading after four hours, in the #30 Team WRT BMW but was passed by Alberto di Folco in the #9 Audi shortly before the five-hour mark. Williams regained the lead but it was the Audi and Di Folco ahead at the crucial six-hour mark, to take the points.
The #99 Tresor Orange 1 Audi was in the lead of the Silver Cup, running in overall 22nd. Impressively, one Bronze car remained in the top 20 after six hours, the #188 Garage 59 McLaren running in overall 12th and in the lead of its class. The #24 Car Collection Motorsport Porsche led the Pro-Am field, with Niki Leutwilder behind the wheel.
Several incidents disrupted racing, in spite of the relatively good conditions. Just after the two-hour mark the #38 ST Racing Ferrari was turned around at La Source, after slight contact with Laurens Vanthoor in the #92 Manthey Porsche. The car received a 10-second time penalty, served during Kevin Estre’s subsequent stint.
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Just a few laps later, the #57 Mercedes slid at Pouhon, prompting a Full Course Yellow and then Safety Car period. The pit entry was closed with 21:40 time left in the race and reopened nine minutes later, for one more lap behind the Safety Car.
Dennis Marshall led the field back to green flag racing with 21:25 remaining on the clock. Nicki Thiim in the #17 Audi and Kevin Estre at the wheel of the #92 Porsche behind him.
Sister WRT cars collided into Blanchimont, Valentino Rossi spinning the #31 BMW and dropping it down the order. Adam Carroll would, almost an hour later, suffer a right rear tyre puncture at Turn 1, forcing him to limp the car back at less than 50km/h for nearly a full lap.
Double-waved yellows shown in sector two with 20:30 to go after the #7 Inception Racing McLaren slowed to a crawl on track with a serious electrical issue causing it to stop every few metres. Fran Rueda continued trying to coax it round, attempting to return to the pits at a crawl pace.
A Full Course Yellow was thrown eight minutes later for the rescue truck to collect the McLaren and bring it back to the pits, eight laps down from the lead. The FCY took less than two minutes, due to a fortunate track position making it easy to remove the car and return to green flag racing.
After four hours racing, the battle between the #92 Porsche and the #17 Scherer Audi had closed up, with Kevin Estre just behind Nicki Thiim. The two found themselves battling in the midst of lapped traffic, as the order had steadily sorted itself to be almost entirely Pro class cars in the top 20.
The leading Audi began shedding bodywork during the battle, although with seemingly unaffected pace. However, pit stops for both cars later saw Julien Andlauer steer the Porsche ahead with a pass on Luca Engstler through Bruxelles.
Night fell almost exactly at the five-hour point in the race, although cars had been running in night conditions since skies darkened in the first hour of the race.
A yellow flag was shown in sector one just seconds before the six-hour mark, following the #10 Boutsen Audi going off and into barriers at La Source.
After the five-hour mark, track limits really began to bite, with the majority of leading cars facing 30-second penalties, the ubiquity of the infractions effectively neutralising any racing consequence except to put cars slightly out of rhythm.
The race has had overall low attrition up to this point. Retirements before six hours were the #132 Porsche, which crashed behind the safety car during the opening laps of the race and the #7 McLaren, which was unable to rejoin the race following its electrical problem.