Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup

SMP Racing’s Ferrari Leads At Rain-Affected Spa.

After six hours of racing, and in heavy rain, the Total 24 Hours of Spa was led by the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari F488 GT3 with Mikhail Aleshin at the wheel. 29 seconds behind was the #63 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 driven by Christian Engelhart with the overall top three completed by Fabian Schiller in the #88 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3.

The Silver Cup category was led by the #5 Phoenix Racing Audi piloted by Finlay Hutchison and the Pro-Am Cup category saw the #97 Oman Racing with TF Sport leading, Nicki Thiim at the wheel.

The Am Cup leaderboard was headed by the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini.

The race got underway with heavy rain and a wet track as the forecast bad weather hit the iconic 7.004 kms Belgian circuit. As a result, the 72-car field began the race behind the Safety Car with four laps run before the race went green.

Maro Engel led the field from pole position with Kevin Estre in the #20 GPX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R carving his way through the field from 11th to second.

The race was neutralised for the second time when the #227 HubAuto Corsa Ferrari F488 GT3 crashed at Jacky Ickx Corner. When racing resumed Maro Engel in the #4 Mercedes remained in the lead with Kevin Estre in the #20 pushing hard in second.

The #59 Garage 59 Aston Martin Vantage AMR GT3 had issues with a front hub and had to retire and the #108 Bentley Team M-Sport Bentley Continental GT3 also had to retire with an oil pressure issue.

The race was interrupted with a lengthy Full Course Yellow and Safety Car for a third time when Jean Paul Buffin in the #27 3Y technology BMW M6 GT3 went into the barrier at Les Combes.

As soon as racing resumed, it was almost immediately neutralised when Ryan Ratcliffe in the #31 Team Parker Bentley went off at Paul Frere. The driver was unhurt but the car unable to continue.

After the Safety Car was brought in, there was drama when it was announced that the then-leading #998 ROWE Racing Porsche had been served with a drive-through penalty for speeding under the yellow flag conditions. This was promptly followed by a penalty for the#563 Orange 1 FFF Racing Lamborghini, driven by team owner Andrea Caldarelli, for overtaking at pit exit.

As a result, the #1 Audi Sport team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3, with Robin Frijns at the wheel, inherited the lead with Vincent Abril in the #88 Mercedes-AMG Team AKKA ASP Mercedes in second.

With 73 laps run by the leaders, the Silver Cup class was led by the #Attempto Racing Audi driven by Mattia Drudi and Darren Burke led the Pro-Am Cup category in the #74 RAM Racing Mercedes. The Am Cup class was led by the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 piloted by Adrian Amstutz.

Luca Stolz was making his way back up the field after #4 car passed Lucas Auer in the #999 BLACK FALCON Mercedes for third position. Auer then lost a further position when he was passed by Alex Riberas in the #Audi Sport Team WRT Audi.

Stolz was back in the lead after Frijns in the #1 car pitted, with Lucas Auer in the #999 back into second.

The #9 Am Cup Boutsen Ginion BMW M6 GT3 with Gennaro Bonafede driving had an off and Darren Burke in the #74 Mercedes made contact with the left rear corner of the Marco Mapelli’s #563 Lamborghini, causing damage.

There was drama for the R-Motorsport Aston Martin with Matt Parry at the wheel after the #62 went off at Courbe Paul Frere, causing significant damage to the rearm of the car and a journey back to the garage for repair.

The #2 Audi Sport team WRT Audi, piloted by Dries Vanthoor, was served with a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit-lane, dropping the #2 car down to 23rd.

There was bitter disappointment for the #31 Team Parker Racing Pro-Am Cup Bentley Continental GT3 when the team announced that the car was being withdrawn after the earlier heavy impact at Stavelot, Ryan Ratcliffe the driver.

The #444 HB Racing Ferrari had an off at T5 with Thomas Neubauer at the wheel. Neubauer managed to get the car re-started and continued.

After five and a half hours of racing, R-Motorsport announced that the #762 Silver Cup Aston Martin, previously driven by Ricky Collard, was being withdrawn.

As the race approached the six-hour mark, rain returned, forcing teams to make quick decisions about tyres.