Michael Christensen holds the lead at the Spa 24 Hours in the GPX Racing Porsche 911.2 GT3R as the clock ticked past midnight in the Ardennes.
The Porsche factory driver was on a later pit strategy than his rivals around him as the Dane fought off the attentions of Maro Engel in the pole-sitting #4 Mercedes-AMG Team Black Falcon Mercedes-AMG GT3 and Klaus Bachler in the Dinamic Motorsport Porsche.
Mirko Bortolotti in the GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo made it to 00:30am in fourth, with a relatively healthy 11 second margin over Maxi Buhk in the GruppeM Mercedes.
Rain just after the six-hour mark shook up the order as teams and drivers took divergent strategies in when to switch from slicks to wets with some teams electing to make the change early, with others gamely fighting on. The #1 Team WRT Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Nico Müller being one of those to not wait to make the change – while others, namely Mikhail Aleshin in the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari 488 GT3, elected to stay out until the hour mark so as to claim maximum championship points.
The #25 Sainteloc Audi R8 LMS GT3 lost the lead as the eighth hour completed when the team was adjudged to have committed a pit infringement. It was the second given to the team in the space of an hour, but the first was cancelled five minutes after it was handed down. The second was not, as Markus Winkelhock trundled through the pits as the clock hit 16 hours to go.
Also being given a drive-through was early-race leader Nick Tandy. The Rowe Racing driver had to come in from the lead after he was handed the penalty for setting a best sector time while under double yellow flags.
Much like the first three hours, there was a lengthy caution period to start the fourth hour as the marshals worked hard to recover Ryan Ratcliffe’s Bentley Continental GT3 which went off at the exit of Stavelot and hit the barriers.
That took more than 40 minutes to clean up as the track crews put new tyres up on the exit but once the track went green, drivers had to deal with the rain.
One car failed to make it into the darkness, the #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin of Matt Parry. In a near identical place to Ratcliffe’s off, at the exit of Stavelot, Parry put the driver’s side wheels on the kerb and had the car go from underneath him. He didn’t hit the barriers as hard as the Team Parker Racing driver as he managed to limp the car back to the pits, but the team decided the damage was too extensive to continue.
Another car hitting trouble was the #55 Attempto Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 as Steijn Schothorst, in the former Silver Cup-leading entry, pulled off track and had to be recovered by a circuit vehicle.
Also dropping time was René Rast, in the #1 Audi, as the team elected to take the mandatory five-minute technical pitstop to change brakes on the R8.
Going in the other direction though was the Oman Racing by TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GT3. After starting in the pitlane because of a chassis change following qualifying, super-human stints by Nicki Thiim and Salih Yoluc gained more than 50 places to end hour 8 in 14th overall and a very healthy Pro-Am Cup lead.
The #5 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3 leads in the Silver Cup, while Richard Abra holds the Am Cup lead in the #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 Evo.
Watch the action go through the night and into the dawn by watching the live stream here.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION TO KEEP THE WEBSITE RUNNING AND ALLOW THE GT REPORT TEAM TO CONTINUE TO BRING YOU EXCLUSIVE CONTENT.
NEW PRINTS AND CANVAS AVAILABLE IN OUR SHOP: