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Intercontinental GT Challenge

BMW Entries Running 1-2 as 24H Spa Reaches Halfway Point

No. 98 ROWE Racing BMW leads TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa at halfway point…

Photo: Jules Beaumont/SRO

ROWE Racing’s BMW M4 GT3s sat first and second at the halfway point of the TotalEnergies 24 Hours of Spa, with Nicky Catsburg leading in the No. 98 machine.

Catsburg reached the 12-hour mark of the Belgian enduro with a half-minute advantage over Max Hesse in the No. 50 ROWE car which features BMW Junior Team members.

The BMWs have been strong in night conditions so far, although Hesse came under pressure from Daniel Juncadella in the No. 88 Akkodis ASP Mercedes-AMG GT3 Evo as the race ticked into its second half at 4:45 a.m.

Catsburg’s co-driver Nick Yelloly led the field away at a restart from a safety car period, with 10 hours and 42 minutes in the books.

The safety car naturally followed on from the first and so far only red flag period, which occurred in the 10th hour when Matthew Payne crashed at the high-speed Blanchimont left-hander driving the No. 16 Earl Bamber Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Payne was confirmed to be OK and was taken to the on-site medical center for checks, while the other cars were ordered back to the pit lane under parc ferme conditions.

After the accident had been cleared, the field was allowed to assemble on the starting grid before a safety car phase was launched a quarter of the way into the 11th hour.

The safety car stayed out for longer than initially planned because GPX Martini Racing’s Porsche had to be recovered after it encountered a sudden loss of power and dropped oil on track.

That incident removed one of the key contenders and ended the hopes of a second victory for the 2019 winning trio of Richard Lietz, Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen.

Another significant entry that retired in the first 12 hours was the No. 54 Dinamic Motorsport Porsche, which led the opening hour through Klaus Bachler, but had contact with another car that resulted in a puncture and contributed to severe handling issues.

There was also a solo accident for Albert Costa into the barriers at the exit of Fagnes that eliminated the No. 63 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo.

The first half ended with the ninth Full Course Yellow being deployed for a clash between Gabriele Piana in the Silver Cup-contending No. 5 HRT Mercedes-AMG and AF Corse Ferrari driver David Perel.

Perel managed to bring his Gold Cup Ferrari back to the pits, but Piana could not move the injured Mercedes-AMG which had stopped on the inside of Les Combes.

After 12 hours, a total of 17 cars from a starting grid of 66 had retired, with the majority exiting as a consequence of accidents or accident damage.

Cars aiming to bounce back over the coming hours include the Orange1 K-PAX Racing Lamborghini and the No. 32 Audi Sport Team WRT R8 LMS GT3 Evo, both of which encountered costly punctures earlier in the contest.

ROWE Collects More Endurance Cup Points

The halfway mark also represented the second stage of points distribution for the Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS Endurance Cup.

Catsburg, Yelloly and Augusto Farfus earned another 12 points for being the race leaders while Hesse, Dan Harper and Neil Verhagen earned nine points for their cause.

The Junior Team trio only emerged in second after the red flag, as the FCY that preceded the stoppage coincided with a pit cycle that saw the timings of different cars’ pit visits shuffle up the order.

Juncadella, Jules Gounon and Raffaele Marciello collected seven points, compared with the six claimed by their main title rivals Antonio Fuoco, Daniel Serra and Davide Rigon who are sharing the No. 71 Iron Lynx Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo 2020.

The Ferrari trio led the championship after six hours on countback, however the Akkodis ASP crew moved ahead on 12 hours.

Other cars still in the mix include the No. 95 Beechdean AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3, the leading Porsches from KCMG and EMA Motorsport, Mercedes-AMG Team cars from GruppeM and GetSpeed, and the JOTA McLaren 720S GT3.

The class leaders at the halfway point were the No. 4 HRT Mercedes-AMG in Silver Cup, the Iron Dames Ferrari in Gold Cup, the No. 24 Herberth Motorsport Porsche in Pro-Am and the No. 35 Walkenhorst Motorsport BMW in Bronze Cup.

From the 12-hour point until just before the end of the 22nd hour, each entry must complete one ‘technical’ pit stop lasting at least four minutes.

Positions After 12 Hours

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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