Proximus 24 Hours of Spa race report
The first running of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa as part of the FIA GT Championship saw an amazing double for Larbre Competition-Chereau, with their two Chrysler Vipers GTS-Rs finishing in first and second places, ahead of a fantastic result for ...
The first running of the Proximus 24 Hours of Spa as part of the FIA GT Championship saw an amazing double for Larbre Competition-Chereau, with their two Chrysler Vipers GTS-Rs finishing in first and second places, ahead of a fantastic result for the Belgian-entered Silver Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R. Bouchut, Belloc and Duez, in the nr 7 Viper, completed 528 laps in the 24 hours, finishing 5 laps ahead of the nr 17, driven by Bourdais, Dumez and Goueslard. Robert Dierick, Eric de Doncker and Vincent Dupont took their best result ever in the Championship with third.
With double points in this event, Christophe Bouchut and Jean-Philippe Belloc have claimed the provisional 2001 FIA GT Drivers Championship, with their Spa team-mate Marc Duez moving up to third place. Christophe Bouchut also adds a third 24 Hours crown to his spoils, having won Le Mans in 1993 and Daytona in 1995– each claimed on his first participation in the event. Marc Duez, bringing his skill and local knowledge to the French team, has thus added a third Spa win to his impressive career record. Larbre also have a commanding lead in the Teams classification, having won 32 points at this round, placing them 49 points ahead of Carsport Holland with a maximum of 64 points remaining this season.
RWS Motorsport’s win in the N-GT class means that Luca Riccitelli has emphatically regained the Championship lead he lost to Terrien and Pescatori in Budapest, while RWS also regain the lead in the Teams classification. For Dieter Quester, this is a fourth win at Spa, his first victory dating back to 1973– an amazing career span for this 62-year old and incredibly competitive driver. Their young team-mates Antonio Garcia and Norman Simon have also risen in the points. Second place went to the nr 57 Freisinger Motorsport, with Stephane Ortelli, Cyrille Sauvage and Andrea Chiesa in second place, and the nr 55 Perspective Racing Porsche of Thierry Perrier, Michel Neugarten and Kurt Thiers in third place.
Category 2 was won by the nr 78 PSI Motorsport Porsche 996 GT3-R of Stéphane de Groodt, Philippe Tollenaire and Markus Palttala, with the nr 94 Land Motorsport Porsche Carrera 996 of Peter Scharmach, Pierre-Yves Courthals, Wolfgang Haugg and David Sterckx winning the category 3 class.
When the final four hours started, the nr 7 Larbre Viper was a lap ahead of the nr 3 Carsport Viper. However, a slightly longer pit-stop for the leading Larbre car brought the distance between the two cars down to just over 1 minute, with Mike Hezemans lapping faster than anyone else on the track.
Although the race was in its final moments, there was still the equivalent of a normal round of the FIA GT Championship to run. And everything changed when a cloudburst brought the safety car out for the sixth– and final– time. This brought the nr 3 Carsport Viper to within a few seconds of the leading Larbre Viper, and the race was back on. When the safety car pulled back in, Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Carsport Viper was chasing hard and closed to within seven seconds of Christophe Bouchut in the Larbre car. However, the Carsport Viper was suffering from alternator belt problems, which was affecting the power steering, and the 19-year old Dutchman spun at La Source. He recovered well and continued, although he was now over 20 seconds behind the Larbre Viper. But worse was to come a few laps later when the Carsport Viper pulled over to the side at the Bus Stop Chicane, and was pushed behind the wall. Jeroen tried to get the car going again, fetching a battery from a team-member, which resulted in a $1000 fine for receiving outside intervention. With the Carsport Viper retiring, the Larbre team was left in a perfect position, with their two Chrysler Vipers in first and second positions, well ahead of the third-placed nr 26 Silver Racing Viper.
The positions at the top of the N-GT remained relatively stable, with the nr 77 RWS Porsche 996 GT3-R having a three lap lead over the nr 57 Freisinger Porsche, and the nr 55 Perspective Racing Porsche in third place.
Although the race was practically over, it was not quite plain sailing for all the cars still running, and a number of mechanical problems still surfaced. The nr 82 DD Racing Porsche, 6th in N-GT, broke down by the side of the track forty minutes before the end. The driver got out to try and mend the car, which was suffering from fuel pressure problems. Eventually the car got going very slowly towards the pits, but took fifteen minutes to get back to its pit. There were also problems for the nr 54 Art Engineering Porsche, which was lying in fifth place in the N-GT category, with engine problems. It was smoking as the cars came up to do their last lap, but crossed the line safely. In all 25 cars were running at the end.