28 July 2018

Montaplast by Land Audi leads into the night at 70th edition Total 24 Hours of Spa

Montaplast by Land Audi leads into the night at 70th edition Total 24 Hours of Spa

The #29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 LMS led the Total 24 Hours of Spa at one-quarter distance, with the young crew of Kelvin van der Linde, Sheldon van der Linde and Jeffrey Schmidt showing impressive maturity as night fell on the Belgian circuit.  

The #29 car was one of several to hold the lead of the race during the opening stages. The #2 Audi Sport Team WRT machine paced much of the first hour after beating the pole-sitting #62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin into Eau Rouge. Their positions were then reversed after the first round of pit stops, with the R-Motorsport crew turning their machine around quicker than the WRT squad.

The complexion of the race changed over the next 90 minutes as a full-course yellow – which then developed into a safety car – brought a number of new competitors into the frame, including the #8 Bentley Team M-Sport machine.

The #62 Aston Martin then slipped down the order due to a lengthy pit stop, while the #8 Bentley moved into the lead and remained there after another full-course yellow.

There was almost immediate drama when the race went green as the #63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini made heavy contact with the #58 Garage 59 McLaren, causing significant damage to both cars. The pair were forced to pit for lengthy repairs, while the #63 was also hit with a 30-second stop-go penalty. 

The leading Bentley remained out front through yet another full-course yellow after the #17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car shed a wheel and retired, with Andy Soucek at the front for the start of the sixth hour.

The Bentley soon stopped for a fifth time, but the latest full-course yellow did not work in its favour. 

Debris brought about the track neutralisation and allowed a handful of cars to stop while their rivals were running at slow speed. As such, the #29 Montaplast by Land Audi – which had run second at five hours – moved into the lead with Kelvin van der Linde at the wheel. The #98 ROWE Racing BMW held second, ahead of the #8 Bentley. 

That was the state of play when the race reached one-quarter distance, with Van der Linde running some 25 seconds clear of Ricky Collard in the chasing BMW. 

The #42 Strakka Racing Mercedes led the Pro-Am class by a sizeable margin, having also stopped during the most recent full-course yellow. David Fumanelli was at the wheel after six hours, running eighth overall and some way clear of the next-best in class, the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari. RAM Racing had led the early running with their Mercedes, but slipped back due to a radiator problem. 

The battle for Silver Cup honours was closer at one-quarter distance, with the #12 Ombra Racing Lamborghini leading the #78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini. The #54 Emil Frey Jaguar – pole-sitter and long-time class leader in Silver Cup – sat third. 

The Am Cup battle was among the most competitive in the field, with several cars leading during the opening six hours. The #77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini held the top spot, ahead of the #9 Target Racing Lamborghini and the #488 Rinaldi Ferrari. Groupe National, meanwhile, was led comfortably by the #67 GDL Racing Lamborghini Super Trofeo car.

Drivers will now tackle the treacherous night hours, a period that is sure to test the young Montaplast by Land crew as they chase victory at the 70th edition 24 Hours of Spa.