15-hour update: did the leading Ferrari make a tactical mistake?

25 October 2020

Not taking the mandatory Technical Pit Stop under Safety Car might cost the leading #51 AF Corse Ferrari dearly.

Shortly after the halfway mark, the rain over the Spa-Francorchamps increased. The leading trio immediately pitted to change to rain tyres, which erased the difference in strategy between the leading #51 AF Corse Ferrari and the #63 Orange1 FFF Lamborghini in second place. Some of the drivers inside the top 10 took a gamble by staying on slicks. That was the case for Maxime Soulet (#3 K-Pax Racing Bentley), Renger van der Zande (#29 Team Honda Racing) and Franck Perera (#163 Emil Frey Racing Lamborghini), but after three laps that cost them some 15 to 20 seconds a lap, they abandoned their plans.

With eleven hours to go a Full Course Yellow was called, after the entry to the endurance pitlane was blocked. With that being followed by a safety car, several of the teams in the top 10 used the opportunity to make their mandatory Technical Pit Stop. That stop must have a length of at least four minutes from pit-in to pit-out, and must be taken after the start of the 12th hour and before the end of the 22nd hour.

Crucially, the leading #51 AF Corse Ferrari did not take that Technical Pit Stop under the Safety Car, effectively wiping out their advantage on the cars that did. Those included the #63 Lamborghini and the #98 ROWE Racing Porsche (third at that time), but also the #4 Mercedes-AMG HRT, #40 GPX Racing Porsche, #3 K-Pax Racing Bentley and #29 Team Honda Racing.

Once the lights went green again, Nicklas Nielsen – who had taken over from Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 Ferrari – did his utmost best to increase the gap to the #63 Lamborghini of Andrea Caldarelli. Nielsen was helped by both Mathieu Jaminet (#12 GPX Racing Porsche) and the #66 Audi Sport Team Attempto of Patric Niederhauser, who passed the Lamborghini on their way to virtual podium finishing positions. Neither of them had taken a Technical Pit Stop during the safety car period though.

With 15 hours to go the #51 AF Corse has a narrow 3-second lead over the #12 GPX Racing Porsche, with the #98 ROWE Racing Porsche a further 30 seconds down the road. In Silver Cup the #5 HRT Mercedes-AMG extended its advantage on the #78 Barwell Motorsport (after the latter suffered a puncture), with the #93 Sky-Tempesta Racing Ferrari increasing its advantage in Pro-Am. The #108 CMR Bentley is still the best of the remaining Am Cup runners.

Watch the race live on the Total 24 Hours of Spa website, the event's official Facebook page and the GT World YouTube channel.