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Audi wins Spa 24 hours by seven seconds

#1 Audi, Spa 24 Hours

Audi claimed its third Spa 24 Hours victory in four years courtesy of the Belgian WRT team and its all-star line-up of Rene Rast, Markus Winkelhock and Laurens Vanthoor.

The best of the WRT Audi R8 LMS ultras prevailed in a battle with the Marc VDS BMW Z4 driven by Dirk Werner, Markus Palttala and Lucas Luhr by just seven seconds.

The Audi and the BMW had swapped the lead back and forth through the night because they were out of sequence on refueling, but the Z4's better fuel efficiency and brake wear appeared to have put it on course for victory on Sunday morning.

An ABS and traction control problem for the BMW handed the initiative to WRT and Audi, which looked on course for victory even after a change of front brake discs and pads in the penultimate hour.

Marc VDS rolled the dice at the final round of stops with 40 minutes to go by not changing tyres.

That gave Werner a lead of 20s, but Rast was able to close it down and take the lead in the space of 10 laps.

Rast said: "I was pretty confident that I could catch him, because I know how the tyres feel after one stint we didn't double-stint at all today.

"When the team said I was 20s behind, I said, 'OK, he won't make it home ahead of me'.

"I had to push very hard and it was quite hot at the end, so after the race I was exhausted and quite emotional."

Audis also filled out third and fourth positions: Christopher Mies, Frank Stippler and James Nash took the final podium spot, a lap down on the top two; and the Stainteloc R8 shared by Stephane Ortelli, Edward Sandstrom and Gregory Guilvert was a further lap behind.

Sixth place went to the best of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMGs in the race, HTP Motorsport's late entry for 2013 winners Maximilian Buhk and Maximilian Gotz and GT debutant Jazeman Jaafar.

The WRT Audi shared by three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winners Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer ended up 12th after a long delay when their R8 sustained damage in a collision in the 20th hour.

Bentley missed out on a top-10 result with the best of its Continental GT3s.

The car shared by Steven Kane, Guy Smith and Andy Meyrick ended up 13th after losing time with a damaged brake line early in the race and then an ECU change and splitter damage.

Pro-Am honours went to the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia shared by Andrea Bertolini, Marco Cioci, Niek Hommerson and Louis Machiels.

They came out on top in a battle with the Barwell Motorsport-run Ecurie Ecosse BMW in which factory driver Alexander Sims joined Oliver Bryant, Andrew Smith and Alasdair McCaig.

Sims finished 23s behind the Ferrari after encountering braking issues in the closing stages.

Third place in Pro-Am went to the AF Corse entry in which Australian touring car legend Craig Lowndes was making his first race start in Europe since 1997.

Aston Martin took fourth in class with 10th position for the MP Motorsport AMR V12 Vantage driven by on-loan factory driver Darren Turner, Joe Osborne, Richard Abra and Mark Poole.

McLaren had a disastrous 24 Hours: all three of its entries in the Pro class were out shortly after half distance.

The race was red-flagged shortly before one-quarter distance when British amateur Marcus Mahy had to be airlifted to hospital in nearby Liege.

The 53-year-old is conscious and has feeling in his limbs.

Leading finishers:

Pos  Drivers                             Team/Car                Gap
 1.  Vanthoor/Winkelhock/Rast            WRT Audi           382 laps
 2.  Luhr/Werner/Paltalla                Marc VDS BMW        +7.077s
 3.  Mies/Stippler/Nash                  WRT Audi             -1 lap
 4.  Ortelli/Sandstrom/Guilvert          Sainteloc Audi      -2 laps
 5.  Buhk/Gotz/Jaafar                    HTP Mercedes        -4 laps
 6.  Hommerson/Machiels/Bertolini/Cioci  AF Ferrari          -7 laps
 7.  McCaig/Sims/Bryant/Smith            Ecosse BMW          -7 laps
 8.  Wyatt/Rugolo/Lowndes/Piccini        AF Ferrari          -8 laps
 9.  Schneider/Primat/Verdonck           HTP Mercedes        -9 laps
10.  Abra/Poole/Osborne/Turner           MP Aston Martin     -10 laps
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#1 WRT Audi leads Spa after 18 hours