BMS Porsche snatches Spa win
|By Kevin Turner||Sunday, August 1st 2010, 14:25 GMT|
The BMS Scuderia Italia Porsche team has taken a dramatic last-gasp victory in this year's Spa 24 Hours after the leading BMW crashed in the final hour.
Wolf Henzler, Jorg Bergmeister, Martin Ragginger and Romain Dumas, who adds the Spa 24 Hours victory to his Le Mans success with Audi back in June, took the win having chased the faster BMW M3 for much of race.
The #79 GT National Class BMW of Dirk Werner, Dirk Muller and Dirk Adorf was always a contender and appeared to have the race won with just three quarters of an hour to go.
But then Dirk Werner went off the road and hit the barriers. He was forced to pit for repairs, allowing the #23 BMS machine to make up the lead of over a lap the BMW had built up.
Henzler swept to the front with just 37 minutes to go to take a remarkable victory in the 911 by just over a minute from the #16 IMSA example.
The Porsche attack had not looked quite strong enough for much of the race. After qualifying second the #79 BMW followed Gianmaria Bruni's polesitting AF Corse Ferrari in the opening hour before jumping it at the first round of pitstops while the Porsches struggled to keep up.
As the Ferrari hit trouble in the second hour, BMW's position strengthened. The #78 M3 briefly took the lead from its sister during one of several rain showers before ignition issues dropped it back during the night.
Other potential challengers also fell out during the hours of darkness. The #13 Prospeed Porsche retired after Richard Westbrook clashed with a backmarker, while the #2 AF Corse Ferrari and the GT3 pacesetting #50 Phoenix Audi R8 LMS were both eliminated in the same accident that involved one of the slower cars.
That left BMS and the similar IMSA machine of Patrick Long/Patrick Pilet/Richard Lietz/Raymond Narac to challenge the leading BMW.
In the wet-dry conditions of the night hours, with cars changing to wets and back again, the Porsches kept the pressure on BMW. But with dry conditions on Sunday morning the M3's pace told and it pulled away.
The two Porsches continued to fight over second, and GT2 victory, with BMS building an edge of nearly a lap before the dramatic BMW crash promoted the pair.
Werner returned to the track two laps behind the winner to take third, and win the GT National Class, but the team's bitter disappointment was obvious.
The second BMW recovered to fourth after its early delays, well clear of the #1 AF Corse Ferrari. That car, driven by NASCAR legend Michael Waltrip, Nicola Cadei, Robert Kauffmann and Marco Cioci, was never a factor at the front, but benefited from the problems of others to come through to third in GT2.
When the GT3-leading Audis of Phoenix and WRT hit trouble, the #99 Marc VDS Ford GT took over at the front of the category. But that hit starter motor trouble on Sunday morning and dropped back, leaving a battle between the United Autosports #68 Audi and Muhlner Motorsport's Porsche 911 at the top of GT3.
The Audi looked faster and ex-Formula 1 racer Eddie Cheever was closing on the 911 when he suffered power steering failure and almost crashed at Eau Rouge. The car, which Cheever shared with fellow former grand prix driver Mark Blundell and team bosses Richard Dean and Zak Brown, lost over 45 minutes and fell to an eventual ninth.
That left Juergen Haring, Dimitrios Konstantinou, Arnaud Peyroles, and Gilles Vannelet to win GT3 for Muhlner in sixth overall.
The recovering VDS Ford took second in class and eighth overall, behind the #4 GT2 Prospeed Porsche, while United Autosports got its two entries to the end with the #67 machine coming home behind its sister car to complete the top 10.
Despite major electronic problems in the final hours, the Jota Aston Martin V8 Vantage of Sam Hancock, Simon Dolan and historic racers Roger Wills and Joe Twyman returned to the track in the final moments to win GT4 and take 22nd overall.