PK Corvette wins Spa 24 Hours

PK's Chevrolet Corvette C6.R, driven by Mike Hezemans, Anthony Kumpen, Jos Menten and Kurt Mollekens, won what was probably the last Spa 24 Hours for GT1 machines this weekend

PK Corvette wins Spa 24 Hours

The fight for overall victory was always likely to be between the three Vitaphone Racing Maserati MC12s and the three Corvettes, run by PK, Selleslagh Racing, and Sangari Team Brazil. Each proved competitive, but Peka outlasted them all to take a second Spa 24 victory for the American V8 machine.

The opening hour was more like a sprint event than an enduro, the top six cars fighting it out at the front as they pulled clear of the rest. It did not take long before the first key retirement.

Ex-Formula 1 racer Enrique Bernoldi had briefly taken the lead in the #8 Brazil Corvette before falling back when a rain shower arrived. He handed over to Roberto Streit just after the two-hour mark, and the car's race ended when Streit lost it in a big way at Eau Rouge and crashed.

The remaining five fought into the night, with the #1 Maserati, the Selleslagh Corvette, and the PK example making most of the running.

Oliver Gavin had just grabbed the lead for Selleslagh around one-third distance when Alexandre Sarnes Negrao crashed the #1 Maserati at Fagnes. He got the car back to the pits, but it was badly damaged and would lose over 60 laps.

Less than an hour later the #33 MC12 of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Stephane Lemeret, Carl Rosenblad, and Vincent Vosse clashed with a backmarker. A safety car period, to fix the barrier Negrao hit, allowed the #33 crew to lose the minimum amount of time with repairs, but their chance of victory had gone. Three down.

Vitaphone's challenge was still not over. The #2 MC12, which had been put on pole by Alex Muller, fought the Corvettes through the early hours of Sunday morning, driven by Muller, Miguel Ramos, Pedro Lamy and Eric van de Poele.

When James Ruffier, who could not match his co-drivers in the #3 Corvette, climbed in the Selleslagh entry, and the PK car suffered an oil pressure sensor issue, Lamy was able to edge away in the #2 car.

Muller jumped in and was over a minute ahead when a suspected blown tyre threw him off the road in the 19th hour. The car was too badly damaged to continue.

That left the two Corvettes to fight it out and, despite a minor fuel rig problem for Selleslagh, a race to the finish looked likely. But then a serious oil leak slowed Selleslagh dramatically. Gavin pitted and, although the car returned to the track twice, its race was effectively run.

The team got the car out to complete the final lap so that it could be classified, in 19th.

PK was therefore able to cruise over the last three and a half hours to come home a worthy winner. The crew completed 559 laps, 11 more than the recovering Guidi/Lemeret/Rosenblad/Vosse MC12.

"It was really nice, now that I have won it twice," said 2007 winner Hezemans. "It was a very, very hard race, especially the first 15 hours. We drove at 95 per cent, which might explain our luck at the end.

"We had no problems - just fuel and tyres, and that was it. That never happens!"

The only car that might have resisted the Maserati's comeback was the impressive Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS. Marcel Fassler, Henri Moser, Alexander Margaritis, and Marc Besseng dominated the G2 category in the VLN-spec machine, which proved particularly rapid during the cool night hours, and rose up the overall order as others faltered.

Ultimately, the Audi did not quite have the pace to hold back the Maserati, and an off for Margaritis in the last couple of hours dropped the car 15 laps off the winner. Their fine performance nevertheless netted a podium.

Fassler said: "It was really something. It was what you look to in 24-hour races - a car that was reliable, team-mates that are good and fast, and a team that does a good job on every pitstop. To finish third overall was an amazing result."

Just as at Le Mans in June, Ferrari's 430 once again defeated the Porsche 911 in GT2.

The IMSA Performance 911 of Raymond Narac, Patrick Pilet and Patrick Long represented perhaps the German marque's best chance of success. Pilet led the early stages and, even though the team lost the GT2 lead to AF Corse during the pitstops, the combination looked strong.

That was until Narac crashed on Saturday night. The car was repaired, but would ultimately retire with engine and exhaust problems.

AF Corse was left in charge of the class as noone else could quite match the pace and consistency of its two 430s. The Alvaro Barba Lopez/Niki Cadei/Matias Russo/Pierre Kaffer car did much of the early running, until a brake pad and oil change dropped it to second early on Sunday morning. Gearbox failure then left the car stranded, a cruel blow after a great performance.

Team-mates Toni Vilander, Gianmaria Bruni, Jaime Melo and Luis Perez Companc comfortably reeled off the remaining hours to beat the Brixia Racing Porsche of Luigi Lucchini/Martin Ragginger/Marco Holzer and Bryce Miller by five laps and take an impressive fourth overall.

Poleman Bruni said: "It was a very good race, a race without any mistakes from the pits or on the circuit. We drove from pole to the end without issue - we can't ask for better."

CRS Racing's stellar driver line-up of Andrew Kirkaldy, Rob Bell, Peter Kox and Antonio Garcia overcame a number of problems, including an ECU change, incorrect tyre pressures, and gearbox woes, to complete the GT2 podium.

The pair of Ford GTs were quick enough to dominate the G3 category for GT3 machines, but they almost lost it. The Thomas Mutsch/Maxime Martin/Peter Wyss/Marc Hennerici raced away from its rivals and the #122 sister car of Andreas Mattheis, Alexandre Funari Negrao/Constantino de Oliveria Jr/Luiz Clemente Lunardi held second after 13 hours, despite being involved in a multi-car shunt early in the race.

Engine problems then put the #122 machine out. But the #121 nevertheless continued to lead, despite losing around half of its nine-lap lead when Wyss went off during the night.

Only in the final couple of hours did the car's position look vulnerable as bodywork, floor and electrical issues slowed the squad down and allowed the steady #123 Muhlner Motorsport Porsche 911 to close to within a lap. Matech held on though to take the class win and 10th overall.

The two 2010-specification GT1s suffered more difficult races. The #40 Marc VDS Ford GT only made it as far as the first half hour before its problems began. It suffered serious engine and clutch issues, and the team worked hard to allow Bas Leinders, Renaud Kuppens and Eric de Doncker to make the finish, albeit in 27th.

The works Nissan GT-R of Michael Krumm, Darren Turner and Anthony Davidson fared better, but brake and drivetrain problems limited the car to 13th overall.

Pos Cl Drivers Car Time/Gap 1. GT1 Hezemans/Kumpen/Menten/Mollekens Corvette 24h00m03.458s 2. GT1 Guidi/Lemeret/Rosenblad/Vosse Maserati + 11 laps 3. G2 Fassler/Moser/Margaritis/Basseng Audi + 15 laps 4. GT2 Bruni/Vilander/Melo/Companc Ferrari + 19 laps 5. GT2 Ragginger/Lucchini/Holzer/Miller Porsche + 24 laps 6. GT2 Kirkaldy/Bell/Kox/Garcia Ferrari + 31 laps 7. GT2 Van S'teren/Coronel/Hommerson/MacHiel Porsche + 32 laps 8. GT2 Collard/Westbrook/O'Young/Edwards Porsche + 33 laps 9. GT2 Mullen/Niarchos/Quaife/Goodwin Ferrari + 34 laps 10. G3 Mutsch/Martin/Wyss/Hennerici Ford + 40 laps 11. G3 Lefort/Verbist/Forbes Porsche + 41 laps 12. G3 Lanik/Loix/Palttala/Slingerland Porsche + 42 laps 13. GT1 Krumm/Turner/Davidson Nissan + 46 laps 14. G3 Renard/Wauters/Van Hooydonck/Schroyen Aston + 56 laps 15. G3 Kelders/Greisch/Desbrueres/Helary Porsche + 62 laps 16. GT1 Bertolini/Bartels/Sarrazin/Negrao Maserati + 70 laps 17. G2 Lichtner-Hoyer/Eckert/Rich/Sharp Porsche + 72 laps 18. GT2 Ashburn/Sugden/Ortelli/Bergmeister Porsche + 73 laps 19. GT1 Gavin/Ruffier/Soulet/Longin Corvette + 74 laps 20. G3 Kerkhove/Havette/Noziere/Brouard Porsche + 75 laps 21. G3 Cullen/Shovlin/Patterson/Ludwig Ferrari + 83 laps Retirements: GT2 Pilet/Narac/Long Porsche 425 laps GT1 Muller/Ramos/Lamy/Van De Poele Maserati 419 laps GT2 Kuteman/Basso/Hartshorne/Daoudi Ferrari 406 laps G2 Schuybroeck/Kenis/Smets/D'maecker Mosler 403 laps GT2 Malucelli/Ruberti/Heyer/Romanini Ferrari 329 laps GT1 Leinders/Kuppens/Doncker Ford 318 laps GT2 Kaffer/Cadei/Russo/Barba Lopez Ferrari 316 laps G3 Lesoudier/Prignaud/Brandela/Corbel BMW 288 laps G3 Oliveira Jr/Negrao/Mattheis/Lunardi Ford 272 laps G3 Haring/Konstantinou/Durr/Bourdeaux Porsche 234 laps G2 Kaufmann/Ullmann/Vannelet/Hirschi Porsche 159 laps GT1 Van Dam/Dierick/VD Zwaan/VD Zwaan Saleen 128 laps G2 Radermeker/Ho-Pin/De Sordi/Villeneuve Mosler 65 laps GT1 Bernoldi/Streit/Maassen Corvette 55 laps G2 Lapierre/Nury/Tremblay/Perrin Porsche 26 laps G3 Hummel/Petit/Paillard/Fumal BMW 3 laps GT2 Pescatori/Babini/Zani Ferrari 3 laps GT2 Case/Sbirrazuoli Ferrari 3 laps 
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