After an action-packed, rain-soaked and thrilling race, Freisinger Motorsport claimed an historic result by becoming the first N-GT team to taking the chequered flag in both the 2003 Proximus 24 Hours of Spa and any other FIA GT Championship result.

The Porsche 996 GT3-RS piloted by Stephane Ortelli, Marc Lieb and Romain Dumas - who won their class in 2002 - completed 479 laps of the circuit in the 24 hour time limit, finishing eight laps ahead of the #22 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550 Maranello, with another N-GT machine - the #72 Seikel Motorsport Porsche - in third.

''It is going to be difficult to talk about anything right now,'' Ortelli admitted after the race, ''The race started very, very well for us because we were not fighting with the other N-GT cars. They were much quicker in the dry, but I was just quicker in the rain, so I tried to stay in control of the situation. We were second when the rain came but, at that time, I came back to the pit and Marc took the car.

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''The Porsche was just unbelievably good in the rain and the Dunlop tyres were fantastic too. They compromised for the fact that we have less horsepower than the
big cars. Without the rain, though, I do not think we could have won.''

In the championship classification, the result means that Freisinger now has a healthy lead in both N-GT team and drivers' title races, while BMS has taken an almost unassailable lead in the GT teams' classification with four rounds remaining, the #23 entry having won the previous five races leading in to Spa.

In the GT category, the BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari was followed home by the #1 Larbre Competition Chrysler Viper GTS-R - winner for the past two years - driven by Christophe Bouchut, Vincent Vosse, Patrick Huisman and S?bastien Dumez, with the #24 Paul Belmondo Racing Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Paul Belmondo, Emmanuel Cl?rico, Yann Clairay and Pierre-Yves Corthals third.

The #57 MENX Ferrari 360 Modena of Robert Pergl, Yannick Schroeder and Jaroslav Janis claimed third in N-GT behind the Seikel crew of Gabrio Rosa, Luca Drudi, Alex Caffi and Andrea Chiesa, and finished sixth overall.

''We are really delighted because we are newcomers to N-GT and we have never raced in a 24-hour event,'' MENX team leader Robert Pergl bubbled, ''We have never tested at Spa either so, taking into account all these facts, it is an amazing success. We really enjoyed it and found it so funny to be passing the big cars. We only had minor problems with the car and I would like to thank Ferrari for supplying us with a car which was so reliable.''

After 18 hours of almost total damp, the 19th dawned with brightening skies - although there wasn't much to be cheerful about for the #15 Lister Storm, which lost significant amounts of time when it came in with a broken wheel hub. Although the part was changed, the car rejoined down in seventh position overall, albeit still third
in GT. With additional pit stops over the next hour, the car dropped to twelfth, however.

Just before 1045hrs, the race saw a major turnaround, as the #1 Larbre Viper, which had closed to within 1min 17secs of the leading Porsche, came past the pit straight going slowly. Vosse brought the car into the pits on the next lap and the car was pushed back into the garage for a gearbox change, which would lose them at least
half an hour. This meant that, with five hours remaining, there were three N-GT cars in the top four.

''It's always disappointing when you know you have the possibility to win the race,'' Vosse said of his unscheduled stop, ''We were pushing quite hard, and the team did a fantastic job. The car was very competitive - the quickest on the straight - so this is a bit different from last year and the year before. he car was very nice to drive until the gearbox problem, but the team did a very good job changing it.''

The #22 BMS Ferrari moved up to second place at 1105, leading the GT category ahead of the #24 Belmondo and the Larbre Vipers. In N-GT, the #50 Freisinger Porsche led, ahead of the #72 Seikel Porsche and the #57 MENX Ferrari. The #7 Saleen S7-R, driven by Thomas Erdos, had a rear left puncture and then lost a wheel at
the pit entry on its way back to its garage, but was able to rejoin after repairs.

The Larbre Viper came back out onto the track at 1124, rejoining in seventh position, but Vosse was well down on the race leader, despite setting the fastest lap times on the track at that point of the race.

Fine drizzle started again at approximately 1223, becoming rapidly heavier at various parts of the notorious Ardennes track. Having run on slicks during the driest part of the event, a number of cars came into the pit-lane to get rain tyres, including the leading GT car. The #89 Team Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari, the last of the classified N-GT cars, spun and continued as it encountered the different levels of grip.

The showers continued to vary in intensity but, by 1320, the rain had stopped and, at 1340, Patrick Huisman, in the #1 Viper, was the first to move back to slick tyres. Soon afterwards, however, the car spun after a near collision with the #89 TMC Ferrari, which also spun. Despite the setback, however, the Larbre car continued to lap consistently faster than the #126 Zakspeed car in front of him, and the French car ultimately moved into fourth place.

With 44 minutes of the race remaining, the #11 Roos Optima Chrysler Viper GTS-R lost its rear left wheel, and had to make careful progress back to the pits, rejoining in the same position as the last classified GT runner.

A little later, with just 25 minutes left, the Larbre Viper unlapped itself from the Seikel Porsche, which it was chasing in an attempt to take third overall. Lapping around 13secs a lap quicker, the car had to gain nearly 7km on the Seikel machine in the remaining time, but was running out of laps to do so.

''The weather was so important for us in the N-GT class,'' Seikel's Gabrio Rosa admitted, ''We are a totally private team, so the best result we can make is second place in N-GT.''

Entering the final quarter of an hour, there was a problem with the leading BMS car, which came to the pits with an overheating engine, due to a radiator leak. The leak was sealed with silicon gel and the car rejoined without losing its place, having enjoyed a lead of two laps over the chasing Seikel car.

''At the beginning, we didn't push the car for the safety of the mechanical parts, so that strategy worked,'' Bryner revealed, ''At the end, there was a problem with the radiator, so we lost some water - it was lucky it was just at the end, so we finished the race.''

''It's very good for the team, and I think they did a great job because the Biaggi/Bobbi car crashed on Thursday and they worked through the night to six o'clock in the morning,'' team-mate Enzo Calderari added, ''We have to thank all of them because, for them, it was a 48-hour race. They did a very good job.''

The last few minutes were far from easy, however, with a heated battle for second and third places ensuing in the overall classification, joined in the final minutes by the Larbre Viper.

''We tried very hard to push to the end to catch third place, but we were missing a couple of minutes,'' Vosse said, ''The Freisinger Porsche did a fantastic job, they did not have any problems and the team and drivers did not make any mistakes. We did not make any either but, in the last four or five hours after we broke the gearbox, the Porsche slowed down quite a lot so we do not what we could have done. What we do know is that, at the end, we were 24 minutes behind and we lost 47 minutes in the pits. So who knows ?''

When the flag fell, however, the #50 Freisinger Porsche was comfortably ahead of the #22 Ferrari, with the Seikel Porsche hanging on to the final overall podium position. The #1 Larbre Viper was fourth overall, second in GT, with the Zakspeed example in fifth, the winner of the G2 category for National GT cars.

''This is our first 24 hours, and we reached the finish, which was our goal,'' owner-driver Henrik Roos said, ''And we scored three points, which is not bad. But I am exhausted - every time I tried to sleep something happened to the car and they came to wake me.''

''It feels like a miracle that we finished,'' team-mate Peter Snowdon agreed, ''The team worked really hard to fix the car after I crashed earlier in the race with suspension failure. They had to take things like the wing and windscreen wipers from the road car on display in the tent. The problems kept on coming - it caught fire when we were changing drivers, and I was covered in the extinguisher powder. Then a wheel fell off with 40 minutes to go. We did the last nine hours without a front splitter, meaning we had no downforce, and over three hours with no brakes. Without the mechanics, we would never have finished. They did a really brilliant job.''

The #24 Paul Belmondo Viper was sixth overall and third in GT, followed in the class by the #1 5 Lister Storm, the #7 Graham Nash Saleen and the Roos-Optima Viper.

''The car was very good during the night, when it was very tough, and good in the wet, especially when it was raining,'' team boss Belmondo reported, ''We were catching the Larbre Viper, but we had the same problem as them, with the gearbox .''

In N-GT, the MENX Ferrari claimed a top three slot, ahead of the #53 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena, the #74 Eurotech Porsche, the #66 Autorlando Porsche and the #89 TMC Ferrari.

''We had problems during the rain with the windscreen wiper mechanism, and then we got held up in the pits during the safety car period,'' reported GNM team manager Gordon Davies, ''Later in the race, we had a fuel pump failure and wheel bearing failures, but other than that, the car is good and the drivers too. We are quite happy and looking forward to the last four races with the development we have achieved so far this season.''

Although the #22 car made it to the finish for BMW Scuderia Italia, the championship leaders posted their first retirement of the year.

''We broke the left bank of the engine,'' Matteo Bobbi revealed, ''There is still a long way to go in the championship but, with our points situation, this is not a big problem. This was my first 24-hour race and it was very strange - starting a race that you have no idea if you will finish!''

There was also bad news for the other two Listers in the race, including the seemingly cursed #14 'factory' car of Jamie Campbell-Walter.

''It was a big accident - I either seem to be okay or to have massive crashes,'' the Briton said of his exit, ''We were going so well, so it's such a shame. We were in the lead after the first three hours, which was great considering we started from the back - and shows how little importance qualifying has for this sort of event.

''Tommy [Coronel, who rejoined the team for the race in place of Bas Leinders, who had crashed the car in practice] was driving during the heavy rain, and the wiper stopped working four or five laps before the end of his stint. We were aiming to win the points at six hours, and so I went out again with no windscreen wipers - and I couldn't see anything. With hindsight I should have come back in, but I'm a bit like [team boss] Laurence Pearce when I've got a goal in mind.

''I think I aquaplaned off, but I could have touched the kerb. I'm sorry for the whole team because we could have done well. The car was perfect, especially considering the shunt we had on Thursday.''

It was a similarly sorry story for the British Creation Autosportif team, which retired as a result of its own accident.

''I'm rather sad as I've done four 24-hour races and never finished any of them,'' Marco Zadra admitted, ''Perhaps I'll be more lucky next time.

''It went quite well to start with but, in the heavy rain, the car was aquaplaning everywhere. It was strange as I was quicker in the corners than on the straight! We had a problem with the windscreen wipers when Duncan [Huisman] was driving, which lost us time, and then Bobby [Verdon-Roe] was involved in a collision with a Porsche which badly damaged the car. We had no option but to retire.''

In the points standings, the second BMW crew of Thomas Biagi and Matteo Bobbi continue to lead the GT classification with 50 points, ahead of Lilian Bryner and Enzo Calderari on 39, and the third regular line-up of Fabrizio Gollin and Luca Cappellari on 38. Andrea Piccini, whose Lister Storm finished fourth in GT, is the first non-Ferrari driver in seventh place, with 31 points.

BMS Scuderia Italia, with 88 points, cannot be caught this season, as Lister Racing is 41 points behind with 40 points remaining.

In N-GT, Ortelli and Lieb, who have now won three consecutive races, now have a lead of 13.5 points over Fabrizio de Simone, whose #53 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena finished fourth, along with his team-mates Iradj Alexander and Luciano Burti.

''There is nothing more to add really - it was an incredible race,'' Lieb concluded, ''We have made a big step in the championship during this race by taking full points, which is very good for us. Stephane said after our Donington win that we had a chance to win this race overall. I said 'You're crazy! It's impossible', but we did it!

''It is quite unbelievable. I realised it was possible yesterday evening when all the rain came and didn't stop. Our car, the tyres and everything were just perfect.''

Freisinger Motorsport also has a lead of 19.5 points in the teams' classification, ahead of Team Maranello Concessionaires, whose #89 Ferrari 360 Modena was the last of the N-GT cars to be classified, with Jamie Davies, Darren Turner and Guy Smith scoring two points for seventh.