26 July 2009
PK Carsport wins Spa 24 Hours
Accidents, human error, mechanical problems and the weather all took their toll, but when the chequered flag fell, PK Carsport was able to secure victory in the 2009 running of the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Mike Hezemans, Anthony Kumpen, Jos Menten and Kurt Mollekens came home eleven laps clear of the #33 Vitaphone DHL Maserati MC12 of Alessandro Pier Guidi, Stephane Lemeret, Carl Rosenblad and Vincent Vosse while the #111 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS of Marcel Fässler, Henri Moser, Alex Margaritis and Marc Basseng completed the podium – a remarkable result since the car is running in the G2 class, and this is the first time the R8 has competed in the Spa classic.
The battle for the overall win raged for many hours; three Vitaphone Maserati MC12 cars battled three Corvettes. First to falter was the #8 Sangari Team Brazil Corvette, which destroyed itself against the tyre wall at Raidillon in the fourth hour; then, a heavy rain shower seemed to shift the balance in favour of Vitaphone Racing Team. But just before midnight the #1 Maserati hit the barriers hard at Fagnes; the car was brought back to the pits but repairs took several hours, the car returning to the track at around 3.00. Repairing the barriers also required an hour-long safety car period.
The #33 Vitaphone car then lost time to repairs after colliding with a backmarker – but the remaining three cars, the #2 Maserati and the #3 and #4 Corvettes, put on a terrific show, lapping incredibly quickly with only seconds between them. At first it was the #3 SRT Corvette which spent most time in the lead, but then the #4 PK Racing car pulled out a small advantage. It then seemed the #2 Vitaphone Maserati had the pace to pull clear – until disaster struck. A high-speed blow-out did huge damage and left the car stranded out on the track and out of the race.
And so we were down to two Corvettes – and then there was one. In the final three hours, the #3 SRT Corvette developed an oil leak, which could not be fixed; the team were forced to park in the garage, only appearing for the final laps. This left the #4 PK Carsport Corvette, which had run a virtually faultless race and took a fine victory as a result.
The #33 Vitaphone Maserati ran solidly after being repaired, and steadily climbed back to second overall. The third GT1 finisher was the #35 Nissan Motorsport Nissan GT-R; however, the car is not eligible for points in the FIA GT Championship, so the points for third went to the #1 Vitaphone Maserati. SRT was classified fifth and took points for fourth, while the #2 Vitaphone Maserati was classified sixth and took points for fifth.
With two consecutive wins, Hezemans and Kumpen now have a slender one-point lead over Bartels and Bertolini going into the second half of the season. Vitaphone Racing Team still retains a healthy lead in the Teams classification.
The story was the same in GT2; the early leader was the #70 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche, but it dropped back after a long stop to repair damage after a spin; it finally retired with a broken engine. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari then held the lead for many hours until gearbox problems forced it out. The #50 AF Corse Ferrari assumed the lead and always had the pace to take the win. Behind them the #56 CRS Racing Ferrari was competitive until starter motor problems led to lengthy pit-stops and a stop-go penalty; #59 Trackspeed Porsche was on course for a podium finish until the clutch failed with less than three hours remaining.
After the first hour it was clear that there was only one car in contention for G2 honours, provided it could stay out of trouble. The #111 Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS ran almost perfectly; there was a late scare when debris blocking the radiator caused the engine to overheat, but it was not enough to prevent the Audi taking third overall, with a massive 57-lap advantage over the #116 Jetalliance Racing Porsche, with the #110 Guino Kenis Mosler a further 84 laps back; those three were the only finishers.
From before the halfway-point the #121 Matech Ford GT led the G3 category, and appeared to be cruising to an easy win; but then problems with the under-tray and rear wing required several pit-stops to resolve, and the #123 Mühlner Motorsport Porsche looked in with a chance of a late upset; but the Ford team did just enough to hold on, barely a lap clear when the chequered flag fell.
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