24 Hours of SPA Marc VDS Racing BMW Z4 GT3

BMW has won the 2015 24 Hours of Spa after a tough battle with both Audi and Mercedes. The #46 Marc VDS Racing BMW Z4 GT3 of Nick Catsburg, Lucas Luhr, and Markus Palttala crossed the finish line first ahead of the #2 Audi Sport Team WRT R8 LMS and the #5 Phoenix Audi R8 – giving Audi a double podium victory in the historic 24 hour race.

AF Corse claimed a double podium for Ferrari in Pro-Am Cup with the #47 Ferrari 458 finishing in P1 and fourth overall. The #51 sister car took P2 while the #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 took P3. The Am-Cup win went to the #24 Team Parker Audi that managed to hold that position for most part of the race. Attempto #56 Porsche took P2 in this class while the #111 Kessel Racing Ferrari crossed the line in P3.

The 67th edition of the 24 Hours of Spa kicked off with torrential rains on the circuit bringing out a plethora of incidents in the early laps amidst significant but action packed confusion. Audi Sport Team WRT driver Frank Stippler had started from pole in the #2 Audi R8 LMS but two drivers from Von Ryan Racing wasted no time in the first lap as they took first and second place in the #58 and #59 McLaren 650S GT3 cars.

The first hour was met with two safety car periods the first one being caused by Gilles Duqueine in the #90 Ferrari 458 GT3 of Duqueine Engineering when he hit the barriers. The safety car intervention allowed some of the drivers to make their first pit stops – the Von Ryan McLarens were still in the lead while the M-Sport Bentleys of Maxime Soulet (#8) and Guy Smith (#7) followed in P3 and P4. The second safety car period was brought out by Karim Ojjeh in the #15 BMW Z4 GT3 of Boutsen Ginion, the barriers took quite some time to be fully repaired.

After two hours of racing there was another safety car period due to an incident involving the #3 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT and the #53 AF Corse Ferrari. Soon as the field went green René Rast jumped into the lead in the #1 Audi while the #59 McLaren that was in the front row dropped to sixth. The McLaren had changed into slicks but rain caused it to go back for wet tires, it dropped further down to P28. The #23 Nissan GT-R suffered the same fate,

The lead was changing hands at the speed of light – two BMW Z4s from Marc VDS were now leading the race after climbing up from the outer top 30 grid. The #63 Grasser Lamborghini Huracan GT3 had also climbed to 4th having started from the near bottom of the field. The #79 Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 GT3 was leading Pro-Am while the #24 Audi R8 from Team Parker Racing was leading AM class.

Points were awarded after six hours of racing, a period that encountered six safety car interventions as well as two Full Course Yellow instances. Grabbing full points in Pro-Cup was Rowe Racing with the #99 Mercedes SLS AMG GT3 which crossed the line first. Vanthoor who was leading in the #1 Audi but went off road at Turn 15 when trying to overtake allowing the Mercedes to pass and take the 12 points.

24 Hours of SPA Von Ryan Racing McLaren 650S GT3

The #35 Saintéloc Audi R8 took P2 and 9 points while the #45 Marc VDS BMW Z4 took 6 points after crossing the line in third. AF Corse Ferrari had two cars in P1 and P2 in Pro-Am class (#51 and #47) while the #12 TDS Racing BMW took third. The #24 Team Parker Audi was first in Am even after suffering technical issues moments after crossing the line. The team managed to rejoin the race while still in the lead.

After 8 hours of racing the #99 Rowe Racing Mercedes was still in the lead as the night got darker. The #7 M-Sport Bentley retired after Andy Meyrick went off the track. The #45 Marc VDS BMW was now second while the #35 Saintéloc Audi lay in third. AF Corse Ferrari were leading both Pro-Am Cup and Am-Cup with two of their Ferraris.

The #99 Rowe Racing Mercedes was still in the lead after 13 hours of racing amidst intense pressure from the #2 Audi which lay in second. The #45 Marc VDS BMW was third after incurring a penalty when it made contact with the #84 Bentley of Team HTP. The #8 M-Sport Bentley retired with technical issues in the course of the night, so did the #35 Saintéloc Audi which was running in the front row and the #63 Grasser Lamborghini which went off course.

The Von Ryan McLarens suffered even more when the #58 car made contact with the #333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari while the #59 car encountered technical problems. AF Corse sister cars (#51 and #47) continued to fight for the lead in Pro-Am Cup and were running well in the top ten. The other AF Corse car in Am-Cup lost the lead to the #24 Audi Team Parker after coming to a halt thereby bringing out the safety car.

With 8 hours left into the race, the #99 Rowe Racing Mercedes was commissioned to the pits for a fresh change of brakes on all fours. This meant losing the lead to the #2 Audi Sport Team WRT which led the two BMWs of Marc VDS Racing. The #47 AF Corse Ferrari continued to lead its sister car in Pro-Am Cup while the #24 Team Parker Audi led Am-Cup comfortably and in 19th place overall. The #111 Kessel Racing sat in second while the #10 AKKA ASP Ferrari was third in this class.

24 Hours of SPA Girls

Then came the biggest retirement of the race with only five hours left to go! The #45 Marc VDS BMW Z4 GT3 which was in the lead – after it suddenly came to a halt with a transmission problem, it had completed a total of 400 laps. The #45 car team comprised of DTM drivers Augusto Farfus and Maxime Martin as well as Dirk Werner. Following that incident, the #2 pole sitter Audi reclaimed the lead while the #46 Marc VDS BMW settled in second ahead of the #99 Rowe Racing Mercedes.

The #47 AF Corse Ferrari was now running fifth overall after the retirement of the #45 BMW. Team Parker Audi was still leading Am-Cup comfortably away from the #111 Kessel Racing and #10 AKKA ASP Ferrari.

The #46 Marc VDS Racing BMW managed to get back in the lead till the final minutes of the race, with the #2 Audi R8 LMS in second. The #5 Phoenix Audi had moved to P3 after the #99 Mercedes dropped away. Representing Pro-Am Cup strongly was the #47 AF Corse Ferrari which was running fourth overall.

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