24H Spa, 12H: Iron Dames, Theeba Motorsport out of the race
The second six hours of the 24H of Spa proved to be extremely challenging for the female drivers of the race: After the retirement of the Iron Dames Lamborghini in the seventh hour, Theeba Motorsport's Reema Juffali also retired after her teammate Mettler was involved in a crash in the night. Samantha Tan Racing was similarly involved in an unavoidable contact and has been stationary for over 50 laps. Lilou Wadoux remains in contention for the Bronze Cup top 10.
The second six hours of the 2023 Crowdstrike 24 Hours of Spa turned out to be really challenging for the female drivers of the race. Gold Cup reigning champions Iron Dames had a brilliant qualifying but slipped down the order in the opening hour, only to make up ground at the six hour mark. A strong double stint for Rahel Frey had brought the #83 bright pink Lamborghini Huracan Evo2 back into the Bronze Cup top 10, but an accident just into the seventh hour took the all-female quartet out of the race.
Reema Juffali's Theeba Motorsport was also on the move; an unfortunate red flag in qualifying had left the Saudi team at the back of the field, but with solid stints the team was recovering towards the top ten in class. A crash during the night with no fault of their own also resulted in the retirement of Juffali's team.
At her second participation in the biggest GT3 race in the world, Samantha Tan had a troubled start as well. While in a very promising fourth place at the start, ISaac Tutumlu Lopez was tagged into a spin and the team received two track limits penalties in the first two hours - which demoted the ST Racing by Rinaldi Ferrari 296 GT3 from fourth to ninth.
Tan had a positive stint once in the car and gained a position; in the hands of Jon Miller, the car was getting back in contention for a top five in the ProAm category. Miller was unfortunately involved in a multi-car contact that cost the Canadian outfit over 50 laps.
At her SRO debut, Lilou Wadoux has managed to recover from a difficult start for the #52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 that she shares with Andrea Bertolini, Jef Machiels and Louis Machiels; the car also received penalties for track limits, but then steadily made its way up the order in the second six hours. Showing extremely consistent pace, Wadoux grabbed tenth place in Bronze Cup just before the mid-point of the race.
Here's what happened so far
Having just made it back in the class top 10 in the hands of Rahel Frey - after the Swiss driver completed a very competitive double stint - Doriane Pin took over the #83 Iron Dames Lamborghini as the race entered its second quarter. Pin immediately set the fastest lap of the race for the team - but her race was soon halted by an off track at the exit of Blanchimont. The Iron Dames Huracan was retrieved after a contact with the barriers, bringing out the safety car. The car was retired by the team, and Pin was unhurt.
There was more drama, as the Theeba Motorsport Mercedes - with Alain Valente at the wheel - hit trouble and lost a lap in the pits due to a technical issue. The Saudi team rejoined, albeit in 17th place in Bronze.
Jon Miller had also taken over the Samantha Tan Racing Ferrari , as the team attempted a recovery drive following a couple of penalties for track limits in the opening hours that dropped the new #38 296 GT3 from fourth to ninth in ProAm. Miller climbed back up to seventh in class after his first one-hour stint, before the intervention of the safety car.
Having completed a one hour stint, Lilou Wadoux left the wheel of the #52 AF Corse Ferrari back in the hands of Jef Machiels and then Andrea Bertolini once again; the team was hit by a 30 second stop and go penalty for track limits that demoted it to 15th in Bronze Cup.
Miller stayed in the car for a second stint and logged fast laps, caught the #64 Haupt Racing Mercedes and moved up to seventh in class with 16 hours and 30 minutes to go. The American was lapping quicker than the fifth.placed ProAm Audi of Junlin Pan, but had an almost 2 minute gap to close.
At the following round of pit stops, Yannick Mettler was back in the #81 Theeba Mercedes; after taking the start for the team, Mettler was on a mission to climb back the order.
Similarly, experienced Ferrari driver Andrea Bertolini managed to get back into the top-15 in Bronze in the #52 AF Corse entry he shares with Lilou Wadoux, Jef Machiels and Louis Machiels. The team had received a plethora of track limit penalties - but was recovering thanks to strong stints by Wadoux and Bertolini.
A Full Course Yellow with 15 hours and 32 minutes to go saw the Jon Miller being involved in an accident at Les Combes, when the #60 VSR Lamborghini spun and collected both Felipe Fraga's #4 Crowdstrike by Riley Mercedes and the #38 ST Racing Ferrari, both left with nowhere to go. Miller stopped in the gravel, but was soon aided out of the runoff and made it back to the pits. Unfortunately the incident cost ST Racing almost 20 laps.
With a pit stop under yellow, Lilou Wadoux was back in the #52 AF Corse Ferrari for her second stint - up to 12th in Bronze.
It was a truly challenging couple of hours for the female drivers on the grid, as Theeba Motorsport's Mercedes - still with Yannick Mettler behind the wheel - was involved in an accident at the exit of Le Combes: the #70 Crowdstrike Racing by Leipert Lamborghini of Kerong Li spun in the gravel and then came back onto the racing line backwards; Mettler had no way to take avoiding action and crashed into the back of the Lamborghini.
With significant damage, both cars were out of the race and the safety car made its way back onto the track. After 10 hours of racing, the #92 Manthey Porsche stayed out under the neutralization and got back into the overall lead, followed by the Rutronik Racing Audi of Thomas Preining and the #98 Rowe Racing BMW driven by Philipp Eng. Lilou Wadoux stayed behind the wheel and kept P12 in Bronze.
Following a brilliant effort by the ST Racing by Rinaldi crew, the blue 296 GT3 was back out on track in the hands of Samantha Tan with 14 hours and 25 minutes to go; unfortunately the car had to pit again one lap later and has remained stationary in the garage since then.
Lilou Wadoux was the protagonist of yet another brilliant stint and, at one point, the Frenchwoman was the fastest driver in the Bronze class. She brought the #52 Ferrari up in the top-10 in class at the ten hour mark.
Wadoux remained at the wheel for another stint and, having run as high as tenth, was back out in P12, chasing the Haupt Racing Mercedes of Jordan Love only a few seconds ahead. She would move up to P11 during the following Full Course Yellow - triggered by the Crowdstrike Racing by Riley Mercedes of Colin Braun, who got stranded in the gravel at Stavelot; while several teams opted to pit, the #52 AF Corse stayed out.
Lilou pitted at the following Full Course Yellow, caused by a big accident on the Kemmel straight between the ##998 Rowe Racing BMW of Neil Verhagen and the and #32 WRT BMW of Charles Weerts. Wadoux handed over to Jef Machiels, from tenth in class.
With barrier repairs underway, the neutralization was expected to last for approximately one hour.