Spa 24H, 12H update: Iron Dames lead in Gold Cup after red flag interruption
Following a lengthy red flag, Doriane Pin took the lead of the Gold Cup class for Iron Dames - the all-female team having gained over 30 places overall from the start. Samantha Tan Racing recovered to P12 in class after an issue into the sixth hour; Reema Juffali completed her first night stint, running second in Bronze Cup.
We are at the heart of the night in the Ardennes, as the 24 Hours of Spa just reached the half-way mark for a spectacular 2022 edition. Starting from P11 in the Gold Cup class, Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting, Doriane Pin and Sarah Bovy alternated behind the wheel of the #83 Iron Dames Ferrari 488 GT3 in the first half of the race to gain over 25 positions overall and climbed the order to reach the top three in class. In the hands of local hero Sarah Bovy, Iron Dames were up to second place after 4 hours of racing and the Belgian hunted down the class leading #5 Haupt Racing Mercedes. The team would later run in fourth in the first night stint but at the eighth hour mark, Michelle Gatting briefly led the race, before settling in second place. Also at their first participation at the iconic 24 Hours of Spa, Canadian outfit Samantha Tan Racing - a multiple title winning team in the 24H Series and at their first year of GT3 racing in SRO America - had qualified in P17 in Silver Cup. Samantha Tan, Harry Gottsacker, Nick Wittmer - this weekend joined by Maxime Oosten - in fact had no prior experience of the famous racetrack and, at their biggest race to date, they found their rhythm in practice and qualifying. Driver/owner Samantha Tan has completed two driving shifts so far - including the start of the race - and had a solid run before the team climbed to P13 in class. Unfortunately, a diffuser issue cost them almost 10 laps of repairs, and Nick Wittmer went back out at around six hours of racing with the mission of recovering as many positions as possible. So far, the #28 ST Racing BMW M4 GT3 made its way back into P12 in Silver Cup class, with Maxime Oosten's first stint of the race during the night.
The pole sitting #20 Mercedes SPS Automotive Performance of Muller/Pierburg/Kurtz/Juffali lost first place in class after leading comfortably in the opening hours. Saudi's first ever female racing driver Reema Juffali - at her first year of GT3 racing and only at her second 24 hour race - had a brilliant qualifying on Thursday night and took over the #20 Mercedes AMG GT3 while in second in class, two laps down, for her first stint. She eventually handed over to Valentin Pierburg from P2 in class. The opening hours were relatively clean, before a series of punctures and contacts triggered FCY and Safety Car neutralizations; the early overall leaders Dinamic Porsche dropped down and would later retire when a puncture caused a steering problem. Dinamic Motorsport's Klaus Bachler had battled with the Akkodis Mercedes of Raffaele Marciello, who alternated at the top of the leaderboard with the GetSpeed Mercedes at the three hour mark, and then with the #71 Iron Lynx Ferrari and the #98 ROWE Racing BMW. The BMW continued to lead after a lengthy red flag: the #16 Earl Bamber Motorsort Porsche driven by Matthew Payne had a huge off at Blachimont and crashed into the barriers; while the driver was fortunately ok, the barriers needed extensive repairs and the race returned to green flag racing after over 1 hour and 25 minutes. During the neutralization, Doriane Pin - who had just taken over from Michelle Gatting in the Iron Dames Ferrari - stayed out when the #5 Haupt Racing Mercedes of Arjun Maini pitted, thus moving into the class lead as the race went back to green. There was trouble for one of the leading contenders in the overall classification as well: the #221 GPX Porsche hit trouble and was forced to retire for engine issues.
Having stretched its stint, the Silver Cup entry #4 Haupt Mercedes of Jannes Fittje found himself in first place overall before his 14th stop. He would stop with 12 hours and 21 minutes to go, paving the way again to the #98 ROWE Racing BMW.
Nicky Catsburg leads his teammate Max Hesse in the sister #50 car. 18 year-old up-and-coming star Doriane Pin led the Gold Cup class throughout her stint, ahead of Arjun Maini (#5 Haupt Mercedes) and Jens Klingmann (#34 Walkenhorst BMW). The Frenchwoman was back into second after her pit stop, but was able to get back into first place in class at the mid race point. Maini hit trouble when he made contact with the Ferrari of Perel at Les Combes chicane, bringing out a Full Course Yellow.
The #20 SPS Mercedes is second in class with George Kurz behind the wheel. 12 hours are now left on the clock for this spectacular edition of the biggest GT race on the planet.