Spa 24H, 16H update: Iron Dames control Gold Cup with 8 hours to go
Having taken over the lead of the Gold Cup class at the mid-way mark of the race, Pin, Bovy, Frey and Gatting hold first place in class after a brilliant charge from 11th on the grid. A puncture slowed down Samantha Tan Racing's recovery in Silver Cup, but the Canadian team retains 11th in class. Reema Juffali just completed her second stint, P2 in Bronze Cup.
After a red flag at the eighth hour of racing at Spa Francorchamps, 18-year-old Doriane Pin took the lead in the Gold Cup class for Iron Dames after the all-female quartet had executed a flawless recovery in the opening hours.
Having started P11 in class following a double-red flag in qualifying, Rahel Frey took the start for the Italian team and soon moved up the order. She would hand over to Michelle Gatting in eighth place, while Doriane Pin brought the pink #83 Ferrari 488 GT3 within top-three reach in the following hours.
Home hero Sarah Bovy was able to settle in second place in class - as all the drivers showed consistency and precision in their stints.
When the darkness fell over the 7.004 km circuit located in the Ardennes, Gatting briefly led in class and then handed over to Pin in second place.
At the restart after the 1 hour and 25 minute stoppage for barrier repairs during the night, Iron Dames kept out Pin when the #5 Haupt Mercedes pitted and the Frenchwoman ran her stint in P1. While she was temporarily down to second after her stop, she ultimately claimed the top of the Gold Cup towards the end of her driving shift - before her closest rival Arjun Maini tangled with the Ferrari of Perel and had to retire.
At the mid-race mark, Sarah Bovy was back behind the wheel and now enjoyed an almost one lap margin over the #34 Walkenhorst BMW.
The sun was rising and Bovy completed a technical pit stop untroubled, rejoining in first place in Gold Cup.
Having started from P17 in Silver Cup at their very first race at the track and at their first appearance in SRO Europe, Samantha Tan Racing was making up positions in the opening stages: driver/owner Samantha Tan took the start and completed two driving shifts in the evening, before Harry Gottsacker and Nick Wittmer took the helm of the #28 BMW M4 GT4 when the sun set. Unfortunately, a diffuser issue forced the Canadian team to a lengthy stop for repairs that cost them almost 10 laps.
Down from P13 to P19 again, ST Racing had a charging night, when newcomer Maxime Oosten alongside Gottsacker and Wittmer brought the BMW back up to P11 in class.
On Sunday morning, though, their recovery drive was slowed down by a puncture and Gottsacker had to limp back to the pits. Luckily, a two lap margin to the #31 WRT Audi meant that Wittmer could rejoin the race without losing positions in class.
Saudi racing driver Reema Juffali had claimed Bronze Cup pole position on Thursday night qualifying and her teammates Muller and Kurtz initially retained P1 in class in the opening hours of the race. The #20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes would then slip a few laps behind before Juffali coule even start her first stint, which came later in the night.
Juffali held second place and subsequently took over the black #20 Mercedes AMG GT3 in the early hours of Sunday morning for her second stint, with 10 hours and 45 minutes to go.
At the 8 hour mark, she pitted and handed over to Valentin Pierburg from P2 in class.
In the overall classification, the ROWE Racing BMW led for most of the night - but a Full Course Yellow caused by a clash between WRT Audi teammates Nico Muller and Charles Weerts at La Source shuffled the order. The #32 Audi had terminal suspension damage, while the #46 made it back to the pits and eventually rejoined.
After the pit stops under caution, the #71 Iron Lynx Ferrari of Rigon took the lead, ahead of the KCMG Porsche of Nick Tandy.
Tandy managed to get ahead of Rigon - who then received a drive through for FCY infringement. The KCMG Porsche - which started from 66th and last on the grid - is currently leading the pack.
Rahel Frey extended the lead in Gold Cup for Iron Dames and, after a perfect stint, handed over to Michelle Gatting, who now has a one lap gap to the #34 Walkenhorst BMW of Michael Dinan.
With eight hours left on the clock, the race remains highly unpredictable - but Iron Dames are once again showing great pace and consistency in such demanding races.