Spa 24H, 20H update: Iron Dames extend class lead, Juffali back on the Bronze lead lap
With now four hours to go in an incredibly tense 24 Hours of Spa, Iron Dames extended their lead in Gold Cup class to two laps; Reema Juffali's SPS Mercedes was back on the Bronze Cup lead lap but received a penalty for stint driving times; Samantha Tan Racing continue their progression in Silver Cup and made their first appearance in the class Top10.
With now six hours left to go in the 2022 edition of the 24 Hours of Spa, the women on the grid continue to make progress.
The Iron Dames power-house charged from eleventh on the grid in Gold Cup to take the class lead at the mid-race point, when Dorian Pin capitalized seized first place from the #5 Haupt Mercedes that would later retire after contact.
Since then, Sarah Bovy, Rahel Frey, Doriane Pin and Michelle Gatting never left the top of the Gold Cup class, controlling the closest rival with a gap of over a lap, following a highly impressive race from all drivers.
Despite a few penalties for track limits, Gatting pitted with 7 hours left on the clock and handed over to 18-year-old Doriane Pin - at only her second race in the GT World Challenge Europe and at her first ever 24 hour race. While Gatting wasn't too happy about the car balance in her latest stint, the pink #83 Ferrari 488 GT3 continued to lead unchallenged and the gap increased to two laps when the #34 Walkenhorst BMW - second in class - got stranded in the gravel and had to be retrieved by the marshals.
The incident brought out the Full Course Yellow and the green flag action wasn't long lived, as the #24 Herberth Motorsport Porsche of Leutwiler went off after contact with the Emil Frey Lamborghini at Stavelot.
At the following neutralization, Samantha Tan returned behind the wheel of the #28 ST Racing BMW M4 GT3 for her third stint of the race. Tan started from P17 in Silver Cup and had a safe first hour, handing over to teammates Harry Gottsacker, Nick Wittmer and Maxime Oosten from P19. The team had a strong run up to P13 in Silver Cup, but a diffuser issue in the sixth hour cost the Canadian team almost 10 laps.
Samantha Tan Racing never gave up though, and with a very solid night, they were able to recover to P11 in class. A tyre puncture in the morning did not cost further positions.
Tan was back behind the wheel and, in her third stint, the #28 BMW made its first appearance in the class top 10: she would pit to hand over to Oosten from P9 in class, P42 overall - having gained 15 places overall from their starting position.
They currently run in P38 overall, P9 in class.
A big shunt involving the #188 Garage59 McLaren and the #93 SKY Tempesta Mercedes - second in Gold Cup: the McLaren was tagged and went into the barrier at speed on the run towards Blanchimont, forcing a lengthy neutralization for barrier repairs.
When the Safety Car was deployed, Doriane Pin pitted and Sarah Bovy got back behind the wheel of the Iron Dames Ferrari, retaining first place in class and P17 overall, as the team started to climb the top-20.
Bovy had a great stint and Michelle Gatting is currently at the helm of the #83 Ferrari.
The #20 SPS Automotive Performance Mercedes of Muller/Pierburg/Kurtz/Juffali scored pole position in class in Thursday's qualifying and led in the early stages in the hands of Muller and Kurtz. A few contacts and a broken suspension on Saturday evening cost the team 5 laps and the lead in Bronze Cup even before Saudi driver Reema Juffali could start her driving duties.
Juffali took over in the night and then in the early morning - as the team tried to close in on the class leading #35 Walkenhorst BMW.
Entering the 18th hour of racing, though, the #20 Mercedes managed to cut the gap and claim Bronze Cup lead, with Muller then handing over to Pierburg.
The two Bronze Cup contenders are on the same lap and, while Juffali's team was back into second after their latest pit stops, the battle seemed to be on.
Unfortunately, a penalty for the #20 Mercedes for a driving stint too long will force Reema Juffali and her teammates to some extra work.
With four hours to go in the biggest GT race on the planet, two teams featuring female drivers remain in the battle for class victories.