Many visitors arrived early at the paddock this morning, in time for the autograph session and the pit walk. The weather was not comparable with the ‘normal‘ Belgium Ardennes conditions that we have seen in so many races: this time the team’s Michelin intermediates and wet tires were fortunately not of use this weekend as the skies were clear and the temperatures were in the mid-twenties.
The race started a bit later than planned, just after 13:00, after a car bumped into one of the Embassy prototypes during the installation lap. As a result the car hit the barriers and the track had to be cleared. Peter Dumbreck started in the #85 SNORAS Spyker Squadron-car from a seventh position in class while the crew of car #94 decided to start from the pit lane. As the car qualified 12th yesterday the team decided to start from the pit lane, avoiding the trouble in the first corner whilst saving two laps of fuel compared to the rest of the field.
Benjamin: „We decided to start out of the pits to save us two laps of full and maybe trouble in the first corner. My first stint was okay although the car was quite unpredictable to drive. We had understeer but it sometimes suddenly turned into oversteer. I decided not to push and maintain a decent race pace. Later we figured that it could have been the tires that I used. They were also used by Chiesa in yesterday’s qualifying. The second stint, with a new set of tires was fortunately much better“.
In the race both cars moved up the ladder and mid race the cars were in a fifth and seventh place in class. Alexey Vasiliev: „The Laviolette was great to drive today although we had some issues with power steering and the alternator. We were able to move forward in the field and so far I am very pleased with our 2008 car“. Unfortunately after almost 2.5 hours in the race the #85 Dumbreck-Kelleners-Vasiliev car that ran in a fifth place had to return to the pit after a collision with a Peugeot LMP.
Ralf Kelleners: „I was driving the car and saw in my mirrors that I was being overtaken on the left side by the Audi driven by Capello. I stayed on the right-side to let the Audi pass me. The Peugeot was right behind the Audi R10 and tried to overtake the Audi from the slipstream. In the maneuver the Peugeot moved to the right from behind the Audi in a gap that did not exist and hit my car on the front left“.
In the same accident the Audi was also hit by the Peugeot, directly or as a result of the Peugeot’s spin, and also had to return to the box with a punctured right-rear tire. The Spyker made it to the pit box with a punctured tire and damaged bodywork. They rejoined the field after quick repairs to return to the box minutes later with a broken alternator.
In the mean time track conditions improved and consequently times dropped as well. In the final stages of the race it was Swiss Andrea Chiesa that improved his quickest time every few laps. With only 15 laps to go before one of the diesel prototypes would hit the 1000 km mark he engaged a fight with the number 88 Porsche to go after a podium position. Andrea was about 2 seconds per lap quicker and tried his best to close to 20 second gap as quick as he could.
After another accident the safety car got out once more, giving Andrea the best possible chance to go after his competitor. With only 4 laps to go, Andrea went after the car as soon as green was given for the re-start but unfortunately he was hit by another prototype. As a result the steering was a bit off an he could not overtake the car. The Chiesa-Leuenberger-Alexander Speedy Racing Team car finished in a fourth position.
Due to the accident and the problem with the alternator the other car, the Spyker C8 that ran the engine with the new crankshaft layout and new firing order, finished ninth.
Iradj Alexander: „I had to built confidence in the car at the beginning of my stint and I must admit that getting to know the car is a bit of a challenge in these traffic conditions. The car was a bit challenging to drive as a result of the limited time to properly setup the car. Nevertheless I could maintain 2:27’s and did not push to hard. I am really motivated to work with the team at Le Mans. We are in a good position to further improve the car and the guys in the team are great to work with“.
Benjamin Leuenberger: „This is a fantastic result. Thanks a lot to the guys. They have given us a great race car today. We did not have a single problem in the 5 hour race and also the drivers did not make any mistakes. We ran the car like we planned to run it and it is fantastic to finish twice in a row in a fourth place“.
Andrea Chiesa: „I would not have thought to finish fourth. It is really good for team and the atmosphere. Our next race is the most important race of the season, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, so it is great to get there in good spirits. The atmosphere amongst the drivers, mechanics and engineers was great and they all did a great job. It was disappointing that I was hit by an LMP in the final stages otherwise we would have been able to go for a podium“.
Peter van Erp, managing director Spyker Squadron: „Our fourth place is great so close to Le Mans, our most import race this season. It is sad for the crew of the #85 car there was not much that we could do about it. The Peugeot driver eliminated himself and almost took us and the Audi with him. In the last Le Mans Series race at Monza we have also seen a Le Mans Prototype (LMP) causing us trouble. Of course I understand that these cars are quicker but they should not threat us as obstacles. We drive our own race and they should do a better job avoiding contact with the slower GT2 cars. It was an ugly crash and fortunately we came away lucky. The car was almost undamaged with just a punctured tire and some damaged bodywork“.
„The Speedy Racing Team car nicely moved trough the field and the team deserves a lot of credits. They have reinstalled the engine twice to solve a problem and did their utmost to give the drivers the best car possible“ said Peter afterwards. „It was another though weekend. We will now focus on Le Mans with the official test day just weeks ahead of us“.
The official Le Mans test day will be held on Sunday June 1. Even for this test day all public roads part of the famous 13.6 km Le Mans track will be closed, giving the teams their first chance to run their new cars before the race mid-June.