Michele Rugolo and Pasin Lathouras won today an exciting Race 1 at Spa, where heavy rain coming at mid-race, during the driver change, brought additional drama. The Thai-Italian pair mastered all events with their AF Corse Ferrari F458 to take their third success of the year and reduce to only one point their disadvantage in the standings with respect to Miguel Ramos-Alvaro Parente (Teo Martin McLaren 650S), today second. The other car of the Spanish team of Rob Bell and Andrew Watson, which had led during the first stint, fell victim of the sudden shower that caught the young Ulsterman on slicks.
The Brussels Racing Aston Martin of Michael Schmetz-Tim Verbergts completed the podium after an excellent race. At home, the Belgian squad made the perfect strategic move of being the first to stop for wets, something that could have given it victory if it hadn’t been for the safety-car period subsequent to Watson’s accident.
The other Aston Martin of TF Sport took victory in GT-Am, with Euan Hankey and Salih Yoluc, while James Abbott won the GT Open Cup with the Radical, after a superb personal performance that put him in 6th overall.
THE RACE – At the start, Rob Bell takes the advantage on poleman Rugolo, regaining somehow the advantage lost in qualifying (whe his pole time was cancelled for a pit infringement). Follow Schmetz, Balzan, Ramos, Companc, Hankey and Abbott. In lap 3, Balzan takes third from Schmetz at the Combes. There is a nice fight for sixth between Companc and Hankey, with the Argentine resisting the furious attacks of the Brit, allowing Abbott to close up. In lap 5, eventually, the Aston goes through at Eau Rouge. Abbott is also threatening the Ferrari but then has to lift up and defend himself from Russo.
The attention shifts to the third position, as the “Belgian” Aston of Schmetz attacks Balzan, and passes at La Source on lap 12. Meanwhile, in lap 10, Unzurrunzaga spins and hits the barriers at Fagnes, going back to the pits with some damage. One lap later, Ramos and Companc open the driver change ballet. Very timely, Balzan is in the pits for the driver change right after puncturing the rear left tire. It’s just the start of emotions, as a sudden shower breaks, surprising the leader, Andrew Watson, who had just taken over from Bell and was on slicks. The Brit loses the McLaren at Eau Rouge, hitting the barriers.
The incident means safety-car, while also Alzen (who was 8th) hits the barriers and most of the cars stop for changing tires. In the time sheets, it’s Verbergt (who was the first to stop for wets) leading ahead of Lathouras, Yoluc, Benucci, Parente, Giammaria, Nebylitskiy and Abbott. The race resumes at the end of lap 20 but still on a very slippery track, with Yoluc and Alzen spinning. Lathouras takes the lead with a great move on the straight in lap 23, with Parente and Giammaria also closing on Verbergt, now second. Barreiros spins with no damage at the bus stop. In lap 24, as the rain gets harder, Verbergt has to let Parente and Giammaria pass, but the Belgian will regain third and the podium as Giammaria has a drop of power in last lap. Fifth was Benucci, ahead of an amazing Abbott with the Radical, while the Aston of Yoluc came first among GT-Am cars, after Lémeret suffered a last lap puncture.
Source. International GT Open