A heavy downpour ahead of the start meant the safety car led the field for the opening four laps before the track went green. Despite the challenging conditions, Spa race winner in the FIA World Endurance Championship Oliver Jarvis put in a strong stint until slick tyre running resumed one hour in.
Two lengthy safety car periods followed due to heavy crashes and barrier repairs, during which time the British racer handed the #18 machine to 2016 GT Asia champion Edoardo Liberati. Despite having to come in for repairs due to an issue with the car’s rear lights, progress continued.
Nürburgring 24 Hours podium finisher Alexandre Imperatori charged through the field to bring the car inside the overall top 10 approaching the six-hour mark when Jarvis returned and rain started falling again. The LMP2 Le Mans 24 Hours podium scorer sadly fell down the order as he received a puncture after contact with another competitor.
Another long caution period was called at the halfway point due to the rainy and foggy conditions, eventually prompting a red flag during which the #18 sits 22nd in the Pro class.
Starting from 20th on the grid, 2015 Bathurst 12 Hour winner Katsumasa Chiyo was behind the wheel of the #35 Nissan and aimed to move forward but hit an oil slick into the Les Combes chicane. The car behind suffered a similar fate and ran into the back of him, causing significant damage to the exhaust system.
With a loss of power, he was forced into the pits for repairs, falling seven laps behind as a result. Following strong recovery stints from Tsugio Matsuda and Joshua Burdon with front-running pace, they brought themselves up to 25th in class when the red flag was shown.
The race remains under red flag conditions with the next update at 11:30 CEST.
Alexandre Imperatori, #18 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “The start of the race was very wet but Oliver did a good job, trying to survive was key. Those conditions don’t play to the strengths of our car, but we hung on and stayed in the game. The slick running was good when Edoardo was driving. Unfortunately some time was lost when I was getting in as a caution period started, costing us quite a few positions. But the pace has been great and we brought it back into the top 15. I had a lot of fun, the car was really good and I was having some great battles with the top guys. The car was one of the fastest on track which was very positive. Now the rain has returned we are on the back foot again but we need to keep pushing without mistakes when the race restarts.”
Joshua Burdon, #35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “It’s a shame my team-mate took a hit from another car in the first hour, which caused some damage that required a few laps to fix and took us straight out of contention. On a positive note, our pace is strong enough to have contested for the top 10 so it’s mixed feelings of what could have been, but we will keep fighting.”
Katsumasa Chiyo, #35 Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3: “We tried to push on after the safety car start but had an accident at Les Combes. There was a massive amount of oil on the track so I couldn’t stop, neither could the car behind and it hit me. That was very unlucky as I could do nothing. There was a damaged exhaust and with a loss of power I had to pit. But after this we had good pace, Josh and Tsugio have been doing a great job, hopefully we can continue to move forward after the red flag.”