The Prancing Horse secured its first win of the European Le Mans Series season with a convincing one-two in the second round at Spa Francorchamps. Kessel Racing’s 488 GTE, driven by Broniszewski-Perel-Gomes, set the pace comfortably ahead of its AF Corse twin, which had the best possible preparation for the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps scheduled for next weekend’s round of the FIA WEC.
First hour. The early stages of the 4 Hours of Spa immediately saw some twists and turns, with the Ferrari 488 GTE of Broniszewski attacking Farfus’ Aston Martin and, above all, with two very early stops for Cameron and Sales. The JMW Motorsport car, in particular, returned to the pits with a left front suspension damaged due to a contact with Manuela Gostner’s Ferrari during a slightly risky passing attempt. In the following stages, the duel between Kessel Racing no. 74 and the Aston Martin of Dalla Lana offered Ried’s Porsche the chance to pass Broniszewski who was also overtaken Perrodo on lap four. After 16 minutes, the Safety Car came out due to a collision between two prototypes. It returned with three hours and 27 hours to go. The newly compact group saw a fantastic battle for first involving all the manufacturers in the GTE class, with four cars separated by just 2.3 seconds. A few minutes after the first hour, Iron Lynx’s 488 GTE, then driven by Claudio Schiavoni, collided with a prototype when lapping and smashed hard into the barriers at Les Combes. The Safety Car entered the track five minutes into the second hour to allow the marshals to repair the barriers.
Second hour. The resumption of the race also saw the first pitstops and driver changes. Marcos Gomes, at the wheel of the 488 GTE of Kessel Racing, enjoyed a lively battle with Perrodo and Scott for second place. Also, Michelle Gatting, who had replaced Gostner, produced an excellent comeback that brought her onto Perrodo’s tail in a battle for third position. She passed him just a few minutes before the mid-race. The other Ferraris followed not too far behind, with West and Castellacci seventh and eighth respectively, while Jeannette was tenth.
Third hour. After serving a long penalty for a pit-stop made without waiting for the fifth lap after the entrance of the Safety Car, the 488 GTE of Iron Lynx dropped out of the podium positions. This left the way open for Emmanuel Collard and Duncan Cameron, engaged in a heated battle won by the Frenchman of AF Corse. Francesco Castellacci was in the lead, thanks in part to pursuing a different strategy to his rivals. However, he eventually gave way to David Perel, driving the first of his four consecutive stints, in contention with Beretta at the wheel of the Porsche of Proton Racing. Castellacci’s race ended one hour and 38 minutes from the chequered flag with his car stopped along the track, forcing the race director to declare a Full Course Yellow. At this stage, the clouds that had gathered earlier moved over the track. Rain then fell on some parts of the circuit. Despite a ribbon of asphalt declared wet by the race officials, the cars kept their slicks on, and the rain quickly eased off. Fourteen minutes from the chequered flag, Collard overtook Dalla Lana to take third position.
Fourth hour. The race entered its final section with two dramatic twists involving the race leaders, in particular, the Porsche ahead in the GTE class that ended up spinning out at Eau Rouge most likely due to a puncture. The episode allowed David Perel to take the lead with a significant advantage over Newey, who in the meantime had passed Collard, penalised with a drive-through for breaking the pit lane speed limit. The AF Corse driver found himself behind Griffin, excellent in second for Spirit of Race. However, he moved into second position 27 minutes from the end of the race, partly due to the higher pace of his 488 GTE.
Finale. There were no more dramas at the 4 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, unless we count the celebrations for the Ferrari one-two finish. The crew of David Perel, Marcos Gomes and Michael Broniszewski claimed the win 13.6 seconds ahead of the AF Corse Ferrari driven by François Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Harrison Newey. The Spirit of Race car came fifth after an excellent performance, while AF Corse’s 488 GTE no. 51 crossed the line in seventh. Eighth and ninth position went to the cars of Iron Lynx and JMW Motorsport.
Round 3. The next round of the European Le Mans Series is scheduled for the last weekend of August, with another 4 Hours of the Paul Ricard replacing the planned 4 Hours of Barcelona.