Four different marques but one Pirelli tyre in top four at halfway point of Spa 24 Hours
At the halfway point of what has been a dramatic Spa 24 Hours so far, the number 99 Mercedes led the race by a slender margin from the number 2 Audi: with four different marques occupying the top four. Bentley was third with BMW fourth, but what all these very different cars had in common was their Pirelli DHC slick tyres: the default choice after the rain stopped as night time fell. Heavy rain at the beginning of the race had meant that the 57-car field started on Pirelli’s wet tyres: again, a single compound for the entire grid.
|The Pirelli-equipped number 99 Mercedes led at the halfway point|
However, as the rain eased, some teams chose to switch to slick tyres. This was a gamble that did not pay off, as the rain returned with a vengeance and made conditions extremely treacherous. As a result of that, and a number of ensuing incidents, the opening hours of the race were dominated by safety car periods. This had the effect of extending the life of the tyres: the Mercedes SLS that led at the halfway point – crewed by Nico Bastian, Stef Dusseldorp and Daniel Juncadella – completed the first three hours without changing to slick tyres. Even when the rain stopped definitively around 8pm and the cars put on slicks, parts of the track remained damp: the leading Audi, driven by former Spa 24 Hours winner Laurens Vanthoor, went off after getting caught out by the slippery conditions off-line. As a result, the car lost five laps for repairs. The track progressively dried throughout the night up to the halfway point, allowing competitors to double stint the tyres in the cool conditions, which dropped to five degrees centigrade. Pirelli’s senior engineer Matteo Braga commented: “The Spa 24 Hours got off to a very different start to what we have experienced over the last two years, when conditions were always dry. However, this year’s scenario is a lot closer to the reality of what racing here is normally like. This allowed the teams to use strategy as well as pure performance, giving an advantage to those who had the best knowledge and confidence with our tyres. At the halfway point the battle for the lead was still extremely close.” The Spa 24 Hours concludes at 16:30 on Sunday. Please visit Pirelli’s social media channels, including @pirellisport for updates throughout the race.