The No.29 Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi R8 LMS led the Total 24 Hours of Spa at one-quarter distance, with the young crew of Kelvin van der Linde, Sheldon van der Linde and Jeffrey Schmidt showing impressive maturity as night fell on the Belgian circuit.
The No.29 car was one of several to hold the lead of the race during the opening stages. The No.2 Audi Sport Team WRT machine paced much of the first hour after beating the pole-sitting No.62 R-Motorsport Aston Martin into Eau Rouge. Their positions were then reversed after the first round of pit stops, with the R-Motorsport crew turning their machine around quicker than the WRT squad.
The complexion of the race changed over the next 90 minutes as a full-course yellow – which then developed into a safety car – brought a number of new competitors into the frame, including the No.8 Bentley Team M-Sport machine.
The No.62 Aston Martin then slipped down the order due to a lengthy pit stop, while the No.8 Bentley moved into the lead and remained there after another full-course yellow.
There was almost immediate drama when the race went green as the No.63 Grasser Racing Lamborghini made heavy contact with the No.58 Garage 59 McLaren, causing significant damage to both cars. The pair were forced to pit for lengthy repairs, while the No.63 was also hit with a 30-second stop-go penalty.
The leading Bentley remained out front through yet another full-course yellow after the No.17 Belgian Audi Club Team WRT car shed a wheel and retired, with Andy Soucek at the front for the start of the sixth hour.
The Bentley soon stopped for a fifth time, but the latest full-course yellow did not work in its favour.
Debris brought about the track neutralization and allowed a handful of cars to stop while their rivals were running at slow speed. As such, the No.29 Montaplast by Land Audi – which had run second at five hours – moved into the lead with van der Linde at the wheel. The No.98 ROWE Racing BMW held second, ahead of the No.8 Bentley.
That was the state of play when the race reached one-quarter distance, with van der Linde running some 25 seconds clear of Ricky Collard in the chasing BMW.
The No.42 Strakka Racing Mercedes led the Pro-Am class by a sizable margin, having also stopped during the most recent full-course yellow. David Fumanelli was at the wheel after six hours, running eighth overall and some way clear of the next-best in class, the No.333 Rinaldi Racing Ferrari. RAM Racing had led the early running with their Mercedes, but slipped back due to a radiator problem.
The battle for Silver Cup honors was closer at one-quarter distance, with the No.12 Ombra Racing Lamborghini leading the No.78 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini. The No.54 Emil Frey Jaguar – pole-sitter and long-time class leader in Silver Cup – sat third.
The Am Cup battle was among the most competitive in the field, with several cars leading during the opening six hours. The No.77 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini held the top spot, ahead of the No.9 Target Racing Lamborghini and the No.488 Rinaldi Ferrari. Groupe National, meanwhile, was led comfortably by the No.67 GDL Racing Lamborghini Super Trofeo car.
Drivers will now tackle the treacherous night hours, a period that is sure to test the young Montaplast by Land crew as they chase victory at the 70th edition 24 Hours of Spa.
Four results (as of Hour 6), head here.