25 July, 2009
The 2009 Spa 24 Hours is well underway and the racing is as hard as ever. Tim Mullen and Andrew Kirkaldy took the start for CRS Racing, both getting away cleanly, but they both suffered with tyre issues in their opening stints which has lost a fair amount of time. Everything is running smoothly now though and there is still a very long way to go. Night is falling at Spa and the Ardennes is producing some of it’s best mist and rain so, with the constantly changing conditions, the teams are having to remain on full alert as the race goes into the night.
Chris Niarchos took over from Tim Mullen after just over two hours of racing and put in a fine drive before handing over to Chris Goodwin.
“We clearly had an issue with the tyres in the opening stint,” said Niarchos. “Once we changed them for a new set Tim’s times immediately went up by four seconds a lap. I jumped in once Tim had completed a! double stint and I was able to maintain a good pace, just one and a half seconds off the leaders. Spa then did what it does best and it poured down!”
As he came around the next turn, Chris looked up and saw a wall of water coming down so he made a very early and very accurate call for wet tyres, coming straight into the pits at the first opportunity. As Chris came in the safety car went out as ex-F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve had a sizeable accident in the wet conditions. At the restart Chris had the leaders behind as the safety car had bunched everyone up again. He let them through then got on with the rest of his stint, putting in some good lap times.
“By this point the track was drying,” said Chris. “But I had to stay out until I needed fuel. My pace fell off a bit towards the end as the wets got destroyed by the drying track but we didn’t lose too much time.”
Chris Goodwin then jumped into the No.55 Ferrari but before he could leave the pits the car’s starter motor failed and he was pushed back into the garage.&nb! sp; Rather than jump-start the car the team decided to take the time to change the starter motor so that the problem wouldn’t be repeated at every subsequent stop.
Ferrari No.56 has had a good run so far, albeit below where it should be after losing time in the opening stint. Andrew Kirkaldy had the same improvements as Tim Mullen once he changed his first set of tyres. He then handed over to Rob Bell.
“The car felt good during my run,” said Rob. “We still seem to be down a bit in terms of straight line speed but overall we are doing okay. The rain that came three hours into the race left us with no choice than to come in for wets but everyone did the same so that was alright.”
Peter Kox was up next in No.56. The Dutchman was one of the first to go back to slicks and he put in a storming drive before handing over to Antonio Garcia.
It's 10pm now and we are at the quarter distance ma! rk. Antonio is on track in No.56. He’s bang on the pace and he&r squo;s currently running in seventh position. Phil Quaife is in No.55, running in ninth. The CRS Ferraris are going to continue the fight back up the order through the night...