Steve Tandy stole the win in a wet but drying first Masters Endurance Legends race at the Spa Six Hours when the Englishman passed home hero Christophe d’Ansembourg on the final lap, having given chase in his Peugeot 90X almost the entire race. The Belgian had stormed into an early lead, his Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2 storming past Tandy and the pole-sitting Peugeot 908 of Kriton Lendoudis on the opening laps but in the end was forced to give way to a resurgent Tandy.
“It’s so difficult following these cars in conditions like these”, said Tandy about his chase of the Belgian. “We had a very good clean battle on the final lap – Christophe made a fair blocking move on the inside, so I thought, I’ll just pass him on the outside!”
“My fronts were completely graining”, said d’Ansembourg about the defense he was able to put up. “I was starting to miss my marks and had to brake much earlier. But I’m happier about Antoine making the podium than about me losing the win!”
Indeed, Antoine d’Ansembourg gave his father still something to smile about, as he took his Dallara-ORECA DO05 to his first Masters Endurance Legends podium, having beaten Lendoudis to third in a very strong showing from the young Belgian. Stuart Wiltshire drove a lonely race to take the P2 class win in his Ligier JSP2, while Nürburgring double winner Andy Feigenwinter returned to his winning ways by claiming another GT class win in his Porsche 997 GT3.
“Yes, my first podium!” said a beaming younger d’Ansembourg. “The first of many, I hope. I cried a bit on the in-lap… It was tough, though – there was no grip at the end, I could feel the tyres degrading.”
“It was a mad race”, said Feigenwinter. “You couldn’t see a thing on the opening laps, and we were close to an accident into the first corner. The count was really quick behind me, but he had overtaken me during the safety car, so I knew I had him covered. I’m very happy, and proud of my mechanic Beat Bergmann who prepared a great car for me.”
The Swiss driver fought Marcus Graf von Oeynhausen’s Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3 all the way, but the German count was hit by multiple time penalties for overtaking under the safety car and towards the end ran into electrical issues that allowed Jason Wright’s Ferrari 458 GT3 to take second in class. In ninth overall, the Craig Davies/Ron Maydon Ligier JSP3 won in P3 after Maydon overtook Stephan Joebstl in the JSP3 started by Andy Willis.
“There was so much spray, I just didn’t see the yellows”, Von Oeynhausen explained about his safety-car error. “I gave the place back but they still penalised me. And then towards the end, I developed some really serious electrical problems. I even stopped the car twice to restart it, and after that could do no more than 4000 revs…”
“Well yes, Marcus’ time penalty helped me”, said Wright, “but I did catch and pass him at the end!”
The Masters Endurance Legends field went out on a soggy Saturday morning, an enduring drizzle having made the track extremely slippery, as Keith Frieser, David Hart and Rick Carlino elected not to run their respective Zytek 09S, Courage C60 and ORECA LMPC10.
Having run both qualifying sessions in dry conditions, the race started with two laps behind the safety car to allow the drivers to become acquainted with the new set of circumstances. So on lap 3, led by the two Peugeots, the cars dove into La Source in anger for the first time, Lendoudis heading Tandy, followed by Christophe d’Ansembourg in the Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2 and his fast-starting son Antoine in the Dallara-ORECA DO-05 who did well to avoid the clash between the ex-Intersport Lola B06/10 of Italian Marcello Marateotto and the ex-Rebellion Lola B12/60 of David Brise. The Italian was out of the spot, while Brise returned to the pits to have his car checked. A brief second safety-car period was the result.
In the melée, Stuart Wiltshire’s Ligier JSP2 and the P3 Ligiers of Andy Willis and Craig Davies had moved up as well, with Andy Feigenwinter leading the GTs in his Porsche 997 GT3. Marcus von Oeynhausen’s Audi R8 LMS Ultra was up next, chased by Jason Wright’s Ferrari 458 GT3, Xavier Galant’s GT2 Ferrari 458 GTE and Daniel Palma’s Lotus Evora GTE, with Brad Hoyt bringing up the rear in another Ligier JSP3.
At the front, Lendoudis continued to lead for the moment, but the elder d’Ansembourg was flying and was soon past Tandy before going on to threaten the Greek in front. Going into lap 5, the Belgian was in the lead. Tandy now also pressured Lendoudis, while Antoine d’Ansembourg was still hanging on in the Dallara, as he duelled with Wiltshire. Feigenwinter, meanwhile, used the traction of his Porsche to good effect to move into a stunning sixth overall, as the Swiss driver and count Von Oeynhausen’s Audi dealt with the Ligiers of Willis and Davies.
On lap 6, the younger d’Ansembourg was making progress as well, now deposing Lendoudis of third place, as Tandy had swept past to take second place from his Greek teammate. 22 seconds further back, Feigenwinter and Von Oeynhausen continued their battle for the GT class lead, as the pit window announced itself sooner than expected due to the two safety-car periods.
Father and son d’Ansembourg came in first, followed by Wiltshire, Davies, Wright, Palma and Brise, the latter handing over to Alan Purbrick, as Tandy, Lendoudis, Feigenwinter, Von Oeynhausen, Willis and Galant elected to continue. The German count, however, was then slammed with a drivethrough penalty for overtaking under the safety car. Tandy was in on the next lap, followed by Feigenwinter, Von Oeynhausen (who still had to take his penalty), Davies and Hoyt, with the American handing over to James Davison, and Davies to Ron Maydon. Lendoudis, Willis and Galant were now the only ones still to stop, and the Greek driver did so going into lap 9, as did Willis who handed over to Austrian Stephan Joebstl, while the Frenchman came in on lap 10. Was that in fact too late?
After the stops, Christophe d’Ansembourg had returned into the lead, now with 2.8 seconds in hand over Tandy. Antoine d’Ansembourg held third, eight seconds from Lendoudis, while Wiltshire was a lonely fifth, 38 seconds down on the leader. Feigenwinter continued his battle for sixth overall with Van Oeynhausen, with Joebstl in eighth heading Wright, Maydon, Galant, Palma, Purbrick and Davison.
Eight minutes remained on the clock, and it was far from over when Tandy closed to a mere second from the leading d’Ansembourg, as the Peugeot 90X set purple sectors in its chase of the Lola-Aston. Further back, the GT fight was indeed over, though, as Von Oeynhausen took his penalty, handing Feigenwinter an unassailable lead while the German now also needed to deal with a 30-second time penalty for a second infringement in overtaking under the safety car. His current lead over Wright in third was 31 seconds…
On lap 11, however, it was d’Ansembourg’s turn to go purple, and his lead was back up to 1.7 seconds, a margin that he maintained during the next lap. Behind the two leaders, the younger d’Ansembourg had his first Masters Endurance Legends podium sealed, nourishing a seven-second lead over Lendoudis and looking untroubled.
And still the race wasn’t done. Into the final lap, d’Ansembourg’s lead was down to eight tenths, dropping to a mere two tenths halfway around the circuit. And then the Peugeot swept into the lead for the final metres that counted, sweeping across the line in first, with d’Ansembourg finishing a despondent second, 2.5 seconds down. Making him a proud dad, though, his son Antoine took a fine third, 33 seconds down on Tandy, with Lendoudis in fourth 13 seconds further in arrears.
Wiltshire took the P2 class win in fifth while Feigenwinter claimed GT honours in sixth overall. It was nip-and-tuck between Wright and Von Oeynhausen, the latter hobbled not just by his time penalty but severe electrical issues as well, so it was the American that took second in class with three seconds in hand. In ninth overall, Maydon vanquished Joebstl for the P3 class win, the pair leading home Purbrick, Galant, Palma and Davison.
Some time after the race, three cars were penalised for missing the pit window – Lendoudis in the Peugeot 908, the Willis/Joebstl Ligier JSP3 and Galant in the 458 GTE. This dropped Lendoudis to fifth overall behind Wiltshire, while Purbrick/Brise and Palma moved up places at the cost of Willis/Joebstl and Galant.