Tandy takes storming win in Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends night race at Spa

Steve Tandy was in a class of his own in the Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends night race at Spa, his Lola-Mazda B12/60 edging out a lead of over 20 seconds before conserving the car for a dominant win over Christophe d’Ansembourg’s Lola-Aston Martin DBR1/2 and Kriton Lendoudis’ Peugeot 90X.

“Yes, it was”, said Tandy about his crushing win. “As ever, I got done by the top speed and the power of the Lola-Aston on the Kemmel straight, but once my tyres were fully up to temperature I could exploit my car’s strengths in sector 2, repassed him and pushed until the pitstops. I then got the call that Christophe got the penalty, so I backed off towards the end. I’m very pleased.”

As indeed d’Ansembourg had been hit by a 23-second time penalty for missing the pit window, it was nip and tuck with Lendoudis for second place – trailing the Belgian by just over 23 seconds! In the end, the Lola-Aston prevailed by a mere five hundredths…

“The car was good”, said Lendoudis. “It was not easy but the car was OK. No complaints but the others were simply better. Tomorrow in daylight I’m going to push, that should be better.”

In fourth overall, the Nikolaus Ditting/Sam Hancock Aston Martin DBR9 trumped the David Hart/Nicky Pastorelli Maserati MC12 to win the GT1 class after a pitstop error by the Dutchmen.

“That was good fun”, said Hancock. “Totally surprised to win but very pleased. I expected the Maserati to be faster but we had the same pace, which allowed me to maintain my seven-second gap.”

“It was like running on rails!” said Hart about his first race in the Maserati. “I’m used to racing on treaded tyres so this was totally different – you just go where the car wants to go!”

Finishing seventh, Keith Frieser’s ORECA-Nissan 03 led the P2 class from the front but was left unchallenged when his closest rival Mike Newton (MG-Lola EX257) retired on lap 6. In tenth overall, David Methley (Chevrolet Corvette) won a tight battle for GT2 honours, losing out to Peter van Hoepen’s Ferrari 430 on the road but getting the win back when the Dutchman was similarly penalised for missing the pit window.

“I didn’t know it was the Ferrari!” said Methley about the exciting closing stages of his race. “I only saw yellow lights and thought it was one of the P2 cars. Then I realised it was the Ferrari and gave chase, only to spin at La Source!”

After two laps behind the safety car to allow for a systems check for this race run completely in the dark, the field was released into the night. D’Ansembourg got the drop on poleman Tandy and led onto the Kemmel straight, the pair followed by the fast-starting Kriton Lendoudis in the Peugeot, who had got ahead of David Hart in the Maserati. Frieser was next up in the first of the P2 cars, chased by Nikolaus Ditting in the Aston Martin DBR9. Newton was seventh ahead of James Davison who had started Pierre Bruneau’s Pilbeam MP91.

Further back, David Methley’s Corvette found a way past Peter van Hoepen’s Ferrari and Albert Bloem’s Aston Martin to lead the GT2 class. Into the pits, however, came the Simon Watts/Roberto Giordanelli Lola B2K/40, troubled by a gearshift problem.

Lap 4 then saw a lead change, Tandy taking charge with fastest lap of the race, having initially been dropped by two seconds. Lendoudis was now 16 seconds away from d’Ansembourg in second, with the order unchanged until eighth place, which was now occupied by Christian Gläsel’s invitational McLaren MP4-12C.

On lap 6, Tandy had increased his lead on his Belgian rival to almost three seconds while Mike Newton’s MG-Lola EX257 was momentarily lost at the back of the circuit before he reappeared down in 13th place, only to return to the pits and retire the car with damage to the front.

Setting a fiersome pace, Tandy grew his lead to seven seconds on the next lap as the pit window opened. David Hart was the first of the leaders to pit, handing the Maserati over to Nicky Pastorelli. Just as the Dutchman went out, Tandy was in next, followed by Lendoudis from third. Frieser, now unchallenged by Newton, led the P2 class comfortably ahead of Davison, who in turn was chased by Mike Furness in the Courage LC75, now up to eighth.

All were in on the next lap, bar d’Ansembourg, who carried on in the lead. Similarly, GT2 leaders Methley and Van Hoepen stayed out until the very last opportunity. D’Ansembourg, however, appeared to come in for his stop after the pit window had closed…

Unperturbed by this, Tandy resumed in the lead, now leading the Belgian by a massive 23 seconds. Lendoudis was still third, trailing Tandy by 36 seconds, with Frieser still in fourth, chased by Gläsel. The GT1 class, however, had seen Sam Hancock in the DBR9 started by Ditting jump the Maserati in Pastorelli’s hands, the Dutchman now looking at a 7-second deficit. Markus von Oeynhausen’s invitational Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3 machine now ran eighth ahead of the P2 battle for second, Furness getting ahead of Bruneau. In GT2, Methley continued to hold Van Hoepen to nine seconds.

With five minutes still on the clock, d’Ansembourg’s penalty duly came through, the Lola-Aston slammed with an additional 23 seconds for missing the pit window. Van Hoepen was punished for the same offense, which meant that Methley’s Corvette was high and dry for the GT2 class win. D’Ansembourg, meanwhile, had a fight on his hands to stay 23 seconds ahead of Lendoudis – and it was nip and tuck, the virtual gap just seven tenths with two minutes to go.

At the front, Tandy drove home for an imperious win. D’Ansembourg managed to hold to second place by a miraculous 0.050 seconds. In fourth overall and possibly against most people’s expectations, Sam Hancock in the Aston Martin won the battle of the GT1s from Pastorelli in the Maserati. Frieser had dropped down to seventh by Gläsel in the closing stages but still comfortably cornered the P2 win, further helped by Furness dropping out two laps from the end. This elevated the Davison/Bruneau Pilbeam up into second place in class, finishing ninth behind von Oeynhausen’s GT3 Audi.

Methley’s GT2 win was narrower than anticipated as he spun on his way to catching Van Hoepen on the road, having let the Dutchman past by mistake earlier, thinking it was a P2 car. In the end, Methley still won but it was by less than a second…