FIA WEC - 6 Hours of Spa - Akkodis ASP Team in the points!


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The third round of the World Endurance Championship, which took place in Belgium on the majestic circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, was exceptional, with a red flag interruption of almost two hours and a fantastic finish. In the Akkodis ASP Team clan, the #87 Lexus RC F GT3 had no changes to the line-up of its crew, with José María López, Esteban Masson and Takeshi Kimura. The same could not be said for the sister car, the #78. Except Arnold Robin, remaining the only driver of the original crew, Kelvin Van der Linde (competing this weekend in the Formula E in Berlin) was replaced by Ritomo Miyata, as planned, and Timur Boguslavskiy (who was unwell) was covered by Clemens Schmid. They all quickly adapted to the situation and at the end of a slightly crazy race, the #78 allowed Akkodis ASP Team to score their first point in the championship (P10), while the #87 finished P14 under the chequered flag. In less than a month, all the protagonists of the championship will meet up for the race that everyone is waiting for and wants to do well in - the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ten years after their first participation as a team (2014), ASP will make its comeback in la Sarthe with a lot of emotion.

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Running at Spa always has its surprises. Most of the time, it’s about dealing with the changeable weather at this Ardennes toboggan, sitting on the Belgian side of the Eifel range. For Akkodis ASP Team, they had to quickly take care of Timur Boguslavskiy’s absence, who was sick and unable to drive. Having received the sporting approval to replace their driver, Akkodis ASP Team called up the Austrian Clemens Schmid, who is entered this season in DTM and who knows GT and the Spa circuit. This meant that in the #78 Lexus RC F GT3, Ritomo Miyata (replacing Kelvin Van der Linde who was taking part in the Formula E in Berlin) teamed up with Clemens Schmid and Arnold Robin.

The first free practice session allowed the team to take their marks, while the second got them noticed. Clemens Schmid (#78) set the best time and Esteban Masson (#87) was 5th.

During qualifying (Bronze drivers), Arnold Robin placed Akkodis ASP Team for the first time in the Hyperpole by setting the 10th time, while Takeshi Kimura was P17 (#87). The Hyperpole was interrupted by a red flag, but when it was time to restart, the #78 was stuck in the pit lane with a flat battery. They finished P9.

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A strange race!

For once, the weather did not seem to want to come bother the setup of the race. On the contrary, the sun was shining when the lights went green and the temperature was quite summery.

Less hectic than at Imola, the start of this 6 Hours of racing was no less intense, and, quickly, an initial ranking was established. Arnold Robin and Takeshi Kimura were respectively at the wheel in the #78 and #87 Lexus RC F GT3, Bronze drivers in charge of the first stint, as dictated by the regulations. Positioned in P10 and P17, both had a steady pace from the start. This determined attitude was confirmed by Arnold Robin (#78) gaining two places after the first fifteen minutes. Having a slightly less successful time, his team mate Takeshi Kimura (#87) was caught up in the field and suffered a slight hit, damaging his front left wing.

This was followed by two Full Course Yellow sessions with 20 minutes in between, breaking up the pace of the first hour. With both drivers taking on double stints, they then went into a long safety car period after 1h30 of racing, which was caused by a rough incident that damaged the guardrails.

During this period, Clemens Schmid got into the #78, and was followed shortly after by Esteban Masson in the #87.

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The restart took place 2h25 after the start. The #78 was in the Top 10 and the #87 P16. The battle was raging in the LMGT3 field and everyone tried to get the best out of it. The refuelling strategies were like a game of poker, where bluffing played a key role.

On track, Clemens Schmid (#78) was called to order for track limits, before finally receiving a 5 second penalty, which he would have to take at the next pit stop.

With two hours to go, Ritomo Miyata took his place in the cockpit of the #78 to complete the ultimate double stint (P12), while Esteban Masson continued on his run (P15) at the wheel of the #87.

But as the timer showed a little over 1h40 remaining, a heavy crash between a Hypercar and a GT3 (with no injuries to the drivers) caused an interruption to the race (red flag). The heavily damaged guardrail had to be replaced on quite a long section in order to allow the race to restart safely. The repair work took nearly two hours.

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As allowed by the regulations, the stewards extended the race while respecting the initial maximum race time, so six hours total. The restart was then given behind the safety car for 1h44 of racing. With all the gaps reduced to nothing, there was work to be done, for both the Hypercar and the LMGT3 classifications.

With 1h20 to go, Ritomo Miyata (#78) was P7, and Esteban Masson (#87) P13, replaced a little later by José María López. The final sprint was intense and no one was handing out favours. After a battle that played out until the chequered flag, the #78 crossed the finish line P10, and the #87 P14, allowing Akkodis ASP Team to score their first point in the championship.

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In less than a month, the next round of the World Endurance Championship will lead the competitors to the Sarthe for the high note of the season – the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans (12-15 June). For Akkodis ASP Team, the last time they took part was in 2014 with Fabien Barthez, Anthony Pons and Soheil Ayari. For the boss, Jérôme Policand, who took part no fewer than 13 times as a driver, the Le Mans week always has a certain feeling to it.

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