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JOTA’s Callum Ilott and Will Stevens won an extended 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on Saturday, after a huge crash for Cadillac’s Earl Bamber saw a red flag for almost two hours, before the race was extended to make up the time.

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Ilott qualified the car fifth initially, promoted to fourth when the #50 Ferrari, the initial polesitter, was disqualified from qualifying. While Stevens, who started the car, retained fourth at the start, they lost places as the first hour closed, seventh with a sixth of the race completed. This continued for much of the race, bobbing around seventh and eighth, and sixth at the end of the fourth hour.

While Fred Makowiecki started on pole in the #5 Porsche, he soon relinquished the lead to a rapid Julien Andlauer in the #99 Proton Competition Porsche. The latter Frenchman then began to extend a gap, up to 7 seconds when he the pit stop cycle began. Andlauer retained the lead after the pitstops had been completed, but the Ferraris, which had started out of position due to a mistake in qualifying for #51 Ferrari driver James Calado, and the disqualification and demotion of the sister #50, were catching fast. Antonio Giovinazzi started the #51 Ferrari, moving up to sixth in the opening laps and showing a great deal of pace.

By the end of the second hour, Giovinazzi’s teammate Calado had caught Andlauer’s teammate Neel Jani, who had taken over the car from the Frenchman.

The safety car was for a crash involving the #46 WRT BMW M4 GT3 of Ahmad Al Harthy, the #38 JOTA Porsche of Phil Habson, and Rene Rast of the #20 BMW M Hybrid V8, who punted the other two at the Bruxelles left-hander, but somehow got away got scot-free. With both the BMW LMGT3 and the JOTA Porsche out, the race remained under virtual safety car, then full safety car, for almost an hour. When the race resumed, Jani fended off Calado, with Michael Christensen in the #5 Porsche putting pressure on the Ferrari driver.

However, Christensen lost the rear end of the car at Blanchimont, hitting the barriers on drivers’ left. This gave Christensen a puncture, putting the car out of the race due to damage sustained. Calado, who’d been putting pressure on Jani since the restart, then got his chance to take the lead: with Jani encountering traffic at Eau Rouge, Calado had overspeed compared to the Porsche, and with the addition of slipstream, was able to brake later than the Swiss driver into Les Combes, taking the lead.

Soon after this, Calado pitted with his teammate Alessandro Pier Guidi getting into the ca, but they retained the lead over Jani. However, Jani soon lost second to the sister #50 Ferrari of Antonio Fuoco, drafting past the Porsche on the Kemmel Straight to take second and make it a Ferrari 1-2 at the front.

Earl Bamber was now catching Jani for third, amid a super run for Cadillac. Bamber’s teammate Alex Lynn had dropped back from 2nd at the start to as low as 11th in the opening hour, as the Cadillac struggled with low amounts of grip. Over the course of the race, though, they managed to climb back up the field, and was advancing on Jani, just a few tenths behind with just under two hours to go. A battle for third looked on! The two then came upon the battle for fourth in LMGT3, between Erwan Bastard in the #777 D’Station Aston Martin Vantage AMR, and Sean Galael in the #31 WRT BMW M4 GT3.

Jani was held up behind Galael, but overtook him exiting Raidillon. Bamber looked to do the same on the Kemmel Straight, with huge overspeed compared to both cars, but misjudged the space in the middle between the two. He clipped Bastard, sending both spearing into the barriers, with Bamber’s car doing a somersault before coming to a rest with essentially half the car left on it. Bastard’s BMW, meanwhile, ended up in barriers on drivers’ left.

With both cars out immediately, the safety car was deployed. But with debris strewn across the track the safety car very quickly turned into a red flag. This red flag lasted for a total of 1 hour 44 minutes, while the drivers were extracted from the cars — both were uninjured and sent to the medical centre for precautionary checks — then the cars cleared and debris removed. The barriers on drivers’ left also had to be repaired, which took most of the time of the red flag. With the clock still counting down as per the regulations, it looked increasingly likely the clock would time out. It did — but race control then announced they’d extend the race time as per the duration of the red flag.

The race duly restarted behind the safety car, with the #51 Ferrari of Pier Guidi leading. However, the car had very little energy remaining, and Pier Guidi had to pit for emergency service — the pit lane was still closed under safety car — in order not to run out of fuel and energy. When the safety car came in, the cars down to sixth pitted, with Fuoco, who was also low on energy, staying out for another lap and assuming the lead for that single lap.

When Fuoco did pit at the end of the first green lap for almost two hours, this gave the #112 JOTA of Callum Ilott the lead — one he never relinquished. With Kevin Estre in the factory #6 Porsche behind him, Ilott extended a gap to the Frenchman of around 5 seconds.

Both cars did need another pit stop, but JOTA handled this perfectly, giving Ilott an even bigger gap when the pit stop cycle shook out. He duly managed this gap and crossed the line with a lead of 12.363 to Estre.

In third was Fuoco in the #50 Ferrari, 1:14 behind Ilott — Ferrari’s first podium of the year. Fourth was Alessandro Pier Guidi in the #51 Ferrari, a further 3.690 seconds off Fuoco, while fifth was Julien Andlauer in the #99 Proton Porsche – a car who’d lead for a good proportion of the race but lost out in the red flag, much like Ferrari.

Sixth and seventh were the two Toyotas, Brebndon Hartley in the #8 Toyota followed by Kamui Kobayashi in the #7. Eighth was Robert Schwartzman, driving the #83 AF Corse Ferrari, with ninth going to the #35 Alpine A424 of Jules Gounon. Mikkel Jensen crossed the line in 10-th, onboard the #93 Peugeot 9X8, rounding out the top 10.