Rossi inherits win amidst Bradshaw drama in Masters Historic Sports Car race at Spa
Manfredo Rossi inherited victory in the one-hour Masters Historic Sports Car race at Spa when Tom Bradshaw saw his imperious lead disappear as the engine of his Chevron B19 began cutting out two laps from the end, leaving the Italian’s Abarth Osella PA1 to sweep past on the final your.
“I was lucky but I’ll take it!” said a smiling Rossi. “I was really trying, it was miserable out there. The fights with the two T70s of Bryant and Hart were fun though…”
“I thought I had it under control but the engine started to cut off intermittently”, said Bradshaw. “On the final lap it died completely but then it kicked back in – I was lucky to finish!”
Bradshaw had looked set for another impressive win, having taken over the helm from Oliver Bryant’s pole-sitting Lola T70 Mk3B on lap 5. On a treacherously slippery Ardennes circuit, Rossi equally usurped Bryant as well as Olivier Hart’s similar T70 Mk3B, before both closed-top prototypes were forced to retire. This left Michael Gans to take the final podium spot in his Lola T290. The Robert Beebee/Steve Brooks T70 Mk3B, Robin Ward’s T70 Mk3 and Alex Furiani’s Chevron B19 were up next.
“I’ve had better races. The result was good but the performance was modest”, said Gans. “But my theory before the start was if you finish this race you’ll finish it well...”
At the start of what would promise to be an even wetter day, the 22-car field got going for an exploratory lap behind the safety car initially, to be released on lap 2. From pole, Bryant’s Lola T70 Mk3B powered away from Tom Bradshaw’s Chevron B19 and Olivier Hart’s similar T70 Mk3B while Robert Beebee was a first-turn casualty at La Source, his Lola T70 Mk3B dropping down to 18th.
Bryant and Bradshaw soon opened up a gap to Hart and Manfredo Rossi’s Abarth Osella PA1 in third and fourth, with Michael Gans (Lola T290) and Alex Furiani (Chevron B19) further behind. Ward was up to sixth in the T70 Mk3, with Guy Peeters in the Chevron B23 up next. In the Hulme class, Chris Jolly in the Cooper Monaco T61M was well up in eighth overall, leaving the McLaren M1Bs of Richard McAlpine and John Spies well behind for the moment. In the Bonnier class, David Forsbrey had taken the initiative from Andrew Owen, with Roderick Jack following closely, while in the Pescarolo class the fight seemed over already, as James Bates was in with his Porsche 911 RSR, leaving Kurt Ecke’s similar machine out on its own.
Four laps in, Bryant led Bradshaw by 1.1 seconds, with Hart and Rossi not having given up on the chase, three and five ticks down on the leader respectively. 25 seconds in arrears, Michael Gans was in a lonely race, 19 seconds free of Furiani in sixth, with Ward in seventh and Beebee having climbed back up to eighth. Local man Fred Bouvy in the invitational IMSA Chevrolet Monza had powered up to ninth overall, now leading Patrick Jack (T70 Mk3) and Jacob Frank (Lola T212), with Forsbrey up next still leading the Bonnier class, now with Roderick Jack in second and Andrew Owen in third.
After his initial rapid progress, Jolly was still leading the Hulme class from McAlpine but now in 18th overall, while Spiers was seen heading into the pits on lap 3, leaving McAlpine to defend McLaren honours on his own. Another car out was Philippe Demeyer’s unique Gropa that he would share with Simon Hadfield, the Belgian getting stranded at the top of the Raidillon.
One lap later, Bradshaw was in front, and Hart and Rossi were closing in on former leader Bryant as well, with Hart coming to a stop at Les Combes on lap 6 the next event on the leaderboard. As the pit window approached, Bradshaw’s nippy Chevron had created a 6-second gap over Bryant, who now had Rossi’s open-top prototype in his mirrors. Gans now trailed by 43 seconds, with Beebee one-and-a-half minute in arrears, having passed Furiani for sixth.
The pit window now open, Rossi indeed made his way past Bryant but the Italian was now looking at an 11-second deficit to Bradshaw whose scorching pace – lapping the wet Spa circuit at 3 minutes per tour – was proving unapproachable. Patrick Jack, Roderick Jack (handing over to Rory), Jacon and Forsbrey were the first to pit, with Andrew Owen following suit to hand over to son Mark – meaning that all Bonnier-class contenders were in for an early stop.
Among the leaders, Rossi blinked first, joined by John Sheldon Siffert-class-leading Chevron B16, and local hero Guy Peeters in the Chevron B23, as Bradshaw continued to pound in the lap times. He was now 17 seconds clear of Bryant. Also on lap 10, Beebee came in to be relieved by Steve Brooks, while on the start of lap 11, Bradshaw as well as Bryant and Gans pitted at the last opportunity.
After the stops, Bradshaw led Rossi by 16 seconds and Bryant by six more, while Gans, Brooks, Ward and Furiani were up next, all separated by healthy margins. Bouvy was the first lapped car in eighth, with Patrick Jack, Frank and Sheldon up next. In the Bonnier class, Forsbrey still led from Mark Owen but the Roderick & Rory Jack Chevron B8 had disappeared from the fight, their team trying to cure a misfire, but all in vain. In the Pescarolo class, the Mark & James RSR had got going again, Mark now at the wheel, but Klaus Horn in the class-leading RSR was still a full two laps up. In 16th and 17th overall, Steve Farthing in the Cooper started by Jolly and Chris Keen in McAlpine’s McLaren were still at it for the Hulme-class win.
With less than 15 minutes to run, Bryant dropped from the leaderboard with an electrical issue – so no more glory after his Spa Six Hours win the night before. This meant that at the front, Bradshaw now nursed a 20-second lead over Rossi, with Gans moving up to third but one-and-a-half minute behind.
As the clock wound down, ‘nursing’ failed to prove the correct description of Bradshaw’s activity concerning his lead, as it increased to half a minute two laps from the end. But then the sting was in the tail, as the Chevron B19’s pace suddenly became erratic. Its engine cutting out intermittently, the Chevron almost ground to a halt on the final lap, leaving Rossi to go through and happily accept the gift handed to him…
Gans trailed home with a 1.15 deficit, with the Beebee/Brooks Lola in fourth, 2.14 down. Ward was a lapped fifth ahead of Furiani, Patrick Jack, Bouvy, Jacob and Sheldon in the Siffert-class-winning Chevron B16. In 11th overall, Forsbrey cornered the Bonnier-class win from Mark Owen, the two Chevron B8s sandwiching Peeters’ B23 in 12th overall. In 14th, Kurt Ecke and Klaus Horn took Pescarolo class honours, while Steve Farthing stayed out of Chris Keen’s reach to win the Hulme class for himself and Chris Jolly.
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