Circuit de Barcelona, Catalunya

ESPIRITU DE MONTJUIC
1 – 3 April 2022

Hartley, Halusa and D’Ansembourg split the honours at Barcelona

Steve Hartley, Lukas Halusa and Christophe d’Ansembourg set the wheels in motion for the 2022 Masters European Tour by winning in the season opener at Barcelona, as Masters added their Masters Racing Legends and Masters Endurance Legends to the programme of the Espíritu de Montjuïc event.

RACE REPORTS

Masters Endurance Legends – Race 1
Christophe d’Ansembourg proved triumphant in a Masters Endurance Legends race at Barcelona that was split in two halves.

In the first of two races on the weekend of the Espíritu de Montjuïc event, Jamie Constable’s first-lap off in his Pescarolo-Judd 01 caused a lengthy safety-car period and an eventual red flag, as the car couldn’t be freed from its spot in the gravel trap.

On the restart, D’Ansembourg’s Lola-Aston Martin DBR1/2 charged past the pole-sitting Peugeot 908 of Kriton Lendoudis, the Greek subsequently keeping the Belgian honest right up until the chequered flag. In the meantime, both were passed on the road by Martin O’Connell in the Lola-Mazda B12/60 who had taken over from Steve Brooks during the mid-race break. Although O’Connell took the flag in first position, his 20-second elite driver penalty still needed to be applied, and this dropped him down to fifth behind Keith Frieser’s Zytek 09S and Steve Tandy’s Lola-Judd B12/60.

“That was a very strange race”, said D’Ansembourg. “When I saw the red flag, I didn’t even know if I was first or last! But after the restart I got Kriton quite quickly and then fought to keep him behind. The Peugeot is much faster out of the slow corners because all of its torque, but the Aston is faster on the straights.”

“One more lap, and I would have got him back”, said a despondent Lendoudis. “I’m unhappy, but there’s another chance later today.”

“It was very confusing!” said Frieser, “but it was quite good. I got besides the Mazda two or three times but couldn’t get past – it was fun!”

In seventh overall, Stuart Wiltshire took P2 class honours in his Ligier JSP2 while the Stephan Joebstl/Andy Willis Ligier JSP3 won in P3. In GTs, Jason Wright’s Ferrari 458 GT3 won from Fergus Paton’s Mosler MT900R.

“It was very lonely”, said Wright. “I thought I would be able to catch one of the P3 cars but not today…”

“It would have been nice to have had some more GT opposition”, said Paton about being unable to follow Wright’s Ferrari. “There’s a few years of development between Jason’s car and mine, and I think it shows.”

On an uncannily chilly Barcelona spring morning, ambient temperatures reaching no higher than an abysmal 3 degrees, the cars went sent on their way after a safety car start, with Lendoudis storming away from the front while Brooks was ambushed from behind by D’Ansembourg and Constable.

Keith Frieser’s Zytek 09S was up next, followed by Stuart Wiltshire in the leading P2 car, Tandy in the Judd-engined Lola B12/60, Newton in the second P2 car, Lukas Halusa’s invitational Group C Porsche 962 and Antoine D’Ansembourg in the ex-Didier Theys Dallara-ORECA DO05. Behind the younger D’Ansembourg, Stephan Joebstl led Craig Davies in the battle of the Ligier JSP3s, while Wright’s Ferrari 458 had kept ahead of Fergus Paton in the Mosler MT900R.

But soon the safety car was back out, as Constable’s race had lasted no longer than some ten seconds, the Pescarolo-Judd 01 having spun off on cold tyres at turn 2. As the car was stuck in gear and proved impossible to move, the minutes ticked away, and with 24 minutes left on the clock, the red flag was out. With parc fermé rules applying initially, the cars were stopped on the main straight, with neither pitstops nor driver swaps allowed, but shortly after, the pit window opened, creating the possibility for tyre and driver changes.

For those drivers having done the opening stint, it was a shame that their actual racing action proved to be just two corners long, but that’s part of racing too… 15 minutes later, the race was restarted behind the safety car, with 12 minutes left on the clock. Right from the first green flag, D’Ansembourg had the bit between his teeth and moved to the front ahead of Lendoudis and Martin O’Connell, now in the Mazda-engined B12/60 started by Brooks. Frieser had jumped Wiltshire at the restart to be fourth, with Tandy, Halusa, Newton and D’Ansembourg Jr up next.

Aaron Scott, having taken over from Rick Carlino in the ORECA LMPC, had moved ahead of the Ligier JSP3 battle between Andy Willis (in Joebstl’s car) and Ron Maydon (in the start started by Davies), with Wright still leading Paton in GTs.

Next time around, O’Connell had moved past Lendoudis too, to chase after the Lola-Aston in the lead. On lap 11, O’Connell had closed the gap to a second and was ready to pounce. Indeed, the B12/60 passed the DBR1/2 halfway into lap 12 to immediately draw out an advantage of some two seconds. Lendoudis was still not far away in third, while only five seconds down on the leader, Frieser was looking to profit from any mistake ahead while having to keep an eye on his mirrors for Wiltshire and Tandy just behind the Canadian.

O’Connell used the two remaining laps to eek out a 5.7-second lead over D’Ansembourg before taking the chequered flag. D’Ansembourg only narrowly kept Lendoudis at bay, the Belgian staying ahead of the Greek by just three tenths. Frieser was fourth, while Tandy and Halusa each stole a place from Wiltshire on the final lap. Next up were D’Ansembourg Jr, Newton and Scott. But when the elite-driver time penalties of 20 seconds were added, Brooks/O’Connell were dropped to fifth, while Carlino/Scott fell behind the Ligier JSP3s of Joebstl/Willis and Davies Maydon. Jason Wright led the GT class all the way from Fergus Paton.

Masters Racing Legends – Race 1
Hartley wins finely poised battle with Cantillon in season’s first Masters Racing Legends race at Barcelona

Despite leading from start to finish, Steve Hartley was having to keep an eye on his mirrors for the entire 15 laps of the first Masters Racing Legends race for 1966-1985 Formula One cars at Barcelona. The McLaren MP4/1 driver was chased all the way by fellow front-row starter Mike Cantillon’s Williams FW07C but kept his nerve to win the first race of the 2022 Masters season.

“I could tell you it was pretty easy but it was hard work!” said a jubilant Hartley about his race in the carbon fibre McLaren now run by Anthony Seddon Racing. “This is my first time here, and you can’t practice for this. I didn’t think I’d win, I thought it would be one of the young guys, but there it is – new team, first win!”

“I was hoping he would make a mistake – but he didn’t”, said Cantillon. “There were only a couple of backmarkers, so fair play to him, he never cracked under pressure.”

In third, Lukas Halusa looked a threat in his new mount, his Williams FW08 momentarily dropping down to fourth but soon reclaiming third, in the process setting fastest lap of the race and closing on the two leaders. Towards the end, though, the Austrian was forced to let Hartley and Cantillon go again.

“I think so!” said Halusa about overcooking his tyres as the reason for dropping back at the end. “I had trouble passing a backmarker, and after that I thought, I’ve cooked my tyres, let’s just try to make it to the end.”

Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C) took a distant fourth ahead of Steve Brooks (Lotus 91) and the uncontested post-82 class winner Mark Hazell in the Williams FW08C. Seventh and dominating the pre-78 class was Frenchman Patrick D’Aubréby whose March 761 led all the way to win from James Hagan in the Hesketh 308. Hagan fought Jonathan Holtzman’s Tyrrell P34 for second in class, and when the six-wheeler retired, Peter Williams (Lec CRP1) inherited third in class to crown a fine debut.

“I felt comfortable”, said a happy D’Aubréby. “The car was nice, and I actually took it easy!”

“I tried to keep him honest”, said Hagan about passing Holtzman, “and then I caught and passed him on the straight. It’s always nicer if you can race someone.”

“Yes, my first time in Formula One!” said a surprised Williams. “And getting a podium is unexpected! The last few laps were quiet, getting out of the leaders’ way, but my fight with Bob Blain in the March was entertaining: I left him in my mirrors!”

With a chilly breeze but in sunny conditions, the field got going for their first 25-minute race of their season-opening weekend, as Hartley duly converted pole into a first-lap lead over Cantillon of 0.8 seconds. D’Ansembourg was third in the second FW07C, already three seconds down, and was chased by Halusa, with Brooks and Hazell forming another pair two further seconds adrift.

In seventh, D’Aubréby led the pre-78 class, the Frenchman keeping his countryman Vincent Rivet in the March 811 between himself and class rival Jonathan Holtzman in the Tyrrell P34 six-wheeler, who in turn was chased by James Hagan in the Hesketh 308. Outside the top-ten, Mark Higson debuting his McLaren MP4/1B was eleventh ahead of Peter Williams in the Lec CRP1, David Abbott in the Arrows A4, Rob Blain in the March 761 and Michel Baudoin having swapped his Hesketh 308E for a March 821.

The next lap, Hartley’s lead was up to 1,2 seconds, but on lap 3 Cantillon put in a blinder to close right up to his McLaren rival. Halusa, meanwhile, had passed D’Ansembourg for third, the Austrian thus reclaiming his starting position. On lap 4, however, Hartley punched back to reinstate his one-second lead over the Williams. Halusa now found himself four seconds adrift of Cantillon but six seconds up on D’Ansembourg, with Brooks and Hazell still contesting fifth place 17 seconds behind the leader.

In the back, Baudoin had pitted his March while Abbott dropped back to 14th, as D’Aubréby was now some ten seconds clear of Holtzman, who had managed to pass Rivet for eighth overall. Soon, Hagan was through as well and chasing Holtzman for second place in the pre-78 class.

Seven laps into the race, Hartley was inching away from Cantillon ever so slightly, his lead now up to 1.4 seconds. Behind them, though, Halusa was the fastest man on track, setting fastest lap of the race and closing in on both of them. D’Ansembourg was still a lonely fourth but Brooks and Hazell were anxious to keep him company.

Next time, around Hartley led Cantillon by 2.1 seconds, and the Irishman now had to worry more about Halusa catching him, rather than entertaining thoughts about relieving Hartley from the top. In the pre-78 class, D’Aubréby maintained his nine-second advantage over Holtzman and Hagan – but on lap 9, it was Hagan and Holtzman, as the Irishman had taken eighth from the American. Indeed, on lap 10, the Tyrrell was into the pits, which meant that third in class now belonged to Peter Williams in the Lec.

In this finely poised race, the smallest error could prove to be decisive, and a sub-par lap 9 from Hartley saw Cantillon close back up to within a second of the ‘Jam Baron’ in front, with Halusa losing ground on the Williams FW07C driver. The status quo remained after 11 laps, but two more laps and it had become obvious that the Austrian was unable to stay with the two leaders, now separated by a mere four-tenths, as Cantillon gave it one final go.

However, as lap 15 approached, the final lap of the race, Hartley was markedly further up the road again, and so was able to cruise to victory in the first race of the season. Cantillon was second, 1.7 seconds down, while Halusa finished third, trailing Cantillon by some six seconds. D’Ansembourg took fourth, 42 seconds adrift of the winner, followed closely by Brooks and post-82 class winner Hazell. D’Aubréby completed his lights-to-flag victory in the pre-78 class, leading home Hagan, with Higson and Rivet splitting the Frenchman and the Irishman from Peter Williams, who took a distant third in class.

Masters Racing Legends – Race 2
Halusa takes first overall victory in rain-affected second Masters Racing Legends race at Barcelona

Reigning pre-78 champion Lukas Halusa snatched an unlikely first overall Formula One victory in his newly acquired Williams FW08 as he overtook Mike Cantillon’s Williams FW07C and profited from a mistake by the similarly mounted long-time race leader Christophe d’Ansembourg to take the lead only moments before the safety car came out as a result of Steve Brooks’ Lotus 91 spinning out of fifth place.

“That’s as good as it gets!” said a jubilant Halusa about taking his first overall F1 win on his very first weekend in the Williams FW08. “I went around the outside in the sharp righthander before the chicane – not a likely spot to overtake, but the grip was there. Mike was looking for the grip – and I found it!”

Rain played a pivotal role in the second race of the Masters Racing Legends for 1966-1985 Formula One cars, as scattered drops began to intensify some 15 minutes into the race, causing the grip to change from one corner to the next – and this caused the race to turn around in less than a lap. D’Ansembourg who had stolen the lead from polesitter Brooks early on and kept his teammate Cantillon at bay for seven laps, was the first to spin on the increasingly slippery track. Cantillon, who was following closely, managed to take avoiding action but was now the one to discover where the grip was. Five corners later, Halusa stole the lead – and moments later the safety car was deployed because of Brooks crashing his Lotus. The race finished under the safety car.

“Christophe spun in front of me”, said Cantillon, “so I had to avoid him. Lukas got alongside of me but I managed to stay in front initially. But then it started raining even harder, and I was the first to learn where the grip was. It was just so slippery…”

Saturday’s winner Steve Hartley (McLaren MP4/1) took a close third to the two Williams cars in front, with Mark Hazell (Williams FW08C) doubling up on post-82 class wins by finishing fourth overall, ahead of a recovering D’Ansembourg. In sixth overall, Patrick d’Aubréby remained unflustered by the conditions, taking his second pre-78 class win of the weekend in a dominant form similar to one the Frenchman had already displayed on Saturday. This time, Peter Williams (Lec CRP1) took second in class, having finished third the day before, with Jonathan Holtzman (Tyrrell P34) taking the final podium spot after being forced to take a drivethrough penalty for a jump start.

“It was dry in one place but very wet in the back”, said Hartley, “so it was very tricky out there.”

“I started with very cold tyres”, said D’Aubréby, “and the car felt slower than yesterday. So I kept a safe margin, especially in the period with more rain before the safety car.”

“It did involve a bit of luck, didn’t it?” said a modest Williams about going one better compared to third place on Saturday. “And it was strange with the rain – in one or two corners the grip would be OK, and then it was incredibly slippery at the next!”

The starting grid was created from the result of Saturday’s first race, with its first five finishers in reverse order, so Steve Brooks lined up on pole, with Christophe d’Ansembourg’s Williams FW07C joining the Lotus 91 on the first row. Lukas Halusa’s FW08C and Mike Cantillon’s FW07C shared the second row while Steve Hartley and Mark Hazell made up the third row in their respective McLaren MP4/1 and Williams FW08 cars.

Due to the rare and extreme cold at the Barcelona track, the 25-minute race was started with two laps behind the safety car, and with the first drops of rain falling during the grid walk, a wet race was duly declared. As soon as the green flag was waved, with 17 minutes still remaining, Brooks shot away into the lead, but braking for turn 4, D’Ansembourg hit the front, soon followed through by Halusa and Cantillon, as Brooks dropped three places in the course of four turns.

Cantillon then nipped past Halusa to snatch second before lap 4 had even started, with Hartley now through into fourth, demoting Brooks one further spot. Hazell was sixth, leading Patrick d’Aubréby in the top pre-78 car, with Higson’s McLaren MP4/1B and Jonathan Holtzman in the Tyrrell P34 up next, the American occupying second place in the pre-78 class, but only by virtue of a jump start – for which he would soon need to serve a drivethrough penalty.

As Abbott’s Arrows A4 came into the pits, D’Ansembourg still managed to keep his teammate at bay, with Halusa and Hartley making it a four-car lead group. Into lap 5, the order remained unchanged, but at the back Bob Blain also called it a day in his Beta-liveried March 761. Behind the top four, Brooks and Hazell returned to their fight of the day before while D’Aubréby again ruled imperiously in the pre-78 class.

Next time around, however, with the rain at the back of the circuit ever increasing, it was all change, as D’Ansembourg dropped it halfway into lap 8, losing four places as a result, with the additional outcome that five corners later Halusa jumped Cantillon to snatch the lead. At the same time, Brooks went off at turn 6 to evoke the renewed presence of the safety car. So now it was Halusa from Cantillon and Hartley, with Hazell in fourth ahead of D’Ansembourg, D’Aubréby, Higson, Vincent Rivet in the March 811 and Peter Williams in the Lec CRP1, the latter moving up into second in the pre-78 class, as Holtzman took his drive-through penalty.

As the clock ticked away, the race was set to finish under the safety car, and the result was that Halusa took a surprise first overall win in his first weekend with the FW08. As on Saturday, Cantillon was the runner-up, this time in front of Hartley, who completed the podium. Hazell took the post-82 class win, while D’Aubréby became the runaway pre-78 class winner for the second day running. The Frenchman was followed home by Higson, Rivet and his nearest class rivals Williams and Holtzman.