Spa Francorchamps, Belgium

SPA SIX HOURS
27 – 29 September 2019

Wet and wild Spa Six Hours meeting rounds off thrilling Masters European Season

The fickle Ardennes weather played a huge part in many of the weekend’s races for the final round of the Masters 2019 European Tour at the Spa Six Hours. Only the Friday saw some qualifying sessions held on a dry track but on the two remaining days the circuit’s surface conditions varied from damp to soaking wet. Steve Tandy, David Hart/Nicky Pastorelli, Steve Hartley, Kyle Tilley, Craig Davies, Olly Bryant and Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie braved the weather to each take a win home.

RACE REPORTS

Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends – Race 1
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…

Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends – Race 2
Hart & Pastorelli take stunning victory in wet second Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends race at Spa

David Hart and Nicky Pastorelli took their Maserati MC12 GT1 by the scruff of its neck to grab a stunning overall victory in a very wet second Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends race at the Spa Six Hours meeting. A quick first-lap pitstop for rain tyres and then a searing pace by Pastorelli in the wet proved to be the main ingredients for their win over Christophe d’Ansembourg’s Lola-Aston Martin DBR1/2.

“That first-lap stop was a brilliant decision”, said a beaming Hart. “I brought on Michael Bartels, the original Vitaphone team boss, to handle the car and he made the call. It was a shame I could only do two green laps. Without the safety car, our lead would have been even bigger! And I just love the rain – I’m the rain man…”

“That was really cool”, said a well-satisfied Pastorelli. “The car was fantastic to drive, and racing it in the wet was even better!”

“We changed back to slicks on the grid, that was not a good decision!” said d’Ansembourg. “But I had a good advantage on Kriton and Steve, so I was OK for the championship. I let the Maserati go, as I didn’t want to take any risks.”

Having started out on rain tyres, Markus van Oeynhausen’s invitational Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3 car crossed the line in third while Steve Tandy looked to have beaten Kriton Lendoudis to fourth after a tense fight between the Lola-Mazda B12/60 and the Peugeot 90X. Tandy’s pass in the final corner, however, came to be by overshooting the chicane, so the winner of the first race had to give the place back to his Greek rival. Meanwhile, Keith Frieser secured the P2 class win by finishing sixth in the ORECA-Nissan 03.

“I had a good run on Kriton out of Blanchimont”, said Tandy about his failed pass on Lendoudis. “I overshot the Bus-Stop, so I don’t what the result will be.”

“I’m not used to driving this car in the rain”, Lendoudis said, “so I was simply trying to adapt. But it was a good race and I had good fun.”

The second race of the weekend – with Mike Furness’ Courage-Judd LC75 a non-starter – got underway on a damp track, and if tyre choice was critical, it was certainly so when all hell broke loose on the opening lap, with sudden heavy rainfall flooding the track. D’Ansembourg, Lendoudis, Frieser, Gläsel, Ditting, Tandy, Van Hoepen and Watts all came in at once to change to wets before the safety car was dispatched.

On the cars’ out lap, Tandy’s Lola-Mazda B12/60 had spun to drop back to penultimate place in the order, handing the intial advantage to d’Ansembourg in the Lola-Aston Martin DBR1/2 and Lendoudis in the Peugeot 90X, while Hart’s Maserati MC12 GT1 was into the pits on the first possible occasion. Van Oeynhausen, Newton, Bloem and Nearburg staying out by having made the right tyre choice gave them the first four positions behind the safety car, though, followed by Hart and d’Ansembourg as the first of the stoppers. They moved up a place when Newton dropped out behind the safety car.

As the green flag was waved on lap 5, the pit window had already opened, and Von Oeynhausen, Hart and d’Ansembourg decided to have it over and done with. This handed a surprising lead to James Davison in Pierre Bruneau’s Pilbeam MP91, followed by Albert Bloem’s Aston Martin Vantage GT2 and Charlie Nearburg in the ORECA-Nissan 03. Ditting in the Aston Martin DBR9 was fourth but a long way back, followed by the fast-closing Lendoudis and Tandy. They, along with Frieser in the other ORECA 03 and Gläsel in the McLaren MP4-12C GT3, pitted on the next lap. Next in were Ditting, Davison and Bloem.

At the front, with less than 15 minutes to go, Nearburg was still in front but having missed the pit window, just like Peter van Hoepen in the Ferrari 430 GT2. Second was d’Ansembourg but chased hard by Nicky Pastorelli in the Maserati started by David Hart. Von Oeynhausen in the Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3 was fourth, well ahead of Bruneau in the Pilbeam. Lendoudis, Tandy and Frieser were far away in sixth, seventh and eighth.

As d’Ansembourg and Pastorelli hunted down Nearburg, their order had changed on lap 8, the Dutchman now ahead of the Belgian and then passing Nearburg for the lead proper on lap 9, despite the time penalty for the Texan still forthcoming. Pastorelli setting a scorching pace in the wet, each time beating his own fastest lap of the race, the Maserati moved further away from the Lola-Aston. When the time penalties for Nearburg and Van Hoepen were announced, the American made his pitstop after all.

And so Pastorelli ran out to a stunning overall win in the GT1 machine, 22 seconds ahead of d’Ansembourg, with Von Oeynhausen in the invitational GT3 Audi in third. Some 52 seconds adrift, Lendoudis and Tandy finished fourth and fifth, Tandy being put back having completed his pass on the Greek by overshooting the chicane. Frieser in sixth took P2 class honours. Sam Hancock brought home Ditting’s Aston Martin GT1 second in class while despite his penalty, Peter van Hoepen’s Ferrari was still the first GT2 car home in 13th overall, 25 seconds ahead of Bloem’s Vantage.

Masters Gentlemen Drivers
Thomas & Lockie close Masters Gentlemen Drivers season with win at Spa

Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie ended their Masters Gentlemen Drivers season in style by taking their sixth win in the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé. On a very wet Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the pair led from the start but faced a strong challenge from the similar Daytona Cobra shared by James Hanson and Andy Wolfe. At the end of their stint, Hanson grabbed first from Thomas but then the former was hit by a stop-and-go penalty.

“That was really tense!” said an elated Thomas. “I had a brilliant race with James – managed to keep him at bay for most of it.”

“It was just traffic that got you”, said Hanson, “but I’m still wondering what the penalty was for…”

In an all-out effort to negate the deficit, Wolfe hunted down Lockie with fastest lap after fastest lap but his demon drive came to a premature end when on lap 21 his Daytona Cobra suddenly snapped sideways at the back of the circuit moments after he had wiped out Lockie’s advantage and was about to make his move for the lead.

“I was not prepared to race any harder than that…” said an incredulous Lockie about Wolfe’s demon drive. “I finally found someone who is madder than me!”

“I said to myself, hang with him, hang with him, push, push, and then: poof – sideways…” said Wolfe looking back on the moment he lost the car. “It was a good chase, though…”

The pair left John & Gary Pearson’s Jaguar E-type well behind in third while Andrew Haddon completed a dominant performance in the CLP class by finishing fourth overall in his Lotus Elan. Trailing home the Markus von Oeynhausen/Lando von Wedel E-type in sixth overall, Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger ran away with the C2 class win in their Morgan SLR, beating the Austin Healey 3000s of Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus/Jeremy Welch and Mark Pangborn.

“It rounded off the weekend quite nicely”, said an understated Pearson about his lonely drive to third. “It was a nice drive around – it was so slippery, you didn’t need any entertainment!”

“Yeah, it was nice”, said Haddon about his dominant drive. “The car was good, I was sliding everywhere. I got a good scrap with the Pearsons until Gary got in – he’s a bit quicker…”

A similar giant-slaying result was produced by Mark & James Bates, the brothers hauling their C1-class-winning Porsche 911 up to eighth overall from the back of the grid. Equally shining in the rain were Nick Swift and Mark Burnett in the Ogle SX1000, the pair completing the under-2-litre podium.

“Yeah, we did!” said Mark Bates when asked if he and his brother James enjoyed themselves. “I just didn’t think it would last this long, honestly. Yesterday, the engine was out, that is why we were out in qualifying and had to start at the back. It did the whole Six Hours race and now this as well!”

“No!” quipped Burnett when asked the same question. “Oh yes, it’s always good fun fighting the big cars in the wet, but it was very, very, very slippery, even in a Mini-based front-wheel drive car.”

The opening ten minutes of the race saw James Hanson passing Markus von Oeynhausen’s E-type to set off after Julian Thomas’ similar Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé that started from pole. Setting two fastest laps in a row, Hanson was on Thomas’ tail by the end of lap 3 and continued to give chase. Behind the German E-type, John Pearson held fourth in another E-type while in fifth Andrew Haddon led the CLP class in his Elan.

In an effort to redeem his mistake in the earlier FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race, Billy Bellinger was performing miracles in the Morgan SLR, storming up to sixth overall to set up a massive early lead in the C2 class. In seventh, Nicolaj Kjaergaard’s was second in the CLP class, while the C1 class had star performers similar to Bellinger, Mark Bates rising up to eighth overall in the Porsche 911, chased by Nick Swift in the Ogle SX1000, both exploiting their cars’ nimble nature to the fullest. On the edge of the top-ten, Nikolaus Ditting had dropped to tenth in his E-type before being usurped by Niall McFadden in the older B2-class E-type.

Ten minutes later, Thomas and Hanson were still at it, no more than a few tenths apart, the pair having stretched their lead to the chasing E-types to nearly half a minute. On lap 6, however, the safety car was out to allow for the retrieval of Peter Tognola’s stopped Porsche 911, and the effect was that it bunched up the field and down to ninth place all but wiped out anyone’s advantage.

With an hour to go, the field was released again, with Hanson immediately taking the lead from Thomas, but right at that moment Hanson was slammed with a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for dangerous driving under the safety car. Further back, Mark Bates had taken seventh from Kjaergaard to take his 911 further up than it had ever been. Just outside the top-ten, meanwhile, Jamie Boot’s TVR Griffith chased Ditting E-type while leading the two other C2-class contenders in the Austin Healey 3000s, Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus ahead of Mark Pangborn by a whisker.

As the pit window opened, Hanson led Thomas by three seconds but with that stop-and-go still hanging over his head. The Daytona Cobras had both drawn clear of the Von Oeynhausen and Pearson E-types by 14 and 19 seconds respectively, while Haddon continued to lead the CLP class in fifth. Bellinger was still a strong sixth in his C2-class-leading Morgan SLR, ahead of the equally miraculous Mark Bates. Kjaergaard, Swift and McFadden completed the top-ten with 50 minutes still to go, all three ahead of more powerful machinery.

At the halfway point, Hanson came in to serve his penalty at the same time Thomas was in to hand over to Calum Lockie, with almost everyone deciding to come in at the end of lap 12 too. Von Oeynhausen was the only one staying out for another lap, and the German barely made it in time to hand the turquoise E-type to Lando von Wedel. Hanson led the E-type into the pits to be relieved by Andy Wolfe.

The result of it all was that Lockie now led Wolfe by 20 seconds, with the Pearsons’ E-type having jumped their German rivals at the stops. Haddon was just two seconds behind the Jags and holding a cushion of 20 seconds to Keith Ahlers in the Morgan SLR started by Bellinger. Mark Bates’ brother James was up next, followed by Kjaergaard and McFadden, while Jeremy Welch had made it into top-ten in the Big Healey shared with Nyblaeus. The Ogle, now with Mark Burnett at the wheel, had dropped behind Pangborn and Boot and was in 13th.

Going into the final half hour, von Wedel was dropping back at a rapid rate, having lost a place to Haddon already, and was in the pits on lap 16. When the German rejoined he was still in fifth but only seconds ahead of Ahlers and Bates (J.). At the front, though, it was anything but over. Wolfe truly had the hammer down and in three laps’ time cut Lockie’s lead by eight seconds. If he continued to make similar inroads into the rival Cobra Daytona Coupé’s advantage, the fight was on for the final minutes of the race.

With 20 minutes, Wolfe again set fastest lap of the race to get within ten seconds of Lockie. Far behind, the Pearson Jaguar and Haddon’s Elan held a lonely third and fourth while the rest of the top-ten remained unchanged. This meant that all eyes were on Wolfe’s demon drive – another fastest lap meant he now only had six seconds to cover, and there were still more than 15 minutes to go.

Two more fastest laps were enough for Wolfe to narrow down the gap to less than three seconds but on lap 21, his chase came to a premature end when he dropped the car at the back of the circuit. Now Lockie’s lead was suddenly back up to 15 seconds! In the meantime, three minutes further back, Welch had passed Kjaergaard for eighth overall and set off after James Bates. One lap later, the Dane disappeared altogether, allowing McFadden into ninth and Boot into tenth.

Wolfe having resigned to second, Lockie crossed the line taking the sixth win of the season for himself and Thomas. Gary Pearson came home third, close to a minute adrift while Andrew Haddon completed a dominant CLP-class display by taking fourth in the Elan. The Von Oeynhausen/Von Wedel E-type was fifth ahead of C2 class winners Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger in their Morgan SLR. On the final lap, Jeremy Welch took seventh ahead of the Bates’ Porsche, with Niall McFadden winning the B2 class in his E-type. In 14th overall, the Burnett/Swift Ogle SX1000 completed the under-2-litre podium, while the remaining CLP-class top spots went to Laurent Dutoya’s Ginetta G4R (17th) and the Steve Jones/Chris Atkinson Elan (18th) – both having been hit by stop-and-go penalties for missing the pit window.

Masters Racing Legends – Race 1
Hartley survives the conditions to win first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Spa

Steve Hartley braved the fickle Ardennes weather to win the weekend’s first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race of the Spa Six Hours meeting. In a wet race blighted by safety cars, Hartley’s McLaren MP4/1 hit the front in a final-lap dash to the line, beating Mike Cantillon’s Williams FW07C, who had claimed the lead from pole-sitter Christophe d’Ansembourg’s FW07C on the opening green lap.

“Going into Pouhon, Mike just lost it”, said Hartley. “All my places were casualties, really. But when you’re driving in the wet that’s what happens!”

“I didn’t realise it was the final lap”, said a rueful Cantillon. “It was just so slippery at Pouhon. I slid wide, and Steve slipped past on the inside. I thought I had it!”

“It started really well”, said d’Ansembourg, “but then I spun stupidly and lost a few places. You could say it was a fast safety-car race – I never drove so hard to catch up with the safety car!”

Also moving past d’Ansembourg along the way, Kyle Tilley finished a strong third overall to win the pre-78 class in the Ensign N177, ahead of James Hagan’s Hesketh 308 in fifth overall and Jason Wright’s Shadow DN8 in seventh.

“It was lots of fun”, said Tilley. “We had the pace to win it overall but I just didn’t get the opportunities. It would be nice to have a dry race, though. All my races in the Ensign have been wet!”

“I enjoyed it”, said Hagan. “I enjoy driving in the rain. It was too long behind the safety car but we all survived, no cars damaged, and that’s the main thing.”

“It was hard just to stay on the track!” said Wright about the conditions.

After Friday qualifying that to everyone’s surprise took place in sunny conditions, Saturday’s first F1 race of the weekend was declared very much a wet race. A safety-car start ensured that everyone was properly acquainted with the soaking track but into lap 2, the field was set free. Everyone bar Charlie Nearburg, that is, as the Texan’s Williams FW07C was a non-starter.

On the opening green lap, Mike Cantillon’s FW07C took charge, overtaking the pole-sitting other FW07C of Christophe d’Ansembourg, while Steve Hartley (McLaren MP4/1) and Kyle Tilley in the pre-78-class-leading Ensign N177 moved past Antoine d’Ansembourg’s Brabham BT49C to be third and fourth into lap 3. James Hagan’s pre-78 Hesketh 308 had passed Joaquin Folch’s BT49 for sixth, with Mark Hazell’s Williams FW08 up next in the first of the post-83 cars, and Jason Wright in the Shadow DN8 placed third in the pre-78 class.

On lap 3, Hartley and Tilley both swept past d’Ansembourg Sr when the Belgian spun, before more family trouble occurred with d’Ansembourg Jr stopping out on track to bring out the safety car. At the end of lap 6, the field was released for a final dash to the flag. As soon as the green flag was waved, Cantillon was on it. The Irishman’s strong first sector looked to have put the issue beyond doubt, but going wide into Pouhon allowed Hartley to hit the front and steal the win.

Tilley took third overall and another pre-78 win after his triumph at Zandvoort, leading home d’Ansembourg Sr, Hagan, Folch and Wright – as Hagan and Wright took the remaining pre-78 podium spots. Vincent Rivet’s March 811 took a strong eighth while local driver Alain Crefcoeur ended up a fine ninth overall in his pre-71 ex-Jackie Stewart March 701, ahead of Paul Tattersall’s Ensign N179.

Masters Racing Legends – Race 2
Tilley provides wet-weather masterclass in second FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Spa

Kyle Tilley (Ensign N177) was in a class of his own in a very wet second FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Spa, taking the field by storm from sixth on the grid. Unperturbed by a triplet of safety-car interruptions in the opening stages, the American-based Briton hit the front by rising from fourth to first in one single lap. Posting fastest lap after fastest lap thereafter, Tilley eventually won by 16 seconds from Jason Wright’s Shadow DN8.

“I love racing in the rain, I love this place and I love the car”, said a succinct Tilley. “We had the pace yesterday but didn’t have the opportunities. I can’t thank James Hagan enough for allowing me to drive the car.”

“I was lucky, I could see something!”, Wright said about finishing second after leading the first half of the race. “We also made some changes to the car to make it work better in the wet. And then Andy Wolfe showed me his lines – they were all quite different in the wet.”

Three pre-78 cars almost made it into overall top-three but Joaquin Folch’s post-78 Brabham BT49 pipped James Hagan’s Hesketh 308 for third on the final lap. Christophe d’Ansembourg took fifth in the Williams FW07C, ahead of post-83 class winner Mark Hazell (Williams FW08) who held off class rival Georg Hallau’s Theodore N183.

“He came past towards the final corner and I outbraked myself there”, Hagan said about failing to make it a pre-78 1-2-3.

“He was very difficult all race”, said Folch about Hagan’s defense. “In the end I caught him out of Blanchimont and then he braked too late for the Bus-Stop. I was looking for the class win anyway, so I’m very pleased. It was a race to survive, but it went much better than yesterday. I’m superhappy, for the team as well.”

“It was awful, this was one of my worst races”, said d’Ansembourg. “It was not so much the grip, but the visibility! You couldn’t see anything, it was like driving with your eyes closed…”

“It was really slippery”, Hazell said about his race. “I was using half gears, and just trying to keep it straight…”

After a dry start to the day, the rain was back an hour before the start of the Formula One race, so the drivers had to brace themselves for their second wet race of the weekend, to be started from behind the safety car. From the reversed-grid pole, Vincent Rivet initially led away in the March 811, chased by Jason Wright’s Shadow DN8, Joaquin Folch’s Brabham BT49 and James Hagan’s Hesketh 308. Race favourites Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C), Kyle Tilley (Ensign N177), Mike Cantillon (FW07C) and race 1 winner Steve Hartley (McLaren MP4/1) occupied places five to eight. Like the day before Charles Nearburg (FW07C) declined to start the race, professing a profound dislike for racing in the wet.

As Wright got the drop on Rivet into La Source, with Folch and Hagan following through soon after, the safety car was back out again almost immediately as Alain Crefcoeur had spun out his pre-71 March 701. Meanwhile, Richard Hope’s Alfa Romeo 182 retired into the pits after the opening lap, this weekend ending up slightly less successful for the Alfa aficionado than his brave Paul Ricard showing with the Osella-Alfa Romeo FA1E.

At the start of lap 3, the race returned to green conditions. Hartley had moved up into fifth and soon made that fourth by passing Rivet, with d’Ansembourg and Tilley quickly following through. However, yet another safety car had to be deployed because of a tangle between Rivet and Cantillon, but it quickly removed itself when the cars were moved to a safe spot quicker than expected.

At the front, Wright had two seconds on Folch, but with a blinding second sector Tilley made it past Hagan and then got third place as a gift as the McLaren slid off at the back of the circuit. Amazingly, at the end of the lap, Tilley was in the lead! Even more dramatically, he was followed by two more pre-78 cars, as Wright and Hagan continued to stay ahead of Folch and d’Ansembourg as the first ground-effect runners. Now in sixth, but a long way back, was Mark Hazell in the post-83 Williams FW08, Hazell leading his class rival Georg Hallau in the Theodore N183. From the back of the grid, Antoine d’Ansembourg had made it up into eighth in the other Brabham BT49 in the field.

At the front, though, Tilley repeated his Zandvoort wet-weather masterclass in the wet by winning another rain-afflicted Historic Formula One race. Lapping as much as five seconds a lap quicker than his rivals, the American-domiciled Englishman opened up a gap of 16 seconds to Wright when he passed the chequered flag. The order remained unchanged until on the final lap Folch made his way past Hagan for third. In sixth, Mark Hazell won the post-83 class while Paul Grant in the De Tomaso 505/38 profited from his countryman Crefcoeur’s early demise to take the pre-71 class win in 12th overall.

Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars
Davies takes controlled Masters Pre-66 Touring Car win at Spa

Against strong opposition, Craig Davies won a finely poised Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race at Spa, the Mustang driver maintaining a small margin to the Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie Ford Falcon and Olivier Hart’s Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA all the way.

“I really enjoyed watching the guys behind”, said a smiling Davies. “Great circuit, great race!”

Davies jumped pole-sitter Hart at the start and never looked back. Behind the winner, Hart worked with Thomas in a combined effort to catch Davies before being hit by a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits. That blunted the young Dutchman’s challenge in his second stint, in which he became focused on fending off a strong run by Alex Taylor in a Ford Mustang.

“That was a proper race!” said Thomas. “Oli and I were actually working together to try and catch up to Craig, as he was so quick. He followed me on the straights, and then I would follow him in the twisty bits. It was coordinated!”

“We lost too much time fighting each other”, Hart explained. “So we decided to cooperate to try and close up. A pity about the time penalty but we simply weren’t quick enough to keep pace with Craig. The car was good, though.”

Taylor beat the Mark Burton/Graham Pattle Mustang to fourth while James Dorlin won the Mini class in sixth overall. Tom Bell was next up in the second of the Minis, leading John Spiers’ Cortina (second in the Alfa/Cortina THC class) and the Scott Kendall/Jeff Smith Mini. In 13th overall, the Allan Ross-Jones/Mark Hales Cortina took third in THC.

“My throttle pedal got stuck before the pitstop!” said young Dorlin about some of the excitement in his race. “But I had a great battle with the Mustang and the Cortina, so that was good.”

“It was good in the beginning”, said Bell about the multi-car Mini fight during his opening stint before he broke away to take second in class, “but then it got a bit boring…”

The race got off to a false start when Ron Maydon lost the left-front wheel of his Mini at the top of the Raidillon, but the racing got going at the end of lap 2. It had been going in the first few corners already, though, Craig Davies’ Mustang getting the drop on the pole-sitting Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA of Olivier Hart before the safety car was dispatched. At the restart, Davies hung on while Hart soon had Julian Thomas in the Falcon fight him for second place.

On a dry track, the Mustangs of Alex Taylor and Mark Burton were quickly up into fourth and fifth, chased by Pedro Macedo Silva in the first of the Cortinas. James Dorlin in Nick Swift’s Cooper S led the Mini class as Rob Fenn in another Mustang rose up the ranks too. Behind Fenn, a trio of Minis pedalled by Scott Kendall, Tom Bell and Ian Curley led John Spiers who was third in the THC class in the second Cortina in the top-12.

Fifteen minutes into the race, Davies had inched out a lead of five seconds of Hart and Lockie who since the restart had already switched places at least four times – it would later transpire that they hadn’t actually been fighting but instead were profiting from each other’s strengths. Taylor was a further three seconds back, with two ticks in hand on Burton, the pair of Mustangs now a threesome, as Fenn had passed Macedo Silva for sixith. In the Mini class, Dorlin in eighth still had seven seconds in hand on the group consisting of Bell, Curley and Kendall – these three also continually changing their order around.

With the pit window fast approaching, Hart was still switching places with Thomas but the young Dutchman was made to fight with one hand tied behind his back when he was slammed with a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits. This was soon followed up by the warning flag for the Alfa Romeo driver. Meanwhile, further back, Spiers had made his way into the top-ten by mixing it with the Minis to split Curley and Kendall from Tom Bell still in front of him.

As the pit window opened, Davies’ lead on Hart had slimmed down to just 1.5 seconds – so 6.5 seconds with the penalty taken into account – but Thomas had closed to less than two seconds as well. A small error by Hart then virtually dropped him behind Taylor, but he quickly made up for that with a blinding next sector. The Dutchman took that as a sign to be the first of the leaders to pit, with Burton following him in to hand his Mustang over to Graham Pattle. Curley was in too, Bill Sollis at the ready to jump into the Mini.

On the next lap, Taylor, Dorlin, Bell, Thomas, Fenn, Macedo Silva and Kendall all came in, the latter four handing over to Calum Lockie, James Barclay, Rui Macedo Silva and Jeff Smith respectively, while Davies and Spiers stayed out to pit at the last opportunity.

As the pit window closed, there was no change at the front, Davies still leading the Alfa and the Falcon by some two seconds on the road, so in fact by seven seconds to Hart. Taylor was still fourth, now 14 seconds down on the leader, with Barclay a further ten seconds back. Dorlin had jumped the Burton/Pattle Mustang at the stops, the Mini trailing Davies by 33 seconds and leading Pattle by five. Bell in the second of the Minis now held a handsome lead over Spiers and Smith in ninth and tenth respectively.

At three-quarter distance, though, Davies had eeked out a bigger gap, leading Lockie by four seconds and Hart by eight more. In fact, Taylor in fourth was the quickest man on track now and closing on Hart before the Dutchman began matching Taylor’s laptimes. Barclay and Fenn were a long way away from Taylor now, having dropped close to half a minute before Barclay trundled into the pits with six minutes remaining. This handed sixth to Dorlin, who had seen Pattle move back past earlier.

As they entered the final lap, Davies had kept 1.5 seconds in hand over Lockie, who gave up to float across the line eight seconds adrift. Hart was third, 11 seconds down, ahead of Taylor and Pattle. Dorlin won the Mini class ahead of Bell and Smith/Kendall, as Endaf Owens’s Mini beat Bill Sollis to take tenth overall. The Cortinas of Spiers in eighth and Allan Ross-Jones/Mark Hales in 13th took second and third in the Alfa/Cortina class.

Masters Sports Car Legends
Bryant dominates wet FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race at Spa

Oliver Bryant produced a stunning wet-weather display by trouncing the opposition in the FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race at Spa. In his Lola T70 Mk3B, Bryant dropped his rivals by a minute to complete a dominant display and repeat his previous FIA MHSSC wins at this event.

“The McLaren [of Andrew and Max Banks] is so fast in the dry, so I knew my chance was in the wet. Being out in the Lotus 15 in the Motor Racing Legends race and the Ford GT40 in the Six Hours earlier really helped me practice my wet lines”, was how Bryant explained his advantage.

Leading the chasing pack were Jason Wright and Andy Wolfe in another T70 Mk3B, Wolfe hunting down and passing Max Banks for second on lap 16. Max’ brother Andrew had started the race from pole but their McLaren M6B was soon usurped by the unstoppable Bryant. Pedro Macedo Silva’s T70 Mk3B took a lonely fourth ahead of the Diogo Ferrão/Manfredo Rossi Lola T292 and Michael Gans in the Lola T290.

“Andy was on fire!” said Jason Wright about his team mate’s drive. “The car was too edgy for me, but he was brilliant. And I’m happy about beating the McLaren!”

“Not today, not in the wet”, said Andrew Banks about failing to convert pole into a win. “It was a job to keep it on the island, frankly, the car was just too nervous today.”

In tenth overall, Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie (Chevron B8) won the Bonnier from the front, despite strong challenges from the Till Bechtolsheimer/Damien Faulker and Mark Owen/Nick Padmore B8s. James Bates jumped brother Mark right at the end for the Pescarolo class win in his Porsche 911 RSR while Steve Hodges (Chevron B16) cornered the Siffert class win. In a class struggle full of twists and turns, Richard McAlpine’s McLaren M1B came out on top in the pre-66 Hulme class, leading home the Mark Shaw/Chris Drake M1B and the Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger Cooper Monaco King Cobra.

“I think I came in a lap too late, but I’m not sure”, said a surprised McAlpine before learning that his penalty for missing the pit window was rescinded.

“It was great, good fun, but very slippery”, said Chris Drake, who was happy to have been fighting McAlpine. “Usually in the second stint it’s just a numbers game but this time I had a good dice with Richard.”

“Out of the pits I went up Eau Rouge and just clipped the kerb”, said Bellinger about dropping down to third place in class. “That sent me into the world’s longest 360…”

On a soaking wet track, the race was started from behind the safety car, and when the green flag was waved, the order soon changed around, as the drivers adjusted to the circumstances in varying paces. While Andrew Banks kept the McLaren M6B in the lead, Olly Bryant had got ahead of Jason Wright in the other T70 Mk3B to take second. Michael Gans was fourth in the Lola T290, ahead of Christophe van Riet’s T70 Mk3B and Henry Fletcher in the Chevron B19. In 13th overall, Mark Shaw’s McLaren M1B led Keith Ahlers’ Cooper Monaco King Cobra in the pre-66 Hulme class.

The opening lap wasn’t over and done with before the safety car made a brief return, but on lap 2 the cars were set free again. At the front, Bryant had the bit between his teeth to storm past Banks with fastest lap of the race by four seconds, as Van Riet made it past Wright for third. Pedro Macedo Silva in a non-B T70 Mk3 was now fifth ahead of Gans and Fletcher, with Diogo Ferrão in the Lola T292 hunting both down. In the Bonnier class, Julian Thomas had swept ahead of Mark Owen’s similar Chevron B8, with Siffert-class leader John Sheldon in the Chevron B16 just behind. In the Pescarolo class for GT cars, Mark Bates was relishing the rain as he had hauled his Porsche 911 RSR up to 14th overall. Shaw maintained a four-second lead over Ahlers in the Hulme class.

Fifteen minutes into the race, Bryant’s lead over Banks (A.) had increased to almost seven seconds, and 8.4 seconds on the next lap, as Bryant kept pounding in the fastest laps. The two Lola T70 Mk3s of Van Riet and Macedo Silva were third and fourth, 11 and 17 seconds in arrears of Bryant respectively. Meanwhile in the Bonnier class, Till Bechtolsheimer and Charles Allison had moved their B8s in front of Owen as well. Greg Thornton, however, was a retirement from the class on lap 5. The Gonçalo Gomes/James Claridge Lola T212 had earlier been the race’s first casualty.

At the end of lap 6, Van Riet dropped out of fourth as the Belgian came into the pits to retire. This elevated Wright back up into fourth place, trailing Macedo Silva by 11 seconds and leading Fletcher by 14 ticks. Fletcher, meanwhile, was still fighting Gans and Ferrão, with Eric Mestdagh’s T70 Mk3B also joining the battle for fifth. Robert Beebee was ninth in another Mk3B while Thomas in the Bonnier-class-leading Chevron B8 had made it up into the overall top-ten. In 11th, Mark Bates continued his rise up the order in the sideways RSR. As the pit window opened, he led Sheldon, Shaw, Bechtolsheimer, Graham Wilson’s invitational Chevron B8 and his brother James’ other RSR, also on the rise, leaving class rival Klaus Horn in the Martini-liveried RSR to fight Hulme-class runners Keith Ahlers and Richard McAlpine (McLaren M1B).

Beebee and Fletcher were the first to pit, the former handing over to son Josh. Andrew Banks followed in on the next lap to hand over to brother Max, as Bechtolsheimer handed the wheel to Damien Faulkner, Ahlers changed places with Billy Bellinger, and Nick Padmore stepped into Mark Owen’s seat. Next up in the pits were Wright (with Andy Wolfe getting in), Macedo Silva and the leader. Mark Shaw came in to hand over to Chris Drake, while Gans, Ferrão (Manfredo Rossi taking over), Mestdagh, Thomas (Lockie getting in the seat) and Sheldon were the last of the frontrunners to pit.

The pitstops having taken their course, Bryant now held a massive 40-second lead over Banks (M.), with Macedo Silva over a minute down in third. The Portuguese driver would soon be swamped by a flying Wolfe, though. Further back, Lockie, Bates, Sheldon and Drake stayed on as class leaders. Despite being chased by rapid pedallers Faulkner and Padmore, Lockie held his own in 10th overall, while Mark Bates had half a minute in hand over brother James. Sheldon, meanwhile, was 15 seconds in front Steve Hodges’ Chevron B16. The pre-66 fight had turned into an intra-McLaren M1B battle between Drake and McAlpine, as Bellinger had dropped down to third in class with a huge moment at the top of the Raidillon.

Going into the final quarter, Bryant’s lead over the McLaren M6B was up to almost a minute. In second, Max Banks was all but safe and dry, as Wolfe closed in at a rapid rate. Macedo Silva was an increasingly lonely fourth while two minutes down the road Gans, Rossi, Mestdagh and Fletcher kept on warring over fifth. In the Siffert class, a second stop by Sheldon dropped him back behind Hodges. In the Hulme class, the order has changed as well, McAlpine edging past Drake and dropping him with two seconds a lap.

On lap 16, with five minutes still to go, Wolfe caught and passed Banks, while Rossi overtook Gans for fifth. Bryant having slowed his pace allowed Wolfe to close to just over a minute but remained the dominant winner ahead of Wright/Wolfe and Banks/Banks. Macedo Silva took a distant fourth ahead of Ferrão/Rossi, Gans, Mestdagh, Beebee/Beebee and Fletcher, with Bonnier-class winners Thomas/Lockie rounding out the top-ten. On the penultimate lap, James Bates pipped his brother Mark for the Pescarolo class win, while Steve Hodges cornered the Siffert class win. In the pre-66 Hulme class, McAlpine seemed to have lost the class win because of a penalty for missing the pit window, but when that was rescinded he was handed back the top spot.