Spa Francorchamps, Belgium

29 Sept – 2 Oct 2022

A wet and wild Spa Six Hours!

Last weekend, Masters drivers had the best seats in the house as they were handed the tough challenge of Spa-Francorchamps in the wet. Many of them simply had fun at a very soggy Spa Six Hours meeting, and some of them did the winning, including Christophe d’Ansembourg, Marco Werner, Steve Tandy & Steve Brooks, Tom Bradshaw, Andy Newall and Olivier Hart.


Masters Endurance Legends – Race 1
Tandy steals last-lap win in first Masters Endurance Legends race at Spa

Steve Tandy stole the win in a wet but drying first Masters Endurance Legends race at the Spa Six Hours when the Englishman passed home hero Christophe d’Ansembourg on the final lap, having given chase in his Peugeot 90X almost the entire race. The Belgian had stormed into an early lead, his Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2 storming past Tandy and the pole-sitting Peugeot 908 of Kriton Lendoudis on the opening laps but in the end was forced to give way to a resurgent Tandy.

“It’s so difficult following these cars in conditions like these”, said Tandy about his chase of the Belgian. “We had a very good clean battle on the final lap – Christophe made a fair blocking move on the inside, so I thought, I’ll just pass him on the outside!”

“My fronts were completely graining”, said d’Ansembourg about the defense he was able to put up. “I was starting to miss my marks and had to brake much earlier. But I’m happier about Antoine making the podium than about me losing the win!”

Indeed, Antoine d’Ansembourg gave his father still something to smile about, as he took his Dallara-ORECA DO05 to his first Masters Endurance Legends podium, having beaten Lendoudis to third in a very strong showing from the young Belgian. Stuart Wiltshire drove a lonely race to take the P2 class win in his Ligier JSP2, while Nürburgring double winner Andy Feigenwinter returned to his winning ways by claiming another GT class win in his Porsche 997 GT3.

“Yes, my first podium!” said a beaming younger d’Ansembourg. “The first of many, I hope. I cried a bit on the in-lap… It was tough, though – there was no grip at the end, I could feel the tyres degrading.”

“It was a mad race”, said Feigenwinter. “You couldn’t see a thing on the opening laps, and we were close to an accident into the first corner. The count was really quick behind me, but he had overtaken me during the safety car, so I knew I had him covered. I’m very happy, and proud of my mechanic Beat Bergmann who prepared a great car for me.”

The Swiss driver fought Marcus Graf von Oeynhausen’s Audi R8 LMS Ultra GT3 all the way, but the German count was hit by multiple time penalties for overtaking under the safety car and towards the end ran into electrical issues that allowed Jason Wright’s Ferrari 458 GT3 to take second in class. In ninth overall, the Craig Davies/Ron Maydon Ligier JSP3 won in P3 after Maydon overtook Stephan Joebstl in the JSP3 started by Andy Willis.

“There was so much spray, I just didn’t see the yellows”, Von Oeynhausen explained about his safety-car error. “I gave the place back but they still penalised me. And then towards the end, I developed some really serious electrical problems. I even stopped the car twice to restart it, and after that could do no more than 4000 revs…”

“Well yes, Marcus’ time penalty helped me”, said Wright, “but I did catch and pass him at the end!”

The Masters Endurance Legends field went out on a soggy Saturday morning, an enduring drizzle having made the track extremely slippery, as Keith Frieser, David Hart and Rick Carlino elected not to run their respective Zytek 09S, Courage C60 and ORECA LMPC10.

Having run both qualifying sessions in dry conditions, the race started with two laps behind the safety car to allow the drivers to become acquainted with the new set of circumstances. So on lap 3, led by the two Peugeots, the cars dove into La Source in anger for the first time, Lendoudis heading Tandy, followed by Christophe d’Ansembourg in the Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2 and his fast-starting son Antoine in the Dallara-ORECA DO-05 who did well to avoid the clash between the ex-Intersport Lola B06/10 of Italian Marcello Marateotto and the ex-Rebellion Lola B12/60 of David Brise. The Italian was out of the spot, while Brise returned to the pits to have his car checked. A brief second safety-car period was the result.

In the melée, Stuart Wiltshire’s Ligier JSP2 and the P3 Ligiers of Andy Willis and Craig Davies had moved up as well, with Andy Feigenwinter leading the GTs in his Porsche 997 GT3. Marcus von Oeynhausen’s Audi R8 LMS Ultra was up next, chased by Jason Wright’s Ferrari 458 GT3, Xavier Galant’s GT2 Ferrari 458 GTE and Daniel Palma’s Lotus Evora GTE, with Brad Hoyt bringing up the rear in another Ligier JSP3.

At the front, Lendoudis continued to lead for the moment, but the elder d’Ansembourg was flying and was soon past Tandy before going on to threaten the Greek in front. Going into lap 5, the Belgian was in the lead. Tandy now also pressured Lendoudis, while Antoine d’Ansembourg was still hanging on in the Dallara, as he duelled with Wiltshire. Feigenwinter, meanwhile, used the traction of his Porsche to good effect to move into a stunning sixth overall, as the Swiss driver and count Von Oeynhausen’s Audi dealt with the Ligiers of Willis and Davies.

On lap 6, the younger d’Ansembourg was making progress as well, now deposing Lendoudis of third place, as Tandy had swept past to take second place from his Greek teammate. 22 seconds further back, Feigenwinter and Von Oeynhausen continued their battle for the GT class lead, as the pit window announced itself sooner than expected due to the two safety-car periods.

Father and son d’Ansembourg came in first, followed by Wiltshire, Davies, Wright, Palma and Brise, the latter handing over to Alan Purbrick, as Tandy, Lendoudis, Feigenwinter, Von Oeynhausen, Willis and Galant elected to continue. The German count, however, was then slammed with a drivethrough penalty for overtaking under the safety car. Tandy was in on the next lap, followed by Feigenwinter, Von Oeynhausen (who still had to take his penalty), Davies and Hoyt, with the American handing over to James Davison, and Davies to Ron Maydon. Lendoudis, Willis and Galant were now the only ones still to stop, and the Greek driver did so going into lap 9, as did Willis who handed over to Austrian Stephan Joebstl, while the Frenchman came in on lap 10. Was that in fact too late?

After the stops, Christophe d’Ansembourg had returned into the lead, now with 2.8 seconds in hand over Tandy. Antoine d’Ansembourg held third, eight seconds from Lendoudis, while Wiltshire was a lonely fifth, 38 seconds down on the leader. Feigenwinter continued his battle for sixth overall with Van Oeynhausen, with Joebstl in eighth heading Wright, Maydon, Galant, Palma, Purbrick and Davison.

Eight minutes remained on the clock, and it was far from over when Tandy closed to a mere second from the leading d’Ansembourg, as the Peugeot 90X set purple sectors in its chase of the Lola-Aston. Further back, the GT fight was indeed over, though, as Von Oeynhausen took his penalty, handing Feigenwinter an unassailable lead while the German now also needed to deal with a 30-second time penalty for a second infringement in overtaking under the safety car. His current lead over Wright in third was 31 seconds…

On lap 11, however, it was d’Ansembourg’s turn to go purple, and his lead was back up to 1.7 seconds, a margin that he maintained during the next lap. Behind the two leaders, the younger d’Ansembourg had his first Masters Endurance Legends podium sealed, nourishing a seven-second lead over Lendoudis and looking untroubled.

And still the race wasn’t done. Into the final lap, d’Ansembourg’s lead was down to eight tenths, dropping to a mere two tenths halfway around the circuit. And then the Peugeot swept into the lead for the final metres that counted, sweeping across the line in first, with d’Ansembourg finishing a despondent second, 2.5 seconds down. Making him a proud dad, though, his son Antoine took a fine third, 33 seconds down on Tandy, with Lendoudis in fourth 13 seconds further in arrears.

Wiltshire took the P2 class win in fifth while Feigenwinter claimed GT honours in sixth overall. It was nip-and-tuck between Wright and Von Oeynhausen, the latter hobbled not just by his time penalty but severe electrical issues as well, so it was the American that took second in class with three seconds in hand. In ninth overall, Maydon vanquished Joebstl for the P3 class win, the pair leading home Purbrick, Galant, Palma and Davison.

Some time after the race, three cars were penalised for missing the pit window – Lendoudis in the Peugeot 908, the Willis/Joebstl Ligier JSP3 and Galant in the 458 GTE. This dropped Lendoudis to fifth overall behind Wiltshire, while Purbrick/Brise and Palma moved up places at the cost of Willis/Joebstl and Galant.

Masters Endurance Legends – Race 2
Brooks nicks win from Lendoudis in second Masters Endurance Legends race

Steve Brooks and Kriton Lendoudis produced a Peugeot 1-2 in a very wet second Masters Endurance Legends race at Spa. Brooks led away from pole in the Peugeot 90X that Steve Tandy had taken to a win the previous day and led towards the stops, but a stall during his mandatory pitstop helped Lendoudis’ Peugeot 908 into a lead that he would steadily increase to 15 seconds. The sting was in the tail, though, as Lendoudis spun just as a late safety-car call would ensure the final result – Brooks slipped through only moments before the safety-car procedure was set in motion.

“There was a car on fire at the end of the Kemmel Straight”, said a rueful Lendoudis, “and I just spun…”

“I wouldn’t say that I got it handed on a plate, I worked hard for it!” said a smiling Brooks. “The race was mine but I stalled the car at the stops. It was my first time in the car ever – at Spa, in the wet. It’s just lovely, very French, very smooth in its power delivery, very different to the Lola-Mazda I was used to.”

In third, Stuart Wiltshire drove a lonely race to corner the P2 class win in his Ligier JSP2, while in fourth and fifth overall Andy Feigenwinter and Marcus Graf von Oeynhausen contested the GT class win all race, the Swiss Porsche 997 GT3 driver leading the German count’s Audi R8 LMS Ultra in the first part of the race but Von Oeynhausen turned the tables on his rival during the second half.

“Yes, I’m really happy!” said Von Oeynhausen. “I love this weather, and this time the car worked well – I had a fuel-injection issue yesterday.”

“Sadly no second win”, said Feigenwinter. “The safety-car situation really worked against me, I got held up and that lost me so much time…”

In sixth overall, Craig Davies and Ron Maydon doubled up on P3 class wins, their Ligier JSP3 leading home the similar car of Andy Willis and Stephan Joebstl, while Olivier Galant was next up in his Ferrari 458 GTE, snatching third place in the GT class.

As the atrocious conditions continued to play their part on a very wet Spa Six Hours Sunday, the Masters Endurance Legends field started its second race of the weekend with two laps behind the safety car. The d’Ansembourgs had elected against running after their Saturday success, so this left Steve Brooks in charge as the Peugeot 90X raced to the win by Steve Tandy the day before was chased by teammate Kriton Lendoudis in the Peugeot 908. Stuart Wiltshire in the leading C2 car was third, his Ligier JSP2 in turn chased by the top two GT contenders, Andy Feigenwinter’s Porsche 997 GT3 ahead of Marcus Graf von Oeynhausen’s Audi R8 LMS Ultra. However, their rival from the previous day decided against continuing, Jason Wright returning his Ferrari 458 GT3 to the pits.

In sixth overall, Craig Davies led the P3 class in his Ligier JSP3, ahead of class rivals James Davison and Andy Willis in similar Ligiers, but the three were soon passed by Marcello Marateotto’s Lola B06/10, the Italian recovering from his mishap in race one. Behind the P3 battle, Daniel Palma (Lotus Evora GTE) and Xavier Galant (Ferrari 458 GTE) contested third place in the GT class.

At the front, Brooks and Lendoudis were separated by 1.5 seconds, as the Peugeots stretched out their lead over Wiltshire’s P2 Ligier to 17 ticks. In fourth and fifth, now 30 seconds down, Feigenwinter and Von Oeynhausen continued their fight for the GT class lead, while James Davison had made his way to the front in the four-way P3-class fight.

15 minutes into the race, the pit window opened for Feigenwinter and Marateotto to be the first to blink, while the two Peugeots now ran effectively nose-to-tail, Lendoudis having closed to half a second from Tandy. Next time around, Von Oeynhausen was in, followed by Davison and Palma. Lendoudis and Wiltshire came in on lap 7, with Brooks following them in one lap later, along with Davies and Willis, who handed over to Ron Maydon and Stephan Joebstl respectively.

After all the stops had panned out, Lendoudis was the new leader, with Brooks now trailing the Greek by five seconds – since Brooks had stalled the car. Wiltshire’s distant third had become even more distant, with a gap of 53 seconds to the leader, but he was holding his own in the P2 class lead. Meanwhile, in the GTs, Von Oeynhausen had jumped Feigenwinter at the stops. A long stop for James Davison and Brad Hoyt had pushed Hoyt down to 11th place, leaving Maydon and Joebstl to fight for the P3 class lead. Palma still held off Galant for third place in GTs but the Chris Ward/Steve Osborne Porsche 996 GT3 RSR had moved into the top ten at the expense of Brad Hoyt’s Ligier JSP3. Further back, Marateotto was in for a second time to retire in a weekend to forget for the Italian.

With ten minutes remaining, Lendoudis held an even firmer grip on the lead, now ten seconds ahead of Brooks, and the Greek steadily stretched this safe distance for the next few laps, while in their fight for fourth overall and the GT class lead, Von Oeynhausen had managed to put ten seconds between himself and his rival Feigenwinter.

As the finish approached, Lendoudis was 15 seconds ahead when the safety car was called for Daniel Palma’s Lotus Evora catching fire at the back of the circuit. For the briefest of moments, it looked that this set the Peugeot 1-2 in stone, Lendoudis leading home Brooks, but it wasn’t to be. Distracted by the rescue car coming to Palma’s aid, Lendoudis spun into Les Combes just before the safety-car procedure was set in motion. Brooks said thank you and grabbed the lead which under safety-car conditions he naturally held until the finish.

Behind the Peugeots, Wiltshire took in third in the Ligier JSP2 while Von Oeynhausen and Feigenwinter switched order from the previous day, with Davies/Maydon in sixth overall taking more P3 glory, as they doubled up over the weekend. The Willis/Joebstl pairing took another second place in P3, while Galant snatched third in GTs ahead of the Ward/Osborne Porsche.

Masters Racing Legends – Race 1
D’Ansembourg claims popular home win in first Masters Racing Legends race at Spa

Christophe d’Ansembourg soaked up race-long pressure from Steve Hartley to triumph in front of his home crowd, as the Belgian Williams FW07C driver beat the Briton’s McLaren MP4/1 by less than three tenths. Meanwhile, Marco Werner ran home a distant third in his Lotus 87B, 17 seconds down on the warring pair at the front.

“It was pressure all the time, but I never let go!” said a jubilant d’Ansembourg. “I gained on him on the Kemmel Straight but was losing out in the second part of the lap, so I worked hard to get as much distance between us in the first sector.”

“He was Mister Cool”, said a magnanimous Hartley. “I was just waiting for the backmarkers in the hope he would make a mistake – but he didn’t.”

“Not really happy, no”, said Werner. “I had trouble with second gear that kept jumping out, especially at Les Combes. So I was fighting with my car more than with the others!”

Nick Padmore initially did the chasing, rocketing up to third from fifth on the grid but his Lotus 77 soon faltered to give way to Michael Lyons in the post-82 Lotus 92 and pre-78 class rival James Davison in Brad Hoyt’s Hill GH1, Lyons and Davison both snatching class wins. Steve Brooks (Lotus 91) grabbed sixth from Mark Higson’s McLaren MP4/1B and pre-78 class runner-up Patrick d’Aubréby (March 761).

“We maximised what we could in a different class of car”, said Davison. “So we had a competitive race and a good result for the mechanics and car owner Brad Hoyt. I was in the car at Monaco earlier this year but we didn’t get any competitive laps there, so it was good to be able to race it here.”

Other casualties were Ken Tyrrell who had qualified a strong third but soon disappeared when his Tyrrell 011 hit electrical issues, and Warren Briggs who ran a competitive sixth before his McLaren M29 began to overheat. This elevated Marc Devis (Lotus 78) and Paul Tattersall (Ensign N179) into the top ten while in 11th overall Arthur Bruckner’s Arrows A6 claimed second in the post-82 class.

Given the severity of the initial weather forecast at the start of the day, conditions were more favourable than expected, with even the sun making a surprise appearance, but the first Masters Racing Legends bout of the weekend was still declared a wet race. Meanwhile, Mark Higson was under investigation for a breach of the starting procedure, while Nick Padmore’s Lotus 77 sounded really rough on its way to the grid, but it still took off like a gun, stealing fourth from Marco Werner in the first dash to Eau Rouge.

With local hero Christophe d’Ansembourg on pole, the home crowd were looking for a popular winner, and the Belgian indeed led around the first lap, initially chased by Steve Hartley’s McLaren MP4/1 and Ken Tyrrell’s Tyrrell 011, but Padmore was flying and soon grabbed third from Tyrrell while being followed through by Werner. Before the lap was over, Michael Lyons in the Lotus 92 also passed Tyrrell to be fifth, with James Davison in Brad Hoyt’s Hill GH1 sixth and second in the pre-78 class.

On lap 2, Hartley continued to pile the pressure on d’Ansembourg, with Padmore hot on his heels, the three having opened up a gap to Werner, Lyons, Davison and Warren Briggs in the McLaren M29, the Kiwi also having passed Tyrrell, who was soon dropping further down the order in a Tyrrell 011 that was obviously not quite alright – and in fact, the American was into the pits at the end of the lap to retire with an electrical issue.

His tyres now properly heated, Werner suddenly turned into the man on the rise, as the German closed on Padmore to pass him halfway into the third lap. Soon after, Lyons in the post-82 class-leading Lotus was up into fourth, leaving Padmore to directly fight with pre-78 class rival Davison – that is, as long as it lasted, as the Briton entered the pits with the Lotus 77, the rough sound of its engine having been an advance warning after all. Three laps later, the ignition box was replaced and Padmore was sent on his way again.

After four laps, d’Ansembourg still held his own against Hartley, who was still following the Williams FW07C in its tracks. Werner was five seconds down, with Lyons a further five ticks adrift. Davison was the consummate pre-78 class leader now, well away from Patrick d’Aubréry’s March 761 in ninth overall, as they sandwiched Briggs, Steve Brooks in the Lotus 91 and Higson’s McLaren. Mark Hazell was tenth in his Williams FW07B, ahead of Marc Devis in the Lotus 78, Paul Tattersall’s Ensign N179 and Arthur Bruckner in the second post-82 car in the field, the uniquely Golia-liveried Arrows A6, with Michel Baudoin bringing up the rear in his March 821.

At the halfway point, d’Ansembourg pulled a fastest lap of the race out of his bag of tricks to increase his lead to Hartley to seven tenths, as Werner and Lyons dropped away to a deficit of nine and 14 seconds respectively. In fifth, Davison trailed Lyons by a further four seconds.

Seven laps of the race gone, and still, there was almost in between the Belgian in front and his British nemesis in the carbon fibre McLaren. It was obvious, though, that only mechanical issues or human error could prevent them from finishing in the top two positions, as the chasing Lotus cars now languished 11 and 17 seconds down, with pre-78 class leader Davison in fact closing on Lyons. Meanwhile, Brooks and Higson had moved up a place thanks to Warren Briggs reporting to the pits, joined there on the same lap by Mark Hazell, meaning that d’Aubréby, Devis and Tattersall now rounded out the top ten. Briggs was out with an overheating engine, but Hazell went back out again. On the next lap, Padmore was back in, its engine still not where it should be.

Four minutes remained on the clock, and Hartley was going for his final push. Fastest lap of the race took him to two tenths off d’Ansembourg who was now under severe pressure. Would the Belgian succumb or hang on? Completing the next lap in exactly equal times proved how evenly matched these two were.

On the final lap, it was d’Ansembourg’s turn to steal a few tenths from his rival, and he then carried that through to the finish for a hard-fought win. Werner was a distant third, 17 seconds down, while respective post-82 and pre-78 class winners Lyons and Davison took fourth and fifth, Davison trailing the Lotus 92 across the line by 1.5 seconds. Brooks and Higson were next up, followed by d’Aubréby who took second in the pre-78 class. Behind Devis and Tattersall, Arthur Bruckner’s Arrows A6 was the post-82 class runner-up.

Masters Racing Legends – Race 2
Werner braves the wet to win second Masters Racing Legends race at Spa

From third on the grid, Marco Werner mastered the treacherous conditions best to win a very wet second Masters Racing Legends bout at the Spa Six Hours, as his Lotus 87B passed early leader Michael Lyons in the Lotus 92 with three more laps remaining. The German then stretched out to a nine-second lead at the finish. Lyons, meanwhile, bagged his second post-82 class of the weekend.

“Much better weather!” Werner quipped. “I like it, and it shows that the engine was not the most important ingredient today. We found a lot of issues on the car overnight, and solved the gear shift problem, but we still had a few niggles. But I like the rain – those issues were less of a problem now.”

“He was fast, there’s life in the old dog yet!” Lyons said about being unable to hold off Werner. “I felt that I was faster in the first section, but in the second part of the lap he was really quick.”

Steve Hartley took third in his McLaren MP4/1 while reverse polesitter James Davison took home another pre-78 class win in Brad Hoyt’s Hill GH1. Steve Brooks (Lotus 91) was fifth ahead of Davison’s class rival Nick Padmore who was forced to retire his Lotus 77 on Saturday but fought his way up from the back of the grid to claim sixth overall on Sunday, catching and passing Patrick d’Aubréby (March 761) for second in the pre-78 class.

“I just wanted to get it home in one piece”, Hartley said. “The championship counts, and you wouldn’t want to bin it in these conditions.”

“I was hoping to find some pace to keep up with the ground-effect cars”, said poleman Davison, “but I couldn’t get it done. I gave it my best shot but after that I just brought it home.”

“My race was done at the start, really”, said Padmore, still ruing Saturday’s bad luck. “Yesterday’s issue was still there, but it wasn’t bothering me as much. It was very slippery out there, and I still had fun.”

Warren Briggs (McLaren M29) and Mark Hazell (Williams FW07B) also bounced back from trouble to lift eighth and ninth ahead of Mark Higson’s McLaren MP4/1B. In 13th overall, Arthur Bruckner’s Arrows A6 took second in the post-82 class.

At the end of a long and wet Spa Six Hours Sunday, the Masters Racing Legends field lined up with a reversed grid for Saturday’s top-five. This meant that James Davison was on pole in Brad Hoyt’s pre-78 Hill GH1 while Michael Lyons in the post-82 Lotus 82 joined him on the front row. Behind them were Marco Werner in the Lotus 87B and Steve Hartley in the McLaren MP4/1, but Saturday’s winner Christophe d’Ansembourg was missing, the Belgian electing not to run on the day.

The result was that Steve Brooks (Lotus 91) and Mark Higson (McLaren MP4/1B) shared the third row, with Patrick d’Aubréby (post-78 March 761) up next ahead of Paul Tattersall (Ensign N179) and Arthur Bruckner (Arrows A6). Warren Briggs (McLaren M29) and Nick Padmore (Lotus 77) were among the drivers hoping to make up places after their Saturday misfortunes.

The field was given three laps to get acquainted with the treacherous conditions before the safety car disappeared, allowing Davison to lead away from Lyons, Werner and Hartley. A brave Michael Lyons was soon past into first place, though, leaving Davison to deal with Werner, Hartley and Brooks, while Higson and d’Aubréby had already left a gap of eight seconds to Brooks. Werner was through into second place halfway into lap 4, while Hartley moved into third before the same lap was over.

Behind Brooks, d’Aubréby had snatched sixth from Higson, while Padmore and Briggs had used lap 4 to clear the train of Mark Hazell (Williams FW07B), Tattersall, Bruckner and Michel Baudoin in the March 821.

Going into lap 6, Lyons led Werner by a mere six tenths, while Hartley was now some eight seconds adrift. Davison and Brooks were in no man’s land in fourth and fifth while Padmore chased d’Aubréby for second place in the pre-78 class. Briggs trailed Padmore by 12 seconds but was himself ten seconds up on Hazell and Higson.

Five minutes remained when Lyons and Werner started with their seventh lap, but now the order was switched around – the German led the Briton. Werner immediately set about breaking the tow by posting one purple sector after the other to leave Lyons trailing by 4.3 seconds at the start of lap 8. Hartley was a safe third, and in fourth Davison looked on course for a second pre-78 class win, but behind Brooks, Padmore had taken d’Aubréby for sixth overall and second in class.

Two more laps remained, and Werner concluded them nine seconds ahead of Lyons, who claimed his second post-78 class win of the weekend. Behind Hartley in third, 23 seconds in arrears of the leader, Davison also doubled up in the pre-78 class, leading home Brooks and his class rival Nick Padmore, with d’Aubréby taking third in class while keeping Briggs and Hazell at bay for seventh overall. Higson completed the top ten ahead of Tattersall, Baudoin and Bruckner.

Masters Gentlemen Drivers & Pre-66 Touring Cars
In a very wet, interrupted and ultimately aborted combined Masters Gentlemen Drivers & Pre-66 Touring Car race at Spa, Andy Newall’s Jaguar E-type and Olivier Hart’s Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA took the GT and touring-car wins respectively.

“Rhea [Sautter] was exhausted after working so hard at the Six Hours last night”, said Newall about driving solo. “But the race was f***ing brilliant! At Spa, you either drive in the wet or you don’t! And I had to do it through a small slot on the windscreen that wasn’t covered by the oil from Richard Hywel Evans’ Cobra engine exploding right in front of me…”

Newall ran third for the first part of the race before passing Niko Ditting’s Cobra and Marcus Graf von Oyenhausen’s other E-type. With Ditting making way for Sam Hancock at the stops, the Anglo-German pairing was hoping for more towards the end, but were thwarted by a red flag some eight minutes from the end, keeping them in third place behind the two E-types.

“It was amazing, I loved it”, Ditting said about his fighting opening stint that had him in the lead throughout the opening stages. “It was so much fun trying to find where the grip was, and going down Kemmel Straight while barely seeing a thing. Everything is wet now, but that’s how it’s supposed to be!”

“I think I had just two or three racing laps”, said a disappointed Hancock, “and it was tough getting straight into the car after not having enough hours of sleep because of last night’s Six Hours race – but yes, it was a shame about the red flag, I could have done more…”

Behind the John Spiers/Nigel Greensall TVR Griffith and the invitational David Pittard/Graham Wilson Lotus Elan, Mark & James Bates performed miracles to take sixth overall in their C1-class-winning Porsche 911, while Robin Ward and Ron Maydon (Ginetta G4R) fended off Sander van Gils (Lotus Elan) for the CLP class win. In tenth overall, David Smithies and Chris Clarkson bagged the C2 win after their fellow Austin Healey 3000 driver Mark Pangborn had a big smash that evoked one of several safety cars.

Meanwhile, the concurrent 60-minute touring car race finished under the safety car after Joe Ferguson beached the Mini Cooper S shared with Tom Bell. Young Dutchman Olivier Hart was flagged off as the winner, as his Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA vaulted early leader Sam Tordoff at the stops, the former BTCC race winner handicapped by a longer elite-driver pitstop. Hart also won the THC class from the Daniel Quintaro/Peter Reynolds Lotus Cortina in sixth overall. Phil Quaife and Sean McInerney took third in their Mustang while the downfall of the Bell/Ferguson Mini meant that Italians Graziano and Francesco Tessaro grabbed a surprise THD class win in their Fiat Abarth 1000TC.

“It was so much fun!” said Hart, still buzzing from his Spa Six Hours win the night before. “I was very happy to wake up and see that it rained, but in the first part of the race, my tyre pressures were too high. That’s why I made my mandatory pitstop as soon as I could. With lower pressures I soon had more confidence in the car, and that paid off.”

On a day that was supposed to be better than the Spa Six Hours’ Saturday, rain kept pouring down in a steady drizzle to make the Sunday’s first race a true challenge. With standing and running water in several places on the track, it was decided to start the race with a minimum of three reconnaissance laps behind the safety car. Even these laps took their victims, as both the Falcon of Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus/Johan Rosendahl and the Cobra of Richard Hywel Evans/Andrew Smith stumbled, the latter from fourth on the grid. And with several cars leaving huge gaps to their predecessors, the field had stretched out over two minutes before the green flag was eventually waved.

With some 75 minutes of racing in anger remaining, Niko Ditting led away in the Cobra, chased by his countryman Marcus Graf von Oeynhausen in the E-type, the German count sweeping into the lead halfway into lap 5. Behind them, Andy Newall in another E-type was on the rise, too, as the quickest man in the field, followed by local hero Christophe van Riet in another Cobra. Behind them, Sam Tordoff’s Falcon was the dominant car in the touring-car section, now up to fifth, followed by John Spiers’ TVR Griffith, which had passed Felix Haas’ similar car. Haas was dropping away in the soaking conditions, to be vaulted by Pierre-Alain Thibaut (Shelby Mustang GT350), Phil Quaife (in a Mustang notchback touring car) and Olivier Hart (third among the touring cars in his Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA).

On the cusp of the top ten, Robin Ward’s Ginetta G4R had claimed the CLP class lead from poleman Sander van Gils in the Lotus Elan, who in turn was chased by Mark Pangborn’s C2-class-leading Austin Healey 3000, Mark Bates in the C1-class-leading Porsche 911 and Tom Bell in the sole Mini in the field, which this time had competition from a non-Mini for the first time in eons, as Italians Graziano and Francesco Tessaro had lined up their Fiat Abarth 1000TC, an erstwhile Mini beater that was now running in 27th overall.

At the front, with the touring-car pit window already open, Ditting and Van Oeynhausen took turns in the lead while Newall watched the two Germans fight it out. Van Riet, meanwhile, had bailed out, citing too many swerves in the rainy conditions and not wanting to ruin the car, so Tordoff was up into a stunning fourth in a Falcon that looked unwieldy in the rain but was certainly pedalled with zest. Thibaut, Quaife and Hart were next up, followed by Haas, Ward, Pangborn, Van Gils, Bates (M.) and Bell, with David Smithies 15th overall in the second Austin Healey 3000. Meanwhile, in 16th overall already, David Pittard was making great strides to the front after a last-minute decision by owner and teammate Graham Wilson to switch from a Lotus Cortina in the touring-car race to a Lotus Elan in the GT race.

Among the touring cars, Hart was the first to make his stop, followed by Tessaro (Graziano handing to Francesco). Hart’s stop put him down into the clutches of Mark Owen in John Dunham’s Mustang but they would still have to stop. Tim Scott-Andrews in the Falcon was also in on lap 7, soon followed on lap 8 by the touring car leader and his closest rival Phil Quaife, the latter handing over to Sean McInerney. Now Tom Bell was in too, switching places with Joe Ferguson, while Dunham took over from Owen. Harry Barton’s BMW 1800 tiSA was the last touring car to stop.

In the GT section, Newall had done enough watching, so had swept past the Germans to claim the lead, now two seconds ahead of Ditting while Von Oeynhausen dropped away to hand Thibaut a stunning third place in the largely unfavoured Shelby Mustang GT350. Spiers was fifth, but a long way back, while young Pittard had jumped nine more cars but was helped by the fact that he was still on the Avons that the team had run in the Spa Six Hours – that would mean that their entry was not CLP class but invitation. Meanwhile, in a remarkable eighth overall, Pangborn was punching above his Healey’s weight, while Smithies in the other Healey was also welcomed as a member of the top-ten club.

The touring-car race was now on its final stretch, and Tordoff’s longer elite-driver stop had helped Olivier Hart take the lead. The young Dutchman was now seven seconds ahead of the BTCC winner who in turn led McInerney by 27 seconds. Ferguson was fourth while leading the THD class, followed by Barton, Dunham, Scott Andrews, Peter Reynolds in the Cortina started by Daniel Quintero, and Francesco Tessaro in the Abarth.

In the GT section, it was their turn to make their stops, as the Gent Drivers pit window had now opened. Felix Haas and John Spiers were quick to hand over to their faster teammates Michael Lyons and Nigel Greensall, while Christian Dumolin took over from Thibaut. In the Porsche 911, James Bates stepped into brother Mark’s seat. They were followed by Pangborn and Smithies, the latter relieved by Chris Clarkson, while local men Sam Dejonghe and Luc De Cock also made their stops, Dejonghe making room for Dutch Shelby Mustang GT350 owner Jan Willem André de la Porte, and De Cock continuing in his Elan.

At the front, Newall was still going, while the same applied to Pittard who was now in a stunning second place overall, having set fastest lap of the race on lap 10. When he came in to be replaced by Wilson, Ditting was in too, handing the Cobra to Sam Hancock. Finally, Newall and Von Oeynhausen both stopped in the dying seconds of the pit window when right at that moment the safety car was deployed to allow the recovery of Joe Ferguson’s Mini that got trapped in the gravel at Pouhon, while Harry Barton’s BMW proved to be another casualty.

And so the touring-car race finished under the safety car, with Hart taking the overall win and THC class victory in his Alfa GTA, followed by Tordoff’s Falcon and the Quaife/McInerney Mustang. Dunham held off Scott Andrews for fourth, with Reynolds up next, while after the demise of the Bell/Ferguson Mini, the Tessaros claimed the THD class win in their Abarth 1000TC.

With 23 minutes left on the clock, the remaining GT cars were waved the green flag. The two German E-types were in the lead, with Newall from Von Oeynhausen, while Hancock soon powered past Dumolin for third, with Greensall on the Belgian’s tail. Wilson was still fifth, his Elan having two minutes in hand over Ron Maydon’s Ginetta and Sander van Gils in the other Elan, the former having taken over from Robin Ward. They were sandwiching James Bates – still seventh overall in the Porsche 911 – and Michael Lyons in Haas’ Griffith.

Soon, the safety car was back out again, though, as Pangborn had had a smash – fortunately he was able to bail out under his own steam, but the Healey was out of the race. As the safety car circled, Dumolin surrendered fourth place by coming into the pits.

Masters Sports Car Legends
Bradshaw splashes to Masters Sports Car Legends win at seriously wet Spa

Tom Bradshaw proved unstoppable in awful wet-weather conditions at Spa, guiding his Chevron B19 to a largely unchallenged Masters Sports Car Legends victory over Manfredo Rossi’s Abarth Osella PA1. Meanwhile, Michael Gans ran home a distant third in his Lola T290, having been forced to be double up on pitstops.

“It was a challenge enough to get to the end”, said Bradshaw about his dominance, “so for me it wasn’t boring at all!”

“It was fun”, said Rossi, “but he pulled away so quickly, there was nothing I could do. I didn’t know if there were cars coming up from behind, so I just went for it.”

“The team made the strategic decision to bring me in right at the start of the pit window”, Gans said about needing to do two stops. “It would have been brilliant if the lap had lasted two seconds longer! In the end, it put me behind in the queue. But then Tom and Manfredo were in a class of their own, so I doubt whether it would have made a difference.”

The first half race of the race took place behind the safety car, after which the field was finally let loose. Three wildly different cars proved equally matched in their fight for fourth overall, John Spiers and Nigel Greensall coming out on top in their McLaren M1B, as Greensall pounced on Mark Bates on the final lap. Bates and brother James still took a strong fifth from the Chris Lillingston-Price/Martin O’Connell Chevron B8. All three cars won their respective classes.

“Yeah, that was a fantastic dice, it really was”, said Greensall about his last-lap pass on Mark Bates. “It’s always fun racing those guys in the Porsche, they race so well.”

Ted Tuppen took seventh in his Chevron B16, with the Andy Willis/Stephan Joebstl Lola T212 ending up eighth ahead of Felix Haas in a T210. While taking second to Spiers/Greensall in the pre-66 Hulme class, Chris Jolly and Steve Farthing rounded out the top ten finishers.

“It was borderline dangerous, actually”, Jolly said about the conditions the drivers were faced with. “I was spinning the wheels in a straight line! In the end I had three racing laps, but really, I couldn’t go much faster than when I was behind the safety car…”

In the enduring wet of the Spa Six Hours’ Sunday morning, several last-minute high-profile withdrawals seemed to have blunted the edge of the one-hour Masters Sports Car Legends race, with Jon Minshaw/Phil Keen and David & Olivier Hart both electing not to run their Lola T70 Mk3Bs. However, the remaining competitors were keen to turn it into a great show. The weather, sadly, seemed to disagree. The downpour was so bad that the entire first half of the race was run behind the safety car, right into the race’s ten-minute pit window.

After eight laps, pre-race favourite and polesitter Tom Bradshaw was finally set free, his Chevron B19 leading the equally nimble Osella Abarth PA1 of Manfredo Rossi, who had vaulted straight into another car on the back of his second Formula Junior win of the weekend, and decided to take the first opportunity to pit, as did James Bates (handing the 911 RSR over to brother Mark) and Ted Tuppen in the Chevron B16, while Michael Gans was in for a second time in his Lola T290. Meanwhile, Peter Thompson took over from Charles Allison in the Chevron B8 while Graham Adelman (Lola T210) and Marc Devis (Chevron B19) had already retired during the safety-car period.

At the front, Bradshaw created a huge gap to his pursuers and decided to carry on for one more lap while Chris Jolly came in to hand the Cooper Monaco T61M over to Steve Farthing, with Chris Lillingston-Price doing the same with his Chevron B8, Martin O’Connell stepping in for the remainder of the race. On lap 10, Bradshaw pitted in, followed in by John Spiers (handing the McLaren M1B over to Nigel Greensall) and Andy Willis, who would allow Stephan Joebstl in for the final 25 minutes in the Lola T212.

The field having settled after the stops, apart from Felix Haas (Lola T210) and Alberto Zoli (Chevron B16) who seemed to have missed the pit window, Bradshaw led Rossi by 16 seconds, with Gans following in fourth, 44 seconds down on the leader and one tick adrift of the unstopped Haas. Mark Bates was going great guns in fifth in the Pescarolo-class-leading Porsche 911 RSR, chased by Nigel Greensall in the Hulme-class-leading McLaren M1B, with O’Connell (in the Bonnier-class-leading Chevron B8) and Joebstl up next ahead of Tuppen, Zoli and Farthing, the latter in second place in the Hulme class.

With 15 minutes remaining, Bradshaw’s lead had marginally increased to 18 seconds, with Gans now in third, 52 seconds behind Bradshaw’s Chevron B19. Haas and Zoli had now made their stops after all, which allowed a group of three cars into positions four, five and six, Bates, Greensall and O’Connell setting similar lap times despite racing wildly varying machines. Tuppen had moved up into seventh at the cost of Joebstl while Haas and Zoli still Thompson in the second Chevron B8 in the field. A few minutes later, though, stop-and-go penalties for Haas and Zoli for missing the pit window were duly announced.

Relishing the wet-weather challenge, Bradshaw now began to string together purple sectors to lift his advantage over Rossi to 21 seconds with ten minutes still to go, as Gans trailed by over a minute now. In fourth place, Bates still held the fort against Greensall and O’Connell chasing him.

Really putting his foot down towards the end, Bradshaw increased his lead to 37 seconds at the finish. While an attempt on lap 16 to dip below the three-minute mark failed, fastest lap of the race was still his by some margin. Gans crossed the line in third, one minute and 20 seconds behind, while Mark Bates gave his all to fend off Greensall but had to succumb on the final lap. O’Connell, Tuppen, Haas, Joebstl and Farthing completed the top ten.