SPA SIX HOURS
27 Sept – 1 Oct 2023
Thrilling Masters Races at the Spa Six Hours Showcase a Variety of Winners!
A mostly dry Spa Six Hours weekend was a fairytale story for a new generation of drivers announcing themselves as first-time race winners in the world of historic motor racing as brothers Antoine and Werner d’Ansembourg took very popular maiden victories at their home circuit, watched proudly from the sidelines by father Christophe. Mike Cantillon, Stuart Wiltshire, Craig Wilkins, Sam Tordoff, John Spiers/Nigel Greensall and Diogo Ferrão/Martin Stretton were among the more usual suspects on the top step of the podium throughout a busy weekend.
Masters Endurance Legends – Race 1
Wiltshire pounces with strong win in Spa’s first Masters Endurance Legends race
In their first Masters Endurance Legends bout of the Spa Six Hours weekend, Stuart Wiltshire won the battle of the Peugeots by passing his pole-sitting rival Steve Brooks on the opening lap and running out to a three-second lead before the chasing Brooks dropped it halfway into the race.
“I got him at the end of the Kemmel straight”, said Wiltshire. “That’s where I was strongest on the track, to use that as my advantage. And then the rest was history. I think he, unfortunately, he crashed trying to catch me. But luckily today, I had a bit more in the tank than he did. So, yeah, at the end of it, I’m really pleased. I’ve won it before at Spa, this is a lucky place for me.”
Following the ensuing safety-car period, Wiltshire calmly ran home the win over Olivier Galant’s HPD-Honda ARX-03a. Galant remained in contention, never more than ten seconds down, but could never pose a threat to the pair of Peugeot 90X. Antoine d’Ansembourg drove a strong race to claim third, his Dallara-Judd 01 holding off Keith Frieser’s Zytek 09S and Steve Tandy’s Lola-Judd B12/60 all race.
“Stuart at the end, I think if he wanted to go quicker, he could”, said Galant. “They have a lot more power, and I don’t know the car very well, it was the second time I drove it. It has an amazing chassis so I think in the corners I’m a bit quicker than them but on the straights they just stood out.”
“It was intense!” said d’Ansembourg. “I had an advantage with the straight line speed of the Dallara, but in the slower bits it was challenging. I could see him coming back every turn. But I had a better exit in certain turns, so I could keep my distance. I think the advantage was that Keith fighting with Steve behind him. So that managed to slow him down a bit.”
Both P3 and GT lead battles proved tight, with Jon Minshaw’s Ligier JSP3 coming out on top against the Craig Davies/Ron Maydon pairing in P3, while the David McDonald/Claude Bovet Aston Martin Vantage GT3 kept the Eric Mestdagh/Christophe Van Riet Chrysler Viper GTS-R at bay – but only just, with the Paul Whight/Rob Fenn Aston Martin Vantage GT3 coming third.
“It was very close”, said Bovet. “David started and then I jumped in on the safety car. I had the Viper behind me and he overtook me. But then I noticed that I had better brakes, so I took him at the Bus Stop, just braking late.”
“Yeah, great race”, said Van Riet. “My engine was better, but their chassis was very good.”
“Great fun, especially the early battle with Xavier Galant’s Ferrari”, said Fenn.
On a dry but overcast Friday afternoon of the Spa Six Hours meeting, the Masters Endurance Legends grid lined up for its first race of the weekend. Sadly, Christian Gläsel’s Pescarolo-Judd 01 went missing after an incident in practice, while James Hanson was at the wheel of Christophe d’Ansembourg’s new Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2 following a separate practice accident that required the Belgian to sit out the weekend for medical reasons. Brad Hoyt would start his Ligier JSP3 from the pitlane.
Led by both Peugeots, the field stormed down to Eau Rouge for the opening gambit of this 40-minute race. While Steve Brooks had started from pole, his rival Stuart Wiltshire had the bit between his teeth and took charge into the first lap. Olivier Galant’s HPD-Honda ARX-03a followed in third, chased by Antoine d’Ansembourg who in the older Dallara-Judd SP1 continue to pull above his weight, holding off Keith Frieser’s Zytek 09S and Steve Tandy’s Lola-Judd B12/760. Tim Joosen was a strong seventh in the invitational Norma M20FC, a CN car that normally seen in hillclimbs and VdV races, as the Belgian headed a trio of Ligier JSP3s led by Jon Minshaw. Meanwhile, James Hanson was already up into tenth in the Lola-Aston.
In GTs, David McDonald’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 led in 11th overall, with Eric Mestdagh’s Chrysler Viper GTS-R GT2 in 13th and Rob Fenn’s Aston Martin Vantage GT2 in 14th. Right at the back, Michael Birch had his work cut out in the sole P2-class Ligier-Gibson JSP2-17, having lost ground early on.
With a fastest lap of the race, Wiltshire had pulled out a small gap to lead by 1.5 seconds on the third lap, with Galant five seconds down and d’Ansembourg (A.) still keeping Frieser and Tandy at bay, ten seconds in arrears of the leading Peugeot. 32 seconds down, Hanson had made it to the back of the P1 queue. On lap 4, Brooks set fastest lap to close down the gap to 1.2 seconds in a finely poised lead battle, but Wiltshire hit back on the following lap to lead by 1.7 seconds, with another fastest lap of the race.
Galant remained in touch, now nine seconds down, while the younger d’Ansembourg had put some two seconds between himself and Frieser, as a spin by Tandy had caused the Lola-Judd to fall away from the Canadian. Into the sixth lap, however, the safety car was out, as Brooks had dropped out from the lead battle, as he lost control of the chasing Peugeot at no-name corner. The pit window, however, would not open until the next lap, so the leaders toured round waiting for the next opportunity, as the back of the field – starting with James Hagan handing over the ORECA-GM FLM09 to Chris Atkinson – was allowed first call.
The safety car remained out for another two laps, so racing resumed with some ten minutes remaining on the clock. Wiltshire led Galant by a second on lap 11, with d’Ansembourg, Frieser, Tandy and Hanson following in close order. Behind the top six, Ron Maydon in the Ligier JSP3 started by Craig Davies had managed to pass Jon Minshaw for the P3 class lead, while Luc de Cock – now in the Norma – was ninth ahead of Christophe Van Riet in the Chrysler Viper GTS-R, the Belgian now leading Claude Bovet in the Aston started by McDonald. Alasdair McCaig in Brad Hoyt’s Ligier was up next, with Paul Whight in the Aston started by Fenn still third of the GTs.
On lap 12, Hanson dropped out of the lead battle to pit with the Lola-Aston at the same time as Minshaw retook Maydon for the P3 class lead that was now sixth overall. Further back, Bovet passed Van Riet to reclaim the GT lead.
As the final minutes ticked away, Wiltshire inched away to a 2.7-second lead over Galant at the finish, while young d’Ansembourg valiantly hung on to third, 14 seconds down, to boost the family honour. Frieser and Tandy trailed the Belgian home, while Jon Minshaw took P3 class honours in sixth overall, 53 seconds down, as De Cock split the other P3 cars of Maydon and McCaig. Claude Bovet decided a close GT battle in his favour, with Michael Birch winning the P2 class in 13th, ahead of the Fenn/Whight Aston taking third in GTs. The Hagan/Atkinson ORECA led home Marcus von Oeynhausen’s Audi R8 LMS Ultra, Xavier Galant’s Ferrari 458 GTE and Günther Alth’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3.
Masters Endurance Legends – Race 2
Antoine d’Ansembourg delivers shock Masters Endurance Legends win in front of home crowd at Spa
Antoine d’Ansembourg brought home a very popular debut win in the second Masters Endurance Legends race at Spa when the youngster cheekily passed race 1 winner Stuart Wiltshire’s Peugeot 90X on the opening lap and managed to keep the older open-top Dallara SP1 ahead for the entire race, until Wiltshire’s Peugeot expired three laps from the end.
“New tyres, it felt very natural, it worked”, d’Ansembourg explained. “Then for some reason I got in front and I was like, OK, I need to push as hard as I can in the first few laps because my weakness is exhaustion. So if I fight him for 40 minutes I’m not going to make it. I tried to gain as much distance as I could in those first few laps and then I don’t know, it kept going, it kept working!”
In a fight of their own, Steve Tandy vaulted Keith Frieser’s Zytek 09S at the stops to keep his Lola-Judd B12/60 ahead for second place, nine seconds down on the winner, while Michael Birch hauled his P2 class-winning Ligier-Gibson JSP2-17 up to fourth from a lowly starting position.
“We got him in the pit stop”, said Tandy. “I just held on and they told on the radio what the game was, so I just stayed constant. I’m a bit rusty, it’s the first race I’ve done for a while…”
“The race was really good”, said Frieser. “I had a little problem in the pit stop getting the car going – I had left it on the pit limiter, so the car didn’t want to get going. So Steve jumped me. The first half of the race he chased me very hard, and the second half of the race I chased him very hard. But we were so close, it was difficult. But you know what? These guys are all good clean racers.”
However, when Tandy’s Lola failed post-race scrutineering, Frieser and Birch were promoted to second and third.
Jon Minshaw in the Ligier JSP3 and Claude Bovet/David McDonald in the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 doubled up on respective class wins in P3 and GTs, Minshaw finishing a strong sixth overall while the Aston claimed eighth overall to once again beat the GT2 Chrysler Viper GTS-R of Christophe Van Riet/Eric Mestdagh. The Paul Whight/Rob Fenn Aston Martin Vantage GT2 took third in class.
“Yeah it was a lot of fun”, said McDonald. “The track surface was quite tricky out there so that made it a little bit interesting. I started the race yesterday and I finished the race today so it was nice to do a start and finish. Claude did a great job in his stints, so a lot of fun.”
“I couldn’t fire up the front tyres at the start, I was just not getting the grip in the front”, said Bovet. “So the Viper did a wonderful pass at Pouhon way on the inside, I didn’t think he was really going to go that far, so it was a good pass. I think he fired up his tyres and got them at the right temps a lot quicker than us, so yeah it turned out to be a really fun race.”
“For the last four laps I had a problem”, Mestdagh explained. “I didn’t have third and fourth gear, so I had to finish with fifth and sixth gear!”
“We swapped this time”, said Fenn.”Paul went first, I went second, I was on my own for a lot of it but in the last two laps I saw the Viper, so that was exciting. I’m sweaty so I’ve worked hard, so I’m relatively happy.”
Saturday lunchtime was approaching when the Masters Endurance Legends grid went out for their second race of the weekend. With Steve Brooks’ Peugeot 90X still damaged from its crash in the first race, Friday’s winner Stuart Wiltshire’s was the only Peugeot left to head the field as the green flag was waved. Wiltshire duly led away but young Antoine d’Ansembourg was on it in the Dallara-Judd SP1 and used the car’s top speed to storm up into second place ahead over Olivier Galant in the HPD-Honda ARX-03a. And then, most dauntingly, the Dallara stole the lead going into the second lap!
Behind the leading trio, Keith Frieser’s Zytek 09S and Steve Tandy’s Lola-Judd B12/60 were fourth and fifth, with Jon Minshaw in the leading P3 Ligier in sixth ahead of Tim Joosen’s invitational Norma M20FC. The CN car was chased by the two GT leaders, Claude Bovet in the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 ahead of Christophe Van Riet in the Chrysler Viper GTS-R, as they were followed by two more Ligier JSP3s, Alasdair McCaig ahead of Craig Davies.
Using his home track knowledge, d’Ansembourg set fastest lap of the race on lap 2, but Wiltshire was hanging on, on tyres now properly heated up. Still, the young Belgian continued to lead on lap 3 and 4. Further back, Van Riet had passed Bovet for the GT class lead, while Michael Birch was moving places as well in the Ligier-Gibson JSP2-17, coming from the back in the delayed P2 car, now up into sixth place.
As the pit window approached ever nearer, d’Ansembourg continued to demonstrate his surprising form, leading Wiltshire by 3.4 seconds on lap 5, the older Dallara proving especially quick in the fast first and third sections of the circuit. On lap 6, though, Wiltshire punched in a fastest lap of the race of his own, albeit by a mere tenth, as Galant pitted from third as the first of the leaders. P3 class leader Minshaw followed him in, as did Van Riet who handed the Chrysler to Eric Mestdagh. Meanwhile, Wiltshire bested his fastest lap time to inch ever nearer to d’Ansembourg.
After a third fastest lap in succession, Wiltshire saw his Belgian nemesis head into the pits while the Peugeot continued for another tour, as Frieser and Tandy hung on, having a great fight for third themselves, 11 seconds down on the leader. Along with d’Ansembourg, GT class leader Bovet came in to hand the Vantage to David McDonald, while Olivier Galant was in for a second time in the HPD, a puncture taking care of his hopes for a top placing. On lap 9, Wiltshire was in, immediately followed by Frieser, Tandy, McCaig (handing over to Brad Hoyt) and Davies (handing over to Ron Maydon). Tim Joosen was the last to come in, with Luc De Cock taking the wheel of the Norma.
After all the stops had cycled through, a mere 1.2 seconds now separated d’Ansembourg and Wiltshire – the fight was on for the win. Behind them, Frieser lost out to Tandy at the stops, as the Zytek was slow out of the pits, with Birch in the P2 Ligier now up into fifth – albeit a distant fifth. In P3, Maydon, Hoyt and Minshaw were tied to a string, 1 minute and 37 seconds behind the leader, while David McDonald led Mestdagh in GT, well ahead of Marcus von Oeynhausen’s Audi R8 LMS Ultra.
11 laps had gone, and now Wiltshire had truly closed up on the local hero, but on the next lap, d’Ansembourg once again eased away in a finely poised duel, as the Peugeot was seen trailing smoke in various places on the track… 16 seconds further down the road, Frieser had closed up on Tandy, and so, equally, the battle for third place was all but decided yet. With Birch in a safe fifth, the P3s were now done fighting, as Minshaw had opened up a gap to Maydon and Hoyt, while Galant was on his way back up, but now a lap down in eighth.
And then on lap 14, the race was decided ahead of the actual chequered flag when Wiltshire was seen trailing into the pits with engine problems. And so, d’Ansembourg rattled off the remaining laps to take a popular home win, as Tandy held on to claim second from Frieser, with Birch in fourth as the P2 class winner. On the final lap, Galant salvaged fifth ahead of P3 class winner Minshaw and the second-placed P3 car of Davies/Maydon. In eighth overall, Bovet and McDonald doubled up on GT wins, while in ninth James Hagan and Chris Atkinson completed a late surge to take third in P3 in their ORECA-GM FLM09. The Belgian Norma was tenth ahead of the McCaig/Hoyt Ligier, while Mestdagh held off the Paul Whight/Rob Fenn Aston Martin Vantage GT3 for second in the GT class.
An hour after the finish, however, Tandy’s Lola failed the stall test in post-race scrutineering. As a result, Frieser and Birch moved up to second and third.
Masters Racing Legends – Race 1
Cantillon recovers to win first Masters Racing Legends race at a wet Spa
Mike Cantillon started from pole to win the first Masters Racing Legends of the Spa Six Hours weekend, but that was hardly the full story of his race, as the Irishman spun off his Williams FW07C at La Source going into his second lap, handing the lead to Nick Padmore who had started sixth but proved the most capable in the treacherous circumstances, as the Lotus 77 driver produced a demon opening tour on a Spa circuit that only minutes before had been partly covered by a sudden downpour.
“I thought we had a good gap on the first lap, and then, well, I just lost it”, said Cantillon. “I kept the engine going, thank God, and then we were back in there.”
“Yeah, it was a good lap”, said Padmore of his first lap. “I just had to get on with it quite quickly, and be careful through the wet, and then maximize the dry.”
Padmore continued to lead while Cantillon kept picking off places until once again hitting the front on lap 7, partly helped by a mid-race safety car. Padmore held on to second place to gain another pre-78 class victory, while Ken Tyrrell (Tyrrell 011) and Werner d’Ansembourg (Brabham BT49) fought hard over third place, the American claiming it by a whisker. Matt Wrigley initially led the pre-78 class but went straight on at the chicane to hand the initiative to Padmore. The Penske PC3 driver still salvaged fifth.
“It was a good fight”, said Tyrrell, standing next to Cantillon and Padmore. “I just tried to do my best, learn from these guys that know what they’re doing.”
“A great race, I’m very happy with the results. But I can’t lie, I think I’m going to have to change my underwear after this”, said a delighted d’Ansembourg, “because the slicks in the wet, it was crazy, I’ve never done it before. But actually it was wet from Eau Rouge, but then it was a dry race, so it took me a couple of laps to really learn it. Once I knew it, I mean it’s my home track, so I was able to push through it. I couldn’t pass Ken but it was a photo finish!”
“It was fun on the first lap”, said Wrigley. “I had Ken coming inside, and at the Bus Stop I just outbraked myself. Got on a wet patch, so that was my fault, but we recovered OK. It just took me too long to get back up to pace. So I was being a bit cautious, but I kept it in one piece, and that’s the main thing.”
Behind Warren Briggs (McLaren M29), Mark Hazell (Williams FW07B) and Patrick d’Aubréby (Arrows A4), Max Werner’s Hesketh 308C claimed the final pre-78 podium spot while Ewen Sergison’s Surtees TS9B cornered the pre-72 class win. The wet La Source hairpin not only forced Cantillon into a ‘spin-and-win’ scenario, but claimed various other victims including Steve Hartley (McLaren MP4/1), Simon Fish (Arrows A4) and Yutaka Toriba (Williams FW05).
“I chose the wrong tyres”, said Werner, “and as soon as they got the car down I found that I didn’t have a clutch. So I started in second gear with the starter engine. I think the gearbox will need some work now! It was a gamble, and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but the car ran well, and it was a fun race.”
The Masters Racing Legends lined up for their first race of the Spa Six Hours weekend under a thick cover of clouds, as its prime-time afternoon slot in the timetable approached. However, on the formation lap, a sudden downpour enveloped the paddock area, and the race was redflagged before it had even started, to allow for teams to change to rain tyres. After a ten-minute delay, the field got underway once again, this time trailing rooster tails in their wake.
Mike Cantillon’s Williams FW07C stormed off at the head of the field, with Ken Tyrrell’s Tyrrell 011 hot on the heels of pre-78 class leader Matt Wrigley, the Penske PC3 still in second after Wrigley’s strong qualifying run. At the back of the circuit, though, pre-78 class rival Nick Padmore in the Lotus 77 proved most adept in the conditions, as he charged from sixth to second. Into the second lap, that became first when Cantillon outbraked himself into La Source and spun!
So now, after his demon first lap, Padmore led Tyrrell, with Steve Hartley’s McLaren MP4/1 and Simon Fish in the Arrows A4 moving up into third and fourth, the team mates having passed Wrigley into lap 2 as the Penske had missed the chicane. Cantillon was on his way back, however, now also passing Wrigley to reclaim fifth. Seventh was Werner d’Ansembourg in the Brabham BT49, with third-placed pre-78 runner Max Werner in eighth in the Hesketh 308C. Warren Briggs was ninth in the McLaren M29, with Patrick d’Aubréby’s Arrows A4 rounding out the top ten for now.
At the front, three laps down, Padmore wasn’t having it all on his own, though, as Tyrrell heaped loads of pressure on the Lotus. Hartley was just a few tenths behind Tyrrell, with Cantillon now back up into fourth. Further back, though, Yutaka Yoriba’s Williams FW05 had ended up stranded at La Source, resulting in the safety car’s deployment, allowing Padmore to breathe for a while.
At the end of lap 4, the field was released again, with ten minutes still remaining on the clock. Cantillon immediately pounced to pass both Fish and Hartley at the restart to be third, as this time Fish dropped places at La Source, only to rejoin in 11th. A four-way battle developed at the front in which Padmore still led, but Cantillon was back into second place as the leaders completed lap 6. Behind Tyrrell in third, La Source claimed another victim – now it was Hartley, allowing Werner d’Ansembourg to move up to fourth, with Wrigley fifth and Briggs in sixth. Meanwhile, Mark Hazell had steadily risen to seventh ahead of d’Aubréby, Werner and Ewen Sergison in the pre-72 class-leading Surtees TS9B.
An unleashed Cantillon was back in front on lap 7, with a fastest lap of the race that left the competition floundering, as he immediately led Padmore by 2.5 seconds. The Irishman had dropped Tyrrell by six seconds, as the American in the Tyrrell now had his hands full with holding off d’Ansembourg’s Brabham. Wrigley was a steady fifth, with Briggs equally in no man’s land in sixth.
On lap 9, Cantillon had left Padmore trailing by four seconds as he went into his tenth and final lap. Easing off towards the chequered flag, his winning margin over Padmore still amounted to 2.3 seconds. Tyrrell narrowly held off d’Ansembourg for third while in fifth overall Wrigley claimed second to Padmore in the pre-78 class. Briggs, Hazell and d’Aubréby were next, while Max Werner and Ewen Sergison completed the top-ten while finishing third in the pre-78 class and winning the pre-72 class respectively.
Masters Racing Legends – Race 2
Werner d’Ansembourg delights home crowd with first Masters Racing Legends win at Spa
For the second time on the same day, another young d’Ansembourg climbed the top step of the podium for the first time in his historic racing career, as Werner d’Ansembourg copied what his brother Antoine had done in the Masters Endurance Legends race in the morning – passing the leader on the opening lap and never looking back in the remaining laps. The result was that d’Ansembourg’s Brabham BT49 won the second Masters Racing Legends race at Spa with a commanding lead over Ken Tyrrell’s Tyrrell 011 and Mike Cantillon’s Williams FW07C.
“I started the race on fresh tyres and I was lucky to overtake on the first lap”, said d’Ansembourg. “Then it was a clean race with clean weather on a track that I know well, so I just kept going. So lots of fun, and very happy with the result. Incredible weekend. Yeah, what a weekend for the family.”
Cantillon had passed Tyrrell for second on lap 10 but the race was redflagged when on the same lap Steve Hartley crashed his McLaren MP4/1 at Stavelot. On countback, Tyrrell remained second ahead of Cantillon while Simon Fish (Arrows A4) took an inspired fourth ahead of Hartley and pre-78 class winner Nick Padmore.
“I had a nice gap on Mike”, said Tyrrell, “but with the backmarkers, he caught right up. And he’s too good to have right behind yet. So he got by, but then I guess with the red flag, we got a little gift…”
“It was great racing”, said Cantillon. “Really thoroughly enjoyed it. Fighting with the guys and lots of racing – that’s what it’s all about. And I’m really pleased for Werner to get the win.”
Padmore’ Lotus 77 had battled pole sitter and pre-78 class rival Matt Wrigley all race but when Wrigley was forced to retire his Penske PC3 with a broken driveshaft, Padmore was home free for his second class win of the weekend. In ninth overall, Ewen Sergison (Surtees TS9B) got his second pre-72 class win of the weekend.
“It was good, it’s just a shame that Matt broke down. I was really enjoying that”, said Padmore. “I could see it smoking for about four or five laps. I thought, any minute now it’s going to go. But it’s mega, we may have won the championship now. So that’s brilliant. Get in there!”
In the final Masters race of the Spa Six Hours weekend, the Masters Racing Legends cars went out in sunny conditions that compared favourably with how the day had started. Matt Wrigley’s Penske PC3 started from pole but soon Werner d’Ansembourg emulated his brother Antoine’s move in the earlier Masters Endurance Legends race to storm into the lead on the Kemmel Straight. So going into lap 2, d’Ansembourg’s Brabham BT49 led Wrigley’s Penske, Ken Tyrrell in the Tyrrell 011 and Wrigley’s pre-78 rival Nick Padmore in the Lotus 77. Friday winner Mike Cantillon was fifth in the Williams FW07C, followed by Warren Briggs (McLaren M29), Mark Hazell (Williams FW07B), Simon Fish (Arrows A4) and Patrick d’Aubreby in another A4 while Steve Hartley got his McLaren MP4/1 up into tenth.
Setting a blistering pace by using his intimate track knowledge, the other young d’Ansembourg created a gap of no less than 4.5 seconds in two laps, as Tyrrell passed Wrigley for second while Cantillon stole fourth from Padmore. The next time around, however, Tyrrell had cut his deficit to 3.9 seconds as the order in the top five remained static. Further back, Hartley had got up to eighth, passing both d’Aubreby and Hazell, while Fish had demoted Briggs to seventh. It was the end for Max Werner, though, his Hesketh 308C stopping with a engine issue on a safe spot at the top of the Raidillon.
On lap 4, d’Ansembourg turned the ride to put in another barnstormer of a lap, leaving Tyrrell gasping at a six-second gap, while Cantillon moved into third to leave Wrigley and Padmore contest the pre-78 class by themselves. A fighting Fish was close, though, and soon joined the battle for fourth overall. His teammate Hartley, meanwhile, had cleared Briggs who now had Hazell and d’Aubreby to worry about.
Maintaining a searing pace around his home track, d’Ansembourg left Tyrrell looking at a 8.6-second disadvantage after five laps – and Cantillon wasn’t closing on the leaders either. Two seconds behind the Irishman, Wrigley and Padmore were still nose-to-tail, the Penske defending bravely against the Lotus, but one lap later, the flying Simon Fish had his Arrows A4 up into fourth after passing the warring pre-78 machines. Moments later, Wrigley’s driveshaft failed… and Hazell was out too with gearbox issues.
On lap 8, d’Ansembourg looked home safe with 13 seconds in hand over Tyrrell, but Tyrrell’s second place was anything but safe – a late charge from Cantillon saw the Williams closing up on the Tyrrell 011’s gearbox. Nine seconds further down the road, Fish and Hartley fought over fourth place while Padmore was now trying to keep his nose clean to bring home a valuable pre-78 class win in sixth.
While d’Ansembourg delivered another shock win for the family, Cantillon indeed passed Tyrrell for second on lap 10, but then the race was redflagged as Steve Hartley had crashed his McLaren MP4/1 at Stavelot. This meant that the result was taken from the last completed lap, restoring Tyrrell to second and maintaining Hartley in fifth. Briggs, d’Aubreby, pre-72 class winner Ewen Sergison (Surtees TS9B) and Paul Tattersall’s Ensign N179 rounded out the top ten.
Masters Gentlemen Drivers & Pre-66 Touring Cars
Spiers/Greensall lift Masters Gent Drivers trophy at Spa, Tordoff reigns in touring cars
John Spiers and Nigel Greensall bagged one more Masters Gentlemen Drivers win with another strong run in their TVR Griffith. Spiers did most of the heavy lifting by passing John Pearson in the Pearson Jaguar E-type late into his opening stint to lead before handing the wheel to Greensall. Overcoming his elite-driver penalty, Greensall returned the Griffith to the front on lap 22 and after that paced himself to win by 2.3 seconds from Gary Pearson.
“It was fantastic”, said Greensall while Spiers was unable to take the podium, already in his Maserati 250F for the second Historic Grand Prix Car Association race of the weekend. “We talked about the race before the start and I said to John, be patient, let the race come to you as the track dries out a little bit. And he drove a brilliant, brilliant stint. Then when I got in, it was the case of me just driving qualifying laps every time, just totally flat out every single lap. And it’s lovely when it’s wet and dry, it’s just brilliant.”
“It was a great race at the start, wasn’t it? Five of them sort of going for it”, said Pearson about the eventful opening stint of his brother John. “Yeah, after the change, Nigel passed me at the back there, using his grunt, but then I was able to sort of just stay with him. We were both on it!”
The unchallenged CLP class winner, Giles Dawson was never out of the top three to grab a mighty third overall in his Lotus Elan 26R, trailing the two bigger cars by a mere 18 seconds at the chequered flag. In eighth, the Robin Ward/Ron Maydon Ginetta G4R took second in the CLP class while Ward starred to haul the Ginetta from last to a momentary first at the stops. Meanwhile, Rüdi Friedrichs won the A class by taking his Jaguar C-type to ninth overall. In C2, the Doug Muirhead/Jeremy Welch Austin Healey 3000 faltered on the final lap to hand the class win to the similar machine of Bruce Montgomery.
“I thought I was going to lead overall!” said Dawson of his entertaining fight with John Pearson in his opening stint, “but John knew exactly where to put the E-type to stop me getting through. And then he backed me up into the touring car, Sam came past – I thought, let him have a go at him. But none of us managed to get past, I nearly had him out of the pits, side by side. It was just a mega run. An hour and a half is a long time round here, though…”
In the touring car section, Sam Tordoff ran home a largely unchallenged win in the Ford Falcon. Jake Hill and Rob Fenn shared a Ford Mustang on their way to second place while Richard McAlpine took third in another Falcon. James Hagan and Stephen Mawhinney cornered the Cortina class win from Mark Drain and Giulio & Andrea Frasson, after a challenge from Adam Cunnington faded early on.
“It was good, very good”, said Tordoff. “Tricky with the conditions, but got away and enjoyed a great battle with the GT cars.”
On a very foggy Saturday morning at Spa, the combined Masters Gentlemen Drivers & Pre-66 Touring Car grid rolled out for their respective 90-minute and 60-minute races at the Six Hours meeting. As we approached the scheduled start time, the fog had lifted enough around the paddock area, but in the upper parts of the track it needed a few more minutes to clear. At the front, John Spiers took off in his TVR Griffith, chased by a trio of E-type Jags and Niko Ditting’s Cobra Daytona Coupé. Further back, though, negotiating the chicane ahead of the start had proved troublesome for Harry Barton’s BMW 1800 tiSA and Maxime Castelein’s Lola Mk1.
Into the opening lap, John Pearson had the bit between his teeth as he hauled his Pearsons E-type to the front from fifth on the grid. From sixth, he was followed through by Giles Dawson, in the little Lotus Elan 26R, while Spiers was now chased by a fully awake Sam Tordoff in the leading touring car. Count Marcus von Oeynhausen was fifth in the German E-type, with BTCC star Jake Hill already up to sixth in Rob Fenn’s Mustang. Then followed Michael Funke and Lee Mowle in another pair of E-types, while in tenth overall Billy Bellinger led C2 in the Morgan SLR shared with Keith Ahlers.
While Dawson’s Elan continued to push Pearson’s Jag, Tordoff passed Spiers for third into lap 2. Further back, though, Bellinger was forced to abandon his promising tenth place overall with a pitstop that elevated Charles Allison’s AC Cobra into the top ten, chased by Rüdi Friedrichs’ C-type and the remarkable Robin Ward who in two laps had hauled the Ginetta G4R from 32nd and last on the grid to 12th.
As Spiers settled into his rhythm producing a fastest lap of the race, the order of his pursuers had shuffled up, Funke and Ditting now in fifth and sixth ahead of Hill, Von Oeynhausen, Mowle and Allison, all still within 20 seconds of each other. After Bellinger’s demise, Bruce Montgomery led an Austin Healey 3000 1-2-3 in C2, with Caroline Rossi a close second and Doug Muirhead further back in third. In 19th and 20th overall, James Hagan and Adam Cunnington fought over the Cortina class lead.
After five laps and 15 minutes of Spa-Francorchamps, Pearson and Dawson were still split by a mere half second, with Tordoff following two ticks in arrears, the Falcon having two seconds in hand over Spiers, who in turn held a two-second advantage over Funke. Ditting ran sixth, nine seconds down on the leader, with an 11-second gap to Hill in seventh. Mowle and Von Oeynhausen continued to content eighth place while Ward had made it into the top ten, displacing Allison. Felix Haas in the second TVR was up next, ahead of his countryman Friedrichs, while in 14th, Richard McAlpine’s was third in the touring-car race. Right behind the Ford Falcon, Caroline Rossi had passed Montgomery for the C2 class lead.
At the front, though, Tordoff seemed in trouble, as the front spoiler of his Falcon was flapping about. Despite that, he profited from a small error from Dawson to move up into second overall, followed through by Spiers, as the touring-car grid approached their pit window – a good moment for Tordoff’s crew to have a look at the damage. Further back, though, Cunnington was out of the Lotus Cortina lead battle, with Hagan now well ahead of the examples of Peter Reynolds, Mark Drain and Giulio Frasson.
From 15th overall, McAlpine was the first touring car driver to come in for his mandatory stop, right at the moment that Funke’s Jaguar stopped in a safe spot at the Raidillon. The next time around, Tordoff was in, along with Reynolds who handed the Cortina over to Daniel Quintero, with Jake Hill in next to hand the wheel to Rob Fenn. Niko Ditting’s stop in the Cobra Daytona Coupé, though, was unscheduled, allowing Mowle and Ward to move up another place.
Up at the front, Spiers was producing a demon opening stint to pass Pearson and lead into lap 11. The TVR Griffith then pushed through to lead by 2.7 seconds, as Dawson began to harry the E-type as well. Then a big gap opened up to fourth-placed Robin Ward who had passed the Jaguars of Mowle and Von Oeynhausen, with Haas and Allison up next. The touring car stops done, Tordoff still led, now with 24 seconds in hand over Fenn, with McAlpine in third. Stephen Mawhinney in James Hagan’s Cortina led the 1.6-litre class ahead of Quintero, Drain and Andrea Frasson having taken over from Giulio.
On lap 13, it was the GTs’ turn to come in for their mandatory stops, and Allison was the first to do so, handing over to Jon Payne who was subbing for Peter Thompson on the weekend, soon followed by Felix Haas, with Michael Lyons stepping in. Further back, Ditting’s Daytona Cobra that had been seen smoking stopped out on the circuit. On lap 14, the leader was in to give the TVR Griffith to Nigel Greensall, with Pearson (handing over to brother Gary), Dawson, Mowle (relieved by Phil Keen) following on the next tour. For one lap, this left Ward in the lead, allowing the Ginetta to complete a last-to-first stint before Ron Maydon took over its wheel. At the same time, Andy Newall got into Count von Oeynhausen’s E-type.
With Greensall serving his elite-driver penalty with a longer pitstop, a new order soon panned out after the stops. Gary Pearson now led Dawson by two seconds, with Greensall needing to cover 27 seconds to regain the lead. However, circling four seconds faster than Pearson, the mission looked all but impossible. Tordoff was fourth – and first of the touring cars – while Maydon was fifth overall and second in the CLP class, now 51 seconds in arrears of the leader, but he would need to fend off two E-types in the hands of the quick Andy Newall and Phil Keen, with Lyons in eighth in the second TVR. Fenn’s Mustang was ninth overall ahead of Friedrichs’ C-type, while in C2, Jeremy Welch had asserted himself in the lead in Muirhead’s Healey, the quick driver/preparer now ahead of Manfredo Rossi and Bruce Montgomery.
Meanwhile among the touring cars, Tordoff ran home the win ahead of the Hill/Fenn Mustang and McAlpine’s other Falcon. Mawhinney won the Cortina class from Drain and the Frassons, as the Reynolds/Quintero example faltered with two minutes left on the clock.
Now the focus shifted to the GTs at the front of the field, where Gary Pearson had left Dawson behind by four seconds, but Greensall was closing in fast on both of them, trailing Pearson by 17 seconds on lap 19. In fourth, Maydon had both E-types hot on his heels now, Keen and Newall having swapped places in the meantime. Turning up another wick into laps 20 and 21, Greensall took away six seconds each lap to be second on lap 21 and reclaim the lead on lap 22. Keen and Newall had both vaulted Maydon but were trailing the lead group by well over a minute. Behind Lyons in eighth, Jon Payne had moved Allison’s Cobra back into the top ten, having passed Friedrichs for ninth. Welch was in command in C2, with Montgomery now back into second ahead of the Rossi machine. Meanwhile, the Chris Jolly/Steve Farthing Shelby Mustang GT350 retired from 15th place with a broken gearbox.
Having hit the front, Greensall slowed his pace, as the remaining GTs still had some 17 minutes to cover. Dawson was a safe third and the unchallenged CLP class leader while Keen was fourth, a minute and eight seconds away from the leader. Behind Keen, Lyons was on a late-race charge, not just having passed Maydon but also quickly reeling in a slowing Newall and completing the pass on lap 24. In C2, Alexander Kolb had put on a similar charge to be third in class behind Welch and Montgomery.
In the final ten minutes, Greensall continued to pace himself, keeping the gap to Pearson at around two seconds to win after 30 laps of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Dawson won the CLP class while claiming a stunning third overall, 18 seconds down on the winner, and a mighty 45 seconds ahead of the Lee Mowle/Phil Keen E-type. The Haas/Lyons Griffith was fifth ahead of the Von Oeynhausen/Newall E-type, with the Ward/Maydon Ginetta claiming second in the CLP class in eighth overall, Jon Payne in the Allison/Payne just pipping Maydon at the line. Friedrichs won the A class in ninth while a shock retirement for Welch on the final lap handed Bruce Montgomery the C2 class win. Muirhead and Welch were still classified second in class ahead of Kolb. In 15th overall, the Michael Hinderer/Christian Traber Porsche 904 GTS took third in the CLP class ahead of Carl & Billy Nairn’s Elan.
Masters GT Trophy
Wilkins takes commanding win in Masters GT Trophy race at Spa
Series leader Craig Wilkins continued his strangehold on the Masters GT Trophy by claiming a commanding win in the 45-minute race at Spa. Taming the extremely wet conditions, the Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo driver finished 33 seconds ahead of the non-Evo Super Trofeo Huracán shared by Chris Milner and Nigel Greensall.
“That was fun, yeah!” said Wilkins. “I’ve been here before in the wet. Against a pro driver, I’m actually relatively quicker in the wet than I am in the dry.”
“It was absolutely brilliant, it really was”, said Greensall. “The car was fantastic, Chris did a brilliant stint because he was the fastest one in the second sector – so really pleased to see Chris do so well. And I just drove flat out, I loved every second.”
Rob Fenn and Paul Whight did well to haul their invitational Motosport Elise to third, while Dutch father-and-son Jac & Ties Meeuwissen finished fourth in their Masters GT Trophy debut for their Ferrari 488 Challenge.
“This was our first race together in a car we have only had since March”, said a jubilant Meeuwissen Sr. “My initial thought that he would have to wait a few years before I allowed him to race it, but he did well, so why not!”
On its return to active duty after 15 years in storage, Hans Hugenholtz’s Ford Mustang FR500C claimed a popular victory in the GT4 class, passing all of his class rivals to win from Thilo Goos in the Aston Martin Vantage GT4, the George Haynes/Adam Sharpe BMW M3 GT4 and the Daniel Quintero/Peter Reynolds Ginetta G55 that had led the class early on.
“It was fantastic!” said a happy Hugenholtz. “It was nice and wet, nice and slippery. But I’m good in the rain, and the car was super neutral. So yeah, I could corner pretty fast, even though the gear ratios were all wrong – I couldn’t go anywhere near 6th gear! But I had fun, I won, so that’s good.”
“The BMW was challenging but still good fun”, said Haynes. “It’s always fun to be at Spa.”
“The standing water made the car move around on the straights. It was good in the corners but we didn’t have any confidence in the car on the straights”, said Sharpe. “But we finished the race!”
Following a torrential downpour that completely ruined the previous race on the programme, the Masters GT Trophy field was ready for a very wet contest. This time it would be a single 45-minute race, with Chris Milner starting on pole in the first of the Lamborghinis. Having started behind the safety car, the field was released after two laps, with Craig Wilkins immediately taking command ahead of Milner and Keith Frieser. Behind the three Lambos, Rob Fenn moved the Motosport Elise part Jac Meeuwissen in the Ferrari 488 Challenge, while Daniel Quintero’s Ginetta G55 led Thilo Goos’ Aston Martin Vantage GT4, Hans Hugenholtz’s Ford Mustang FR500C and George Haynes’ BMW M3 GT4 in the GT4 ranks.
As Wilkins continued to stream away from his opposition, having opened up a massive gap already, Frieser abandoned third place to retire into the pits on lap 3. The GT4 battle, meanwhile, was a lot tighter, as the four cars were still nose to tail as they started on their fifth lap – the lap in which the pit window would open, but initially there were no takers, everyone having just got into a rhythm. Especially Fenn was enjoying himself in the Elise, as he passed Milner for second on lap 5, but both were now trailing the unleashed Wilkins by half a minute. Further back, Hugenholtz relieved Goos from sixth overall to run second in the GT4 class that continued to be closely contested.
Six laps gone, Wilkins was the first to come in for his mandatory stop, but he was soon followed in by Fenn who would hand over to Paul Whight, and Jac Meeuwissen who would be replaced by his son Ties. Milner, however, continued for one more lap before pitting to hand Nigel Greensall the wheel. Behind the first four, Hugenholtz and Goos also initially continued while Quintero made way for Peter Reynolds, with Adam Sharpe stepping into Haynes’ BMW.
So on lap 8, Wilkins reassumed the mantle of leader, now leading Whight by 49 seconds, with Greensall a further 15 seconds behind, while the younger Meeuwissen trailed Greensall by another 12 ticks. Among the GT4s, Hugenholtz had profited from Reynolds dropping back but was still pressured by Goos, with Sharpe a further 15 seconds behind.
At the front, Wilkins continued to lead after 10 laps, but Whight was about to be caught by Greensall, which on lap 11 became a fact. Wilkins, however, was still a full minute further up the road, despite being unable to match Greensall’s searing pace. Behind the two leaders, Whight was matching Meeuwissen’s lap times to control his grasp on third place.
Holding a safe lead, Wilkins reeled off the remaining few laps to win by 33 seconds over the Milner/Greensall Lambo, with Whight’s invitational Elise claiming third ahead of the Meeuwissen/Meeuwissen Ferrari 488 Challenge. Hugenholtz took a surprise GT4 win in the reborn Ford Mustang FR500C, mastering the conditions to be victorious over Goos in the Aston Martin Vantage GT4, Sharpe in the BMW M3 GT4 and the Quintero/Reynolds Ginetta G55.
Masters Sports Car Legends
Ferrão/Stretton take confident Masters Sports Car Legends win at Spa
After hitting the front on lap 4, the Diogo Ferrão/Martin Stretton Lola T292 never looked back to win the Masters Sports Car Legends race at Spa, despite a challenge from Kyle Tilley’s Chevron B23 coming all the way from the back to be second towards the end. The complexion of the race looked to completely change when with less than ten minutes remaining the safety car came out but Tilley’s Chevron retired with brake problems shortly after the restart to deny the crowd a grandstand finish.
“He won it and I finished it”, said Stretton about Ferrão’s storming opening stint. “It was alright for me in the end. I was taking it as easy as possible because I was going to have a race later! I reckon I could have held Kyle, but with the safety car it was suddenly going to become a race. So I wanted to make sure I got as big a gap in it after the safety car at the beginning. The way that Chevron is at the moment with the DFV, I know it’s very slow out of chicane. So that was probably enough for a buffer already and then he disappeared. I think it was brakes.”
Jason Wright grabbed second place after a steady race in his Lola T70 Mk3B while the late safety car allowed Andy Willis to make up a few more places to steal third in the T70 Mk3B started by Stephan Joebstl. Alex Furiani in the Chevron B19 shared with François Fabri was another late mover to snatch fourth from Michael Gans’ grasp in the Lola T290.
Both Wright and Willis agreed that it was a fun race. “The car was magic, privileged to drive it on this great track”, said Willis.
After an early demise for the John Spiers/Nigel Greensall McLaren M1B, Richard McAlpine’s similar McLaren held his advantage to the Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger Cooper Monaco ‘King Cobra’ all the way to the end to win the pre-65 Hulme class in eighth overall, while Charles Allison bagged the Bonnier class trophy in his Chevron B8.
In the first race after lunch, the Masters Sports Car Legends arrived on the scene for their one-hour race at the Spa Six Hours. Felix Haas led away in the Lola T294, just held on against the more powerful cars on the Kemmel Straight, before inching away from Stephan Joebstl’s Lola T70 Mk3B in the twisty bits at the back. In the final part of the opening lap, Diogo Ferrão’s Lola T292 also found a way past Joebstl to be second. Going into lap 2, Jason Wright in the second T70 Mk3B caught up with the Austrian to pass him for third. Sam Hancock was next in the non-B T70 Mk3, followed by Michael Gans in the Lola T290 while in seventh John Spiers’ McLaren M1B led the pre-65 class. Christophe Van Riet was eighth in another T70 Mk3B, leading François Fabri’s Chevron B19, while from the back Kyle Tilley was already up into tenth in his Chevron B23.
At the front, Ferrão was in a hurry, as the Portuguese driver demoted Haas to lead into lap 4. Wright was still third but hounded by Hancock and Gans, and halfway into the fourth lap Hancock found a way past Wright. Tilley, meanwhile, has risen to seventh and soon clinched sixth from Van Riet, as Joebstl was now eighth ahead of Fabri and Guillaume Peeters in the Lola T210 – which meant that Spiers had gone missing from the top ten, his McLaren M1B grounding to a halt at the top of the Raidillon. This handed the pre-65 class lead to Richard McAlpine’s McLaren, as McAlpine defended a five-second gap to Keith Ahlers in the Cooper Monaco ‘King Cobra’. In the Bonnier class, Charles Allison had hit the front after the similar Chevron B8 of Chris Lillingston-Price was forced to pit, seemingly looking to join Alberto Zoli’s Chevron B16 as an early retirement before going out again, but with son Freddie at the wheel…
Having completed five laps, Ferrão now led by 7 seconds over Haas, with Hancock down 22 seconds already, leading a gaggle of cars consisting of Wright, Gans and Tilley – the latter having caught up with the two Americans to pick them off one by one. On lap 6, Tilley then also passed Hancock to be third, 27 seconds down on Ferrão. On a power circuit, three open-top 2-litre cars now led the 5-litre cars in fourth, fifth and seventh, as Van Riet closed in on Gans in sixth to pass the Lola T290 on lap 8. Further back, McAlpine had increased his class lead over Ahlers to ten seconds, the pair still in 11th and 12th overall, leading John Sheldon’s Chevron B16, Allison’s B8 (now in a comfortable Bonnier class lead), Ingo Matzelberger’s Lola T210 and the Mark & James Bates Porsche 911 RSR that led the Pescarolo class.
Things settled down for a while as the pit window approached, but on lap 10, Tilley suddenly caught a slowing Haas, who subsequently reported his Lola T294 to the pits. 30 seconds later, the German was back out again, having dropped to sixth. Another 30 seconds later, the actual pit window opened, with Tilley taking the very first opportunity, but still 39 seconds down on Ferrão, who had built a commanding lead. Haas then pitted again, but not to hand over to Michael Lyons, as this was a retirement, while Joebstl stopped to hand Andy Willis the T70. Almost simultaneously, McAlpine came in from the pre-65 class lead.
11 laps gone, and now Wright, Hancock and Van Riet all pitted, the latter two handing over to Niko Ditting and Eric Mestdagh respectively. They were followed in by Fabri, who was replaced by Alex Furiani, and Guillaume Peeters switching places with Guy Peeters. Then, on lap 12, Ferrão came in for Martin Stretton to take over, while Keith Ahlers handed the wheel to Billy Bellinger who now had a 24-second deficit to make up to McAlpine. Gans, Allison and Sheldon were the last to pit, along with Freddie Lillingston-Price now making the regular stop for the team.
The order on lap 13 saw Stretton lead Tilley by 19 seconds, with Wright in third, 46 seconds away. Gans had repassed Ditting’s T70 Mk3 to be fourth, and the German saw the T70 Mk3Bs of Mestdagh and Willis approaching fast. Furiani and Peeters were eighth and ninth while McAlpine’s McLaren was the last on the lead lap in tenth and defending its lead over Bellinger’s Cooper Monaco.
20 minutes remained on the clock, and despite Stretton still leading by 17 seconds, Tilley was lapping two seconds quicker – this motor race was far from over. 48 seconds down, Wright looked like a safe bet for third, as the Italo-American had 23 seconds in hand over his friend Michael Gans while setting a faster pace. In fact, Gans was coming under threat from Willis, who had cleared both Hancock and Mestdagh and needed to wipe away a nine-second gap to Gans.
At the front, Stretton seemed to have gotten the message and going into lap 17 upped his pace to keep the gap at 17 seconds. But then the race suddenly changed face when on lap 18, Freddie Lillingston-Price’s Chevron B8 came to a halt on the edge of the track, right at the top of the Raidillon, to bring out the safety car.
The first eight cars now running nose-to-tail, the field was released after lap 19, with just over four minutes remaining. But the promise of a tense finish soon evaporated when Tilley was forced to report to the pits after one flying lap, his brakes having failed in the cooldown period. Behind Stretton, Willis profited most from the safety car to snatch third but could not do anything to pass Wright for second. Furiani similarly stole fourth from Gans, with Mestdagh and Ditting up next. Tilley was still classified eighth, ahead of pre-65 class winner McAlpine who held on against Bellinger. Allison bagged the Bonnier class in 12th overall while the Bates brothers won the Pescarolo class in 15th overall.