Classic GTs at sand-strewn Zandvoortby Michael Thorogood on 15th June 2017
Equipe GTS makes a rare overseas trip to a circuit quite unlike anything in the UK, as Motor Sport's editorial team prepares for a record-breaking race.
Historic GT cars and the sand-dusted coastal undulations of Zandvoort are always a perfect match. Watching a thunderous TVR chase a tail-out MGB over the rise at Hunserug before plunging downhill into the gravel-trimmed sweep of Sheivlak, you are left in no doubt that this is one of the very best old-school tracks left in the world. Its narrow Armco-lined sweepers offer a challenge quite unlike anything on offer in the UK and last weekend, as part of the Pinksterraces, it fittingly played host to the classic GTs of Equipe GTS for round three of the championship.
Situated only a 15-minute stroll from the beach, Zandvoort is renowned for throwing unpredictable coastal weather into the mix and this weekend was no exception. Bursts of rain interspersed a very hot weekend, shifting the competitive advantage from driver to driver. Early in qualifying the rain beat down and it was Tom Smith’s MGB Roadster that set the pace, but as the sun broke through and dried the track it was Simon Cripps, also in an MGB, who came to the fore. The two were a class apart, with the pole position time over two seconds clear of Rob Cull’s TVR Grantura that rounded out the top three. Behind the scrap for positions was exceptionally tight; a little more than two seconds separated the cars from P7 down to P17.
Come race day, 24 immaculate race cars lined up for the start of race one in scorching heat. From pole Cripps made a storming start, but second-placed Smith was slow away and lost out to the TVRs of Rob Cull and Mark Ashworth into turn one. The TVR pair set their sights on Cripps and Ashworth hunted him down, claiming the lead on lap three before the safety car interrupted proceedings to collect two stricken cars.
Three laps to run and the field was bunched, but Ashworth looked in control throughout. Managing the gap in the sprint to the flag, he claimed the opener ahead of Cripps and Smith, who recovered to third after Cull spun at Tarzan. Pete Foster looked secure in fourth position but Rob Spencer and Andrew Bentley had other ideas, hunting him down and passing in the closing stages.
Onboard with David Russell-Wilks in his MGB Roadster during race two of the Equipe GTS at Zandvoort
A large crowd turned out on Sunday for another day of racing in equally hot weather. Fresh from victory, Ashworth started on pole and made a very strong start, setting a blistering pace out front. Only Cripps could match his pace but despite a determined effort, he could find no way by. Ashworth made it back-to-back wins in Holland, Smith was again P3 and Cull was cruelly denied P4 on lap 12 when his TVR succumbed to mechanical problems, leaving Spencer to take the place. Charging back to P7 after an early excursion into the gravel trap at Shievlak, Robin Ellis had a storming drive in the Lotus Elite.
The series’ first overseas trip in several years was a resounding success and back on British soil, Silverstone awaits for what is set to be a record-breaking weekend of racing. As part of MG Live!, an extraordinary 82 cars and 88 drivers are expected to compete across this weekend’s four races, thought to be an all-time record for a single series meeting. Such is the popularity of the series that organisers have had to split the doubly-oversubscribed grid into two, which means the planned double-header will run over four races instead.
Ed Foster will be among them, joining Silverstone’s record-breaking grid this weekend alongside his brother in the MGB. The MGB's racing return didn't go smoothly, last time out... Read more about Ed and Nick's 'calamity of debuts'.
After the Foster-double tackle the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit this weekend, the next port of call for the MGB will be Snetterton 300 for a 40-minute pitstop race that will see Nick and Ed sharing driving duties again. Spin or win, we'll report back on how their racing exploits unfold and how the wider Equipe GTS championship develops too.