Spa treatment

The driving challenge at Spa is huge, as some found to their cost in this year’s Six Hours. But the rewards are far-reaching
By David Addison

When a race offers 94 starters, you know you’re somewhere special. The Spa Six Hours, this year blessed by glorious weather, has become a ‘must do’ on the historic racing calendar.

With races from the HSCC, the Masters Series and Motor Racing Legends adding to a programme predominated by endurance events, the Belgian paddock was packed with cars – and smiling faces. There was no shortage of track time on the fabulous Ardennes circuit and most people went home happy, although against the delight of Jason and Jon Minshaw, who won the Six Hours with Martin Stretton, came sadder tales. Howard Spooner had a trip to Malmedy hospital after destroying Philip Walker’s rare Ford GT40 prototype when it shed a wheel, while Alan Harper went home with a broken arm after being T-boned mid-spin during practice. His assailant, Andrew Smith, guided his Lola T70 to World Sportscar Masters honours a day later.

While many of the cars were regular racers, with fewer ‘new’ cars to discover on the entry, there was no shortage of atmosphere. You could savour a walk into the forest and stand and watch cars working their way through Rivage and plunging downhill, or stand nose to the fence at Eau Rouge and watch Grand Prix cars as they used to be. The run-off areas may be different to accommodate modern F1, but the commitment of the GP Masters competitors mirrored that of the original drivers.

While there was a relaxed feel to the event, there was some fierce racing too. The U2TC race, for example, was decided at the last corner after 60 minutes of action. And racing is what this event is all about. Forget the heritage of the cars, which is so important at the Le Mans Classic, or the film-set backdrop to Goodwood – this event is about people racing their cars, pure and simple. Almost every class was catered for, from GP cars to Historic Formula Fords, and with Barry Sidery-Smith’s open race for British Sports and GTs allowing in replicas and Modsports, there was no need for the purist to be offended. The spread of machinery was wide, too, with pre-war cars contrasting with the glorious-sounding Ferrari 512S of David Hart in World Sportscar Masters.

The highlights were numerous but included a three-way AC Cobra fight in the weekend’s final race for Sports & GT cars, Simon Hadfield (Ferrari Test Rossa) and Gary Pearson (Jaguar D-type) in great form in the RAC Woodcote Trophy, and Manfredo Rossi Di Montelera’s Brabham BT42/44 crushing the opposition in Grand Prix Masters.

Sitting on the bank in the sunshine at Pouhon watching a grid of 1970s Grand Prix cars, it is impossible not to be moved. You’d feel that way too. If not, you’re reading the wrong magazine…