Taking the Spa waters


Jon Hill

The Minshaw E-type shared with Martin Stretton survived a typical Belgian deluge for victory in this year’s Spa Six Hours

There isn’t anything very controversial to say about Belgium. Ask anyone what they think of it and the answer is usually “very nice”. But quiz any driver about their favourite circuit and chances are they’ll say Spa. And with good reason – it’s fast, twisty and extremely demanding, especially the infamous Eau Rouge. The challenge has always been to take that section flat out, so you’ve enough momentum to make it to the top of the following ultra-steep hill.

Consequently, Spa is superb both as a driver’s and spectator’s circuit. And for those in the know the annual Spa Six Hours is their Mecca. Everyone has heard of Le Mans and especially the fantastic Classic event, but the real favourite is Spa. It’s not packed out and remains a bit of a secret.

The Six Hours is scheduled to start at 4pm on a Saturday (though this one had a late kick-off), so the 10pm finish brings the extra challenge of fading light as day turns to night. It’s then that the battle becomes intense in what is usually a hard-charging race.

But this event is not just about the Six Hours – there are in fact 12 races through the weekend. It’s pretty diverse – the Top Hat series kicked off this year’s programme, followed by around 60 Formula Juniors, this particular race won by Roland Fischer’s 1970 Tecno in Group 2.

The Historic Motor Racing News U2TC race featured a huge battle between Alfas, BMWs and Lotus Cortinas. This was really close, especially as usual Spa weather conditions persisted – it was chucking it down.

A wet track promised a challenge, with the safety car making an appearance on lap two. But soon a fierce marquee rivalry ensued with the 1963 Lotus Cortina of Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield taking victory from Richard Postin’s 1965 BMW 1800 Ti.

Demonstrating the diversity of this event, a Grand Prix Masters race full of 1960s, ’70s and ’80s F1 machinery followed.

Then cars started to fill the original Spa grid as excitement built ahead of the Six Hours. The rain looked like it would hold off and we wondered if another GT40 would triumph following Sean Lloyd’s victory last year.

The field was headed by three GT40s along with a TVR Griffith 400, the Bryants’ Cobra, the Chiles and Ingram Cobra, a couple of Corvettes and several E-types – most importantly the number nine car of Jon and Jason Minshaw with Martin Stretton.

The first four and a half hours was nail-biting stuff, but the real drama began at around 8.30pm when heavy rain arrived to provide a true test for the drivers. In the end the Fords didn’t have it their own way, with the Minshaw E-type holding off the Hadfield/Voyazides GT40 to take victory.

But it wasn’t over, with more of the same on Sunday. That’s Spa – it’s simply brilliant!