WEC: Spa 6 Hours
Eau Rouge is easier now than it used to be thanks to Tarmac run-offs replacing gravel, and flat kerbs giving drivers a wider exit strategy as they pop over the top of Raidillon. But the sanitisation of motor racing’s favourite bit of track hasn’t made it any less spectacular as the prime place to witness aces on the limit. And when it comes to the World Endurance Championship, there’s no shortage of opportunities to watch top drivers on the ragged edge — unlike a certain other premier FIA series we could mention.
Whether standing at the top or bottom, you’re left questioning what your eyes are reporting to your brain. The rapid change in direction is one thing, but it’s the gravity-defying velocity up the hill that really leaves you gasping — especially when there’s traffic to negotiate. Lifting off ahead of the long drag down the Kemmel Straight just isn’t an option — especially with those run-off comfort zones. By a whisker, in the blink of an eye… such judgement calls are why we consider these racers a different species. Awe is not just reserved for the top prototypes, either: knife-edge Ferrari 458 GTs are almost equally spectacular.
The intensity of competition in the WEC is palpable, from every perspective. Audi might have claimed the world titles in 2012, but everyone knows it was embarrassed by Toyota in the second half of the year. No surprise, then, that the German giant has found another gear for its title defence.
An emphatic 1-2-3 at Spa emphasised what we’d learnt about Audi at the Silverstone opener: the R18 e-tron quattros are back on top, reigning world champions Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler recovering from a puncture to beat Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval by more than a minute. The best of the Toyotas? A distant fourth.
On their debuts, the 2013 Le Mans-spec T5030 was comprehensively outpaced in qualifying by the new Audi, but did run ahead of the R18 in the race until its retirement, instigated by a failure of its hybrid system. The Toyotas also ran two laps longer during stints, which should equate to an extra lap of economy at Le Mans. Straight after the race, the Audi crews made it clear that they won’t be feeling complacent on the basis of this performance, despite the podium lock-out.
Oliver Jarvis, who shared the single low-downforce Audi with Marc Gene and Lucas di Grassi, said: “We were very good on oneand two-lap performance in qualifying, but they were stronger on race pace and could go longer. We can’t underestimate them. They would have been in the fight to win had they lasted.”
But as Gary Watkins explains in our Le Mans preview on page 120, Toyota believes its race performance offers false promise for the 24 Hours. Technical director Pascal Vasselon has since claimed Audi was hiding its true pace at Spa, in an attempt to discourage the FIA and the ACO from tweaking the ‘Balance of Performance’ formula between the diesel and petrol cars ahead of the 24 Hours.
With so much at stake between two ruthlessly competitive rivals, the political machinations are as intense as the cut-and-thrust duels on track. Will Audi find itself pegged back ahead of the big one? Does Toyota really need a rules break? We’ll be offered some indication at the Le Mans test day on June 9, but two weeks ahead of the 24 Hours will either party show its full hand? The truth might remain uncertain until well into the evening of June 22. Damien Smith
Donington Historic Festival: Donington Park
After three days of fine racing, the 2013 Donington Historic Festival concluded on a sombre note on May 3-5.
Towards the end of Sunday afternoon’s Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race, Mini Cooper driver Christian Devereux was involved in a collision with Ben Beighton’s spinning Ford Mustang at Coppice Corner. The race was red-flagged and medical crews were swiftly on the scene, but sadly 51-year-old Devereux a popular and experienced member of the historic racing fraternity succumbed to his injuries. The remainder of the meeting was subsequently abandoned.
Leo Voyazides (Ford Falcon Sprint) won the ill-fated event, the Greek’s third success of the weekend. He also triumphed in the Pre-72 Sports Car and Under 2.0 Touring Car races in Lola T70 Mk3B and Lotus Cortina, partnered each time by local ace Simon Hadfield.
The Historic F2 Championship provided the best racing at the HSCC-run event. The top six qualified within 0.74sec and the races were thrillers. Martin Stretton and Andy Smith won one apiece in March 742-BDGs, but Martin O’Connell (Chevron B40), Nick Fleming (Ralt RT1) and Philip Gladman (Chevron B34D) all led the baying pack.
The HGPCA attracted a very fine field of 28 Pre-1940 Grand Prix cars and voiturettes for the twin Nuvolari Trophy events. Stars of the show were a pair of VittorioJano’s Alfa Romeo Tipo B (P3) masterpieces — Stephan Rettenmaier’s ex-Nuvolari/Richard Seaman car and the “Mad Jack” Shuttleworth 1935 Donington GP winner, handled by Tony Smith.
Paddins Dowling and David Morris worked the former’s 1.5-litre ERA R1OB hard in the double-header, but neither could catch Mark Gillies in Mary Smith’s ex-works 2-litre R3A. Maserati apprentice Calum Lockie took two third places in Sean Danaher’s 6CM.
Gary Pearson piloted Jaguar D-types to an RAC Woodcote Trophy Pre-56 sports car one-two, converting Carlos Monteverde’s start in the ex-Jim Clark car to victory. Chris Ward/ Alex Buncombe (Lister-Jaguar) won the Stirling Moss Trophy Pre-61 race, despite the latter being stuck in top gear.
Two excellent Formula Junior races produced a new winner in Pete Morton, driving the unique Lightning Envoyette. Fellow first-time aspirant Jack Woodhouse (Lotus 20/22) slid off avoiding a lapped car on Saturday and spun under pressure on Sunday. Gareth Evans (Sauber-Mercedes C11) trounced a slim Group C field, while John Pearson and Martin O’Connell topped the Jaguar E-type Challenges and Andrew Haddon/Shaun Lynn claimed MRL 1969-1985 Touring Car honours in a ferocious Ford Capri Perana V8. Marcus Pye
DTM: Brands Hatch
Audi’s Mike Rockenfeller made sure he didn’t waste an inherited pole position by leading the DTM round at Brands Hatch more or less from start to finish. Past Le Mans 24 Hours winner Rockenfeller (below) had moved up to pole after Martin Tomczyk’s BMW was found to be underweight. He swiftly opened a lead over first-round winner Augusto Farfus — and gained a bigger advantage when the Brazilian’s BMW ground to a halt.
Bruno Spengler moved up to second in his BMW after fending off a strong challenge from fellow former champion Gary Paffett. Sadly for the home crowd, Paffett was given a five-second penalty for failing to slow sufficiently under yellow flags, but it wasn’t all gloom for Mercedes as Canadian youngster Robert Wickens inherited his maiden DTM podium ahead of Audi’s tin-top rookie Marco Wittmann. Tomczyk’s recovery, meanwhile, was ruined when he was hit by the Mercedes of Roberto Merhi.
Scrutineering also played its part in the outcome of the FIA F3 European Championship support races.
On track, the weekend was all about points-leading Ferrari junior driver Raffaele Marciello and local boy Alex Lynn. Essex driver Lynn took all three pole positions, and staved off tremendous pressure from Marciello in race one, as Lucas Auer completed a Prema 1-2-3.
Marciello got the better start in race two, and this time was able to beat Lynn and Auer comfortably, despite inattentive backmarkers.
It was a closer start in race three, with Marciello sweeping around the outside of Lynn at Paddock Hill Bend to lead. Lynn then spun out, promoting Auer to second and Carlin-run Briton Harry Tincknell to third.
After the race, Marciello was excluded because the width of his first-gear ratio was found to be below the permitted minimum, a decision Prema did not contest. Julian Carax
Tour Britannia: Great Britain
For the sixth time in a row, a Porsche 911 took overall victory on Tour Britannia as Phil Hindley and Andy Bull became the first crew to take back-to-back wins on the UK’s only classic race/rally tour. With races at Mallory Park and Silverstone and 18 asphalt special stages, the two-day event kept crews on the go and Hindley hammered home his advantage in the two races.
The Tech 9 boss dominated both and won by half a minute at Mallory Park and a minute at Silverstone. “It’s a fantastic event,” said Hindley. “It’s a lot of things rolled into one and it’s a real test to build a winning car.”
Hindley was in control from early in the event, but it could have been closer had the Jaguar E-type of Philip Walker/MikeJordan not retired at Mallory with fuel pick-up problems. “I was looking forward to racing against Mike,” said Hindley of his TVR Tuscan rival from 15 years ago.
The event was dominated by Porsches, with the 911 of Duncan and Cate Buck winning the Targa section for post ’81 cars and the 356 of Melissa Raven and Jeremy Haylock taking the concurrent Regularity event. Former off-road bike competitor Buck took victory in the Targa section on his first competitive four-wheeled event, but it was the later 911 of Stephen Radcliffe/Peter Gunson that set the pace until clutch problems intervened.
Porsche 911s completed a clean sweep of the overall podium as Adrian Kermode and Sarah Bennett-Baggs took second from John Spiers and Susanne Niedrum. Paul Lawrence