Damon Cogman's highlight of 2013


While the other members of the Motor Sport team (Easy)jet to the far-flung corners of the globe, basking in the glamour of Formula 1 at close quarters, there are a few of us hardy souls back at HQ that get our racing kicks slightly closer to home.

My own personal highlight of the year is, as usual, the Spa Six Hours for historic racing cars on the equally historic, hallowed tarmac in the Ardennes region of Belgium. Although the racers of today no longer have to hold their breath to negotiate the wickedly fast Masta Kink, any visitor can trundle round the old circuit, like I did in my 45-year old VW, imagining they are Jacky Ickx or any other hero of the day drifting a 917 through the fearsome bends with narrowed eyes.

The reason for me cajoling a couple of mates to join me in the cramped cabin of a ‘60s VW, piled high with tents, sleeping bags, storm kettles and all you need for a boys’ camping adventure, is the simple fact that watching old racing cars at Spa in the dark, should be on everybody’s ‘to do’ list.

The wonderful machinery we all love to watch at the Silverstone Classic, Goodwood and all the other British events becomes a caravan of historic racing and pitches up in the calf-strainingly steep concrete jungle of the paddock and pits complex of the new-ish Spa.

The weekend is obviously geared towards the main event of the six hour race, but there is a full support programme over the entire three day weekend with packed grids of pretty much every historic category enjoying the famous circuit.

There is no better way to clear a Belgian beer induced hangover (Chimay Rouge is usually the main villain here) than to order another cone of frites with obligatory mayonnaise, choose one of the many free grandstands, and marvel at the fact that there are GT40s, Cobras, Mustangs, Corvettes, 911s, E-types and assorted ‘60s machinery driving absolutely flat out for lap after lap, hour after hour through the forests, making the best noise you can possibly imagine.

The race starts late in the afternoon, and as dusk falls and day turns into night, the racing doesn’t miss a beat. The enthusiastic amateur drivers blend with the seriously fast hired guns, so a few little scuffs and bruises usually occur, but rarely amount to much more than a dented panel or two.

A particular anomaly, and a hugely entertaining element of the six hour race, is that every car needs to refuel. Nothing odd there you say? Well, you’ve seen nothing until you’ve witnessed a queue of GT40s at the circuit paddock filling station – while the race is going on, you understand – shuffling forward to allow each driver to personally refuel his overheating racing car as you and I would at the local BP station! All this is watched with open-mouthed incredulity by first time visitors.

I’ve been going to this event for a few years now, and every year it gets better and better. This year I even walked round the entire 4.3-mile circuit. It’s easily done as the crowds are virtually non-existent and a wide concrete pathway circles the full circuit allowing access to every part of the track.

So, for the same price as a weekend ticket for the Goodwood Revival, you could jump on a ferry, pitch your tent within a few metres of the track, pay your €25 entry fee and still have change for a few Chimay Rouges. Just don’t blame me for the hangover…

More highlights of the year
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Gordon Kirby
Andrew Frankel
Mat Oxley
Paul Fearnley
Rob Widdows
Damien Smith
Gordon Cruickshank
Simon Arron

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