Spa Six Hours Classic 2013 Is An All Out Sprint
Written by Mark Shears
After the predicted stormy weather invaded the recent Goodwood Revival, I made my way south through France to take part in a unique and memorable historical race weekend. I was headed to Spa, to roam the “Endurance Pits” (the original Spa pits) at the legendary Spa Six Hours Classic, witnessing a race that would sear itself into my memory.
Ironically, Spa is renowned for its ever changing and often inclement weather, but as I look back on on this particular weekend I enjoyed nearly perfect racing conditions throughout the feature race: the great Six Hours.
Rain from the previous night had left the track very wet; however, once the FIA Masters Historic Formula One cars came out to qualify, the track was soon blown dry. Qualifying started at 9:00 AM on Friday morning, with the British Sports, GT, and Saloon cars at the ready for what would later be defined as a grueling six-hour sprint.
There is something about Spa that is so totally right in my mind. The experience of seeing and hearing a Cosworth V8 screaming past the Endurance Pits and up Eau Rouge is a unique and unforgettable moment. Multiply this by 100 and you’ll begin to understand why Spa offers such a unique environment for historic race enthusiasts. Classic Formula One cars, former Le Mans champions, and rare race cars pack the field in a race to the finish for an exhilarating six hours.
The Goodwood Revival maintains a wonderful atmosphere as a great motor racing stage dressed in its many periods with theatrical attention to detail and still providing exciting historic racing at its core, and at the Spa Six Hours meeting, the historic racing is the very raison d’être. Like the hardcore, focused racing that happened the previous weekend at Goodwood, the Spa Six Hours is driven with the same passion, verve, and commitment but without all costumes.
Spa also offers a rare glimpse into historic night racing, as cars battling for position at night can only be viewed by the sight of their glowing brake discs and flaming exhausts.
By the time qualifying started on Friday evening, the track and the weather was set fair. A full 90-minute qualifying practice enabled all the drivers to get the feel of their cars and the circuit, re-acquainting themselves with all those minor, and sometimes major, track features that always seem to appear to even the best prepared cars and drivers under such conditions.
There were no such faults or problems with the Ford GT40 brigade. The Glasel/Brack/Ellerbrock GT40 was on pole, closely followed by five more GT40s, all less than three seconds behind. Indeed, the first non GT40 was the Scragg/Bussel/Bicol-Jones Jaguar E-Type with a fine 6th place. However, little more than a second behind was the mighty Chevrolet Corvette Stingray of Dutch super team, Campagne/Kalff and Jan Lammers. Which cars filled the next four places? Yes, more GT40s. Spa Classic is truly like nothing else on the planet!
And so the Spa 6 Hours Endurance race began with the most tremendous roar as the whole field (106 cars, to be exact) blasted past the old pits towards Raidillion and streamed, several abreast, up Eau Rouge.
While watching, I wonder if no one told the competitors that the race was going to last six hours, because the leaders set off at a pace that would have been more suited to a 30-minute sprint. This put the pressure on all the other competitors who were forced to maintain the pace set by the leaders.
Watching intently from the inside of La Source (the very tight right hander immediately after the new Formula One pit straight), I could see the preferred line the quick boys were taking. I was so close to the wall I could reach out and pat the roof of the car!
With only ten minutes remaining on the clock, the drivers were still giving it the beans. The same ferocity, if not more, was being applied by the drivers, just as it was when the green flag dropped six hours prior. When the checkered flag came out, the first five cars had remained on the lead lap for the entire race! This is an impressive feat even for modern cars, let alone classic ones.
First place was taken by the Voyazides/Hadfield GT40, second place by the rumbling and quick Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport of Campagne/Kalff and Lammers. The Lynn/Haddow/Clark GT40 completed the podium, finishing third.
The weather stayed rather warm and dry on Sunday, which was ideal for the remaining races to compete in pleasurable conditions. The Masters Gentlemen Drivers race rounded off proceedings with a resounding win taken by Ludovic Caron in his Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe.
It was a fitting end to a magnificent weekend, and if I can tempt you to Europe in mid-September, then a back-to-back Goodwood and Spa adventure is a trip not to be missed. Here’s to 2014.
Photography by Jonny Shears for Petrolicious