Following A Pair Of Classic 911 Racers Is The Perfect Excuse For A Spa Getaway
Photography by Jayson Fong
Nobody should need an excuse to go to Circuit Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, but when you can say that it’s to follow a pair of beautifully prepared SWB Porsche 911s, the journey immediately gets more interesting. For the second year running, I was invited to join the team from JAZ Porsche on its way to Spa to watch it push its 911s for six hours, against more than 100 other classic cars in one of the world’s best historic endurance races.
After an 8 hour journey across the channel from St. Albans in northwest London to the Ardennes Forest in Belgium, we arrive on old circuit roads surrounding the modern track. Passing by the iconic Masta Kink, we pull in to top up the 911s, where an appropriate sign above reads ‘Bonjour’. Trailers open, the pair are revealed to the rare sunshine of the area, and they show their functionality even in transit. Packed to the brim with spare parts and tools, I can’t help but smile at the thought of these classic race cars about to tackle a race weekend.
They are a gorgeous pair of early examples from 1965, too. Together with matching ‘SWB911’ plates and an almost identical setup from the engineers at JAZ Porsche, the white car owned by Simon Bowrey and red car owned by JAZ’s Steve Winter are no strangers to the circuit with race histories at Goodwood, Silverstone and Spa. Over this weekend’s six hours, each car is to be shared between three drivers, two hour stints a piece.
Prior to Saturday’s race start, we are treated to two full days of unusual sunshine and dry circuit conditions—not the most helpful, considering that we are scheduled for a predominantly drenched six hours. Nonetheless, after a busy open test day getting re-acquainted with the 911s and the circuit, the team manages to qualify both cars within 0.1 seconds of one another.
Before we know it, a dry start to the Six Hours of Spa is upon us, and the cars prepared as best they can slowly edge their way out of garage #43 to join the endurance circus building in the pitlane. I head for the summit at Raidillon—one of the best viewing points at Spa to watch the opening minutes of any race. As the leading GT40s push past, I keep my eyes open for the 911s, who quickly appear amongst a busy stream of cars heading down to Eau Rouge.
Although not the fastest in a straight line, the 911s are certainly entertaining. Carrying speed into Les Combes, their weighted rears swing from side to side next to the opposition as they exit towards Malmedy. Later, I’m impressed to find the red JAZ car trailing closely behind the same GT40 for 3 laps in a row, while the white car dices with an E-type.
As night begins to creep over the Ardennes, the 911s continue to push through the grid, the red car only hampered in its progress by a couple of time-consuming fuel stops. Brake discs glowing and their bright LED identification lights flash by approximately every 3 minutes, it’s a relentless but careful sprint to get the cars home in the dark.
Just like that, it’s 10PM, the chequered flag flies, and as if on cue, the expected rain finally begins to descend upon Spa-Francorchamps. Consistency and teamwork is key with any endurance race, and the final result for the JAZ team is a pair of well-placed finishes, including being the first Porsche over the line, narrowly missing out on a class podium as the white 911 finished 29th after climbing 44 places, and the red in 47th of 105 starters.
They say time flies when you’re having fun, and on this occasion, there couldn’t be a better way to describe the week. A road trip with friends and fellow racing enthusiasts, together with two lovely 911s and an iconic motorsport circuit—it was my ideal Spa holiday.