The 2017 Spa Classic Could Be The Pinnacle Of Vintage Motorsports
Photography by Jayson Fong
One of my initial thoughts as I began my drive to continental Europe for this year’s Spa Classic was that I’d never really been to the iconic circuit during the warmer months of the year, and I can’t recall the last time it wasn’t raining on me trackside. Hoping—and as you’ll soon see, naively expecting—a bright and sunny Belgian reception, I ended up arriving in the Ardennes forest during an absolute downpour. In all honesty, I should have known better than to expect anything else. Alas, Welcome to Spa.
While it would have been nice to have some extra dry clothes, it was still far from doom and gloom over the weekend, largely because there was an assembly of race cars that filled a paddock spread over two pit lanes (to say nothing of the parking area) to take my mind off of the indecisive and inclement weather.
Primarily made up of the beautiful endurance racers from the1960s through to the beasts of Group C and GT cars of more recent times, there were some welcome rarities on display that offered eye candy for visitors in almost all directions, and often in quiet garages hiding some pretty exceptional kit.
However, if missed in the garages, the next best place to catch them was in the assembly area, which was more like a busy section of interlinking roads that eventually lead you to the circuit entrance. Prior to each race, this area hosted some of the best looking traffic jams in the world, with spectators gathered around cars and the occasional glass of wine left on a bonnet as Creedance Clearwater Revival blasted from a nearby VW Kombi Van. Laid back in atmosphere for a few moments before the start, the mood flipped as soon as the whistle blew: helmets went on and engines fired up for the real thing.
On the circuit, a wet day of qualifying and practice made for some spectacular scenes as rooster tails followed closely behind their creators, and images of Mercedes C11s and Porsche 962s hitting boost as they wove through puddles, battling for grip with their rears kicking sideways became firmly imprinted in my memory. Even when the rain eased off for the racing occasionally, the surprises and entertainment didn’t stop coming and spectators were treated to a string of special sights as large grids of racing legends (for instance, a collection BMW 3.0CSLs and flame-spitting Porsche 935s) filled the valley with a mechanical symphony that lasted throughout the day and well into darkness.
Despite all these breathtaking sights and sounds, my weekend highlight had to be when I encountered two of the most valuable cars at the meeting filled with them: a Ferrari 275 GTB and 250LM locked in a game of V12 cat and mouse. Powersliding sideways and engine literally smoking hot and on the heels of the 275GTB, I watched with both anxiety and excitement as £10million of 250LM was thrown through the corners.
And it’s this type of tableau that sums up the Spa Classic for me. With vintage cars worth millions battling it out in head to head racing against a backdrop that constantly reminds you that you are at one of motorsport’s best circuits of all time, the Spa Classic is definitely an event I’d recommend you leave a space for in your travel diary. But remember to bring your walking shoes, you’ll be needing them. It might be a good idea to have an umbrella too, just in case.