Now in its third year, the Spa Classic has quickly become one of the leading historic race meetings in Europe. Organised by Peter Auto and the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium (RACB), the event this year celebrated not only the Spa-Francorchamps rich sports car racing history but for the first time also marked the legendary 24-hour races held for touring cars between 1964 and 1985. This attracted a colourful grid of machines ranging from an Isuzu Bellett to BMW 3.0 CSLs and Ford Capris. In addition to the familiar Peter Auto grids, the event also saw racing for historic Group C and Formula 2 championships. Off the track there was also plenty of entertainment for the spectators with a very well appointed 'village' with vendors and a Bonhams auction. On Saturday evening there was also a soapbox race for the children down the famous 'Eau Rouge' corner.
The track also lived up to its reputation for changeable condition as after two relatively dry but cold days, the heavens opened on Sunday, when most of the races were scheduled. Braving the elements, we were trackside throughout the weekend, which has resulted in this action-packed 250-shot gallery
Historic Formula 2
Open to Formula 2 cars up to 1979, the Historic Formula 2 championship is run over eight rounds throughout Europe. The race at Spa was the third of the season and saw a varied entry with several Marches, Brabhams and Lotuses but also rarer machinery like a Lola T240 and a Lyncar. Track time for this grid was limited to just a single 25-minute qualifying session on Saturday and and two races on Sunday, both also 25 minutes in length. Under dry conditions, veteran historic racer Martin Stretton proved quickest of all in a two-litre engined March 742. Fastest of all in the under 1,600 cc class was Paul Bason in an earlier March 712. Scheduled for first thing Sunday morning, the F2s were the first to get a taste of the now soaked track. Understandably, the officials decided to start the race behind the safety car. Very much rising to the occasion was Andrew Smith, who immediately grabbed the lead in his March 742. By the end of the race he had built up a healthy 11-second leaf over Stretton. Held under similar conditions, race two was again won by Smith from Stretton. In the under 1,600 class Bason managed to convert his pole into a victory in race 1 but he retired in race 2, leaving Robert Simac to claim the class win, also behind the wheel of a March 712.
Spa Classic Jubilee
One of the main themes of this year's Spa Classic was the 50th anniversary of the venerable Porsche 911. This was celebrated with a two-heat race open to 911s built between 1963 and 1974. Among the 30-strong field were familiar machines that have been regular competitors in other Peter Auto grids and events but also 911 variants that are not as common. Among the more unusual examples on the grid was the #50 1970 911 ST 2.5L driven by Paul Stephens and Gerry Taylor and fitted with rather large rear wheels and tyres. Not surprisingly, the 1974-vintage 911 Carrera RSR 3.0s dominated qualifying with Michel Lecourt and Raymond Narac grabbing a comfortable pole position in the former's bright-yellow RSR. Narac won the opening race on Saturday afternoon ahead of Santiago Orjuela and Didier Denat, both also in Carrera RSR 3.0s. In much more challenging conditions at the very end of Sunday's action, Jim Pace came to the fore following an amazing rise through the field after starting from the pit lane in his 3-litre RSR. Lecourt had to settle for second, while third went to Pedro Sanchez in another RSR.
Spa Classic Touring
A new addition to the Peter Auto roster, the Touring race featured saloon cars from the mid-1960s all the way through to the early 1980s. Organiser Patrick Peter hopes this will be the first of many races for these machines that are only rarely raced today. In the spirit of Spa 24 Hours, the Touring was very much an endurance event with the results of two combined heats determining the final outcome. Roaring to pole position in qualifying was Paul Knapfield in his impressive Chevrolet Camaro but unfortunately he was not able to start the race on Saturday evening. In Knapfield's absence, the fight for the top positions during the two races was between a pair of BMW 3.0 CSLs, two Ford Capris and one remarkably quick Ford Escort. Eventually both heats were won by David Ferrer and Mr. John of B. in their blue and white Capri 2600 RS. Second was for Claude Boissy in the rapid Escort and having lost time during the first heat Dominik Roschmann was classified third in his striking Jagermeister liveried BMW 3.0 CSL. Michael Erlich grabbed the class win in Turismo 1 with his Alfa Romeo GTA in the first heat but following his retirement in heat 2, the overall winners in T1 were Clive Joy and Christian Traber in their GTA.
Trofeo Nastro Rosso
The earliest cars out on track this weekend were found in the Trofeo Nastro Rosso race for Italian sports and GT cars of the 1950s and early 1960s. In order to increase the grid numbers, subtle rule changes have been made before the season, which among other things have also enabled cars like the Porsche 356 GTL Abarth and a Maserati-engined Cooper to compete. This seemed to have some effect but of the 23 cars entered only 18 put in a lap during qualifying and just 16 started the first race. It proved to be a real event of attrition as by the end of race 2 only 9 cars were able to cross the finish line. Dominating in very convincing order was local racer Vincent Gaye in his potent Ferrari 275 GTB/C, who grabbed pole and won both 45-minute races. Under the wet conditions of race 2, he certainly entertained the crowd with beautifully controlled power-slides in his beautifully restored competition Ferrari. After the first race, Gaye was joined on the podium by compatriot Marc Devis with his Maserati 250S and Jean Brandenburg and Jean-Luc George sharing a Bizzarrini. The second time round they both failed to finish with Jan Gijzen in Ferrari 275 GTB/4 and Neil Tolich in a Porsche Abarth to fill their places on the podium.
Saturday's main event was the two-hour Sixties Endurance race. Following the first serious drops of rain a few minutes earlier, the race got under way under very threatening skies. This did not seem to have much of an effect on pole-sitter Ludovic Caron, who lead the way on the opening lap ahead of the five other AC Shelby Cobras that filled the top positions on the grid. The Frenchman built up a sizeable lead over his compatriots Jean-Marc Merlin and Dominique Guenat only to see his efforts come to naught when he was forced to retire his Cobra 45 minutes into the race. Also starting the race very strongly was Michel Wanty in his diminutive Lotus XI, which seemed perfectly suited to the slippery conditions. Sadly his race ended prematurely as well. After a more tentative start from second on the grid, the Dutch pairing of Karsten le Blanc and Joop Sinke made no mistakes and, setting the fastest lap in the process, grabbed a well deserved victory in their Cobra ahead of the sister cars of Merlin and Guenat.
Group C Racing
Among the most evocative and certainly the fastest cars out on track during the Spa Classic were once again the Group C and GTP machines from the 1980s and early 1990s. The initial entry list promised an eclectic and sizeable field but ultimately only 14 cars lined up for the start on Sunday afternoon. Not surprisingly, the field was headed by Gareth Evans and Bob Berridge in the former's formidable Sauber-Mercedes C11. The 'Silver Arrow' did not feel at home in Sunday's very wet conditions, and Andy Meyrick immediately grabbed the lead in the Spice SE90C he shared with his father Peter. Having only driven it once before during a dry test a week earlier, Meyrick wasted no time in the recently acquired Spice as he was a stunning ten seconds a lap faster in the opening stages. Sadly, it would not prove to be a dream debut for 'new' Spice as soon after Peter Meyrick grabbed the wheel, the car ground to a halt. For a change consistency rather than the raw pace of the menacing Sauber-Mercedes brought Evans and Berridge a hard-fought victory. Second was for Adrian Watt in a Spice and local racers Herve Regout and Stephane Verbeeck clinched the final podium position in their Porsche 962 CK6. Mike Donovan finished fourth and grabbed the C2 class win with his familiar Listerine-liveried Spice.
Classic Endurance Racing 1
This is the tenth season of Peter Auto's Classic Endurance Racing (CER1) and the series has come a long way since those formative years. We still remember one race at Donnington where barely a dozen cars lined up and now at Spa, over 70 were entered, split over two grids based on age. In CER1 for the earliest GT and prototype racers, the two qualifying sessions were dominated by Lola T70s with five examples in the top six. Fastest of all was Bernard Thuner in his ever well-prepared T70 Mk3 and the first non Lola was Stephane Gutzwiller qualifying his howling Mazda-engined Chevron B16 fifth. Powered by a big Chevrolet V8, the T70 is a hairy machine under the best of conditions and we can only imagine what it is like to drive in the wet. It did not seem to bother Thuner much as he carefully piloted the big Lola around the slippery track. Unfortunately the race was robbed of a real fight as the second placed T70 shared by Thierry de Latre du Bosqueau and Eric Jamar lost valuable time in the pit lane. In a desperate attempt to make up the ground lost, Jamar did clock the fastest lap of the race, by some four seconds, towards the very end but eventually had to settle for second. Third and first in the GT class was for the Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 3.0 shared by Lecourt and Narac.
Classic Endurance 2
Open to slightly newer prototype and GT racers, the CER2 grid at Spa featured many familiar cars but also some new additions. Among them were a rare GRD and Cheetah prototype as well a four-cylinder engined March 75S to complement the similar but DFV powered March 76S that came close to winning at Imola. Both Marches proved quick in qualifying with the 75S placing second and the 76S placing fourth. Heading the grid however was reigning champion Patrice Lafargue in his red Lola T298. In the form of a DFV engined T280, there was a Lola in third as well. Ran on Sunday morning under what were certainly the most difficult conditions of the weekend, the CER2 drivers were treated to rain and dense fog during their one-hour race. Rain is often called the great equaliser but in this case it highlighted the formidable car control of 1977 Le Mans winner Jurgen Barth, who skilfully worked his way up to the lead of the race in a Porsche 934/5 within in a few laps after starting in 18th position. Against the intrinsically faster prototypes he scored an impressive win, while Doug Hart finished second in the March 75S. The situation clearly suited the GT cars as two 935s also managed to set lap times faster than any of the prototypes.
At the start of the week, rain was predicted for all three days of the event but nevertheless around 13,000 spectators flocked to the undulating track. They were treated to high class racing throughout the weekend. Another great draw of the event is the open paddock, which allows the spectators to get a closer look at the classic racing cars and also the over 1,000 cars brought by the various clubs. The Touring classes were particular spectacular addition to the weekend and we look forward to seeing these 'tin-tops' out more often. To conclude, we would once again like to point to our class-by-class 250-shot gallery
, which includes all the action from the 2013 Spa Classic.