Organised for the first time by Patrick Peter back in 2011, the Spa Classic has quickly been established as one of the premier historic meetings on the European continent. All of Peter Auto's familiar grids were present for the fourth edition, complemented by the ever popular Group C Championship and the Historic Formula 2 Championship. As part of the off track entertainment, the weekend also featured a Bonhams auction, a 'village', where a wide range of automobilia was offered, and ample space for clubs to showcase their finest vehicles. There was also room in the schedule for members of the clubs to sample the legendary circuit in the Belgian Ardennes for themselves. Quite in contrast with the 2013 edition, which featured more than its fair share of the changeable weather the Spa track is (in)famous for, we were treated to three days of beautiful sunshine.
Focusing mainly on the on-track action, our photographers were at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit throughout the weekend, resulting in this class-by-class 290-shot gallery
Historic Touring Cars
In addition to Formula 1 and sports car racing, the Spa-Francorchamps also has a strong touring car history as for many years the Spa 24 Hours was run for these 'tin-top' racers. It is this rich heritage that was celebrated with two touring car grids, separated by age. The first focused on the classic Alfa GTA vs Lotus Cortina vs BMW 1800 TiSA rivalry, while the second was altogether more varied with CSLs, Capris and even a TWR Rover Vitesse present. Among the most notable entries were the 1972 and 1973 outright winners; a Capri and CSL respectively. Two one-hour races were held for each of the grids, with the second run after dawn for a true 24-hour feel. In the earliest of the two grids, both races were dominated by the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA shared by owner and marque-expert Alex Furiani and professional racer Frank Stippler. In the daylight race, Richard Shaw and Jackie Oliver were best of the rest in a BMW, while David Tomlin and Martin Stretton finished runner-up during the evening race. In the later Heritage Touring Cup, Dominik Roschmann crossed the line first in his striking BMW 3.0 CSL twice but in the first of the two races he was penalised one minute for making his mandatory stop outside the 'pit window'. This promoted Eric Mestdagh and Pierre-Alain Thibaut in a sister-BMW to winners in race one, while they finished runner-up later in the day.
Historic Formula 2
The only single seaters on track this weekend were the Historic Formula 2 cars. The cut-off year for this championship is 1978 and the field is split into two classes; the original 1.6-litre cars that starred in Formula 2's resurgence between 1967 and 1971, and the 2-litre cars that followed from 1972. While the field was relatively small, the quality was high throughout. This was best illustrated by the fact that ace historic racer Martin Stretton only managed to qualify third in his 1974 March. Fastest of all was Darwin Smith in his slightly earlier March 722. During both 25-minute races luck was certainly not on his side as his throttle cable snapped in race one and further mechanical issues thwarted his second attempt as well. Neither of Stretton's races were trouble free either as gear linkage issues slowed him significantly. There were no such issues for Frenchman Philippe Harper, who had qualified second and handsomely won both races ahead of Stretton and Swede Bo Warmenius. In the 1.6-litre class both races were won by 2013 champion Robert Simac in his March 712M.
Trofeo Nastro Rosso
Intended for Italian built and/or powered cars, the Trofeo Nastro Rosso is the most fluid of all of the Peter Auto fields with many machines making one-off appearances. Not present, for example, three weeks earlier at Mugello were the very last Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France brought by Marc Devis, a Ferrari 250 GT Boano, which actually has some period racing history or the mighty Bizzarrini 5300 GT Corsa, which was raced by the works team at Le Mans in 1966. At the sharp end of the grid little changed as it was Carlos Monteverde, who was quickest of all his 250 LM, fittingly liveried in the Belgian racing colours. Sadly a small coming together with Vincent Gaye in his 275 GTB/C on the second lap of the first of two 45-minute races ended the weekend early for the Brazilian. Visibly furious over what looked like no more than a racing incident, which he probably could have prevented, Gaye did manage to continue but at the back of the grid. Helped by the safety car called out to recover the damaged 250 LM, Gaye managed to fight his way back up the grid to take a victory at his home track. He repeated that result in the second race on Sunday morning.
With around 60 entries, the Sixties' Endurance race had the biggest field of the weekend. Run over two hours on Saturday evening under the setting sun, it turned out to be a truly great race. Amidst a fleet of Cobras and E-Types, this vast grid also included a few very rare machines like two of the three SLR Morgans built, a pair of Shapecraft 26R Lotus Elans and one of the three Porsche 904s originally fitted with an eight-cylinder engine. It currently boasts a more common flat-six but the owner has the flat-eight and intends to fit it for the Le Mans Classic in July. Clinching pole position was Mugello winner Yvan Mahe in his Cobra, just ahead of David Hart and Hans Hugenholtz in their Cobra. Hart had the best start and managed to open up a lead to Mahe, despite the unrelenting traffic on the very busy track. After taking over from Hart at the one-hour mark, Hugenholtz managed to defend the lead and eventually crossed the line first, fifteen seconds ahead of Mahe. The only other car on the lead lap was the Jaguar E-Type shared by Carlos Monteverde and Gary Pearson, who duly finished third.
Classic Endurance Racing 1
The two Classic Endurance Racing (CER) fields certainly remain the most evocative of the Peter Auto grids. Run for a slightly earlier generation sports cars and GTs, the CER 1 grid at Spa featured a wide variety of Lolas and Porsches but also three Ford GT40s. Among the Porsches entered were two variations of the three-litre engined 908s built and raced by the works team in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were no match however for the might of the V8-engined T70s, which featured strongly in the top ten during qualifying. Fastest of all was local man Eric de Doncker in his Mk3B T70, while the first non V8-engined machine was the diminutive by comparison T210 driven by Neil Primrose and Scott Fitzgerald, who qualified third. Sadly an engine failure during the final session meant they could not start the race. De Doncker made no mistakes in the one-hour race and clinched a comfortable victory ahead of Yvan Mahe and Richard Mille in a sister car. Several penalties were issued to the drivers who finished behind them, promoting Serge Kriknoff and Marc de Siebenthal to third in their T212 Lola. Hans Hugenholtz meanwhile scored a hard-fought victory with his GT40 in the GT class.
Classic Endurance Racing 2
Lolas also featured strongly in the second CER field with the late 1970s T297s and T298s powered by BMW engines proving very quick. Using the power available from their DFV V8s, Philippe Scemama (Lola T290) and Paul Knapfield sharing his March with Jamie Campbell-Walter were also found at the sharp end of the grid. Among the other cars entered were no fewer than three Cheetah sports racers, which, we understand, represent all of the sports cars built by the small Swiss outfit during this period. Another great sight was a pair of ex-Georg Loos Porsche 935s, one of which was driven to an outright victory at Daytona in 1978. Pole-sitter Patric Lafargue, in his Lola T298, made no mistake in the race and clinched a comfortable victory. Following a close encounter at the start Philippe Scemama and Knapfield/Campbell Walter eventually finished third and second respectively. The GT class was dominated by the ever striking red and yellow GELO Porsches with the #36 car beating the #37 by nearly two minutes.
A more than fitting finale to the weekend was the one-hour race for Group C cars. Compared to previous editions, this year's Spa Classic attracted a field that combined quantity with quality. Quickest of all were a pair of Sauber-Mercedes C11s, which thundered down the long straights with great effect. Shaun Lynn, racing his C11 for the very first time, explained he had 800 bhp readily available while a 'push-to-pass' button freed up a further 200 bhp. It was also impossible to miss the Mazda 767B brought by brothers Max and Moritz Werner as it boasted the loudest livery and engine note of the entire weekend. That looks can deceive was underlined by Peter Garrod's relatively straightforward looking Intrepid, which in fact produced more downforce than any other car in history (around 10,000 lbs at terminal velocity). Starting from pole Gareth Evans easily motored away with his C11 and handed it to the even quicker Bob Berridge with a comfortable lead. He finished over a minute and a half ahead of Katsu Kubota, who shared his Nissan with Joaquin Folch-Rossinol for the occasion. Third and first in the C2 class was for Mike Donovan in his Rexona-liveried Spice. Following a spin early on in the race, Lynn managed to climb back up the order to fourth in his first outing with the C11.
No doubt helped by the lovely weather, over 15,000 spectators flocked to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps track for the 2014 Spa Classic. It is hard to imagine that anyone of them left the track feeling unsatisfied. Their entry tickets also granted them access to the paddocks, so they could not only admire the cars on track but up close as well. For Bonhams, the weekend was also a success with their sale topped by a rare Group B specification Ferrari sold for just over EUR 600,000. All this and much, much more can be found in our action-packed 290-shot gallery