Now in its sixth year, the annual Spa Classic is a set fixture on the historic motor racing calendar. This was underlined in 2016 when the date conflicted with the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, yet the event attracted respectably sized grids. These were all the familiar Peter Auto grids like the Sixties' Endurance, Classic Endurance Racing and Group C. Inspired by the great Spa 24 Hours races ran for Touring Cars during the 1970s and 1980s, the Heritage Touring Cup featured an additional race into the darkness on Saturday evening. As a result that day's running stretched from 9 am though to 9:45 pm. The Spa-Francorchamps circuit is as well known for its much loved undulating layout as it is for changeable weather conditions. At the 2016 Spa Classic, the track certainly lived up to its reputation with lovely spring conditions on Friday, followed by the odd hail shower on Saturday and Sunday.
Our photographers ventured to the Belgian Ardennes to capture the sixth Spa Classic in its entirety with this 250-shot gallery
as the spectacular result.
Among the weekend's most highly anticipated were the two one-hour Heritage Touring Cup races for 1970s and 1980s production-based touring cars. So much so that two Australian enthusiasts brought over their cars to compete at Spa. The capacity grid featured a colourful mix of machinery, which included the familiar BMWs, Capris and Escorts but also more unusual cars like a pair of Pinepac Mustangs and even a Volkswagen Scirocco. The latter, unfortunately, only lasted a few laps in practice. One of the Pinepac Mustangs faired much better as Nigel Greensall placed the example he shared with David Huxley on pole ahead of a pair of quad-cam Capris. In the Saturday afternoon race, Richard Meaden grabbed an early lead with Grant Tromans' Capri RS 3100 but he had to retire early with brake issues. Stars of the race were local heroes Eric Mestdagh and Pierre-Alain Thibault, who snatched the victory in the closing stages after starting from the back of the grid. As a result they lined up with their BMW 3.0 CSL at the head of the field for the night race but missed out on the victory due to a problem late in the race. This handed the win to Yves Scemama in his single-cam 2600 RS Ford Capri.
Trofeo Nastro Rosso
The aptly named Trofeo Nastro Rosso or Red Ribband Trophy is open to Italian built, bodied or engined cars. Becoming ever more valuable, these machines are only rare seen on track these days. This explains the relatively small number of 15 cars that were entered for the 2016 Spa Classic. What the Trofeo Nastro Rosso lacked in quantity, it certainly made up in quality with cars like a Ferrari 250 LM, Ferrari 275 GTB/C, Maserati 300S and Alfa Romeo TZ going head-to-head. Fastest in qualifying was Belgian Vincent Gaye in his very quick Ferrari 275 GTB/C, handsomely beating both Lukas Halusa in the unique Ferrari Breadvan and Carlos Monteverde in his 250 LM. In the first of two 35-minute races, Gaye took an early lead but Monteverde was the man on the move. With an inspired move going into what was once the 'Bus-Stop' chicane, he took over from Gaye after a few laps. Unfortunately, his Ferrari proved as fragile as it was fast and he was forced to retire the ex-Ecurie Francorchamps machine only a few laps later. This cleared the way for an easy victory for Gaye at his home track. Only ten cars lined up for the second race, which saw a brief shower after a few minutes into the race. The result was much the same with Gaye beating Halusa and Georg Nolte, who drove a Bizzarrini 5300 GT to third in both races.
With 68 cars entered and running in qualifying, the two-hour Sixties' Endurance race had a capacity grid. While Cobras and E-Types were commonplace, the field also featured a rare ex-works Le Mans Cobra and one of just twelve Lighweight E-Types. Other rarities included one of just three SLR Morgans and a Shapecraft Lotus Elan 26R, which was beautifully repaired after incurring considerable damage at Jarama a month earlier. In the 40-minute qualifying the fastest time was set by Christophe van Riet in Christian Dumolin's AC Shelby Cobra, which for the occasion was adorned with Belgian yellow racing stripes. With the owner not quite fighting fit, it was down to Van Riet himself to defend Belgium's honour in the race. He did so with great verve, beating Ludovic Caron and Andrew Beverley with similar Cobras. Due to a one-minute penalty due to passing under the safety car, the final margin was 1:42 minutes in favour of Van Riet. The first non-Cobra in the classifications was the sixth-placed Jaguar E-Type shared by Alexis de Beaumont and John Bussell.
Classic Endurance Racing 1
Arguably the best grid in terms of size and quality during the 2016 Spa Classic was that for the Classic Endurance Racing (CER1) race for late 1960s and early 1970s sports cars and GT racers. In addition to the numerous Lolas, Porsche 911s and Chevrons, gems like the striking Ford F3L, a pair of Porsche 908s and glorious Alfa Romeo 33/3 Spider lined up for this one-hour race. The Spa weather was also on its best/worst for this race, which started with a shower and ended an hour later under sunny conditions. The 45-minute qualifying session also featured a drying track, which required perfect timing to clinch the pole position. Last to cross the line was Martin O'Connell in Sandy Watson's Chevron B19, who ultimately beat Gary Pearson and Dickie Meaden in Lola T70s. In the race, Meaden used the grunt of his five-litre V8 to grab an early lead over O'Connell. After the pit-stops, O'Connell grabbed the lead and he would go on to win the race from Philipp Bruehwiler in a similar B19 and Grant Tromans who had taken over the T70 from Meaden. The GT class was won by great Porsche enthusiast Claudio Roddaro in an ex-works 911 Carrera RSR 3.0.
Classic Endurance Racing 2
Open to slightly more modern sports prototypes and grand tourers, the CER2 race also featured a strong grid. Crowd favourites were undoubtedly the flame spitting Porsche 934s and 935s, and the similar spectacular BMW 320 Group 5 and M1 Procars. As he would later do in the CER1 qualifying, Martin O'Connell set the fastest time in the unique Cosworth DFV powered Chevron B23. Equipped with similar engines, Yves Scemama's TOJ was second and Dominique Guenat's Lola were second and third. Fastest of the two-litre cars was Richard Piper in his March 75S. O'Connell charged into the lead until to suffer a puncture after just a few laps. He did make it back to the pits but ultimately had to retire. This promoted Scemama to the lead but he ground to a halt only a few laps later. He admitted after the race that he had forgotten to activate a pump, which caused the engine to run out of fuel. Their loss was Guenat's gain as he cruised to victory in his Lola T286. Second was for Tony Sinclair in his 1973 European Championship winning Lola T292 and the March 75S shared by Richard Piper and Greg Caton. Following Nicolas d'Ieteren's retirement with his fast Porsche 935 K3, the GT2 class victory was for the Porsche 934/5 piloted by Hans Huebner and Porsche icon Jurgen Barth.
Headlining the Spa Classic were the pair of Group C races run on Sunday. The star cars in the 16-car strong field were the Jaguar XJR-14 of Christophe d'Ansembourg and the Peugeot 905 of Dominique Guenat. It was most likely the first time these were pitched against each other since the 1991 World Championship and it was certainly the first time a Peugeot 905 was ever run at Spa. Unfortunately an incident in the second qualifying prevent the Peugeot from starting in the races. The XJR-14 did survive qualifying with d'Ansembourg setting the fastest time ahead of Mark Sumpter in the ultimate development of the works Porsche 962Cs. Christophe d'Ansembourg had a great start but then made a mistake coming onto the straight and brushed the wall. The damage was sufficient to prompt a retirement. The lead was taken over by Sumpter, who was in a close fight with Erwin France in a slightly earlier 962C. After the pit-stops, Pierre-Alain France had taken over from his son and could not keep up with Sumpter. Ultimately he was also passed by Robin Ward in his Spice SE90C. The XJR-14 could not be repaired, so the results of the second race were virtually identical with Sumpter again winning from Ward and the Frances.
Despite the brisk conditions, around 17,000 spectators flocked to the Spa-Francorchamps track. In addition to the track action, they were also treated to displays from many clubs with hundreds of collector cars and numerous booths from vendors. Next up for the entrants is the Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or at Dijon in less than three weeks and the Le Mans Classic in early July. In the meantime, you can enjoy our action-packed 250-shot gallery
of the sixth Spa Classic.