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2019 Spa Classic
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Blue ribband
Now in its ninth year, the annual Spa Classic is one of the biggest historic racing events in Europe, particularly in odd years when there is no Le Mans Classic or Monaco Historic Grand Prix. In the absence of the Le Mans Classic, the Spa Classic is definitely the blue ribband historic racing meeting on organiser Peter Auto's calendar. The event celebrates the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit's rich heritage as both a venue for sports cars (Spa 1000 km) and touring cars (Spa 24 Hours). This is represented in the eight grids and the around 340 cars entered that ranged from the early 1950s sports cars right through the present day. Unique to the Spa Classic is an additional race for the Heritage Touring Cup (HTC) that runs in complete darkness on Saturday evening as a nod to the period when the Spa 24 Hours was run for touring cars.
Needless to say, the Spa Francorchamps circuit offered changing conditions but we braved all to create this class-by-class, 210-shot gallery.

Sixties' Endurance
As always during Peter Auto events, the Saturday evening was reserved for the Sixties' Endurance grid. This two-hour, pit-stop race was open to GT cars of up to 1965 and prototypes of up to 1963. For this year's Spa Classic, the race had a capacity grid of 75 cars and even featured several reserve entries. Eventually no fewer than 77 cars started the race under particularly treacherous conditions. After a relatively dry day, the heavens opened just before the cars took to the track, which caught out several cars during the opening laps. There were no such issues for pole-sitter Christophe van Riet in the Shelby Cobra he shared with owner Thierry de Latre du Bosqueau. His closest challenger was Jon Minshaw in a Jaguar E-Type but he lost valuable time in a spin and then was penalised 45 seconds due to several track limit violations. Minshaw was eventually classified third behind the Cobra of Charles Firmenich and Henri Moser and the victorious local Cobra of Van Riet and De Latre du Bosqueau. Fifth was for Afschin Fatemi, in his Porsche 904 GTS. The German racer also used the same car the following day to win the second Greatest's Trophy race.

Touring car titans
Now a set fixture for all Peter Auto events, the Heritage Touring Cup (HTC) grid was created a few years ago specifically for the Spa Classic. Back in 2014, 27 cars lined up for the first HTC race and now just over 50 touring cars from the late 1960s through to the first of the 1980s were entered for a night race on Saturday and a day-time race on Sunday afternoon. As was the case for much of the period covered by the HTC grid, the sharp end of the field featured mainly BMWs and Fords. Among the more unusual cars in the field was a Chevrolet Camaro entered by Swedish enthusiasts Pekka Nystrom and Ulf von Hauswolff. Carefully prepared, the car featured headlights that were identical in configuration to the ones fitted to a similar Camaro that had competed in the Daytona 24 Hours in period. In qualifying, a pair of BMW 3.0 CSLs proved fastest of all, followed at respectable distance by a pair of Capris. The one-hour night race proved to be all-BMW affair with the first eight places filled by 3.0 CSLs, 635 CSis and a 2002 TI. The winner was Michael Erlich in his fire belching CSL. Having finished a delayed third the previous evening, the second race was won by pole-sitter Christian Traber in a similar CSL.

A new era
An interesting new addition to historic racing are the sports prototypes and GT cars that we have personally seen racing at Le Mans and Spa Francorchamps only a few years ago. Under the Endurance Racing Legends banner, they are now a set fixture on the Peter Auto calendar. At some events, the grid is still demo only but during the Spa Classic these relatively modern cars were racing in earnest. The 30-car strong grid featured a wide variety of machines ranging from the inevitable Porsche 911s to rarer machinery like a Prodrive Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello, a pair of Saleen S7-Rs and an ex-Chrysler works Dallara SP1. Qualifying was dominated by the gloriously howling Ferrari 333 SP of French driver pairing Michel Lecourt and Raymond Narac. Sadly, a spin on the warm-up lap of the first of the two 30-minute races sidelined the V12-engined machine for the rest of the weekend. This allowed James Cottingham to score back to back victories in the Dallara that has recently been restored to its Chrysler colours but still retains the superior Judd V10 engine used later in its career. Fastest of the GTs in both races was Niklaus Ditting in his Aston Martin DBR9.

Classic Endurance Racing
Bringing the event to a close was the one-hour Classic Endurance Racing 1 race. With close to 60 cars entered, this was among the strongest of all CER fields we had ever seen. In addition to the numerous Porsche 911s, Lolas and Chevrons, there were also rarer machinery on the grid like a Lotus 30 and a Cosworth DFV engined McLaren M8C. The absolute star was unquestionably Claudio Roddaro's Porsche 917K, which he drove with great verve to fourth overall in the race. Victory was for the Lola T70 Mk3b of Dutch racer David Hart, who had managed to snatch the lead early on the race after starting from seventh on the grid.
Earlier in the day, the CER2 race for slightly later sports prototypes and GT cars saw an entertaining fight for the lead during the opening few laps between Yves Scemama in a TOJ and young Maxime Guenat in a Lola T286. Sadly, both cars developed mechanical issues, promoting Yves' brother Philippe to the lead in the mighty Lola T600. He eventually won the race, which was a first for the car that had spent much of the last three decades on display in a museum.

Final thoughts
Despite the changeable conditions throughout the weekend and several other major motorsport events held at the nearby circuits of Zolder, Zandvoort and the Nürburgring, the ninth Spa Classic managed to attract a record crowd. The well over 20,000 visitors were treated to a virtually non-stop show with track action on Saturday running from 9:15 am right through to midnight. The highlights of all this racing activity have been compiled in our exclusive, 210-shot gallery.

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Report by Wouter Melissen and images by Wouter Melissen and Pieter Melissen for Ultimatecarpage.com