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2023 Spa Six Hours
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30th anniversary edition
In 2023, the annual Spa Six Hours celebrated its 30th anniversary. Where most major historic race events pay tribute to events of the past, the Spa Six Hours very much is an event that stands out on its own merit. The main attraction is the Six Hours Endurance race that runs into the night on Saturday evening, which traditionally attracts a bumper entry with a mix of gentleman drivers and (retired) professionals. This was more the case than ever before with one of the GT40s shared by brothers Dario and Marino Franchitti and NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson. For the first time, the Six Hours race was the finale of the meeting, which already started on Thursday with a great support program. This included pre-War sports cars, the HGPCA single seaters, local Belcar legends and the full Masters series.
Our photographers ventured to the Belgian Ardennes on the last weekend of September and surprisingly only got wet once. The result of their efforts can be found in this class-by-class 190-shot gallery.

Colourful support races
The action at the Spa Francorchamps circuit already got under way on Thursday with practice and qualifying for the support program. This included the Belcar Historic Cup, which is a celebration of the legendary Belgian GT series. This attracted a very colourful mix of cars that included anything from a C4 Corvette to a Citro├źn AX and a Morgan +8. The first of two races was affected by torrential rain and was quite surprisingly won by Ilaria Stalliviere in a front-wheel drive Renault Clio. Under dry conditions, on Saturday, the much more powerful Ford Capri 3100 RS of Wim Kuijl claimed the victory.
Another interesting field was for the Historic Grand Prix Association (HGPCA) pre-1966 Grand Prix cars. The 35-strong field ranged from an early 1930s Maserati 8C 3000 right through to the V8-engined BRM P261 of 1964. The first race was won by Tim Child in a mid-engined Brabham BT3/4, while the second race saw Michael Gans take victory in the ex-Bruce McLaren Cooper T79.
The earliest cars out on track were in the Pre-War Sports car race staged by Motor Racing Legends. It proved to be a 40-minute race of attrition, which saw Ross Keeling and Calum Lockie come out on top with their Delahaye 135.

Masters Historic Racing
A long standing partner of the Spa Six Hours is Masters Historic Racing with its diverse grids of Formula 1 cars, sports racers, GTs and touring cars.
A traditional highlight is the Masters Formula 1 field, which features naturally aspirated Grand Prix cars from 1966 through to 1985. A very messy qualifying with several red flag situations resulted in a grid that did not necessarily reflect the actual pace of the cars. One of the pre-race favourites, Mike Cantillon did manage to snatch pole position with his Williams FW07. Things did not get more straightforward for the first race, which saw the start postponed due to rain. Once the action did get under way, Cantillon made no mistake and claimed the victory. Nick Padmore was a surprise second in the earlier Lotus 77. Run under dry conditions, the second race was won by Werner d'Ansembourg in the family Brabham BT49.
Also highly anticipated was the Masters Endurance Legends race for recent sports prototypes and GT cars. The field was headed by a pair of V8-engined Peugeot 908s. Stuart Wiltshire used his to score victory in the first of two 40-minute races. He ran into trouble in the second, which allowed Antoine d'Ansembourg to score another win for Belgium with his Oreca SP1.
The 90-minute Masters Gentlemen Drivers race saw John Spiers and Nigel Greensall win in a TVR Griffith, while the touring car race was won by Sam Tordoff in his battered Ford Falcon. Diogo Ferrao and Martin Stretton claimed victory in the Sports Car Legends race in the Team BIP Lola T292.

Six Hours Endurance
It would take until Friday evening before the 95 cars entered for the Six Hours Endurance race finally took to the track for 90 minutes of qualifying. Not only was the session timed to coincide with sunset, the situation was made even more difficult by the rather wet weather conditions. This provided even the most experienced drivers with a daunting prospect. That was certainly the case for Indycar and NASCAR aces Dario Franchitti and Jimmie Johnson, who had never raced at Spa before. They shared a GT40 with Dario's younger brother, Marino, who did have plenty of experience at Spa and served as their guide. Seemingly unaffected by the conditions was local ace Nico Verdonck, who qualified the GT40 he shared with Graf von Oeyenhausen on pole position with a two-second margin ahead of the sister car shared by Oliver Bryant and James Cottingham. The only non GT40 in the top ten was the Jaguar E-Type driven by Jon Minshaw and the ever quick Phil Keen. With dry conditions expected for the race, there were quite a few drivers that erred on the side of caution to make sure they had a complete car on the starting gird on Saturday afternoon.
Immediately after the rolling start, Verdonck made his intentions clear and took a commanding lead over the rest of the GT40s. However, during the first stint, he was slowly but gradually reeled in by the Bryant and Cottingham GT40 and the example shared by Miles Griffiths, Gordon Shedden and Andy Priaulx. Before the first pit stops, Olly Bryant actually managed to get by the bright green GT40. Sadly his race came to an early end with carburettor issues. The pole-sitting GT40 also lost time, promoting the Griffiths, Shedden and Priaulx GT40 into the lead. They racked up lap after lap without issues and eventually scored a convincing victory with a one-lap margin over the second placed car. Quite surprisingly, this was the small Lotus Elan 26R shared by another stellar line-up of Andrew Jordan, Sam Tordoff and James Dorlin. Third was for the GT40 shared by Will Nuthall, Tony Wood and Michael Lyons with the pole-sitting GT40 having to settle for fourth overall. Johnson and the Franchittis were classified seventh overall, while the E-Type of Minshaw and Keen placed ninth and first in class.

Final thoughts
The 30th edition of the Spa Six Hours, organised by Roadbook Events, saw some stellar racing throughout. The Spa-Francorchamps circuit also lived up to its reputation by spicing things up a little further with torrential rain on Friday afternoon. The status and the allure of the event was underlined by the presence of the likes of Jimmie Johnson and Dario Franchitti. All this and much more can be found in our 190-shot gallery.

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