Every year the weekend after the Goodwood Revival the historic autosport calendar invites us to another very special event, the Spa Six Hours. The English Master series make the bulk of this weekend full of racing, the name giving six hour race on saturday being the highlight of the weekend. Matijs Jutte reports.
This six hour race is truly unique for these kind of cars and the number of cars competing. And what a starting grid it is: Ford GT40’s, Cobra’s, Jaguar E-Types and of course Porsche 911s. And loads of MG and Austin Healey. A veritable Ferrari 250 GT SWB (knowing the value of these cars one could expect it to be able to race for six hours, couldn’t we?), several Aston Martins, even a Project 214. And some TVR’s, Mustangs, Lotuses and a few Alfa GTA’s… Something for everyone really, with over a hundred competitors on the line. Most of them being amateurs, collectors and car-enthousiasts, completed with a few historic specialists like Martin Stretton, Sam Hancock or Hans Hugenholtz.
This year a very special duo was advertised: former Formula One Champion for Ferrari and McLaren, Gerhard Berger, shared a Ford GT40 with Le Mans winner and pasta-emporium heir Paolo Barilla. Gerhard hasn’t lost his skills, which he proved by driving the care to pole position in the qualifications on Friday. On Saturday he managed to keep up with the experienced GT40 drivers in the top three, being a little more careful in lapping the slower vehicles perhaps, until it sadly ended in a nasty crash. In the pits he apologised to Barilla and an attempt to mend the car was made. In the end the brakes seemed to have caused the accident and the story ended there.
Never before, not even at the Spa Classic, I was able to get this close to the track, even into the pit lane. The beauty of an enthousiasts event like this is that it doesn’t really matter who drives in the lead, competing seems more important than winning. The length of this particular race makes pit- and fuel stops inevitable, but to keep costs down and rules simple, filling up takes place at the central Total gas station on the circuit. Drivers simply have to wait in line like you would have to on a busy motorway. It all contributes to the relaxed and very open atmosphere of the event. That doesn’t stand in the way of some serious racing though, the speed differences between experienced and less gifted drivers are a guarantee for spectacular racing into the darkness of the autumn night. In the end one of the GT40’s won, the Ferrari and the Aston DP214 didn’t make it to the finish, the fastest Alfa GTA overtook some of the larger and faster cars without hesitation and everyone enjoyed a truly wonderful night of racing and even more beautiful cars.
The rest of the programme shows us next to the FIA Historic F1 (seventies and non-turbo eighties) and the FIA Historic Sportscars (protoypes and GT’s up to the mid seventies with lots of Lola T70, Porsches and a fast Abarth Oselia) a multitude of touring car races. Different combinations based on year (pre-1966, seventies) or engine capacity (U2TC) raced several interesting competitions on Saturday and Sunday. And we enjoyed the Woodcote Trophy, a nice series for fifties and early sixties sportscars, bringing Lister Jaguars, Ferrari 246 Dino, Jaguar D-type, Lotus 11 and 15 and several Coopers. Last but not least the programme brings us two heats of the Historic Grand Prix Car Organisation for Grand Prix cars from the twenties up to the early sixties. We see beautiful Maserati 250F’s, a Ferrari 246 Dino driven by beardy veteran Tony Smith (former Genesis manager), Brabhams, Cooper Bristols, several Lotuses, but also the very special Talbot Lago of Luc Brandts and an exquisite 1934 ERA R9B.
Spa is and will always be a very beautiful track. The facilities have been updated in the last few years, without losing to much of its original charm and tradition. Enthousiasts in classic cars can park for free at the brim of the circuit, making a trip around the parking area an event at itself. Everything is right in this event, not elitist at all, but very open, with nice grids and full of enthousiasm. That is truly all we need!
Text and pictures: Matijs Jutte