The Spa Six Hours 2017 was held 15-17 September at the 4.352-mile, 20-turn Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. Celebrating its 25th edition in 2017, a strong and competitive field of more than 650 historic racing cars enjoyed motorsports in its purest form at the legendary track in the Ardennes countryside.
The weekend of classic motorsport at the 2017 Spa Six Hours is named for the grueling endurance race which kicked off with a 90-minute qualifying session on Friday evening. Competed by a pre-1965 grid Porsches, TVRs, GT40s and Mustangs, Jaguars and more, it’s annually one of the most competitive races on the classic motorsport calendar. In the end, the Ford GT40 driven by Chris Ward and Andrew Smith beat the more than 110 classic racing cars to take overall victory.
Chris Ward took the wheel first, quickly setting a time good enough for pole position within the first two flying laps. With traffic making it hard to set a clean lap, Ward came into the pits on lap four to check the car over and hand the drive to Andrew Smith. Despite returning to the track in fifth position, Smith was able to set another flying lap to push the GT40 back to second place before a red-flag halted the session.
Ten minutes later, the cars were back on track, now with Chris Ward at the wheel of the GT40. Ward continued to chase pole but was hampered by traffic until the session was red-flagged again with 14 minutes remaining. The Ford finished the session in second, between the GT40s of pole-sitters George Nolte, Franck Stippler and Michael Funke, and third-placed Richard Meaden and Martin O’Connell.
Chris Ward took the first stint of the race and emerged from the chaos of Lap 1, having slipped to third at one point, to chase down the leading Ford GT40. By Lap 8 Ward had closed the gap to just 1.8 seconds and he continued to push until he was able to pass the leading car on Lap 12. The racing was still tight, though, with the gap over the next nine laps never more than five seconds, before any gap Ward had created was wiped out by the safety car on Lap 22. Following five laps under the safety car, Ward maintained the lead until the team’s first driver change on Lap 36, with Andrew Smith now stepping behind the wheel.
Smith rejoined the race in ninth place, and was able to slowly make his way up to second, but needed to make up more than a lap to the lead GT40, driven by Georg Nolte. On Lap 73, the lead GT40 came in for its final stop, allowing Smith to reclaim first place but with another stop to make. On the next lap the safety car came out once more, allowing the team the perfect opportunity to make their last stop and driver change, with Chris Ward rejoining the race still in the lead. Ward held on to take the JD Classics team’s first ever victory at the Spa Six Hours.
Similar to 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, Sports Car Digest also documented the 2017 Spa Six Hours, with photographer Matt White offering the following spectacular images from the Ardennes playground at Spa-Francorchamps. To see more from Matt, visit MattyWhiteMedia.com.
Spa Six Hours 2017 – Photo Gallery (photos: Matt White)
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[Source: JD Classics; photos: Matt White]