Report and photos by Marcel Hundscheid
During the weekend of May 27-29 Spa-Francorchamps hosted for the first time the Spa Classic 2011, a historic meeting organised by the well-known French Peter Auto organisation. As expected the event was much appreciated by both its performers as well as 10.000 enthusiastic spectators.
Spa Classic 2011 hosted no less than seven different races at the 4.352 mile, 21-turn Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, featuring historic GT’s (Sixties Endurance) historic touring cars and GT’s (Asave and Group 1), pre-66 Italian Sports & GTs (Trofeo Nastro Rosso), Prototypes from 1966-1972 and GT’s from 1966-1974 (Classic Endurance Racing 1), Prototypes from 1973-1979 and GT’s from 1973-1975 (Classic Endurance Racing), Sports Cars from the eighties (Group C Racing) and Historic F1, Indy Cars, F3000’s and single seaters from the World Series by Nissan and Renault (BOSS GP). The weather conditions at Spa were varying from rain on Friday and quite low temperatures during the morning to brilliant sunshine on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons including spring-like temperatures.
Spa Classic 2011 – Sixties Endurance
Sixties Endurance was a two hour endurance race for Pre-63 Sports Cars and Pre-66 GT’s held on Saturday afternoon, including icons from the World Championship of their time such as AC Cobras, different classic Porsches and Jaguars. Former F1 driver Philippe Alliot and his team mate Francois Kicq were the early leaders in this race but had to retire after just 13 laps due to technical problems. Although AC Cobras dominated the race it was the TVR Griffith of Michael and Sean McInerney that claimed a second place in front of the AC Cobra of Ludovic Caron. After 40 laps victory was claimed by the Dutch combination of Hans Hugenholtz and David Hart in their AC Cobra, creating a gap of no less than 1 minute. Thirty cars finished the race, out of 37 competitors.
Spa Classic 2011 – Trofeo Nastro Rosso
This grid was an unique opportunity to see pre-66 all Italian Sports and GT’s battle it out, such as the Ferrari 250, Alfa Romeo TZ and Bizzarrini 5300. Twenty Italian beauties filled the grid during the first race on Saturday. After forty-five minutes and fifteen laps Belgian driver Vincent Gaye crossed the finish line first in his splendid looking grey Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta. Behind him the Iso A3C of Alberto Francioni and the Bizzarrini 5300 GT of Michael Ehrlich fought an entertaining battle, resulting in a second place for Francioni and a third place for Ehrlich. Just fifteen of the Italian icons survived the first race and filled the grid for the second race on Sunday. Once again Vincent Gaye was a class of his own crossing the finish line no less than fourteen seconds in front of the Bizzarrini of Michael Ehrlich and the Ferrari 275 GTB4 of Jan Gijzen.
Spa Classic 2011 – Challenge Asave
The historic GT and Touring car challenge, also known as Challenge ASAVE is reserved for Touring and GT cars having raced and been homologated between 1947 and 1976. An eighty minute race started off the final race day on Sunday morning. Forty-nine cars began the race what was dominated by the Porsches of Pierre-Alain Thibaut, general manager of the Spa-Francorchamps track and Christian Lange, and Christophe Terriou and Pierre Gary. Twenty seven laps later both Terriou and Gary claimed victory in their Porsche 911 3.0 RSR with a stunning gap of no less than two minutes in front of the Porsche 911 2.7 RS of Thibault and Lange. Jean-Claude and Denis Allemang crossed the finish line in third position in their Ford Mustang.
Spa Classic 2011 – Classic Endurance Racing
Peter Auto founded Classic Endurance Racing in 2004, abbreviated as CER. Without any doubt there is no substitute to see the great European sports cars and GT’s from the mid-sixties and end seventies era in action. Packed grids starring true icons such as BMW, Chevron, Ferrari, Ford, Lola, Osella and Porsche relive the golden days of both sports car and GT racing. Thirty-four cars started their race in CER1 on Saturday dominated by the unmistakable shape and sound of the Lola T70. Dutchmen David Hart, a well-known sports car racer and Le Mans 24 Hours participant is also a regular participant in historic events, overtook long time leader Pierre Alain France during the very final stages of the race. Swiss driver Bernard Thuner finished third making it a complete Lola T70 podium. In GT the heat was on between a pair of Ford GT40’s and a Ferrari Daytona Gr.4. But it was Claude Nahum in his Ford GT40 who settled the score with a big lead in front of the Ferrari of John Bosch. British Ford GT40 driver Christopher Bell claimed third place on the podium.
The final race of the weekend and one of the highlights of this weekend was CER2. Thirty-nine iconic cars relived the glorious days of the Le Mans 24 Hours spirit featuring the legendary Porsche 935/78 Moby Dick, BMW M1, Ferrari 512 BBLM, different Lola’s, Osella’s and some stunning looking Porsche 935’s, just to name a few. During the first part of the race not a single driver had an answer on the performance of Loic Deman in his Osella PA4. His dominance only lasted for 12 laps, suffering from engine problems. Le Mans Series driver Jacques Nicolet claimed the lead in his Gulf Mirage M3 but just two laps before the flag dropped he also retired with problems giving the victory to Paul Knapfield in his immaculate looking Ferrari 712. Paul started his race from the fifteenth row on the grid and managed to claim victory in a race that saw a lot of retirements. In the end fourteen cars didn’t make it to the finish line. Patrice Lafargue claimed a second place in his Lola T298-BMW, Frédéric da Rocha finished third, also in a Lola T298-BMW. The GT division saw a classic Porsche-Ferrari battle giving victory to the Porsche 935 of Jean-Michel Martin and Marc de Siebenthal. Mr. John of B. claimed the second spot on the podium in his Ferrari 512 BBLM in front of the Porsche 935 of Michael Föveny and Stefan Roitmayer.
Spa Classic 2011 – Group C Racing
Nineteen legendary sports cars relived the golden Group C era, such as two Sauber-Mercedes C11’s, different Porsche 962’s as well a Porsche 956, some Spice’s and a Lancia LC2. Bob Berridge drove his C11 to the pole position with a lap time of 2.05.295. Some weeks ago Spa hosted the 2nd round of the Le Mans Series and his lap would have given him the fourth time on the grid! Christian Gläsel drove his C11 to victory in front of the Nissan RC90 of Katsu Kubota and the Spice SE90C of Ferdinand de Lesseps. Sadly enough Bob Berridge had to retire due to a failing ECU. Peter and Andy Meyrick were unable to race after engine troubles. Chris Roche and Martin O’Connell, David Hart, Tommy Dreelan and Aaron Scott, Eric Rickenbacher all suffered from accidents or technical problems and didn’t even start the race.
Spa Classic 2011 – BOSS GP
An impressive field of former F1 cars, IndyCars, Champcars, CART, GP2 and cars from the World Series by Nissan and Renault gathered for their races at Spa. During the first race it was the Benetton B197 of Dutchman Klaas Zwart who claimed a impressive victory creating a gap of no less than 33 seconds with the Austrian driver Ingo Gerstl in his Dallara GP2. Henk de Boer completed the Dutch success with a third place in his Panoz DP01 Champcar. The second race would be a real thriller until the very last lap. In this race the heat was really on between both Klaas Zwart and his fellow country man Marijn van Kalmthout. Despite a spin in the La Source hairpin during the early stages, van Kalmthout managed to close the gap and fought an impressive battle with Zwart. During the very last few hundred meters of the race, at the point were both drivers came out of the former Bus Stop chicane van Kalmthout had just a little more momentum and overtook Zwart with a fraction of just 0.00171 second before the finish line.
Peter Auto and the Royal Motor Union proved that the Spa Classic 2011, a brand new event, had a lot of potential for the nearby future. Without doubt this was one of the better classic events on the international historic motorsports calendar. In a statement Peter Auto claimed that the Spa Classic will be back in 2012 for a greater and even better event.
Spa Classic 2011 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
[Source: Marcel Hundscheid]