For the most recent round of the Classic Sports Car Club we headed to the Spa Summer Classic, held at the famous Spa Francorchamps circuit in Belgium in mid-June. We were hoping to have a better time than last year when we blew up the engine in testing and didn’t even make the race. This year we weren’t taking any chances and packed a spare engine and gearbox for the journey!
We had an hour test session on Thursday morning just to remind us where the 4-mile circuit went and to make sure the car was performing ok. We decided to do 15 min stints each so we could give feedback and make any changes that were needed. I jumped in for the first 15 mins with the track was dry and I put in a few flying laps. I then handed over to Toby for his 15 mins. We were both happy with the car, so Toby handed back to me for the next stint; it was starting to rain in a few areas of the circuit which was really useful as it meant that we would both have testing in dry and wet conditions on the circuit. We didn’t have any problems which was great news and the car felt brilliant.
Friday morning was extremely wet, so I started the qualifying session on wet tyres and was thankful of having already had a bit of time testing on the circuit in these conditions. We changed the tyres halfway through as the track started to dry out. Toby managed to get in 2 flying laps on a drying track which were good enough to put us 20th on the grid of 52 cars and well in front of our other class competitors who were 26th and 27th.
Our races are usually 40 mins with a driver change, but for the CSCC Interseries race (all CSCC series running in the same race) they had decided to run 2 separate 30 min races on 2 separate days to give people a chance to make the second race if they had problems in the first one. This meant that the finish position from your first race was the start position in the second, so it was important to get a good result. The finish position from race two would be the final result overall from both races.
Saturday – Race 1
I had decided to do the first race – it always rains for me at Spa, and this time was no different. The race was very wet and the track really slippy. It was a rolling start and the run to La Source was just like heading into the unknown due to the amount of spray. I lost a place or two into the first corner, but I managed to keep my competitor Andy Hancock in his Honda CRX behind, which was my main aim. I stayed in front for most of the race, and could just see him in my mirrors. I was having a tussle with a Lotus Elan which was holding me up a bit. Not wanting to take any chances and seeing I had a big enough gap I waited for a clean opportunity to overtake.
About 2-3 laps from the end a safety car was deployed and the gap behind was closed. I was quicker over the first half of the lap, but Andy was quicker around the second half. We got to Pouhon and Andy had much more grip and was on my rear quarter heading towards the next corner which he had the racing line for. He got past me and the Elan just seemed to move out of the way for him. That was it, I couldn’t let him get away, so I had to push harder to get past the Elan. Heading down to Eau Rouge we were side by side – this had happened a few laps before and each time I backed off not wanting to go two up through a wet Eau Rouge! This time I didn’t back off and got past before the bottom of the hill and was well in front by the time I was on the Kemel Straight. I could see Andy ahead and pushed the throttle almost through the floor to try and catch up, overtaking a Caterham on the way, I had caught him by Les Combes but he’d started to pull away a bit on the back half of the circuit; I tried to hang onto him, but it was too late, coming onto the start finish straight the chequered flag was out. I had finished 2nd in Class, 4th Tin Top, and 20th overall. This put Toby in a good position for Race 2.
Sunday – Race 2
Knowing that we were quicker around the first half of the circuit than the CRX, we had to get past early in the race to give us a chance of beating them before they pulled away. Gavin Spencer was driving the car for the second race and lined up on the grid just in front of Toby. With a dry circuit Toby had a good start and found himself looking at a Puma sized gap between Gavin and another car coming out of La Source. He went for it and got himself in front - we were now 1st in class and 3rd Tin Top. He just had to keep that position for another 30 mins!
He maintained the gap at about 3-4 secs all race with the gap closing when Toby approached some back markers. In the closing laps another Tin Top, from class B, started to come back at Toby, and was right behind on the last lap. Toby knew that if he messed up the last corner he would have the run on him up to the line, so he braked nice and early and got it turned in and back on the power. He came across the line at the chequered flag just 1.5 secs in front. He had finished 1st in Class, 3rd Tin Top and 20th Overall! His 3rd place meant he got to go up on the F1 podium to receive the trophy and also spray champagne!
We had a great result which made up for last year’s nightmare at the circuit. The car was faultless all weekend and to perform so well in such a mixed grid of cars was really amazing.
That’s the Frites and Mayo done for another year!
Thanks for reading,
* Next round – Anglesey