The Transit-and-trailer revival
2006 Spa Six Hours report
Author & photography
- Mattijs Diepraam
- October 3, 2006
- Spa - Inhaling enthusiasm, 2008 Spa Six Hours report, by Mattijs Diepraam
- Spa - A different world, 2009 Spa Six Hours report, by Mattijs Diepraam
- Spa - Rain, beer and champagne, 2010 Spa Six Hours report, by Mattijs Diepraam/Frank van de Velde
- Spa - Agreeable circumstances, 2011 Spa Six Hours report, by Mattijs Diepraam/Frank van de Velde
- Spa - Frantic action under the sun, 2012 Spa Classic report, by Mattijs Diepraam
- Spa - Taking on the GT40s, 2013 Spa Six Hours report, by Mattijs Diepraam
- Spa - An old-fashioned one, 2015 Spa Six Hours report, by Mattijs Diepraam
David Clark/Wolfgang Friedrichs/Simon Hadfield
Aston Martin Project 214
4th Spa 6 hours (September 30, 2006)
So you’ve been around Goodwood and have taken in the odd Revival Meeting or two? And you’ve grown a bit weary of its overorganized and overcrowded atmosphere but still want to take in as much historic motor racing as your weekend will allow you to? Then look no further than the early-Autumn Spa 6 hours. Hosted by the greatest circuit in the world, this carefree event will take you back in time just as much – helped to no end by the track’s outdated facilities – but in another way.
Goodwood’s Revival fixture has quickly grown into the highlight of the historic motor racing world, standing out among the wealth of events because of its unique experience and amazing attention to detail. It packs in over a dozen of races in one weekend, the participants being divided into carefully selected entry fields, lifting the period feel almost to perfection. But it’s that perfection that, to some, causes it to gradually shy away from the nitty-gritty of motor racing in the olden days. You wouldn’t want to soil your period costume by climbing out of your tent to stand knee-deep in the mud.
Still, that’s what a lot of motor racing used to be like in the fifties and sixties – drivers wandering across Europe, travelling from race to race in their Ford Transits, a trailer carrying the racing car they were running on prize money. If they were lucky, they were accompanied by a trusty mechanic and a girlfriend keeping them warm and doing their lapcharts, but more often than not the driver had to bring along his own engineering skills, and a warm coat.
The past three years saw the developing of the perfect antidote to Revival Meeting perfection. It’s called the Spa 6 hours. It also crams in a huge amount of racing into its programme, but instead of the Revival’s sprint formats most races are one-hour or even two-hour runs that allow a race to evolve. There are no period boundaries, as the event plays host to pre-war cars as much as seventies F1 machinery. It’s also held at a spectacular circuit that offers a real driver’s challenge and oozes atmosphere, unlike Silverstone or the Ersatz-‘Ring, the places of other large events on the historic calendar. And it has the magic of a very special main event, the invitational Spa 6 hours, a race that in some ways is actually better at creating the old-school Le Mans experience than the Le Mans Classic itself.
The headline race is truly a main event. As the track is well equipped for night racing because of its annual 24-hour GT race, the organizers have taken full advantage of the facilities to create a proper endurance event. Starting at 4 pm and finishing at 10 o’clock at night, the race starts in bright daylight before moving into dusk and ending with over two hours of racing in pitch-black darkness, which is only pushed back by the floodlights over the paddock and grandstand area.
This year’s race turned into a straight battle between two very different Fords: the low-slung GT40 of Shaun Lynn and Dean Lanzante, and the surprisingly fast Fairlane of Germans Feuerstein en Geröllheimer. As a side story, the battered Clark/Friedrichs/Hadfield Aston Martin Project 214 car valiantly fought its way up from 57th position to third after an early contretemps at the back of the circuit, their accident damage possibly contributing to some well-needed extra cooling…
The variation in the almost 100-car field was mind-boggling – rumbling Cobras fought bellowing DB4s, TVR Granturas raced against MG Bs and Healey 3000s, while the loudest cars on track were undoubtedly the shrieking Dutch 911s and the Minshaws’ E-type. Then there were Elans, Shelby Mustangs, GTAs, Corvettes, Falcons, a Mini, a Marcos, a Volvo, a BMW, a Sunbeam Tiger and even a pair of Datsun 240Z, competing in the separate Eau Rouge Trophy for seventies cars.
But most of all it was the longevity of the event that mattered, combined with the cosy Walloon ambiance. You could just walk out and enjoy a beer and the scenery while allowing yourself to be amused by the charming “English” announcements over the PA system – “For your safety and convenience we’re asking you no smoking in the terraces or balcony” – and then return to the free-for-all grandstands to enjoy some more racing, a relaxed attitude that elsewhere is only allowed to thrive at Le Mans. And the fact that said Aston Martin was capable of coming through the order to claim a much deserved step on the podium made it a real race of endurance.
Even though last year’s event was marred by poor driving standards, leading to people being seriously hurt, there wasn’t much to complain about this year – at least not in the visible part of the circuit from La Source up to the Raidillon. Yes, Paul Knapfield had a sizeable accident right in front of the main grandstand, shunting his Brabham to bits while fighting Peter Dunn’s ex-Merzario 761 for the lead in the second Grand Prix Masters race, after Dunn perhaps made his March a little too wide, but that was it in terms of costly consequences. Lots of other damage was self-inflicted, like Steve Allen crashing his Copersucar Fittipaldi out of the lead at Blanchimont, while the fender bending that was going on in the GT and touring car races was well within limits.
Saturday’s second HSCC race was among the most entertaining races. A Chevron B8 benefit, the race was fiercely fought over by Michael Schryver, Andy Newall and Luke Stevens, until the latter broke free after the others made mistakes. The RAC Woodcote Trophy was another cracker, which in the end saw the Von Schenk/Fisken Maserati being sandwiched by the Jaguars of Gary Pearson, racing both the winning and third-place D-types!
Sunday afternoon turned into a Bryant family party, as the father-and-son team claimed back-to-back victories, first dominantly heading Keith Ahlers’ similar Morgan Plus 8 in the British Sports & Saloon Car Challenge, then following on with a crushing win in the family Cobra, as the pair beat the Horsman/Pearson Lotus Eleven in the closing event, the two-hour GT & Sports Endurance Masters.
As the Union Jack was raised once more to the tune of God Save the Queen, a lot of the Transit-and-trailer racers were already loading up. No time for the chips and mayonnaise, got to go catch that ferry…