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That five-and-a-half hour sprint race on a Saturday night…
2018 Spa Six Hours report


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2018 Spa Six Hours (September 15, 2018)

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So you thought that the Spa Six Hours was a test of endurance for the 114 cars competing? It still is, of course, and many run into trouble before they see the chequered flag – if they ever do. But for those up front it’s become a six-hour sprint race, or effectively a five-and-a-half hour fuel-stop-punctuated dash to the flag, as the Spa curfew is strict (we stop at 10pm!) and the support programme running up to the big show invariably produces plenty of delays.

The weather was good for this edition of the Spa Six Hours, with no precipitation in sight for the entire weekend, and so from start to finish the mechanicals were put under full strain. Several of the front-running GT40s dropped out, including the pole-sitting Cottingham machine, but the car that started alongside it and made a flying start to immediately take a sizeable lead made it through to the end, despite making four stops along the way, one of the stops going awry due to the curious refuelling arrangement at this event. Apart from the safety cars, of which there were a record number, it had been a 100% charge to the flag, said the winning German count Markus von Oeynhausen who teamed up with Belgian pro Nico Verdonck to win by 2.5 seconds from the Craig Davies/John Young/Andy Newall GT40. At the end of the weekend, Von Oeynhausen beat Newall again, this time in the Jaguar Classic Challenge, to complete a memorable weekend for the German.

Nico Verdonck, Ford GT40, 2018 Spa Six Hours

Nico Verdonck leading the pack in the early stages. (photo 8W)

The small gap between Verdonck and Newall was caused by a lengthy safety-car period that left a 15-minute dash to the finish but Verdonck kept his cool and led Newall across the line. It was the first time since 1994 that a Belgian had won the Spa Six Hours and the 13th time (of 26 in total) it was won by a GT40. The race had been neutralised for one final time by a horrific accident by Charles Gillett in his E-type. Having most likely suffered a mechanical failure the Jaguar went off to full-on hit the barriers at Blanchimont at the car’s driver side, causing Gillett to suffer severe injuries that required him to be airlifted to Liège hospital. Fears for the worse were fortunately allayed when the MRI brain scans proved satisfactory, leaving the Briton to recover from multiple broken bones. A long recovery period it will be but we wish him him a full return to health and, hopefully, to motorsport as well, just as happened to Dutchman Michiel Smits who suffered similar injuries at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting two years ago but has come back in full force since.

In the support programme – which is the main programme at any other event – the hero of the weekend proved to be home boy Christophe d’Ansembourg, who took three wins and a second place out of his appearances in the Williams FW07C and Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2. The Belgian was victorious in both Masters Endurance Legends races, each time fending off Steve Tandy’s Lola-Mazda B12/60, and shared the FIA Masters Historic Formula One wins with team mate and similar Williams FW07C driver Mike Cantillon. D’Ansembourg’s Saturday win was fairly straightforward but he then blew his chances by spinning at Fagnes charging up from the top-eight reverse grid on Sunday. This handed a relatively easy win to Cantillon. In the pre-78 class, Henry Fletcher broke his duck in the March 761 to at once double up in the second race.

Jaguar E-type, 2018 Spa Six Hours

Backlight spectacle at Fagnes, midway into the race. (photo 8W)

There was no stopping the Banks brothers in the FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race on Sunday, their McLaren M6B striding away from a fleet of Lola T70 Mk3B led by Olly Bryant before a late safety-car period brought the field together again for one more flying lap. Max Banks underlined their supremacy by setting fastest lap of the race – including three purple sectors – on cold tyres straight from the restart. It was all very impressive.

Earlier, Andrew and Max ran into trouble with their Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA in the U2TC race, which meant they were unable to offer any more resistance to Olivier Hart taking a second win in eight days in his newly-acquired GTA. In fact, the youngster and his father repeated the trick by also consummately winning the 90-minute Masters Gentlemen Drivers race, one week after their triumph in the Revival’s RAC TT Celebration. Michael Gans had done the early running in the AC Cobra shared with Andy Wolfe but once David Hart had handed the wheel to his son the tables turned. When Wolfe spun in his efforts to catch the mercurial young Dutchman, the DHG Racing Cobra was free to win. Wolfe was subsequently caught and passed for second by Simon Hadfield in the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé started by Leo Voyazides. The Anglo-Greek pair would then take third in the Historic Sports Car race.

Max and Andrew Banks, McLaren M6B, 2018 Spa Six Hours

The Banks brothers and their mighty McLaren conquered all in FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars. (photo 8W)

Wolfe took main stage again in the Pre-66 Touring Car race, fighting the young man that previously occupied the ‘pro’ seat in Mike Gardiner’s Ford Falcon Sprint. Phil Keen, however, proved unstoppable in the Ford Mustang started by Sean McInerney. Mark Martin and Andrew Haddon, meanwhile, took a convincing Cortina class win while there was heartache for Nick Swift who was adamant that he saw the chequered flag being waved one lap from the end. When he got off the throttle past the line, Endaf Owens who was chasing him laughed all the way to the real finish of the race…

Despite JD Classics’ problems, Chris Ward still won as usual in the combined Stirling Moss & RAC Woodcote Trophies organised by Motor Racing Legends. In seventh overall, Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards were the best among the Woodcote runners. MRL’s Pre-War Sports Cars ran their race on Friday evening, and Rüdi Friedrichs was an expected winner in his Alvis Firefly, well ahead of the Halusa’s Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 Zagato Spider.

Charles Gillett, Jaguar E-type, 2018 Spa Six Hours

Charles Gillett on his way to the Six Hours grid, still oblivious of his horrific accident some five hours later. We wish him a full and speedy recovery. (photo 8W)

Friedrichs won again in the first of two Historic Grand Prix Car Association races, in his Cooper-Climax T53 heading Tom Dark’s T71 and Michael Gans debuting his new T79. Gans won the next day by beating Peter Horsman’s Lotus 18/21 to complete a very successful first HGPCA weekend for the American.

Chris Goodwin (Lotus 22) triumphed in both Formula Junior races hosted by the HRA, Stuart Roach (Alexis Mk4) finishing runner-up on both occasions. The HSCC, meanwhile, organised its combined closed-wheel races for sportscars and touring cars which attracted a whopping 62 cars. Bob & Vicky Brooks won the first race in their Lola T212 while the next day Leo Voyazides prevailed in his beautiful Gitanes-liveried Lola T282.

More pictures of the Spa Six Hours weekend