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Slippery when wet
2019 Spa Six Hours report


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Ford GT40




2019 Spa Six Hours (September 25, 2019)

Maxime Guenat/Dominique Guenat/Yvan Mahé, Ford GT40, 2019 Spa Six Hours

It never rained as hard as in some of the surrounding areas but a continuous drizzle and the occasional shower still made the 2019 Spa Six Hours into one of the wettest ever recorded. Only on Friday, the sun came out for a brief and joyful moment, but the rest of the weekend the drivers expressed their feelings about the very difficult slippery conditions that changed every corner and every lap. It was surprising how few crashes were counted – even though some of them were quite violent. In the Six Hours race itself, lasting the full six hours for once, it was a question of Agatha Christie’s 20 Big Ford GT40s all over again, as just one example made it across the line troublefree. That did mean that it won by three laps…

In hindsight, the Thursday test day in the run-up to the event was probably the wettest, many people not even bothering to go outside. Some of the qualifying was done in the sunshine, especially for Historic Formula One, but that was counterbalanced by the fact that the HF1 boys had the toughest weather on both following days. Steve Hartley (McLaren MP4/1) stole the win from Mike Cantillon (Williams FW07C) on the final lap of Saturday’s race but Kyle Tilley – third overall on Saturday in his pre-78-class-winning Ensign N177 – gave driving lessons on Sunday, following up his Zandvoort win with another wet-weather overall victory at Spa. He almost led home two more pre-78 cars but Joaquin Folch (Brabham BT49) joined Jason Wright (Shadow DN8) on the podium after passing James Hagan’s Hesketh 308 in the final corner.

Olivier Hart, Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA, 2019 Spa Six Hours

With the GTA, Olivier Hart took pole and third in Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars, but never got to race the team's Ford GT40. (photo 8W)

Evening qualifying for the main race was also done in the dry, and saw Christian Gläsel’s GT40 being put back to the invitation class before the German withdrew his entry. With the Kelleners GT40 also failing to make the start, ‘just’ 18 GT40s took off for the Six Hours on Saturday night. One by one they either dropped out or hit delays, and just one ran like clockwork throughout the entire six hours. Leading much of the race, and running away to an invincible lead at the end, the Philip Walker-owned GT40 co-driven by Miles Griffiths and Gordon Shedden, ran out to a win by three laps – not over the next GT40, as the Nikolaus Ditting/Sam Hancock example finish third, but over the valiant efforts of Michael Mallock, Wolfgang Friedrichs and Simon Hadfield in the Aston Martin Project 214 that in Hadfield’s hands in the final two hours steadily moved up the top-ten order, beating all their E-type class rivals and defeating 17 GT40s in the process. They were rightly well chuffed.

The entire Hancock family made it to the podium, as Joe Twyman joined brother Ollie and father Anthony in the Elan that finished fourth overall to take GTS10 honours. Two Dutch efforts brought home class wins as well, the Robert Hamilton/Donald Molenaar/Philippe Vermast Marcos 1800 GT dominating the under-2-litre prototype class with 13th overall while the puny Jasper Izaks/Sjoerd Peereboom/Tom Smith MGB beat all the 911s and TR4s to the GTS11 class win by finishing an exceptional 17th overall. Vermast was probably the happiest camper of all as he took the top step of the podium twice, having also done the opening stint of the winning touring car, the Ford Falcon shared with his fellow Luxemburgers Charles Kaufman and Patrick Wilwert.

Steve Tandy, Lola-Mazda B12/60, 2019 Spa Six Hours

Steve Tandy trounced the opposition in the Friday AMMEL night race. (photo 8W)

Despite occupying one of the GT40s that fell by the wayside – with a broken diff as opposed to the usual gearbox failure – Oliver Bryant took two strong wins away from the weekend, relishing the wet weather in both his Lotus 15 and Lola T70 Mk3B. In the combined RAC Woodcote & Stirling Moss Trophies, Bryant held off Roger Wills’ similar 15 for the win while in FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars he trumped the Jason Wright/Andy Wolfe T70 Mk3B and the pole-sitting Andrew & Max Banks McLaren M6B by a full minute.

A few hours later, Wolfe took his second runner-up spot in succession but he should have won the weekend-closing Masters Gentlemen Drivers race when he bravely cut Calum Lockie’s lead in a similar Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé – but instead of passing Lockie for the win Wolfe overstretched his abilities in just one split second to slide off at the back of the circuit, leaving him and James Hanson with second place behind stablemates Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie, who incredibly took their sixth Gent Drivers win of the weekend. It was a demon drive by Wolfe, though, defying the wet to lap two to three seconds faster than Lockie who is certainly no slouch either. As Lockie said afterwards, after stating that he simply refused to go any faster in these conditions – he had finally found someone even madder than him.

Richard Hope, Alfa Romeo 182, 2019 Spa Six Hours

Richard provided welcome Historic Formula One variety by bringing his Alfa 182 to Spa. (photo 8W)

In the morning, Craig Davies had shone on a damp circuit, his Mustang maintaining a narrow lead over the Thomas/Lockie Falcon and Olivier Hart’s Alfa GTA in the Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race – and that despite Thomas and Hart deciding to cooperate to catch Davies. It was a masterful display by the ultimate sporting gent of the Silverstone Classic meeting.

This was followed by the immense variety of the HSCC’s Closed Wheel Race for all-comers from the club’s championships (bar Historic F2 and Classic F3, of course). Georg Hallau triumphed in his thundering Can-Am Lola T310, in a field that saw Royale pitched against Tiga, and Shrike go up against a Jowett Jupiter. The one-make Jaguar Classic Challenge brought the exact opposite, with the odd D-type and XK providing to only variety to dozens of E-types going for the win taken by the Farrell/Coyne example, ahead of Markus von Oeynhausen and the Pearsons who would go on to also take third in the Gent Drivers race.

Didier & Julien Gruau, AC Cobra, 2019 Spa Six Hours

The Didier & Julien Gruau AC Cobra caught in one of the few moments the sun broke the cloud cover during Friday qualifying. (photo 8W)

On Friday, Motor Racing Legends had raised the curtain to the racing with their Pre-War Sports Cars, and Robin Tuluie’s Menasco Pirate special won from lights to flag, beating Gareth Burnett’s Alta Sports and the Susan Darbyshire/Ewan Cameron Morgan Super Aero.

Following Spa Six Hours qualifying on Friday, the Aston Martin Masters Endurance Legends were challenged with a proper night race that starred Steve Tandy’s Lola-Mazda B12/60, Tandy driving off to a fine win over Christophe d’Ansembourg’s Lola-Aston Martin DBR1/2 and Kriton Lendoudis in the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. Following a sudden downpour just moments before the start of the second race, a quick pitstop and some superb driving by Nicky Pastorelli ensured a shock overall win for David Hart’s debuting Maserati MC12 GT1. Another second place was enough for d’Ansembourg was enough to lift the title.

Philip Walker/Miles Griffiths/Gordon Shedden, Ford GT40, 2019 Spa Six Hours

And on Saturday night, two minutes of sunshine were all we were given at dusk. Here's the Philip Walker/Miles Griffiths/Gordon Shedden Ford GT40 on its way to victory. (photo 8W)

In the pair of Historic Grand Prix Car Association races for pre-66 Grand Prix cars, Peter Horsman (Lotus 18/21) won from Andy Middlehurst (Lotus 25) and Barry Cannell (Brabham BT11) on Saturday, but on Sunday Rod Jolley provided a surprise by taking his Lister-Jaguar ‘Monzanapolis’ to outright victory ahead of Middlehurst and Guillermo Fierro’s Maserati 250F.

More pictures of the Spa Six Hours weekend