Friday 18 May 2018

Spa Classic: An exciting weekend of classic car racing in the Ardennes

It's been tradition now for a few years that in the middle of May, Peter Auto strikes down at Spa-Francorchamps for the annual Spa-Classic weekend. An event reviving the glorious legacy of racing at the Belgian track with a stunning amount of legendary racing cars returning to the iconic circuit. 

Spa-Francorchamps is one the last remaining real driver-tracks, shaped by its environment and surrounded by the stunning scenery of the Belgian Ardennes.  A track with a rich history; back in the old days with the mythical Masta kink, outrageous speeds on public roads, the banking on the way to Stavelot (it's still there, waiting for you to drive over it) to the most known and feared corners in the world: Eau Rouge & Raidillon and the tantalizing high speed section of Blanchimont. 

The Spa-Classic, created in 2011, has now grown to one of the major European events for historic cars, attracting some very impressive starting grids in 8 different classes over the weekend.  It brings back some of the most legendary endurance GT cars and Prototypes that have raced over the track in its most glorious era's. 

With open paddocks all weekend, free grandstand acces, an exhibitor's village and several attractions, the Spa Classic is just  another event not to miss for the real petrolhead.  The weather forecast seems rather nice too, so no excuse not to drop by for a day or the weekend if you're near the Ardennes. 

In this preview we'll give you a rundown of all 8 grids who will race at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend; from the 2.0L Porsches over Classic Endurance Racing and the mighty Group C monsters.

Classic Endurance Racing

The biggest grid over the weekend will be the Classic Endurance Racing which is celebrates its 15th season.  Since 2004 Classic Endurance Racing has been the retrospective of endurance races held between 1966 and 1981, an epoch when this branch of the sport topped the bill in world motor racing. It was the glorious era of the Ford GT40s, Porsche 910s and 917s, Ferraris 512Ss and Ms, BMW M1s, etc. driven by Jacky Ickx, Henri Pescarolo Gérard Larrousse and Derek Bell among others, whose playing fields were not limited to the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours. 

They also raced on the most famous European circuits in the context of the Sports Car World Championship. Classic Endurance Racing is much more than a simple historic commemoration. With grids of 50 cars and drivers determined to pay homage to the glorious past of their vehicles, the on-track spectacle is quite simply awesome!  The field will be split into two: CER 1 for GT cars from 1966 to 1974 & prototypes from 1966/1971 and CER2 for GT cars from 1975 to 1981 and prototypes from 1972 ot 1981. 

Watch out for these cars in their night qualifying (Friday) and night races on Saturday. 

Group C Racing

Group C Racing is probably the grid where most endurance fans are looking forward to again this year.  With a mouthwathering grid of 33 cars, this will be one of the highlights of this year's Spa-Classic. The Group C regulations in force between 1982 and 1993 led to the production of legendary cars that wrote some of the most glorious pages in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Sports Car World Endurance Championship.

The Group Cs are still quite modern looking with their fighter pilot-like cockpits, doors in elytron and their huge rear wings, and they still exert an incredible fascination on all generations of fans with performances that still would be very competitive and top speeds way north of 300 km/h! 2 Peugeot 905, 5 Jaguars from the XJR 8 to the XJR14, Porsche's 956 and 962, they will all be thundering through the Ardennes again.  Add a mix of Nissan, Spice, Tiga, March and other Group C machinery and we're sure this will be three great 45 minute sessions over the weekend. 

Heritage Touring Cup 

The Heritage Touring Cup has formed the backbone of the Spa-Classic endurance event since 2013. Since then the Heritage Touring Cup has gone from strength to strength among the owners and drivers of these saloons, which provided excitement in the one of the biggest era's of the European Touring Car Championship (ETCC) between 1966 and 1984. The pinnacle of the season was the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours that became the favourite playing field of the majority of the best-known manufacturers and drivers. 

During this long era of touring car racing, a number of manufacturers won the event with their flagship makes. BMW was one of the most loyal participants as over three decades the Bavarian manufacturer entered a whole string of models ranging from the T1800 Ti in the 60s to the famous M3 in the 90s. It holds the record for the number of victories (21) in the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours. The cars from Munich had several rivals over their long reign with Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz, Ford Mustangs and Capri RSs, Porsche 911s, Jaguar XJSs ... 

The Heritage Touring Cup will be out 5 times on track this weekend, including a night practice and night race of 1 hour. 

Sixties Endurance Racing

Sixties' Endurance racing is in it's ninth season in 2018 and has attracted a large following among spectators over the years thanks to its allencompassing quality field. Top pre-63 sports cars are joined with pre-66 GTs that used to race in the world endurance championship of the era. On track will be cars like the AC Cobra, Ferrari 250 GT, Lotus 15, Jaguar E-Type, etc. 

A very diversified grid gives will be out for a 2 1 hour races on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.   During these hour long races the pre-66 sports and GT cars revive the battles of that bygone era. A classification based on an Index of Performance which, in addition to the scratch classification, gives an advantage to the small capacity cars and the oldest warriors faced with their more powerful and more modern rivals like the very quick AC Cobras that have racked up victories on many circuits. 

Formula 2 challenge

The Formula 2 Challenge has been created by Peter Auto for the 2017 season and is open to Formula 2 cars that forged the reputation of the European Championship between 1967 and 1978. At the time F2 was considered as the key to the door of Formula 1, and over a decade it trained drivers who left their mark on the history of motor racing. Between 1967 and 1978 the champions were: Jacky Ickx, Jean-Pierre Beltoise, Johnny Servoz-Gavin, Clay Regazzoni, Ronnie Peterson, Mike Hailwood, Jean-Pierre Jarier, Patrick Depailler, Jacques Laffite, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, René Arnoux and Bruno Giacomelli. The grid at Spa will see several March chassis, Lotus, Chevron and Ralt. 

The Greatest Trophy

The Greatest Trophy, formerly known as the Trofeo Nastro Rosso is now open to more than just Italian built cars. By accepting beautiful models built by other famous makes  like the Aston Martin DB4 GT, Mercedes-Benz 300 S and Porsche 550, the trophy is even more attractive. In 2018 it will be open to the exceptional cars that marked the major endurance events of the 50s and 60s. 

A grid full of some extremely rare and valuable cars applies rules based on sporting ethics and strict respect of the cars taking part in this championship to guarantee that risks are reduced to the absolute minimum. Respect and fair-play are now the key words for these gentlemen racers who are taking part in the new Greatest’s Trophy.  

2.0L Cup

After the creation of Euro F2 Classic in 2017 and the takeover of Group C Racing in 2016, Peter Auto is continuing to enlarge and develop its grid offer in historic racing by introducing The 2.0L Cup in 2018. This single-make grid will be reserved for 2-litre short chassis early Porsche 911s prepared in accordance with FIA pre-66 regulations. 

The 2.0L Cup has been created in association with Britons Lee Maxted-Page (Porsche Classic & Racing specialist) and James Turner (Director of the 2L Racing Group). It is expected to attract around 40 cars and the aim is to see the make’s former drivers at the wheel of some of these.

Global Endurance Legends

There's one guest grid this year at Spa-Francorchamps: the Global Endurance Legends.  Global Endurance Legends is a club for owners of GT and sports prototype racing cars of a type that raced during the 1990s and 2000s and organises events at leading historic meetings and iconic circuits.  Expect some very exciting cars on track with a selection of the best and fastest GT's and Prototypes from the era. You can expect everything from and Aston Martin DBR 9, Mercedes CLK GTR, Porsche GT1, Lister Storm, Audi R8, Dallara SP1 to a Ferrari 333SP and a Pescarolo P60.  Rumours are going round that a Bentley Speed 8 might be in Francorchamps this weekend ... that car alone is worth the trip ! 

Clubs and open paddocks

Meeting up at Spa-Classic has become a habit for the clubs that are joined by owners of individual cars. This is an honour for the organisers among whose objectives is to bring together at one of the world’s iconic circuits all sports car lovers.  After around 1200 cars at the previous event, this year’s aim is to attract even more collector cars. They will have seven 25-minute runs during the weekend to enable them to enjoy and take full advantage of the famous track. 

Kristof Vermeulen.