Spa Non Championship Race 1 - Saturday 3 July 2010
There's only one Spa, as one of the Mono drivers said. Whilst the GP drivers find it less of a challenge these days, with Eau Rouge/Radillon easy flat, those of us in the real world think differently, and as addicts we're drawn back year after year despite - or because of - those challenges, be they on the track, with the officials, or (in at least one case) just getting there. More of that later, and more of qualifying later, as this is a report just on Race 1.
In a re-run of 2008 when we last raced at Spa, Nigel Reuben took the lead in his Jedi and built the lead gradually until he was 20 seconds ahead at the finish. Nigel certainly drives every inch of the track and it was a well deserved victory. Perhaps he would have been challenged had Jeremy Timms, who was in second at the end of the first lap, not gone to grab 4th and found 3rd gear. He changed down from 4th to 2nd and found - 3rd. The selector needed changing, and he was out. Peter Venn in the familiar ex-David Dudley Anson SA4 (and still prepared by DD) took up the challenge. It says a lot for Peter, David's preparation and the soundness of the Gary Anderson design that the leading 2 litre car (Mono Classic) will be in its 30th year next year. For just one lap, Malcolm Scott ran a close third, a spaceframe car leading the pack of Dallarae. Sadly for Malcolm, an oil hose burst and he too was out, so Neil Harrison moved to third and stayed there to the flag.
Geoff Fern stayed a fairly consistent distance behind Neil. to bring the TFR10 in 4th. Meanwhile, Jim Blockley (RT3) worked himself up from 9th at the end of lap 1 to 5th by lap 3, but was pressed all the way by Graham Reed (Dallara F300), who in turn was pushed by Graham Dyson in a Jedi. Graham Dyson ultimately sucked himself ahead of the two to finish fifth. Also involved in this battle was Robbie Watts in his F4 spec VanDiemen RF97.
A few seconds further back, Terry Clark was quickest Formula Vauxhall, running for some time with a highly contrasting car, the dramatic orange OMS Hayabusa of Gary Hill. This looked to be a potentially close finish but the ever alert Gary (remember Brands?) spotted a temperature problem, possibly concerned with the heat of the day, and pulled into the pits.and retirement. Completing the top 10, Kevin Mason had a trouble free run in his DallaraF300, followed by Andy Woolley in the European Aviation Reynard, looking if anything even better than before its Snetterton 2008 shunt. Andy was overtaken on track by Tony Cotton in his now not quite so new Dallara but due to the red flag it didn't count.. Tony had an interesting/fun run from the back of the grid, spending much of the race passing French FF Zetecs into Les Combes and Pouhon under braking with a big grin on his face whilst shouting into his helmet about the officials.
First 1800 was Oliver Sirrell, followed by Matt Hayes, John Whitbourn and Jim Timms. A little lower down (23rd) came Phil Moore (Dallara F304), the former (and technically, as they've changed the track, a continuing) Mono Spa record holder. The reason for this unfathomably low position was an errant neck restraint pushing his head forward. This required a trip to the pits. He was just ahead of Jennifer Scott (RF99), who had had a troubled practice and started lower down the grid than expected.
Back to14th, where Peter Whitmore sat. The once errant Van Diemen now appears (to an outsider) to be the essence of reliability and the extra power of the Hayabusa has transformed it - Peter's looking pretty happy these days! As indeed he should, rising from 20th on lap 1, steadily to 14th which he just slipped from the grasp of Lou Watts (FVL - what else?) and John Whitbourn (Ray) on the final lap 6. As John was asking for a picture on the forum we've put him in on the right.
Darren Freeman was 18th in his Jedi Mk6. I can't say for certain that the red flag was put out for him, but there seemed to be more activity around him than anywhere else. The sequence of events was that a clip holding the radiator came loose, which allowed the radiator to move, which dislodged the bodywork, which acted as a flap/air brake, which pulled out the radiator into the back wheel, bending the suspension and spinning the car into the wall at Pouhon Out / Fagnes In.
Leading 1600 in 29th place was Chris Dittman, the drive being a surprise 21st birthday gift from the Harvey-Fern equipe. My girfriend gave me socks when I was 21. Chris is, of course, more normally seen behind the wheel of an awsomely powerful Ginetta in BTCC support races, where he is rarely out of the top placings despite running on a relatively meagre (by class standards) budget. He edged out Chris Helliwell, Chris moving up well in the field during the race.
The results show Barry Smith as 30th. This may be the case, but my understanding is that following the demise of his Formual Novis, fellow Geordie Mick Kinghorn was sportingly offered a drive in his Arrows-style liveried FIreland. The previously mentioned Chris Helliwell became the Swift meat in a Formula Ireland sandwich, as Steve Griffin, "the racing heart surgeon" put his example 32nd.
Grouped together at the rear were old friends Jock Sergison, Ian Hughes (the results say Sara, but we don't think Ian wears a bikini top on the grid), and Dave Parkinson. Jock and David seemed to have reliable runs, but Ian had transferred to the Agent after problems with the Van Diemen. The Agent in turn suffered a few maladies, but finished. David will, of course, be reporting in his own inimitable style, so I won't say too much about him. In case he neglects to mention it, I should add that despite his youthful appearance he has amazingly joined the ranks of the B&Q Wednesday Discount Card holders (ie - retired.)
Right at the back of the results were a couple who are classified, and not down as retirements, which is presumably a foible of Belgian motor racing. Simon Davey had just taken the 1600 class lead in his wasp liveried Swift when - bang - or to be strictly accurate - not bang. His coil failed and the engine instantly cut dead. Also igniiton related, retired policeman, ex-F3 driver and ex-hillclimb ace Dave Abbott did but one lap in his Jedi. The heat from the exhaust melted an adhesive cable tie clip, dropping some leads onto the exhaust which shorted. Jeremy Goodman was unclassified as his clutch disintegrated as he left the garage.
As I said, there's only one Spa. There were dramas and disappointments, dices and races within the race. But there was one thing absent after the race. A miserable face. Spa and Monoposto are a happy combination.
Tony Cotton July 2010
Pics: Hayden Shorthouse
JohnWhitbourn - Ray GR2002
Probably Mick Kinghorn in the Arrows -style (ie Orange and Black) VD Formual Ireland. The colours work well on the car.
Geoff Fern and Graham Dyson - racing doesn't come much closer than this
Gary Hill leads Terry Clark while the heat haze shimmers over the inappropriately named Bus Stop
Champagne spraying at the end- LtoR Peter Venn, Nigel Reuben and Neil Harrison