Spa Race 2 - Sunday 4 July 2010
Same Track - Different Problems
The last day at Spa is always entertaining to watch. Having spent Saturday afternoon generally wandering around, having a natter and "chilling" as the young people say (I think it means doing not much), Sunday morning is massive, frantic packing as everything that shouldn't be needed after the last minute car preparations is packed away ready to drive the race car straight into the trailer and drive off for the port. A bit like the Minis into the coach in The Italian Job. But wait - there's something that has to happen isn't there? Why, it's a race.
Once again it was a rolling start and there was drama at both ends of the grid. At the front, Nigel Reuben stalled and got away late. At the back, perenniel tailender Tony Cotton also stalled which caused problems for Jennifer Scott. She should have been in mid grid, but the team was busy trying to get Malcom into the race, and so she was a little late out. She had no choice but to pass Tony, and they spent the pace lap looking furtively, trying to decide who should go first. Credit must be given for the pace car - superbly driven at a brisk pace so that the single seaters didn't get cold tyres and brakes.
As the lights went green, at the front Dan Clowes took up the lead by being straight behind Nigel. As with Nigel, he was never headed to the finish. Despite 100% effort Jeremy Timms was a constant second. He stayed far enough ahead of Peter Venn to be able to afford a spin on lap 5 without a loss of place, caused in part by a difficult gearchange. The 3rd gear problem had been resolved thanks to Kevin Mason's spares but second was still a bit dubious. "Comeback Kid" Phil Moore was looking much more like the man we knew of old when he took up third place, to lose it on lap 2 to Peter. He was never more than a couple of seconds away from Peter's gearbox, and as this was only his second race since 2008, it looks like the old magic is still there. See you at Mallory, Phil?
Talking of Magic, let's jump to the back where Magic Motorsport driver Neil Harrison was starting in lieu of Mark. He leapt up 12 places by the end of lap 1, and was moving into 20th when he encountered a dicing John Whitbourn and French FF driver A Francois. Sady they tangled at the bus stop, where there was much chaos and gnashing of teeth, involving amongst others Lou Watts who had to take to the grass and thereby lost a place but was undamaged.
Robbie Watts's F4 got the jump on Geoff Fern's 1400 on lap 3. They were split for a while by Graham Reed's F300 until he was slowed on the last lap and Geoff and Graham Dyson got the bike cars past the F3 car. Gary Hill also joined in the fun with this group, making it a tight and exciting race-within-a-race. Unfortunately this activity was a bit beyond my line of sight, but as both Gary and Graham slowed by 10 seconds it's clear that Something Happened. Terry Clark lay behind them, not quite in passing distance but rapid enough to keep a few other very rapid drivers at bay. These included Jim Blockley (11th), who was running as high as 9th but gradually slipped back as his lap times increased in the last few laps - we guess some sort of mechanical issue. Jim finished ahead of Kevin Mason, who due to a broken gearbox main shaft in P2 started from the back and fought through the field gaining 11 places in lap 1, 10 in lap 2, and then gradually moving up. In contrast, Oliver Sirrell moved down a little during the race in his bewinged Van Diemen Zetec, to finish comfortably as leading 1800.
Barry Smith was back in his Ireland for race 2, and was only demoted slightly when the rapid Graham Dyson came into the top 10 and when the aforesaid Kevin passed him in the last couple of laps. Barry was followed in at a distance by Tony Cotton, and then (ignoring the Formule Zetec), Jennifer Scott. After the pace lap traumas, Jennifer enjoyed the climb up the field. Jeniffer told us "I think starting from the back made it so much more entertaining for me, though. I managed to overtake approximately 6 cars at La Source (greedy - ed) and I couldn't believe I got away with it! Fingers crossed there is a Spa meeting on the calendar next year."
Chris Helliwell's immaculate Swift SC97Z was next up, surprisingly followed by Peter Whitmore. Peter had been as high as 14th for much of the race, but tragically had a problem on the last lap which dropped him down. I can vouch that at one stage Peter sportingly let a 2 litre by, only to be slightly delayed by the tardiness of that cars passing, and as a result he had a few problems with a French Zetec. Peter: "I was suffering fuel starvation at the time and eventually limped home with fits and starts before finally being run into by one of the said French FF’s eventually running out of fuel after the finish line." Chris was just in front of Jim Timms, who also slowed on the final lap.
The first lapped runner was Dave Abbott who led in Lou Watts, delayed by the lap 2 incident above, and Steve Griffin. Steve's car looks great in Ferrari Rosso Corse and has replaced his F4 Van Diemen. Andy Yeomans tells us: "I am fairly sure that it is the ex Alan Everitt/ ex Tom Brown one that lived with Dermot for some time. It has been rebuilt by Nick Edginton into F4 trim, ie an F4 1800 Zetec engine. The same car was out with Steven at Snetterton in Mono earlier in the year."
Simon Davey took the 1600 honours, back running with a new coil, just ahead of Jock Sergison (1800) and son Ewen in Sara Hughes's Agent. Ewen was a true hero of Spa, applying his prodigious welding skills to too many Monoposti in distress to list. Arguably, he should get a free entry next year just to make sure he's there with the welding gear! Mark Smith seperated Sergisons pere et fils in the Reynard, delayed nearly 2 minutes by a pit stop.
Finally, the non finishers. Not retirements, because Belgian timekeepers apparently don't class them as such. Chris Dittman made it through to lap 7, but as we were leaving the circuit to go home by the paddock tunnel (the one that isn't at Blanchimont) Chris's (=Geoff Fern's) car was there on a flat bed, covered in dust but looking not too badly damaged. Darren Freeman worked valiantly to rebuild the Jedi after Saturday's incident, but sadly never went much faster than the pace car lap. He retired on lap 5. And finally, day one victor Nigel Rewuben went from hero to zero when he posted first mechanical retirement after 2 laps, which was bad luck for Nigel and any spectator who enjoys watching top class pedalling.
And so with the race over, the miserablists headed straight for Calais (that would be me then) and those with a bit of soul stayed for the presentation. This was a superb Spa and the concept of 2 independent races was ideal to share cars and costs, even if the officials had a few conceptual issues with it. Many thanks to Simon for the hard work in organising it, and to Roadbook contact Vincent for his incredible work in translating and smoothing over the problems caused by language and other difficulties.
There might be a Startline article about Belgian timekeepers and other officials when the vitriol tanker has found its way to the home of one of our runners.....
Tony Cotton July 2010
Pics: Hayden Shorthouse (any available on request to editor)
Peter Whitmore's VD FX/Busa
Jim Blockley, RT3 Vauxhall
Red and White's a good combination for an F3 car, be it '80's or '90's. Mark Smith in the shared EA car. BAC111's live.
Simon Davey (Swift), Lou Watts (FVL) and Formule Zetec runner P Pin.
Chris Dittman about to be passed by Jennifer Scott
Terry Clark, Oliver Sirrell.