Spatterings - Not a Report on Monoposto at the Spa Summer Classic
Spa newbie comments after Qualification Session #1: “This
is better than sex!”
This year we only bought half a grid and with the help of organisers Roadbook arranged to share with the French Classic (ie Pre 93) Formula Ford Club. The French contingent were very friendly and helpful; for example agreeing to change their race numbers so that we didn’t need to. They also sold us a couple of extra grid places to enable 28 Mono cars to race.
Among the entry we were pleased to welcome several new guests in Mono 1600: Daniel Hanssens in his immaculate Van Diemen RF89, as well as Nigel Lingwood and Graham Terry in Classic FF1600 Van Diemen RF80s. There was a strong contingent of rapid Irish Leastones in Mono Moto: Morgan McCourt, Roy Tobin and Dan Polley under the guidance of Paul Heavey. There were also quite a few Spa first-timers among the Monoposti regulars: Alistair Bell in his ex Bennett Mono Classic Reynard, Eddie Guest in his familiar Lola, Mike Hatton in the ex-Topmarx Vauxhall, and Bryn Tootell in his Van Diemen Mono Classic.
Wednesday journeys to Spa were straightforward but many of the Thursday travellers experienced bad traffic around Brussels; and there seemed to be a lot of roadworks on the E40 as well. The Speads of Jason Timms and Mike & Chris Scott were delivered to Spa by Jim Timms, who was on his way to the Nurgurgring for a race in his 1litre F3 “screamer”. Jim had a good weekend in Germany, claiming an excellent 4th place in arace which started at around 8.00pm on Saturday evening.
Several Mono competitors took advantage of the very good value pre-testing on the Thursday. It was dry in the morning but poured for the afternoon session, which quite a few seemed to enjoy anyway. Rain showers are a fact of life at Spa, they only get about 60 completely rain free days a year. However the Friday to Sunday weather was dry and sunny enough to be warm without being too hot. Spa at its best – it was lovely.
The F1 paddock this year was a bit less cramped and more relaxed than on previous occasions, with the weekend’s atmosphere being set fair by a very hospitable and efficient Signing On and Scrutineering. You still have to climb over or wriggle under the circuit gate above La Source to get to Francorchamps village for an evening meal though – heavy only knows why they don’t unlock the gate in the evenings. At least Malcolm Scott didn’t fall off the gate this year…
The Mono garages looked great throughout the weekend, and attracted quite a bit of interest; especially the bike-engined cars, which are not often seen in Europe. If there had been prizes for the best lookers, Eddie Guest’s Lola and Neil Harrison’s Dallara would probably have won, but only just. The Club did itself proud.
Drama started on Thursday when Ollie Sirrell managed to seriously cut his hand while deburring a hole in a small stainless steel plate for his trusty Mono Classic Van Diemen. Of course in retrospect using a vice seems like a good idea, but he ended up with wife Jennifer driving him to hospital and more than a dozen stitches. Since the car was ready to go (except for a small stainless steel plate…) some rapid phone calls at 7.45 on Friday morning succeeding in intercepting Jeremy Timms on his way to Spa – as Jason Timms mechanic for the weekend, and Jeremy suddenly had a Spa drive instead.
A massive 51 car field emerged for first Qualifying on Saturday, and as everyone got settled in Kevin Mason had a huge accident on the fastest part of the track between the iffy-flat left hander at Blanchimont and the first gear Bus-stop. Kevin reportedly went for gap between two FF1600’s, which closed up, with the resulting contact firing him into the left hand track wall. Instant red flag. The Dallara had its gearbox and rear suspension torn off in the impact, and the crash site looked very worrying, but the tub & safety equipment had done their job and Kevin fortunately wasn’t injured. Kevin is very well known and liked across the Club and there was a lot of concern in the pit lane until this re-assuring news came through. Spa doesn’t take prisoners and Blanchimont-out is very fast. In contrast second Qualifying lasted for its fully allotted time and seemed calmer, with most people finding space to string some consistent laps together.
Other than the unfortunate Kevin, the casualties from Qualifying were mechanical in nature. Mike Hatton’s Vauxhall overheated and blew a head gasket, and Nigel Lingwood’s Van Diemen had a mystery misfire which plagued it until the carburettor was changed and a broken float was fixed. Ryan Hayes’ Jamun had a mystery misfire which continued to defy diagnosis & cure; and Graham Terry was in major strife when seized rear brakes resulted in the Van Diemen’s calipers getting red hot and catching fire. However the resulting work load to fix all this didn’t seem to prevent most everyone having a very pleasant Friday evening, in the case of the Jedi teams’ garage this seemed to go on for some time…
Saturday’s race was a blistering high-class competition with close outcomes for premier honours between Dan Clowes & Marc Fortune, Neil Harrison & Robbie Watts, and Bryn Tootell & Jeremy Timms. Despite there being ferocious competition throughout the field there seemed to be no damaging incidents, and the non-finishers were all down to mechanical maladies. These included Mike Hatton’s Vauxhall still misfiring and Nigel Lingwood’s Van Diemen throttle linkage falling off (but not until it had jammed the throttles wide open as he came into Les Combes…). Dax Ward lost an engine, and needed to borrow Wingnut Racing’s standard spare for Sunday (it needed a lot of work to change the clutch, dry sump etc). Malcolm Scott joined the “mystery misfire club” of which Ryan Hayes remained a founder (and frustrated) member. Daniel Hanssens had a rear track-control rod end bearing break in the middle of Eau Rouge – which nearly gave the closely following Simon Davey a heart attack as well. Eddie Guest’s class 2nd place result in the race was probably his best-ever Mono performance, turning in a very respectable 2.56 second lap on his first experience of Spa.
Sunday’s race was remarkably different. The race before was red-flagged when someone dropped a tanker-scale amount of oil, bang on the Blanchimont exit line, which the organisers dealt with by building a beach on top of the slick. For some reason they didn’t brush it off, so when the field arrived the result was like that scene in “Days of Thunder” where Cole Trickle has to drive through a dense cloud of smoke. The difference was that at Spa you got sand-blasted as well. Some people got grit in their eyes and Ryan Hayes needed medical attention after the race, although he still won his class – the car finally running well enough to let him deploy his considerable talent. Amazingly no-one crashed in the melee, but Blanchimont was a grip lottery for the whole race, and for some reason slippery fluids went down on several other corners. This was the undoing of another good dice between Neil Harrison and Robbie Watts, thankfully without too much damage to either car, as well as the cause of numerous heart stopping moments. Neil and Robbie’s misfortune at least gave Malcolm Scott a win in Mono 2000, which was some consolation after a trying weekend.
Dan Clowes came through all this for a well-deserved and impressive second win. He was blindingly quick all weekend. Jon Reed was going really well and in a comfortable second place when the chain sprocket of the Jedi disintegrated on the main straight – big lumps of jagged metal flying about don’t do much for the differential of the chassis…Geoff Fern was determined to get onto the podium, and had been listening carefully to Spa expert Jeremy Timm’s advice about the need to straight-line Eau Rouge. Geoff put this into practice but eventually got a 30 second penalty for his efforts, which meant that his track-position finish two-tenths of second behind second placed Jason Timms (who was also going like an express train) wasn’t as close as it looked. Geoff still took third though as he was far enough ahead of Dan Levy – who also had a very good weekend’s racing. It’s well worth mentioning Dan Polley who started his Leastone from dead last on the grid after qualifying problems and finished 8th overall – passing around 40 cars; really a very good drive in difficult circumstances. Nigel Lingwood’s troubles continued, the car finally ran well and a good dice for the lead of the Mono 1600 class with Simon Davey was in progress when it stopped again, for reasons unknown. This meant that Daniel Hanssens took second as compensation for his race one misfortune. In contrast Jeremy Timms efforts to get more oomph out of the Sirrell Van Diemen literally misfired and the car was retired, as did Dax Ward when his replacement engine didn’t last.
I have missed out more than I have included, so apologies go to those who efforts, problems and achievements are not mentioned above. Please send in your stories! But to summarise the whole thing - this year’s Spa was surely a vintage event: great track, super people, good weather, exciting competition.
Wow…better than sex…
Dan Levy had a good Spa
Dax Ward tunes his fuel injection system
Eddie Guest's Lola looked great
Jeremy Timms and Ollie Sirrell ponder a carburetion problem
Mike and Chris Scott chew the cud with Geoff Fern and Jason Timms
Mono Garages looked very good