Spa - 14/15/16 June 2013
Andrew Cliffe not only had his camera in action but also his laptop:
Faced with the choice of Dover-Calais or Harwich-Hook of Holland I opted for the latter, as the driving distance is about 150 miles shorter. If you're in a hurry, go Dover-Calais as the Harwich ferry takes 7 hours, but you get a cabin with a bed, TV and a lovely hot shower, and you arrived refreshed and ready to go. Having to get an Autosport review and photos in by first thing Monday morning meant I could work on the photos and report instead of driving.
Upon arrival at Spa it appeared that there had been recent rain - not uncommon in the Ardennes forest, but thankfully Friday morning suggested good weather was in store and apart from short showers, no Monoposto drivers were inconvenienced by the weather.
First casualty was Ollie Sirrell who cut his hand whilst drilling a metal bracket which caught and spun round in his hand. He was duly stitched up by the local A&E department but was unable to drive, so Jeremy Timms suddenly found he had a last minute drive.
I spent this session at the downhill right hander Rivage/Bruxelles and the left hander following it. This is about a 30 minute walk from the pits, next time a borrowing a quad bike may be wise - a scooter isn't sensible if you're carrying several expensive cameras.
Dan Clowes took pole with a 2m 27.236s lap which was 3.5s clear of everyone else and almost a second under his own class record. Neil Harrison had commandeered Russ Giles' white Dallara F398. Russ finally bit through the ropes and Diane heard him calling on Sunday night, just as Neil returned the car. Neil's first Mono outing in 3 years put the car on the front row of the grid, with Robbie Watts' Lola next and Malcolm Scott 4th, all three seperated by about a second. A clutch of bike engined cars formed the next part of the grid, Jason Timms 5th, Marc Fortune and Dax Ward 6th and 7th, ahead of Geoff Fern, Dan Polley and Dan Levy. Jeremy Timms headed 2000 Classic in a car he'd not driven before, with Terry Clark just behind him ahead of Kevin Mason (more later), Mike Scott and Mike Hatton's FVL special in 15th. Bryn Tootell was 16th with Morgan McCourt in the second Leastone 17th. Alistair Bell continues to make progress with his Reynard 883 in 18th, Matt Hayes headed 1800 class in 19th, all ahead of the French FF pack. Mike Reed 22nd, Steven Griffin 30th.
People who went last year may recall Simon Davey purchasing a rusty pile of bits. This time he brought the pile of bits back, now fully refurbished and painted in a colour that could only be described as very green. He qualified the car on 1600 pole, 33rd overall, and more importantly faster than all the pre1990 cars from the French series.
Eddie Guest had a good run and was guaranteed a race as he was in and amongst the French FF pack. He would start in 47th place.
Ryan Hayes was at the back of the pack, his Jamum still having mysterious running problems. He did his 3 laps and called end to his session.
The second casualty and the most severe was Kevin Mason. Kevin had got his Dallara running really well recently, proof of which was his 2nd overall at Brands Hatch Indy, but all this was undone 5 laps into the session. Whilst passing a slower car, they touched and he went backwards off the circuit at a very fast point. The rear end of the car took the impact, a crash severe enough to break the gearbox off the engine, with huge damage to suspension, rear wings, exhaust, wheels, floors and so on. If you're going to have a big accident in Monoposto, the safest place to have it is in a modern Dallara and he emerged from the wreckage unscathed (although I bet his shoulders now ache). Kevin has a big rebuild job on his hands if he chooses to go down that route. My money's on seeing the car out as good as ever at Oulton.
I spent this session at the Bus Stop end of the pit lane.
Clowes again headed the timesheets, with another rapid lap close to his LR, he was happy with his time so only completed 4 laps, but was ready to head out again if necessary. Neil Harrison again lined up alongside him with Robbie Watts in third. Quite a number of people behind had improved their times over the previous session considerably, often by 3 or 4 seconds. Marc Fortune would start 4th, with Jon Reed took over the yellow Jedi and was 5th ahead of Jason Timms, Dax Ward, Geoff Fern and Malcolm Scott. Jeremy Timms once again headed the Classic class, finding a bit more time over Terry Clark's Reynard who was P2 in class and 13th overall. Matt Hayes once more headed the 1800's in 17th and Simon Davey the 1600's in 29th. Eddie Guest found a huge chunk of time, improving his time from Q1 by over 8 seconds to break the 3m lap barrier.
Ryan Hayes found the car slightly improved, but still not healthy, so did another 3 laps and would start race 2 in 31st.
Graham Terry also had a short session as his rear brakes overheated, causing the friction material to melt and the caliper pistons to weld themselves to the pad backing plates. A small brake fluid fire also caused some problems, swiftly extinguised by a marshal. He would start 46th assuming he could rebuild his brakes in time.
The Spa Summer Classic employs a rolling start system to reduce the risk of a startline accident caused by a stalled car and everyone piled into the La Source hairpin and emerged from the other side intact. I was on the inside of La Source hairpin. By the end of Lap 1, Dan Clowes had pulled out a 5 second lead, over Neil and Robbie who were fighting each other for lead of the class. Jason, Geoff, Marc and Dax had all managed to pass Malcom whose car had developed a misfire. Several people had good opening laps - Bryn Tootell made 4 places, Alistair Bell 3, Steven Griffin made 5 and Simon Davey 3. Jeremy Timms however had dropped four places.
Lap 2 saw Clowes had a 7s lead out front. Geoff and Jason found their way past Neil and Robbie, the bike engines seemingly having an edge on straight line speed. Dax Ward pulled off after his engine started to tighten and it lost power on the long uphill slog following Eau Rouge. Bryn Tootell made another 4 places and was now 8th.
Dan Levy and Mike Scott had a good dice throughout the race, Dan hanging
on to take 7th overall.
I had planned to watch and photograph this race from Eau Rouge, but when I got there earlier in the day for another race, the marshals told me it was now a red zone and I wasn't allowed to stand there apart from one particular place, so this plan was shelved. Unlike most British circuits where virtually all of the access gates are unlocked, and apart from a few red zones, provided there is a barrier between me and the track I can go almost anywhere. At Spa, most of the marshals tend to lock the gates behind them - maybe Belgian spectators aren't as respectful as British ones are. Some gates you can scramble under, some you can climb over if you're brave, and some they will unlock if you can attract their attention, but this isn't always the easiest thing to do. I suspect many of the regular photographers have keys, a privilege not given to visitors. Anyway, I couldn't get throught the gate at the old Bus Stop chicane either, and so had to go back to the outside of La Source for the race.
In the previous race, something had leaked oil all the way from Blanchimont
through to the chicane, with much of it held under a safety car whilst
marshals, tried to clear up the oil with cement dust. There was a lot
of oil to mop up, but this left a lot of dust on the circuit which became
a hazard in its own right.
Following Saturdays retirement, Dax Ward, with the help of his Team O'Farc crew and Jon and Mike Reed, had fitted a replacement engine to his Jedi. This engine was out of a donor bike and was a largely unknown quantity, but it only lasted 4 laps before it too decided to let go. Marc Fortune didn't have much luck either, retiring on the 3rd lap.
Neil and Robbie were having an exciting race, Neil's Dallara keeping ahead of Robbie's Lola - the two seperated by a cars length until Neil managed to find a patch of oil or something slippery and slid off into the gravel. Robbie, however, was right on Neil's tail and found the same patch of oil, sliding off the circuit in the same fashion, but into the Neil's Dallara. Both men were OK, but Robbie's car had front end damage, whilst Neil had damage to his rear right hand corner. This promoted Malcolm to a class win.
Classic class was once again won by Bryn Tootell, who finished an excellent 6th overall. Jeremy Timms had retired early in the race with a misfire after an ettempt to make the car quicker didn't work. Terry Clark also retired after losing a sidepod, then his radiator, then his coolant...
Dan Polley had an excellent race, starting from the back row due to a problem in qualifying, he finished 8th overall, passing close to 40 cars along the way. Ryan Hayes had managed to get his car running well enough to claim a class win, some reward at the end of a pretty disappointing weekend.
Disclaimer: The above represents only the unofficial view of the writer and not of the Monoposto Racing Club. Subheadlines and captions are not originated from the named author but from the assistant editor. The results shown above are believed to be correct, though may differ in some respects from those of Belgian Timekeepers.
Neil Harrison and Kevin Mason in qualifying.
Geoff Fern, Malcolm Scott and Robbie Watts
Geoff Fern again
Alistair Bell and Mike Reed
Eddie Guest prepares for a storming overtake of Dan Clowes (please can you check this? - ed)
Mike Hatton and Alistair Bell
Dan Levy and Dan Polley. Asst ed wonders what the story is with "Enya" on the side of the Leastone?
Jeremy Timms in Ollie Sirrell's Van Diemen.
Start of Race 2
Morgan McCourt and Roy Tobin
A sleek Terry Clark with wobbly radiator
Marc Fortune. Lemon and Lime.
Even Limier, Matt Hayes
Just as Limey, Ryan Hayes.
Can you ever have too much lime? Simon Davey.
A close dice between Neil Harrison and Robbie Watts would end in a tangle, probably thanks to dropped fluid from an unknown source.
All photographs by Andrew Cliffe, Norwich Photo. Many thanks, Andrew. Not only are his photographs excellent, they are a fraction of the price of the Euro competition, but he's too polite to say so. Buy now while stocks last!