During this year's Spa Classic, the legendary Circuit de Spa Francorchamps more than lived up to its legendary reputation. On Friday it rained throughout the day and while Saturday started sunny, a brief hail-shower reminded everybody just where they were. The changing weather conditions provided a beautiful backdrop for the seventh edition of this historic racing meeting with the earlier cars gracefully sliding on the slippery tracks and the high downforce Group C cars spitting out very long “rooster-tails.” In addition to the racing, the event also included a spectacular high-speed demonstration for 1990s and 2000s GT racers and prototypes and as always at Peter Auto events, there was plenty of room for clubs both on and off the track. Additionally, British auctioneer Bonhams also staged a sale right in the paddock.
Our photographers braved the changing conditions throughout the weekend, which has resulted in an action-packed 320-shot gallery.
Racing into the night
Among the unique elements of the Spa Classic are the races into the night for the Sixties' Endurance and Heritage Touring Cup (HTC) grids. While the two-hour Sixties' race finishes most meetings at dusk, the final minutes were in complete darkness here. What did not change compared to the previous Peter Auto weekend, at Jarama, were the early race leaders; a pair of Cobras piloted by Christophe van Riet and Shaun Lynn. Eventually both cars dropped down the order, handing the lead and ultimately the victory to Swiss Cobra racer Philipp Oetli. |n second through fourth were a further three Cobras. Although placing 43rd of 47 finishers, the Index of Performance was won by Bart Blommaert and Rikkert Leeman in their bright yellow Lotus Elite.
Featuring a true night race was the HTC field, which had two instead of just one 60-minute races, with the second finishing at midnight on Saturday. The night race is a tribute to the many editions of the Spa 24 Hours ran for touring cars during the 1970s and 1980s. Regardless of the time of day, it was Yves Scemama who dominated with his strikingly liveried Ford Capri and won both races.
The Spa Classic also featured a pair of new additions to the Peter Auto roster in the form of the Global Endurance Legends high speed demonstration and a pair of Euro F2 Classic races. The former was an instant crowd favorite as it brought out some of the great racing cars of recent years that are only very rarely seen in action these days. Among them were cars that raced in the early days of the BPR (the P is for Peter) series like the Venturi 400 Trophy and a McLaren F1 GTR but also more recent legends like an Audi R8 prototype, a Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello and a Maserati MC12. Also out on track was the actual Porsche 911 that defied the odds and won the 2003 Spa 24 Hours outright and no fewer than three Vipers.
A permanent new addition to the roster is the Euro F2 Classic for late 1960s and 1970s Formula 2 machinery. Unlike the other races during the weekend, which were all of an endurance type, the two F2 races were run over just 20 minutes. Due to the size of the track and the relatively small turn-out, the Euro F2 Classic did not quite provide the close racing as expected but we feel on shorter tracks and with slightly larger fields, the Formula 2 races will provide quite a spectacle. Both races were won by ace-historic racer Martin Stretton in the two-liter March 782 he has campaigned during the last couple of seasons.
Classic Endurance Racing
The backbone of the standalone Peter Auto weekends as always been formed by the Classic Endurance Racing grids. Split in two groups depending on age, these have traditionally provided colorful and evocative grids and this year was no exception. With over 40 cars entered, the CER1 field was the largest and included a host of Lolas, Chevrons and Porsches but also rare machinery like a pair of Ferrari 512Ms and Lotus 30. Efforts by the organizers to slow the Lola T70s down have clearly paid off as the smaller Chevron B19s dominated the meeting on a track that should have suited the big-banger machines. Philipp Bruehwiler won the race in his B19, while the other two examples entered finished second and fourth.
In CER2, Yves Scemama made it three for three when he won Sunday's opening race in his sparkling Warsteiner liveried TOJ SC304. In the early stages of the races, all eyes and ears were certainly on Giovanni Lavaggi in the Ferrari 312 PB he shared with owner Steven Read. The ever friendly Italian had to start from the back but charged through the field in great style. Unfortunately, a loose muffler cost valuable time in the pitlane. Hot on Lavaggi's tail was Belgian racer Marc Devis, who did see his charge from the back rewarded to place second and make it a TOJ one-two with his SC303.
There are few racing classes more fondly remembered than Group C. The virtually no-limits sports prototypes of the 1980s and early 1990s still remain among the most impressive and beautiful competition cars ever built. They are also complicated and very expensive to run, so it was impressive to see over two dozen lined up for the pair of 45-minute races. Included in the colorful field were the first generation cars like the Porsche 962C and Jaguar XJR-12 but also the ultimate 3.5-litre cars headlined by a Jaguar XJR-14. Unfortunately, the latter suffered from an engine issue and could not make the start of the races despite qualifying on pole. Also included were the similar GTP cars that raced in The United States, which ran even higher downforce levels but with stock-block V8s. In the absence of the XJR-14, the fight for victory in both races went between a Kremer Porsche, Sauber-Mercedes and a GTP Spice. Coming out on top in each of them was Steve Tandy, whose pace in the Spice proved more consistent than the pro-am driver pairings in the Porsche and Sauber.
Despite the changeable conditions, over 20,000 spectators visited the 2017 Spa Classic, which was a record attendance. With non-stop action on the track, including a 15-hour day on Saturday, and eight grids with over 300 racing cars they got much more than their money's worth. The combined efforts of our photographers and a couple of late nights have resulted in this exclusive 320-shot gallery.