Spa Classic set alight by Group C rarities

| 19 May 2014

The fourth running of the Spa Classic took place on 15-18 May, treating more than 15,000 visitors to decades of motor sport greats. The Ardennes circuit is a regular fixture on the historic motor sport calendar and, as with previous years, proved a more leisurely affair than its counterparts at Le Mans or Silverstone.

The excellent facilities, glorious weather and ease of access offered a fantastic opportunity to get close to the cars and drivers, and the traditionally quiet and relaxed atmosphere didn't disappoint.

On paper, the Trofeo Nastro Rosso celebration of Italian sports cars promised to be a highlight, but the retirement of Jackie Oliver – who so excited at the 72nd Goodwood Members' Meeting – with engine trouble left many disappointed. Vincent Gaye comfortably won both races with his 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C, while it seemed the back markers were there to make up the numbers.

Trofeo Nastro Rosso

Despite seeming a foregone conclusion, the sight of no fewer than six Ferrari 275s on track was enough to buoy the crowd, while a Bizzarrini 5300GT and Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ added to the exotica.

The Group C races followed in a similar vein, with frontrunners Gareth Evans and Bob Berridge in the 1989 Mercedes C11 and Katsu Kubota and Joaquin Folch in the 1990 Nissan R90CK pressing much harder than the rest of the field.

Spa Classic Group C

The first Historic F2 race was also a one-sided affair, with the 1977 Ralt RT1 of Philippe Harper finishing 25 seconds clear of Martin Stretton's 1974 March 742, which in turn was more than 30 seconds quicker than third-placed Bo Warmenius' 1977 March 76B.

Spa Classic night race

Similarly, the pre-'66 endurance races were dominated by Alex Furiani and Frank Stippler, who stormed to victory by both day and night. Their 1965 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA finished fully 1 min 51 sec ahead of David Tomlin and Martin Stretton's 1965 Lotus Cortina, which was followed by the 1965 BMW 1800Tii driven by Marcus and George Haynes. Of the 15-car grid, two cars failed to start, while four retired.

Spa Classic Lotus Cortina

The highlight of Saturday's racing was undoubtedly the Mazda 767B, the rotary-engine scream of which could be heard howling through the dense forest long before it could be seen. Though the grid was subjected to a number of red and yellow flags, the shrill noise of the Mazda blasting from La Source to Eau Rouge served to electrify an at times stunted and stop-start race.

There was plenty to excite off-track as well, with a number of Ferrari Dinos and a lone California drawing large crowds to the Drivers' Club.

The event is also marked by the popularity of club laps, which allow visitors to take to the circuit in their classic and sports cars. A large contingent from Great Britain made the trip, including a fantastic showing of Triumph TRs, but there was a notable lack of the TVRs that had made their presence felt in previous years.

Spa Classic Triumphs

The addition of a Bonhams auction was a welcome addition, and on the third day of the event saw an ex-Antonio Zanini Ferrari 308GTB Group B Michelotto sold for €609,500. A 1973 Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona took second in the auction stakes, the hammer falling at €471,500, while a 1967Aston Martin DB6 Vantage sold for €350,750.