Heavy rain adds to excitement at the Spa Classic

| 22 May 2017

Hundreds of classic cars and historic racers flocked to Spa-Francorchamps last weekend for the seventh running of the Spa Classic, and it proved a record-setting event, attracting a massive crowd of more than 20,000. 

The meeting remained faithful to the circuit’s fearsome reputation for changeable weather, as 28 degree heat and blazing sunshine gave way to plunging temperatures and heavy rain for the first day of qualifying, which was headlined by an incredible grid of historic Group C cars. A committed display from the drivers resulted in evocative plumes of spray following each car, though the standing water also resulted in a handful of spectacular spins at the Bus Stop Chicane. Conditions improved for the second qualifying session, enabling Christophe d’Ansembourg to slash his Jaguar XKR14’s best time by more than 36 seconds to top the qualifying table. 

However, it was fourth-placed qualifier Steve Tandy who took the chequered flag in his 1990 Spice SE90 during both races, despite being run close in the second by Michael Lyons’ Gebhardt C91. 

The changeable conditions continued as 19 historic Formula 2 cars took to the circuit, marking the return of single seater racing to the event and the inauguration of the new Euro F2 grid, which celebrated the European Championship between 1967 and 1978.

Martin Stretton proved handiest in qualifying, taking his 1978 March 782 to pole position after just four laps. The three-times Monaco Historic Grand Prix winner carried his pace into both races, winning both races by a margin of around three seconds ahead of the March 772 of Matthew Watts.

The ever popular and hugely valuable grid of the Trofeo Nastro Rosso was dominated by the superb Vincent Gaye, who piloted his 1966 Ferrari 275GTB/C expertly to very comfortable victories in both races. Despite the leader pulling so far ahead, fans were still delighted by a spirited battle between the Maserati Birdcage of Guillermo Fierro and the Bizzarrini 5300GT of Christian Traber and Peter Muelder, not to mention the sight of 275GTB/4, 250LM, Maserati 300S and 300SL ‘Gullwing’ in full flight. 

An enormous grid of 50 Formula Vees also took to the track, as did an impressive gathering of Sixties Endurance cars, plus a stunning array of BMW 3.0 CSLs, Volvo 240Ts and Ford Escorts, which did battle into the twilight on the Saturday evening. 

As in previous years, Bonhams held an auction at the race circuit. The star of the show was undoubtedly a 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster, which blew past its €600,000-800,000 pre-sale estimate to make a whopping €1,127,000.

“Holding a sale at such an adrenaline-fuelled location is always a privilege, and we were delighted to bring such a varied selection of motorcars to Spa once again,” said Bonhams’ Philip Kantor. 

Click here to see a full gallery of incredible images from this year’s Spa Classic

Photos: Peter Auto, Stephanie Brezard