LMES - Spa-Francorchamps - Friday Afternoon Report
Getting Quicker – But Not That Quick
The afternoon gave the Ed. and yours truly an opportunity
to get out of the press room and into the Spa sunshine to watch
first the Classic Endurance racers, and then the second free practice
session for the LMES field - around a large part of the back of
the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
What a pleasure
it is to watch cars like these around a circuit with such enormous
changes in elevation, fast, very fast and medium speed, flat out
straights and, whisper it in case they hear you, real overtaking
The cars can
be clearly heard from way beyond the brow of the hill (as they race
towards Les Combes) with a clear 20-30 seconds before they pour
down into the fast sweeping left hander at Pouhon.
classic racers Siggi Brun (Porsche 908), Bobby Verdon-Roe (Ligier
JS3) and Klaus Ludwig, an evergreen driver in a very green Porsche
911, were clearly pressing on hard, the cars fighting against the
steering inputs as the drivers hunted down the second / third Pouhon
apex. Verdon-Roe though was caught out as he tried to adjust the
Ligier’s brake balance: he nearly caught the rear end of the
JS3 as it skipped wide but not quite quickly enough, a huge cloud
of dust enveloping the car - but BV-R had kept enough momentum to
carefully creep back out on track.
This was a wonderful
opportunity to remind ourselves what makes endurance racing, old
and new, so special. Vastly different cars with very different sounds
and handling, from the ‘hippy’ Porsche 917 through to
a BDA engined Ford Escort, the 30 plus year old prototypes scything
through the slower GT cars on one of the very last classic circuits
– great stuff.
sound of a Judd V10 howling along at full chat marked the start
of the second session: first to come into sight was a train of three
cars, the Audi UK pair split by the Nasamax. The Judd engined car
was easily able to stay with the R8s on the straight but lost out
noticeably through Pouhon.
The Lister Storm
LMP is already enjoying a convincing run here this weekend and the
big black prototype was noticeably quick through the fast corners,
the sound of the big V8 contrasting wonderfully with the screaming
Judds and Zyteks. Justin Keen had an unusual line through Pouhon,
but it looked very quick. Marc Goossens chose a more conventional
The Audis and
Creation DBA though were crushingly competent, steady under braking
and cornering as if on rails, powering hard out of the corners.
Allan McNish was pleased to finish the session quickest and felt
that “I could race the car as it is now but I wouldn’t
want to. The circuit isn’t evolving as the day wears on and
that means that where you’d expect to find grip it just isn’t
there. The car is close though – a little understeer here,
a little oversteer there.”
think his morning performance (2:08 then 2:07 on his two flying
laps) particularly impressive: “No, I’ve never driven
an R8 round here, but I do know the car very well.” The circuit
change at the Bus Stop was not even worth mentioning.
The sister car
was going very much better this afternoon, Herbert and Davies down
into the 2:07s. That wasn’t enough to match Minassian’s
best though, another 2:07 from the Frenchman, with JC-W into the
low 2:08s, on a circuit he loves.
is really getting down to it now, an improvement this afternoon
of 2.2 seconds leaving the car still ninth quickest, with more to
big, big understeer this morning,” reckoned John McNeil, “but
we’re dialling it out and there’s another second and
a half to come. Werner reckons he’ll be able to take Eau Rouge
flat by the time we’ve finished.”
car found almost as much time as the Nasamax, but this one also
stayed in the same position (sixth).
The new Lucchini
had “absolutely no problems” this afternoon, although
the team was changing gear ratios after the session. The car improved
by 13 seconds, to end up second fastest in LMP2, behind the factory
Courage – which found a huge chunk this afternoon, after a
problematic morning session.
Pilbeam is considerably – maybe 70 bhp – down on power
to some of its LMP2 rivals, but championship leader Pierre Bruneau
is a happy man, and “praying for rain tomorrow.”
In GTS the Vitaphone
Saleen was another car that was visibly quicker than its main competition
(although Larbre didn’t go for a time with the Ferraris this
afternoon), the S7-R almost hurled through the corners where some
slower runners were forced to be more cautious, the vantage points
allowing the close-up observation so often sanitised away from modern
second car is chassis #8, which means that Tomas Enge is driving
the same chassis in which he performed such wonders in qualifying
at Le Mans.
wasn’t a very happy man, feeling that the smaller restrictors
and smaller wing under ACO regs. make the Saleen less enjoyable
to drive. He’s seriously considering racing in the German
GT series next year.
with the Panoz though, where the old girl was running every bit
as well as anyone expected.
The great thing
about a circuit like this is that it really allows the spectator
to see which cars are the quickest – no cynically engineered
viewing opportunities here, just an almost limitless selection of
vantage points either with a panoramic view of the circuit (often
two or three sections are visible at a time) or the opportunity
to get close – really close – to the action as the cars
blast through the slower corners or hammer down the straights. The
weather has been absolutely perfect too – although rain is
coming, we believe.
A couple of
GT drivers were mildly surprised that the head of this class hasn’t
been quicker so far – but perhaps they’re comparing
times with the FIA spec. cars, at the recent 24 Hours. Freisinger’s
morning time of 2:26.6 remains the fastest in GT, with the Sebah
Porsche going second fastest this afternoon. There are no qualifying
tyres used in this series, of course.
car was certainly being driven hard this afternoon, because it had
a mild off into the gravel at Pouhon.
with understeer? That was the prediction – but Andrew Kirkaldy
still set the second fastest GT time this afternoon, a 2:27.416.
Give him a perfect Ferrari and let’s see what happens tomorrow.
Stephane Daoudi has spent the LMES season showing us how quickly
a 360 GTC can be driven.
The #76 Autorlando
Porsche drivers had had an interesting morning, with sixth and fifth
gears transposed, but Mauro Casadei was happier this afternoon:
the car had several spins this morning. This trio’s car isn’t
generating enough heat in its Pirellis. Piers Masarati was finding
life here a bit of a struggle in the other Autorlando Porsche.