BTCS - Spa 12 Hours Report
Porsche Beats Jaguar By A Handful Of Seconds
The first edition
of the Spa 12 Hours, born out of the first and only edition of last
year's Spa 2003 Miles, proved to be a major success last weekend.
Some 30,000 spectators showed up to watch 45 cars do battle over
12 Hours and the weather for once was nice in the Ardennes. Strangely
enough, this was apparently the very first time a 12-hour race has
ever been organised at Spa, but contrary to last year's race, this
one looks set to stay. Last year's race was a non-championship event,
while this year's counts towards the Belgian Touring Car Series,
with double points to be won as well.
series is called the Belgian Touring Car Series, it's the big GTs
and other tubeframe monsters that are the stars of the championship,
and the one real endurance race of the year attracted some extra
GTs and Silhouettes as well. The ever-young Dieter Quester (only
65 this year) turned up in a Duller Motorsport-prepared Red Bull
BMW M3, which he shared with Belcar regulars Vincent Vosse and Fred
Bouvy, while local team GPR Pino Racing added a fourth 911 GT3 to
its line-up. Also back for more was the winner of last year's Spa
2003 Miles, the gorgeous looking and terrific sounding tubeframe
Apart from these
there was the usual bunch of 911s, BMW M3s, the official, championship-leading
Audi A4 Turbo and of course the dailysportscar.com
VW Polo Lehmann in the smaller class (because size doesn't always
of the rules in the BTCS is that no car can qualify faster than
a 2m30s lap at Spa, this in order to keep the costs in control.
If you must go faster, you just get a 50-kilo ballast added (in
practice) or a stop-and-go penalty (during the race). Needless to
say, the frontrunners all came very close to this limit, with only
the Jaguar setting a 2m29s time; good enough for pole, and a complementary
50 kilos of weight.
start of the race saw the Porsches jump to the lead, the Jaguar
dropping back (50 kilos does that to you) and everybody generally
getting away cleanly and up Eau Rouge without incident. Unfortunately,
it wasn't a Porsche nor the Jaguar leading after lap 1, but the
Safety Car. In the flat-out double left-hander of Blanchimont (remember
Burti in the Jaguar F1 a few years ago?) the diff on Sylvie Delcour's
BMW M3 Silhouette decided to call it quits, sending the car sideways
across the track and collecting the Audi A4 Turbo in the process.
Exit the BMW - and the Audi into the pits for lengthy (11 laps)
7 (still behind the Safety car) saw another favourite temporarily
sidelined: the dsc.com VW Polo came to a stop just before Blanchimont,
a half shaft snapped in two. "I thought I was going to kill
somebody," said Bob Winter - right, and about to start a stint
at the wheel, below. "It looked like I was going to get robbed
of an endurance race yet again. Two years ago in the Zolder 10 Hours,
Manu Collard basically raped the car, making us a DNF way before
sunset. Last year, in the 2003 Miles, we blew the engine in qualifying
and couldn't buy a new one for all the money in the world, while
at the Zolder 10 Hours, a kingpin failed on the BMW M3 half an hour
into my first stint."
of the rules in the BTCS long distance races is that cars stranded
out on the track are brought back to the pits, either towed or on
a flatbed. "Fortunately, Pascal managed to stop just where
the tow-car was, so we only lost ten minutes on that lap. Unfortunately,
since we had just changed the half shafts before the race, the team
didn't think it necessary to bring a spare. Wrong thinking!"
for some repairs in true McGyver style, meaning welding the broken
half shaft back together, sliding part of a jack over it and welding
that as well, putting the whole thing back on the car and keeping
your fingers crossed for the next eleven hours. "These parts
are sort of tailor-made for our car, so we couldn't just buy one
from the VW parts truck," Winter explained.
At the front
of the field, the Jaguar made the most of its excellent line-up
of drivers (including former British FFord ace Geoffroy Horion)
and clawed its way back to the lead, where it would stay until the
ninth hour of the race. A broken right rear upright saw the car
limp back to the pits, where repairs caused the team to lose some
five laps, handing the lead to the Porsche 911 GT3 (below) of Stéphane
Lemeret (last year's European Renault Clio vice-champion, and about
to replace Bouchut in a Zwaans Viper), Laurent Nef and Olivier Bouche.
Instead of leading by two laps, the boys in the Cat were now trailing
we lost some 25 laps in the process of repairing our car, there
wasn't much we could do to force a result, other than wait and hope
the competition would have some serious problems," Winter said.
"The class-leading Peugeot of Englishman Norris, Frenchman
Tardivat and Belgians De Ridder and Thiebault developed an engine
problem, which allowed us to reduce our deficit by some ten laps,
but it still wasn't enough to make it to the top step of the podium.
So we had to settle for second, which under the circumstances isn't
that there's nothing you can do race-wise, allows you to cruise
a bit and admire the big boys blast past you. And that, I can tell
you, is quite a sight. Can you believe that the Jaguar set the fastest
race lap at 1am in the pitch black Ardennes darkness? Amazing stuff!"
to give up before the finish line, the Jaguar trio actually set
fastest race lap after fastest race lap for the better part of the
last three hours. In the end they finished second overall, less
than a minute behind the Porsche, after twelve hours of racing.
It was a finish that certainly reminded the slightly older spectators
of the finish of the Spa 1000Kms of 1986, when Thierry Boutsen in
the private Brun-Porsche 962 beat Derek Warwick in the factory Jaguar
by a handful of seconds. Which in turn reminds us of our own age!
12 Hours Results
1. Lemeret / Nef / Bouche Porsche 911 GT3 251 laps in 12h01m04s161
2. Thiry / Dermont / Horion Jaguar X-Type Silhouette + 0m58s887
3. Turco / Franchi Porsche 911 GT3 + 6 laps
4. De Sordi / De Blauwe Porsche 911 GT3 + 6 laps
5. Morlet / Van de Wauwer / Fumal / Linnertz BMW M3 + 8 laps
6. Chaillet / Coenen Porsche 911 GT3 + 10 laps
7. Hemroulle / Verbergt Audi A4 Turbo + 11 laps
8. Philips / Van Delm / Moonen Porsche 911 RS + 11 laps
9. Close / Menage Lotus Elise + 15 laps
10. Luxen / Heck / Haddouche / Vannerum BMW M3 + 17 laps
24. Norris / Tardivat / Thiebault / De Ridder Peugeot 106 (1st Class
B) + 50 laps
27. Winter / Van Hoof / Nelissen Grade VW Polo Lehmann (2nd Class
B) + 67 laps
45 starters, 36 finishers.