After Jacques Nicolet’s success at Navarra, the Classic Endurance Racing has been held on the legendary circuit of Spa Francorchamps for the second qualifying practice of championship, scheduled inside the Spa Classic race. Unlike what happened in the first practice, at Spa there was a return to the formula used last year during the Dix Mille Tours of Paul Ricard with two separate groups, one for P1s and GT1s (CER 1) and the other for P2s and GT2s, (CER2), which allowed the entry of about one hundred cars. Once again the exhibition didn’t fail to meet expectations, with uncertain races in both groups and with new protagonists who have mixed their balance.
Thirty-six cars have enlivened this group, perfectly shared between prototypes and Gts, many of them at the debut in CER 2011. During three sessions of practice, it was soon clear that the new entry of Thuner and Hart, both at the wheel of the Lola T70MkIII, ran at a rate faster than rivals, with France only in a position to set times near their lapping times. Behind them Marc Devis, also at the wheel of the T70 and Cazalieres who, thanks to the Spa long straights, managed to solve some overheating problems caused by the braking system of his Lola Mazda. Among the GTs Nahun took his Ford Gt40 to the lead, even with the twelfth quickest time overall, before the Porsche 911 of Orjuelas and the other GT40 driven by Steel.
The start of the race took place on Sunday evening without any problem in particular, with Thuner, Hart and France who, after few laps, gained a considerable ground on the other drivers: behind them a series of duels started immediately and livened up a good part of the race, like the duel between Cazalieres and Devis or the fight among Mille, Watson and Pierre Nicolet, the latter faster in the mixed traits but penalized by the BMW’s less powerful engine when he was pulling ahead.
The first two drivers were leading a frenzied pace and after a couple of laps even France suffered from a certain gap, leaving the other two drivers to fight relentlessly. On lap 8, while Devis was passing Cazalieres, the Safety car appeared on the track and in the heat of brawl, the first two arrived at pits for the mandatory pit-stop without realizing that pits were still closed: as a result the direction imposed the drivers one minute stop-and-go, which took them back to the pits by forcing them to a real thrilling comeback. One lap more and the opening of pits kicked off the festival of the mandatory pit-stop favouring Cazalieres, who returned before Devis and duo made by O’Connel (replacing Watson) and Nicolet taking advantage of a problem occurred to Mille, gained one position. Meantime Hart and Thuner, relegated to seventh and eighth places, started a comeback that, after a few rounds, made them rid of all rivals with the exception of France, but when they seemed to have moved in the attack of the first one, Thuner was obliged to lift his foot, and be satisfied with the third position. On the contrary, Hart was very fast and at the two laps separating the end, passed France, even if an excellent driver, so as to gain a deserved win. Cazalieres took the fourth place, he who after a pit-stop defended himself against Devis, finished fifth, followed in his turn by O’Connell and Nicolet. The Gt race was much less thrilling, with Nahun to dominate from the first to the last lap, and followed by Bosch at the wheel of the Ferrari Daytona and by Strabel with a Corvette. On the contrary, Steel wasn’t lucky, forced to retire when he was in the second position.
On this occasion, the CER youngest group boasted of the innovations earlier expected at Navarra, increased by a last-minute surprise. Besides the Ferrari 312 Ps, driven on practice by Knapfield, who preferred to return for the race with the most tested 712 CanAm, with which he had triumphed last year, we have to remark the entry of the Porsche 935/79 Moby Dick, the silhouette that challenged the prototypes at Le Mans and was driven by Stephane Ortelli.
On practice, the fastest driver was Deman, a home driver who, at the wheel of his Osella PA4, lapped at 2:25:376, over three seconds ahead of his nearest rival Lafargue: Quiniou was third followed by Jacques Nicolet, whilst Luco, at the wheel of a fine Ligies JS3, seemed far from his best form as he set a modest twelfth time. In still worst condition there was Knapfield, who being satisfied with only three laps oat the wheel of his 712 took the twenty-ninth position. An unlucky Busst, third at Navarra, was forced to drop out at the end of the practice, as well as Espirito Santo, who ran into a bad accident during first practices.
On Sunday evening the Spa Classic race finished with CER 2. At the start Demas tried a solitary race, favoured in the first rounds by the duel involving Quiniou, with an engine perfectly running, Nicolet and Lafargue. Whilst Jacques managed to take the second place on lap 4, Lafargue, penalized by a less powerful engine, found it hard to overtake his rival and when he succeeded a slight collision forced Quiniou to abandon. On arrival at lap 10, the first pits for the mandatory pit-stop will deeply modify the trend of the race. Demas, after his stop, didn’t restart because of his engine failure, and left the lead of the race to Nicolet, however, behind the French driver, there was a surprising Knapfield, who had rid of a good part of his rivals in the first laps and, by delaying the pit-stop for a few laps, found himself ahead of Lafargue and Da Rocha, who after starting on the sly, prevailed over Guenar and Wikins-Catlow. Five laps were separating the final, when it seemed that positions were by then settled, with O’Connel who, after a puncture, desperately managed to regain the leading positions, but an unexpected event happened: Freres, in his Lola T298, went back to the pits for a drive through but coming out of the Source he didn’t notice Nicolet, who was about to overtake him, and he cut his way. The collision was inevitable as well as both drivers’ abandon. Knapfield took the lead, with Lafargue who tried all ways to reach the Ferrari, in the end the English driver repeated the success of last year with a margin of one second and a half. Da Rocha, the excellent driver, was third in spite of a somewhat weak engine.
Among GTs, after a start dominated by Foveny with the Porsche 935 and after Ortelli’s retirement due to many problems on engine, turbo and clutch, finally eliminated by a puncture, the win went to a tough Martin, with his co-driver De Sibenthal, always at the wheel of the Porsche 935, ahead of a regular Mr John of B and before a defeated Foveny.