words and shots by leo dijkstra

'Beers?'
'Check!'
'Popcorn?'
'Check!'
'Ear plugs?'
'Check!'

This is how the weekend started for me and my three friends Sander, Patrick, and Henk, when we gathered at my house for our yearly pilgrimage to Spa. To the 2014 Spa Six Hour Classic we go!
Travelling in style and comfort in Patrick's 2006 Cayenne, we set off on Friday night so we could catch all the racing from early Saturday on. 

Patrick likes to do the driving on these trips, and Sander and I celebrated this by popping the caps of our first La Chouffe Belgian beer bottles in the back seats. The popping sound was the cue for Henk to share a story about his TVR T-bar roof panel that popped out at cruising speed. It took off in the air, never to be found again... Well, our trip got off to a good start as we cruised the Belgian border on to the high Ardennes to the most beautiful circuit I know: Spa-Francorchamps. 
Our pied-a-terre for the night was a small holiday chalet at a resort that took us straight back to the seventies. On the porch, with popcorn and a beer, it wasn't long before we shared our best breakdown and wrenching stories of all the cheap classics we'd run. We debated if Sander was to buy a second hand Cayenne, like Patrick, or a Range Rover, like me, as his next daily driver. Admittedly, I like to highlight the fact my 4.4 BMW-engined supertanker is faster in a straight line sprint than Patrick's 3.2 VR6 P-car. That is, until it hits a corner... Unable to end the debate before mid night, we decided to park it there and continue it over breakfast. 
Needing a good kick start, we set off to the village in search of a coffee place and man, did they have one. High on an overdose of caffeine and sugar pastries, we rushed on to the circuit where the old formula cars from the fifties were already filling the air with noise and burnt alcohol fumes. We felt right at home...

Now, you have to know that in the southern Wallone part of Belgium, things are typically a bit less organized, more relaxed and focused on enjoying life in general, and the circuit's atmosphere is no exception. One admission ticket buys you access to literally every area: all grand stands, the upper deck, the brasserie, the paddocks, but best of all, the pits. Spectators and pilots all enjoy the 'laissez faire' mentality as they hang about the cars in the pit boxes. As a spectator you can witness first hand the hard wrenching mechanics and talk to the drivers. 
The display of cars is just amazing, it's like a mini version of the Le Mans Classic 24 hours. Just look at those pictures: from Ferrari 250GT's to rare Astons, from Cooper climax to Maserati 250F. The list goes on and on and they're all driven hard! 

Weather in the Ardennes always packs some surprises. As the 6 hours straight was just underway, clouds packed over the circuit. And as spectators huddled together in the pits and cafés, the cars skid across the straight. Luckily, only bent metal and bent egos were the result. And an Elan sprint that needed some new plastic bits...

As the sun set and the evening progressed, this event even supersedes the Le Mans classic in my opinion. It's the six hours straight in the same cars that gets to bit driver and car. At Le Mans they only race in one hour shifts with ample time in between to fix the oily bits. At Spa, you see the mechanics frantically hitting stuck brakes pads and extinguishing fires on overheated stuck wheel bearings. Only the toughest and best survive till the end.

The smells, sounds, food, and drinks that go with this make it an event you'll only grasp by going there. Our own flüssig Felix Page did just that, as you'll find out soon in the sequel to this story!

So, who's signing up for next year?

Groeten, 

Leo aka The Dutch shark
 


Comments


Your comment will be posted after it is approved.


Leave a Reply