Spa Francorchamps - RMU Classic
May 16th - May 18th 2008
Saturday, 17 May 2008 Qualifying – 09hrs to 09.40hrs
Track Conditions: Damp/Wet Weather: Rain/Overcast
A damp and often very wet track greeted Group C Racing’s excellent grid of 29 cars during qualifying with the usual suspects of Mark Sumpter (7) in his Porsche 962 taking pole ahead of Andy Purdie (97) in his ex-Charlie Agg Nissan with less than a second separating him from Justin Law (30) in his Jaguar XJR12, leading a field of these fabulous Le Mans racer cars from 1980s. Fast and safe driving gave us an unmarked grid for the 30 minute Super Sprint race in the afternoon.
Race 1 – Super Sprint – 30 mins
Track Conditions: Wet Weather: Rain/Overcast
True to Spa, the heavens opened just before our race! However, by the time the cars took to the track it was drying well and most of the grid started the race on slick tyres, only for a first lap scramble back to the pits for a tyre change to wets. The weather remained patchy for the race and we lost Nick Rini (32) in his Jaguar XJR12 at La Source, after only a few laps having started a respectable 5th in qualifying, likewise Mark Sumpter in the no 7 car suffering an engine failure, with both becoming DNF statistics. The rest of the grid entertained a good crowd with some spectacular racing, no mean feat on such a wet track. The cars really were the stars and this was a first time out for Rob Sherrard’s newly acquired, rare and beautiful Mercedes Sauber which performed very well.
Justin Law drove superbly to maintain P1 to the end of the race and showed just how skilled a driver he is, being one of the few to complete the whole race on slicks, by really pushing the car hard to try to get some heat into the tyres. Then with two main contenders out of the honours, two fairly recent Group C racers stepped up to plate. Peter Sowerby (84) in his Nissan and David Hart (39) in his Porsche 962 pushed up the grid from 8th and 11th respectively to fight a terrific battle for 2nd and 3rd places. Hart making a brave overtaking move to take 2nd from Sowerby and so the first three remained to the chequered flag.
Throughout the rest of the field there were many brave battles in dreadful track and weather conditions and all credit to all Group C Racing drivers for their professional and entertaining driving.
After Law, Hart and Sowerby took podium honours, class wins went to Law (C1); Kent Abrahamsson/71 (G2); John Edwards/19 (G3) who judged his fuel intake perfectly, ending up with a tow back to the pits having run out on the slow down lap! Nick Chester/81, (G4) drove a spirited performance in father, Group C Racing Chairman Richard’s Tiga for the G4 class win.
Sunday sees the inaugural Group C Racing Enduro 90 minute race, complete with pit refuelling. Which, under the watchful eyes of Series Director, Charlie Agg, and Technical whizz, Trevor Crisp, the teams have been perfecting since April.
Race 2 – Enduro – 90 mins
Track Conditions: Damp/Wet Weather: Rain/Overcast
The inaugural Enduro race for Group C Racing began once again with a damp track but with the rain holding off for the whole of the race.
Using the grid positions from Saturday morning’s qualifying saw gaps where several cars became DNS from Race 1, including poleman Mark Sumpter/7 and Nick Rini/32 from Row 3. This gave Wayne Park in Rob Sherrard’s iconic Sauber-Mercedes C9/62 the opportunity to snatch P1 from Justin Law and ’88 Le Mans winning megastar Andy Wallace/3 and the other worthy contenders by lap 3. Both Henry Pearman with ace Mike Wilds in the beautiful pink Porsche 962/14 and Stefano Rosina/Stefan Rosina in the equally stunning Spice/5 made the most of the situation and finished 4th and 5th respectively. The very experienced Law/Wallace/3 combination had made some excellent moves to get ahead but had an overheating problem with the fabulous Jaguar XJR12 which pushed them uncharacteristically way down the grid.
Sadly, Richard and Nick Chester’s drive in the Tiga/81 came to nothing when the car refused to start on the grid and was parked up for the whole of the race – a great disappointment to them and so frustrating when the car had been so extensively prepared for the season and would start on the button usually.
Fastest lap man, Andy Purdie in his Nissan/97 finished 11th after some early problems but gave us a lesson in stylish cornering at La Source on several occasions!
There followed some fabulous racing throughout the field as the track dried out. This included another set of memorable tussles between the Peter Sowerby/Calum Lockie Nissan/84 and David Hart’s Porsche 962/39, once again pushing up to 2nd and 3rd places respectively by the end of the race and so reversing the previous race’s sterling effort!
Next came the pit lane refuelling and the teams were as good as any Formula 1 team with their timings and safety. With all the cars’ fuel tanks reduced to 100 litres, most teams came in around the 45-50 minute mark so there was a lot of timing to do for the Group C Racing team to ensure all cars were stopped for the mandatory 4 minutes, with the drivers out of the cars.
Group C Racing’s technical man, Trevor Crisp, was particularly pleased with the effort made by the teams to ensure the refuelling and pit stops were safe and controlled as well as quick and slick.
Everything went like clockwork with no incidents and very happy pit lane marshals. After the race, both the drivers and their teams said how much they had enjoyed the additional challenge of pit lane refuelling and that it had added another layer of enjoyment to their racing with Group C.
With the second segment of the race underway, our first three drivers remained in their same position, with Rob Sherrard generously giving the rest of the drive to Wayne Park in his C9/62 who then completed 38 laps, one extra than P2 men, Sowerby/Lockie in the 84 car.
Slovakian Stefan Rosina, co driving the superb Spice/5 of Stefano Rosina, made excellent headway and showed that at age 20, sometimes youth can triumph partly over age and experience!
Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Simon Wright in his lovely 962/10 finished an excellent 7th and Oliver Mathai in the Primagaz Porsche 962/27 was pushing hard but took an early bath with a minor engine problem. As did both Jim Loftis in the gorgeous and wonderfully loud Mazda/203 and Claus Bjerglund in his beautiful Spice/22 (and not his usual Porsche 962) retired early. Claus deserved a medal for having competed over four days with a raging toothache which could only be numbed with whisky each evening!
The end of the race came quickly along with Sherrard/Park in the winning C9/62, Sowerby/Lockie coming 2nd in the 84 car and Hart taking 3rd in the 39 car. Class wins went to Sherrard/Park/62 (C1); Wright/10 (G2); John Edwards/19 (G3) and Peter Schleifer/16 (G4).
The excellent hospitality (provided by Ian Dawson and his hardworking team as for last season) was packed to the roof during prize giving (and the Historic F1 cars on the track nearly taking the roof off too!) with the Enduro class wins and other awards handed out.
Lotus expert, Pat Thomas, and his Kelvedon Racing crew were awarded the Spirit of the Meeting Award, having endured five days of sleepless nights and several trips to the fuel tank man to have the car finished, and arriving Friday afternoon, still all smiling and patting each other on their backs!
Scott Racing’s Trevor Parfitt picked up the Best Team Award for his crew after a particularly slick and fast refuelling, pipping many contenders to the prize.
Mark Sumpter and his Paragon crew received the Broken Conrod Award due to his engine failure in Race 1 which has left him with some work to do before Le Mans in June.
All in all, an excellent weekend with everyone having great fun in the cars! Series Director, Charlie Agg, was delighted to have such a good turn out for the RMU Classic at Spa and for the quality and reliability of the cars.
Roll on Le Mans!
Race Results PDF