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The SPA Six Hour EVENT

The SPA Six Hour EVENT

20th, 21st, 22nd, September 2013

 

 

The Royal Automobile Club’s ‘Woodcote Trophy’

 

8 years of racing at Spa and ending on a high!

Designed in 1920 the original triangle-shaped course used public roads between the Belgian towns of Spa, Malmedy and Stavelot.

The first car race was held at the circuit in 1922, and two years later saw the first running of the now famous 24 Hours of Francorchamps race and the circuit was first used for Grand Prix racing in 1925.

The old Spa circuit was essentially a speed course with drivers managing much higher average speeds than on other race tracks - a factor that made Spa very popular from its inception. Back then, the Belgians took pride in having a very fast circuit, and to improve average speeds, the former slow uphill U-turn at the bottom of the Eau Rouge creek valley was cut short with a faster sweep straight up the hill, called the Raidillon.

 

    


Surrounded by the Belgian Beauties

Until 2000, it was possible to travel over the race track when it was still a public road. Like the Nürburgring, Spa became notorious for fatal accidents, as there were many deaths each year at the ultra-fast track. The Ardennes Forest had very unpredictable weather and there were parts where it was raining and the track was wet, and other parts where the sun was shining and the track was completely dry. This factor was a common factor on long circuits, but the weather at Spa was always more unpredictable than other long circuits.


CKL and I after a really fun race

    

So let’s talk about racing!

I must say that I am usually blessed with good weather when ‘ere I race at Spa-Francorchamps. However, getting to Spa was a little traumatic this year, with horrendous downpours and a Range Rover (Tow Truck) that decided to change from 5th to 3rd gear without being ‘Asked’. On arrival, this turned out to be the result of a dying battery. This was duly changed on arrival and I had a much better run home on Sunday.

However, the Spa micro climate did start to improve on Thursday, but Chris (Keith-Lucas) and I decided not to Test due in part to our consideration to conserve the car for Quali and The Race.

 

In part, this was a good move as it seemed that all the ‘Track Day Johnnies’ (Not me of course) seemed to have taken to the circuit, resulting in multiple Red Flags in each session.

As you wil be aware by now, this year has not been without its ‘Episodes’ with two DNF’s at Donington from a leaky gearbox dripping on to a hot exhaust and the Silverstone Classic from a broken Drive Shaft, where my near-side rear wheel was going faster than the car, as it overtook me going through Becketts.

They do say that things come in three’s, so I am desperately hoping that this is not true and my ‘Annus Horribilis’ is over with this last race of the season.

 

PRE-RACE

On Thursday we ‘Signed On’ and then found the Scrutineers, usually Phillipe and the rest of the Belgian Professionals. To my surprise once again, both John Hopwood (Woodcote Trophy Eligibility Scrutineer) and Jim Lowry (MSA Eligibility Registrar) had been granted ‘Honoroury Scrutineerships’ for the weekend, so I was pleased to see familiar faces. There’s nothing like a familiar face in the scrutineering bay when they already know your car and, the Driver??

While I was out of the country, Keith my trusty Mechanic took the car over to the CKL Track Day at Goodwood in September for Chris to test, before boxing it up for me to take the car to Spa.

The car flew through ‘Scruti’ and I retired to the Marquee to carry out pre-Quali Flight Checks for Friday. All went according to plan!

 

    


The German Jaguar Restorers

QUALIFYING

I will admit to being a little tentative when quali commenced. I just wanted to ensure that the XK was kept in good condition for Chris to drive and hopefully get a satisfactory Lap Time.

Quali started at 10:30 hours and it had been raining during the night leading to a very foggy morning. By the time we started qualifying, the track was still quite slippery, with a very slowly drying line.

During my stint, I stayed well away from the white painted lines and the apex curbs which proved to be very slippery.

For this Spa event the Organisers decided that they would put the RAC Woodcote Trophy together with the much faster Stirling Moss Trophy cars. The resulting total of vehicles came to 59 with varying speed differentiala and driver capabilities. This would obviously call for high levels of concentration, observation and anticipation during the race.

At half way, CKL took over on a still quite slippery surface that really didn’t inspire confidence. The best lap time Chris managed to post was a 3 minute 38 seconds which put us in 53rd place.
 

BUT, WATCH THIS SPACE....................!!!!!

 


CKL on his way back to the F1 Pits

    

THE RACE

Race day weather conditions were a lot different, with it being warmer and drier. In addition, our race was set for 12:15 hours, which would give the circuit a chance to dry a little more by mid-day, as early monrings are quite moist in the heart of the Ardennes Forest with humidity levels of some 85 to 90%.

I started the race, and once again my objective was to drive smoothly and be able to give Chris a car to drive for his stint and hopefully to finish the race.

I set my best lap time on Lap 8 with a 3 minute 28 seconds, a good ten seconds a lap faster than in qualifying and, by the time we completed the race, we had climbed from 53rd to finish 37th in the race, climbing 16 places in this one hour mini endurance.

Our overall result in the Woodcote Trophy race was 4th in Class. This was a creditable finish compared to the woes we’ve suffered during the season and of Spa last year, when we didn’t get to race and, where I just PR’d my way through the weekend.

That's Motor Racing, as they say......................the rough with the smooth!!

 

 

 

POST RACE ANALYSIS

I would say that it was a great effort, considering Chris had only raced the car once before this year, at Brands Hatch, where Chris and I won our last trophy (Roberts The Pot)!!

The car does need a little ‘Breathing on’ over the Winter break starting in October (That's Winter isn't it?) and some tweeks to the handling set-up to make the car more planted on circuit, as she seems to be oversteering a little on fast right-hand corners according to CKL. I like oversteer, but I'll fix it for the expert!

So it's new half-shafts and hubs, a rear axle and differential re-build and a fresh gearbox, as synchromesh on a 1955 Moss Gearbox is not the fastest and smoothest way of changing gear for competitive classic motor racing.

 

 

    


JDR approaching La Source Corner with brakes!!

But all in all, Chris and I had some really good fun at Spa. The weather was kind to us and we all had a great time as usual. There were quite a number of us at Spa as CKL Developments were juggling with ten cars in total and Clair (Keith-Lucas) looked after us all throughout the week notwithstanding she was in two of the races herself racing her 1959 Jaguar XK150S.


The lull before the Belgian Beauties arrive

    

This was our last event of the 2013 race season!

I hope you have enjoyed my reporting through the year and I look forward to seeing you somewhere in the UK or Europe in 2014.

FINAL NOTE: If you have any questions for me, or my Classic Jaguar racing, please contact me via the MWS office.

 

Have a great end to your year!

John D R

CREDITS:


Thanks once more to John Retter for his excellent action photography http://www.johnretterphotography.com

Thanks also to CKL for co-driving my little beauty and guiding me through the year! www.ckldevelopments.co.uk
 

 

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