Francorchamps, May 5, 2002
Traditionally the Spa Ferrari Days opened the European season for the Historic
Challenge. A weekend that brought lots of rain to the Ardennes and the circuit of
Spa-Francorchamps that obviously influenced the action on the track. For the first
time in Europe the monoposto class featured the same grid as the drum braked cars.
John Bosch drove his 512 M to victory during both disc brake races, leaving the 312P
Boxer driven by William Binnie behind him.
The famous circuit of Spa Francorchamps in the Belgian Ardennes featured the
traditional opening of the European Historic Challenge season. The altitude of the Spa
Francorchamps circuit in the beautiful mountains of the Ardennes have brought the Spa
Ferrari Days beautiful weekends in the past, but can bring impressive rain showers too,
as was proven this year. The Saturday races in both historic were fortunate in being run
in dry conditions, but on Sunday they were in soaking wet conditions.
For the first time in Europe the ”Drum Brake Class” featured single seaters running with
the Ferrari and Maserati GT’s. This combined grid brought only a meagre 22 cars on the
track for the first race of the weekend, but boy what a pleasure in Sunday’s rain to see
Robert Fink sliding his pre-war Alfa Romeo through Spa’s famous corners like the Bus
Stop chicane and La Source hairpin. The 1930’s car is of course handicapped by
handling and engine power, but the friendly German driver skilfully finished the race with
his monoposto way in front of two out of three Maserati 250 F and in front of all the closed
roof cars. Thomas Bscher in a Maserati 250 F finished first in Saturday’s race but DNF
on Sunday. On both Saturday and Sunday Robert Fink was able to keep Christian
Traber’s Ferrari 250 MM behind him in battles that lasted for several laps, to finish fifth
and second respectively, with Traber following him home each time. The race winner on
Sunday was William Binnie in his Maserati 300 S.
The ”Disc Brake Class” brought only 13 cars to Spa Francorchamps and was
impressively dominated by Dutchman John Bosch. The former rally driver crossed the
finish line in first position in both races, ”lapping” several other entrants in the process.
William Binnie was fastest in practise but had to give best to the dominant Bosch in the
races, finishing second on each occasion with his 312P Boxer, leaving the third places
in the two races to Thomas Bscher, Maserati Birdcage, and Peter Hardman, Ferrari Dino
246 S, respectively.
The season almost started where last year ended, Vincent Gaye’s 250 GT SWB fighting
with Frits Kroymans in the 250 GTO. Eventually Gaye lost position to Kroymans, not able
to withstand his pressure through La Source and Eau Rouge. Carlos Monteverde was
another to succumb to his pressure, and was forced to the outside of the hairpin,
damaging the rear end of his Dino 206 SP. Monteverde came back in the end and
finished in seventh position with the Dino, that was freshly repainted in his native
Brazilian livery of yellow with a green nose band.
The European 360 Challenge Championship is a combination of the previous Western
Europe and Central Europe Championships. This European Challenge is divided by
race results in Class 1, or Trofeo Pirelli and Class 2, or Coppa Shell. Packed grids with
the usual action and the odd car entering Bus Stop chicane sideways. First places in the
Trofeo Pirelli races were taken by John Bosch from the Netherlands and last years’
champion Ange Barde from Spain. Dutchman Jan Storm took the win for the top spot on
the first podium in the Coppa Shell, whereas John Seale in a Ferrari UK entered car took
the same spot during the podium ceremonies after the second race.
Furthermore, the crowd was entertained with a round of the Thoroughbred Grand Prix
championship, featuring privately owned Formula 1 cars. Although there was no
competitor driving a Ferrari Formula 1 car in this grid, it’s always a pleasure to hear the
high revving Cosworth engines going round the Spa Francorchamps circuit. A round of
the British Maranello Challenge and the inevitable modern Alfa Romeo demo’s
completed the multi-day programme at Spa Francorchamps.
The ever enthusiastic Belgian crowd turned out in great numbers, despite the more than
occasional showers. And given the hardly congenial weather conditions, there was even
a modestly filled parking lot with visitors that had arrived in their private Ferraris.
A fine start for the Historic Challenge season in Europe. The next venue will be 5-7 July
at the French circuit of Dijon-Prenois. See you there !