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Maserati Birdcage & 250 GTO s/n 4757GT
Pirro.com

5/14/2015, 6:54:45 PM cet

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 !

Edwin van Nes

Alfa Romeo Tipo B & Ferrari 250 MM Berlinetta, s/n 5003 & s/n 0316MM
Ferrari 312 PB & Ferrari 512M, s/n 0880 & s/n 1044
Ferrari 360 Challenge, s/n 123117
Lotus 888-2
Wet Race
365 GTB/4 Competizione s/n 16363 & 14429
Maserati Birdcage & 250 GTO s/n 4757GT
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