SPA SIX HOURS

Our very own Robert Bar­rie com­petes in a clas­sic 911 racer

Classic Porsche - - Contents - Words: Robert Bar­rie Photos: Jayson Fong and Robert Bar­rie

“I’M SURE I SAW A RAIN­BOW OVER EAU ROUGE…”

The Six Hours of Spa-fran­cor­champs is one of the must-do events in his­toric rac­ing. Itʼs also be­come a must-win for some well-heeled com­peti­tors. Fif­teen Ford GT40S en­tered the twenty-fifth run­ning of the race this year and one of them won. Again. It does seem to be the tool for the job. How­ever, there were an­other 100 of us on the grid with plenty to play for..

I shared an early 911 with Steve Jones, its owner, and Pas­cal Pan­de­laar, from Duel Mo­tor­sport, who ran the car with Dale Rac­ing. The car, as with all the oth­ers in the race, is pre­pared to pe­riod F FIA spec – which, among other things, means a 2-litre en­gine on Solex car­bu­ret­tors, a weight of just over 1000 ki­los and skinny 5.5 inch wheels. We are on Avon tyres, which are rea­son­ably grippy even if itʼs wet. The car is pre­dom­i­nantly white with a green stripe, #128.

In our case, a good re­sult will be a top thirty fin­ish and/or a class podium. If we canʼt achieve ei­ther of those, Iʼll set­tle for be­ing first of the ten 911s tak­ing part. Ac­tu­ally, I am po­litely told at lunch on race day sim­ply to make sure we fin­ish. Okay, Roger, un­der­stood.

The race starts on Satur­day af­ter­noon and ends at 10.00 in the evening. Qual­i­fy­ing was late on Fri­day, by which time the cir­cuit was dry­ing out from an­other shower. I am sure I saw a rain­bow over Eau Rouge. We set a time, but the ses­sion was red flagged and ended with­out much op­por­tu­nity to im­prove on it. It wonʼt be a prob­lem.

There are five 911s in front of us. Pas­cal set the fastest time of any in the light blue sis­ter car to ours, #112. It is a steady start to our week­end and the car feels up to the job. I am op­ti­mistic there is more to come. Our strat­egy is sim­ple. Steve will start and drive for just over two hours. Iʼll jump in and do a sim­i­lar stint in the mid­dle, leav­ing Pas­cal to do an hour and a half in the dark at the end.

We will re­fuel at both driver changes and change the rear tyres at the se­cond. In this race, you need a plan and to know how and when to change it. You can gain or lose sec­onds on the track and min­utes in the pits or at the pumps. The driv­ing is about me­chan­i­cal sym­pa­thy as well as speed. The first sign we may need to re­think is when the race is de­layed. The race be­fore us starts when it is due to fin­ish. The Six Hours will be five-and-a-quar­ter hours as a re­sult. I start to won­der if we can do it on one fuel stop.

The huge grid forms up in front of the old pit garages on the run down to Eau Rouge. We are some way up the hill to­wards La Source. As al­ways, itʼs a bit chaotic back there. I check Steve is

okay and help an­other 911 find its slot. Even­tu­ally, the pace car leads the field away. In due course, it comes round and into the new pit lane, the start line lights go green and the race is on.

Steve has a good start and makes up some places. A 911 comes into the pits with a prob­lem af­ter a few laps. They canʼt fix it. Thatʼs very tough. Soon, the faster cars start to come through the field. We will be lapped by them more or less con­tin­u­ously from now un­til the end.

Weʼll lose time if we get out of the way and more than that if we get in the way. We also need to make sure we make our own way past slower cars. The traf­fic is re­lent­less.

Steve stays out on track dur­ing the first and se­cond safety car pe­ri­ods. Most of the other 911s come in to make stops. We stay out to avoid a queue at the fuel pumps. In round num­bers, it takes five min­utes to re­fuel. If we get stuck be­hind an­other car it will take twice that long or more. The an­swer is to come in be­fore ev­ery­one else or stay out un­til af­ter ev­ery­one else – we choose the lat­ter and it works.

Steve comes in af­ter more than two hours and hands the car over to me. He says itʼs slip­pery at the big dou­ble left at Pouhon. I drive round to the pumps, brim the tank, note how much fuel weʼve used, belt up and get out on track. Itʼs taken the min­i­mum

“HE SAYS IT’S SLIP­PERY AT THE BIG DOU­BLE LEFT…”

amount of time. The car is run­ning strongly and we start to move back up the or­der again. I have a lurid mo­ment at Pouhon – Steve was right – but thereʼs no harm done and we carry on. It starts to get dark, but it stays dry.

With an hour or so to go, the lead 911 comes into the pits. Theyʼve got a prob­lem and their race is over. The next four of us are now run­ning next to each other. The pit board says we are se­cond. Then the new lead 911 also re­tires with a prob­lem. The race can be cruel. We are now the lead 911 and the car is still run­ning strongly.

There are two fur­ther safety car pe­ri­ods be­fore the pit board says itʼs time to come in and hand over to Pas­cal. Iʼve been in the car for al­most two-and-a-half hours – the max­i­mum al­lowed. Itʼs very dark by now and hard to pick out some of the cor­ners, par­tic­u­larly when a fol­low­ing car fills the cock­pit with light. While driv­ing, I have been work­ing out whether we need to re­fuel again. I have con­vinced my­self we donʼt.

Thereʼs half an hour to go as I get out and Pas­cal gets in. As we cross, I tell him we donʼt need to re­fuel. I say it again, just in case. The guys change the rear tyres and the car shoots off into the night. It was right to change the tyres – the old ones are a mess. It seems ev­ery­one thinks we should have re­fu­eled, too. Steve nips to the pumps to see if Pas­cal

“WE START TO MOVE BACK UP THE OR­DER AGAIN…”

has gone there any­way. He has­nʼt. Ah.

Itʼs a long half hour to the end of the race. The tim­ing screen con­firms we are quicker than the cars be­hind us, but do we have enough fuel? From the other side of the cir­cuit we hear the che­quered flag is out. The race is over. It has been won by Chris Ward and An­drew Smith in a GT40. Well done to them and their team.

We think we crossed the line just ahead of their car and have an­other lap to go, and then our car comes past very slowly. Surely, we canʼt have run out on the last lap? Thank­fully not. It seems we were just be­hind, rather than just ahead of, the GT40 at the flag and Pas­cal was on a slow­ing down lap. Even­tu­ally, to ev­ery­oneʼs re­lief, not least mine, the car ap­pears at our garage.

We have fin­ished just out­side the top thirty and just missed a class podium – those are still re­al­is­tic tar­gets – but we are the first 911 home. Our garage has filled up and there are cel­e­bra­tions all round. The next car – only a minute be­hind af­ter more than five hours rac­ing – is the red Jaz car, #91. The third 911 is the sis­ter car to ours.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to the 904 that fin­ished in the top ten and also to the lit­tle 356 that punched well above its weight. You need luck to do well in the Six Hours, but you also need more than that. We had some luck this year, but we were also well-pre­pared and well-or­gan­ised.

Many thanks to Steve Jones, Duel Mo­tor­sport and Dale Rac­ing for the op­por­tu­nity and for their ex­cel­lent sup­port. Roll on next year! CP

“YOU NEED LUCK TO DO WELL IN THE SIX HOURS…”

Above: Prepped to meet FIA His­toric reg­u­la­tions, the 911 runs Solex car­bu­ret­tors on its 2.0-litre en­gine. The car is owned by Steve Jones Below left: Steve Jones drove the first stint be­fore hand­ing over to Robert

Below right: Jaz en­try was the se­cond 911 home, fin­ish­ing just a minute be­hind af­ter six hoursʼ rac­ing

Above: As the event starts in the af­ter­noon and fin­ishes at 10.00pm, night-time rac­ing is all part of the ac­tion­packed pro­gramme

Below left and right: Duel Mo­tor­sportʼs Pas­cal Pan­de­laar set the quick­est time by a 911 at the wheel of #112, sis­ter car to #128

Above: Robert drives into the gath­er­ing gloom as dark­ness be­gins to fall across the cir­cuit. He would soon hand over to Pas­cal Pan­de­laar for the fi­nal stint

Below left: Few cir­cuits are as spec­tac­u­lar as Spa…

Below right: MGB in front, GT40 com­ing up be­hind – the Six Hours has it all

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