2-LITRE CUP IS GO! 90
Robert Barrie reports on the first two rounds at Spa and Dijon
Probably the most exciting news of 2017 was the announcement by Peter Auto of the new race series for pre-ʼ66 SWB 911s, dubbed the 2-litre Cup. Our own Robert Barrie – himself sharing a drive in the first event – reports on the first two rounds, held at Spa and Dijon
The organisers of the 2-Litre Cup for pre-66 FIAspec early 911s say the new series is all about having fun. Really? I reckon itʼs quite serious and quite competitive. Itʼs fun alright, but itʼs also proper racing and absolutely brilliant as a result. The first round took place at Peter Autoʼs Spa Classic meeting in May. No fewer than forty cars entered with a mix of solo drivers and two-driver crews. Free practice was late on Friday, qualifying was on Saturday and the race – scheduled for ninety minutes – was last thing on Sunday.
Free practice would normally be an opportunity for circuit familiarisation and final set-up. Not this time. Some of the competitors had been at the circuit for days. The session was full-on and flat-out. The tone was set. The usual suspects duly put themselves at the sharp end in qualifying. In the race itself, the early laps saw the lead swap between Olly Bryant, starting from pole in the silver car he shares with Andrew Smith, Nigel Greensall in David Huxleyʼs Brumos-liveried car and Pascal Pandelaar in Michiel van Duijvendijkʼs car.
It was impressive stuff. There was less than a second between them in qualifying – hardly anything when a lap lasts a little over three minutes. As the race continued, Greensall took the lead with Bryant and Pandelaar close behind. Then, shortly after the mid-race round of pit stops and driver changes, the circuit got up to its old tricks. The unbroken sunshine gave way to a hailstorm. A heavy one.
A safety car went out to check on conditions only to be followed a few laps later by a red flag. The race was over, having run a little beyond the hour mark. In the final few laps, Andrew Smith took the lead from Huxley, and Mark and James Batesʼ red-striped light ivory car took third from van Duijvendijk. It was a typically Spa-esque ending and, as we umbrellaʼd our way back to the paddock, we all agreed we must do it again. Most of us did. The second round of the series was at the Grand Prix de lʼage dʼor meeting in Dijon less than a month later.
There were thirty cars at Dijon. A mixture of attrition and alternative attractions cut the numbers, but it didnʼt affect the racing. Dijon is shorter than Spa – the lap is just over half as long – so the action was every bit as close. This time free practice was early on Saturday morning, qualifying was on Saturday afternoon and the race – scheduled for ninety minutes again – was last thing on Sunday once more. Hmm. Who do I speak to about the timetable? I should also say that the thirty minute-long free practice and qualifying sessions are a little on the light side – particularly for a two-driver crew at a circuit such as Spa. Those are small observations that can be addressed next season.
Meanwhile, back at Dijon, Olly Bryant put the silver car on pole again – this time he was ahead of the Bates car and Tech9ʼs Phil Hindley solo-driving another light ivory car. The midfield was packed with ten cars within a second of each other. The race produced another win for Bryant and Smith who, pit stops and driver changes aside, led more or less every lap. They are an impressively quick pair of drivers in an impressively quick car. Hindley was second and Martin Oʼconnell solo-driving Sandy Watsonʼs car was third.
The race also ended with a red flag as an errant late-braker got stuck in the gravel beyond the first turn and ended the proceedings five minutes early. Itʼs not hard to see how it happens – the cars are doing 200kph at the end of the long straight before braking hard and turning into the long double righthander. Miss your braking point and it all gets a bit messy. Ask me how I know!
As a footnote, Andrew Smith finished the Modena Cento Ore and drove his 3.0-litre RS from the event straight to Dijon in time for the race. The Mont Blanc tunnel was shut so he went the long way and arrived just as the rest of us were in the collecting area. It was all very old-school cool, though it pains me somewhat to admit it.
The new series looks to be off to a good start. The grids have been strong with close racing up and down the field, and remarkably little contact. Iʼd like to think there is a respect for the cars and for each other that moderates the excesses occasionally seen elsewhere.
For those that donʼt quite get the joke, drivers held responsible for damage to another car can be required to make a contribution towards the cost of its repair. On the other hand, the attrition rate has been slightly higher than I might have expected. They have been hot and hard races – until the hailstorm – and that has taken its toll.
“THE NEW SERIES LOOKS TO BE OFF TO A GOOD START…”
For those that care about these things – and we all do to some extent – eligibility checking has been evident. Engine capacity, track width and suspension components have all been looked at on the leading cars. They have complied more or less without exception. The rest of us have taken note. On-track discipline has been enforced by race control. A handful of cars have attracted penalties in each race, ranging from the addition of time to the deduction of laps for contravening pit stop regulations in some cases and exceeding track limits in others. There was also a penalty for an over-optimistic jump-start at Dijon.
So, what of our own efforts so far? I have been fortunate to share the car we ran in the Spa Six Hours last year with its owner again. He really is very patient! We had good pace at Spa and Dijon, with top ten-matching times and speeds at various points during both weekends, but we have not qualified as well as we could. It matters because a ninety- minute race is not a full endurance distance and because the cars are so closely matched. It takes a lot of time – time we donʼt have – to pass the car in front when it is so similar.
I could say we overtook more cars than anyone else at Spa and as many as anyone else at Dijon. Itʼs true, as it happens, and we thoroughly enjoyed it, but itʼs only the same thing as saying we qualified badly at both. We must try to do better at the third and final round at the 10,000 Tours de Castellet meeting at Paul Ricard at the start of September.
In the meantime, a number of the cars and drivers from the series will line up for a one-off seventieth birthday race for pre-1973 Porsches at the Le Mans Classic meeting in July. Frustratingly, itʼs a single-driver race of just under an hour ʼs duration, so I will be reduced to cheering from the sidelines. Never mind, there are worse places to be and it will give me more time to work out how to produce that demon qualifying lap at Paul Ricard. Itʼs all great fun, but itʼs also great racing. CP
Left: The midfield pack early in the race at Dijon. The series makes for a colourful sight! Spainʼs Olivier Tancogne (#98) leads the wayRight: Podium at Dijon, with Phil Hindley (second), Olly Bryant and Andrew Smith (first) and Martin Oʼconnell (third)
Above: The Historikaprepared car of Olly Bryant and Andrew Smith at speed at Dijon, where the pair finished first overall
Below left: The left-hander that leads into the Parabolica at Dijon, with #167 Sandy Watson/martin Oʼconnell
Below: Busy assembly area at Spa, a period of calm before the hail storm which brought the race to a premature end
Below: Sanjay Talwar and Adam Dawson shared Sanjayʼs 911 at Spa
Above right: David Huxley at the wheel of Nigel Greenshallʼs Brumos-inspired car at Spa
Above left: Spa lived up to its reputation, with a downpour and hail storm bringing proceedings to an early end