The wailing 3.4-litre Ford GAA V6-engined Capri of Richard Meaden and Grant Tromans came out on top when the Blue Oval renewed combat with old foes BMW and Chevrolet in a rip-snorting 22-car Historic Touring Car Challenge field spanning the 1970s-1990s period at the Spa six Hours event on September 17.
Meaden qualified Tromans’ red and white machine on pole with a sizzling 2m41.828s (96.81mph) best lap on Friday, pulling 165mph on the Kemmel Straight. Gary Pearson clocked second best time in Carlos Monteverde’s emerald green Broadspeed Capri – an evocation inspired by David Matthews’ Lindrick Finance car of ’73, but was 3.4s shy.
Silverstone winners Nick and Harry Whale gridded third in the Auto Trader/Silverstone Auctions BMW E30 M3, sharing row two of the grid with engine builder Ric Wood’s Nigrin Autopflege-liveried Capri, another late-built version based on the Cologne Capris which starred with BMW CSLs in the European Championships of the early ’70s.
German Dominik Roschmann’s yellow CSL ‘Batmobile’ on P5 evoked huge local memories for it is the fabled BMW Belgium-supported car prepared by Albert ‘Poppa’ Peltier’s Precision Liegiose concern (established 40 miles from Spa) in period and raced by his son Alain and compatriot Jean Xhenceval.
The two Chevrolet Camaros qualified sixth and eighth, Grahame and Olly Bryant’s ex-Richard Lloyd ’74 Simoniz example receiving a routine front brake disc change change post-qualifying. David Clark’s later-shaped Bastos cigarettes car (shared with Kiwi Roger Wills) had not graced Francorchamps since Swedish F1 veteran Reine Wisell qualified it on pole for the 1980 Spa 24 Hours!
The Chevys were split by Richard Postins’ dayglo Marlboro Rover SD1. Another monstrous V8 in the meat of the pack was Belgian Marc Devis’ 6.4-litre American Motors Javelin, the ex-David Howes car in which WDK Motorsport mechanic Jonathan Hoad was making his Spa debut.
Till Bechtolsheimer’s ex-Armin Hahne MG Metro Turbo (which his family concern, Massa, backed in period), Tom Andrew’s BMW E30 M3, the ex-Dennis Leech Rover SD1 of Chris and Charlie Williams and the Bastos Capri of Richard Meins and 2012 World Touring Car champion Rob Huff also circulated within three minutes.
Another famous Capri, the Belga cigarettes liveried car of locals Raphaël de Borman/Christophe van Riet was next up, ahead of Anglo-Australian pairing Clive Joy/Jarrah Venables in the Briton’s Rover Vitesse, the ex-Steve Soper/Ron Dickson car which raced at Bathurst. Intriguingly, Touring Car legend Soper (now 63) shared the track with it, saddling a Ford Lotus Cortina to second place in the parallel U2TC set which started a minute later, taking the field to an impressive 55 cars.
EFG Bank’s motor sport representative Robert Crofton’s Datsun 240Z, the Alfa Romeo 1750 GTAm of Luxemburgers Pascal Wilwert/Tom Mailliet, Peter Mallett’s Rover SD1 and Paul Chase-Gardener’s Capri were in touch. The entrants were rounded out by the Alfas of Ian Guest/Tony Brewer (GTV6) and Glyn Allen/Darren Roberts (2000 GTV) and the usually quick UFO Jeans Capri replica of Paul Pochciol/James Hanson which was sidelined for the weekend.
Poleman Meaden led the stampede to La Source, where the three Capris made a colourful sight, overpowering Nick Whale’s M3. Meaden – already five seconds clear – Monteverde and Wood led Whale at the end of the opening lap, with Postins, Devis, Grahame Bryant, Charlie Williams, Bechtolsheimer and Clark leading the peloton. Points failure stopped Roschmann’s BMW immediately, while the Capris of Chase-Gardener and De Borman, plus Guest Alfa were early casualties.
Meaden extended his advantage over Wood by an average of four seconds per lap in a bid to hand patron Tromans a winning lead. Whale, meanwhile, demoted Monteverde to fourth before installing his son after eight laps. Gary Pearson replaced the Brazilian next time round as Devis, up to fourth in the pit stop sequence, passed the AMC Javelin to Hoad.
With Meaden still howling round, Wood stopped from second on lap 11 although alternator failure would stop his Capri a couple of tours later. Williams’ Rover, with its wonderfully aggressive striped livery was third at the handover, Postins having been third to stop after Bryant and Whale as the window opened. Clark’s Camaro’s ‘homecoming’ was brief alas. Its engine blew on lap five before Wills could take his turn at the wheel. Joy’s Rover pulled off a lap later, to be followed by Allen’s Alfa, while Huff’s run in Meins’ Capri was over after five laps.
Tromans leapt into the leading Capri at the end of lap 13 and while Harry Whale gradually reduced a 48s deficit to 31s at the chequered flag, the former TVR Tuscan Challenge racer looked nothing but comfortable as he rattled the last nine laps off. Pearson, Hoad – after a mega drive in the Javelin on his Spa baptism – and Postins finished third fourth and fifth, all on the lead lap.
The Williams family’s Rover was sixth, eight seconds ahead of Bryant Jr in the red and white Camaro, with Andrew’s Beemer eighth. Crofton’s 240Z Samurai finished a strong ninth, clear of Bechtolsheimer, Mallett and the bulbous-arched Wilwert/Mailliet Alfa Romeo.