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A Thriller In The Ardennes - Spa 2014

Chris Ward (Lister-Jaguar Costin) and Andrew Hall/Patrick Blakeney-Edwards (in Fred Wakeman’s rorty Cooper-Jaguar T38) were the big winners as Motor Racing Legends’ Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy and Stirling Moss Trophy competitors combined to form a spectacular 53-car field, with 16 car marques spanning Aston Martin to Jowett, on the annual sojourn to the Spa Six Hours meeting on September 19-20. 

Both Ward and the Hall/Blakeney-Edwards combo had to sweat for their victories. Chris engaged in a spectacular SMT dogfight with pole-sitter Bobby Verdon-Roe until the gearbox in the latter’s super sleek ex-Phil Hill/Wolfgang von Trips/Rodriguez brothers N.A.R.T. Ferrari Dino 246S proved recalcitrant again. 

Initially comprising 58 cars, the entry was encouragingly studded with newcomers. Best of these, and top of the Woodcote Trophy leaderboard in eighth place after Friday’s qualifying session, was Gläsel, sharing his car – previously raced by Irvine Laidlaw – with Pearson, the only rival to beat him in the previous weekend’s exclusive Jaguar D-type/XKSS Lavant Cup feature race at the Goodwood revival.

Also in a D-type was Clive Joy, whose recently acquired ex-George Constantine ’56 Watkins Glen International Sportscar Grand Prix winner XKD 545 – a short-nosed car since shorn of its tailfin and returned from British Racing Green with orange noseband to its delightful original pastel blue warpaint – was co-driven by Gavin Pickering, son of its previous owner Tony. They lined-up 11th.

Tarek Mahmoud, meanwhile, entrusted his ex-Adrian van der Kroft Cooper T49 Monaco to brother Galal. Gregoire Audi completed the Lebanese driving partnership, while Tarek concentrated on his beloved Austin-Healey 100/4.

It was pleasing to see Morgan racer Roger Whiteside getting accustomed to, and clearly enjoying, his red and white Cooper T49 Monaco, acquired from Tony Ditheridge. Germany’s Wolf Zweifler also debuted his Lister-Chevrolet Knobbly – bought from Esmond Smith after son Andrew and Alasdair McCaig finished third in Goodwood’s Sussex Trophy race the previous Friday – in the qualifying session, but brake issue mean’t he couldn’t race it.

Missing from the grid, alas, were Roger Buxton, who crashed his HWM-Jaguar heavily at Raidillon (ironically where American Lash McCall pranged it in Michael Steele’s previous ownership) during qualifying, and Alessandro Latif who did not get that far. The 18-year-old Blancpain Sprint Series Pro-Am Trophy leader (in an Audi R8 LMS ultra) comprehensively restyled the Harry Wyndham-entered Jaguar D-type – the first racing car he’d driven with a gear lever rather than paddles! – at Les Combes during testing on Thursday. 

Saturday’s afternoon’s race (over 61 minutes, to accommodate more starters than an hour offers, per the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium’s circuit licence) got under way shortly after 12.35 with Verdon-Roe and Ward setting a cracking pace as they slugged it out from the impressive rolling start, evocative of the period to 1960.

They made their mandatory pit stops a lap apart, but the duel continued until the Ferrari slowed, freeing Ward in the Lister to a comfortable victory. Verdon-Roe barely made it home, crawling over the line almost a minute and a half behind. “It’s not for lack of trying,” assured Scott from Tim Samways’ Sporting & Historic Cars team.  “We’ve had the ‘box out twice since we’ve been here…”

Mark Piercy (Cooper Monaco) finished a lonely third, ahead of the Knobbly-bodied Lister-Jaguar of Tony Wood and Will Nuthall. The little ex-Peter Ashdown 1100cc Coventry-Climax FWA-engined Lola Mk1 Prototype always bats above its weight in the hands of Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger, who brought it back in an outstanding fifth position, chased by Belgian Eric Mestdagh in his two-litre Lotus 15.

The concurrent battle for Woodcote Trophy honours was epic. Pearson started Gläsel’s metallic blue long-nosed tail-finned D-type and led Monteverde in his white short-nosed D-type and Hall in the ex-Equipe Endeavour Cooper-Jaguar as they scythed through slower traffic in the opening stages. Hall stopped first as the ‘fenetre de pitstop’ opened after seven laps. Blakeney Motorsport’s well-drilled stop essentially sowed the seeds of a great victory, for Patrick Blakeney-Edwards came out within five seconds of Gläsel and caught and passed him within four laps.

Pearson, who had relayed Gläsel after eight circuits to take over Monteverde’s sister machine, then found himself at the centre of a comedy stop. When the Brazilian arrived at the Pearsons Engineering pit next time round chaos descended. “Carlos tripped over the seat and fell out, so I had to climb over him to get in,” said Gary. “Just as I was about to go he dived back into the footwell and presented me with the gear knob which he’d fished out from among the pedals…”

Once Blakeney-Edwards was ahead, Gläsel couldn’t quite counter the Briton’s panache. Indeed, by two-thirds’ distance Pearson was bearing down on him and the trio was running seventh, eighth and ninth overall. The top three cars’ fastest laps were blanketed by six tenths of a second on a four-mile circuit!

The class-winning Lotus-Bristol MkX of Rick Bourne/Malcolm Paul finished fourth of the Woodcote set, ahead of Derek Hood/John Young (Cooper-Jaguar T33) and Silverstone Classic promoter Nick Wigley who also won his division at the wheel of Peter Mann’s cycle-winged Cooper-Bristol T24/25.