THE race series for you racing Midget or Sprite

Race Report for Colmar Berg 10 - 12 June 2000
Dave O'Neill

The International Spridget Competition cars travelled to Colmar Berg in Luxembourg for the second round of the 2000 season. The race was held at the Goodyear test track, which was also hosting the Letzeburger Oldtimer Festival.

Qualifying 1 – Saturday
Antonio Bertini’s weekend got off to a bad start as he was black-flagged for not wearing his Nomex gloves. There was some frantic activity by the GB Performance team – including Rae Davis running over a marshal with his scooter – as they tried to find him a pair of gloves. It was worth the effort as he qualified on the front row alongside Rupert Douglas-Pennant. Mark Hope had a worrying moment as his car refused to start, even when pushed, although he finally made it onto the track in time. There weren’t too many casualties from the first session, apart from Dave Shannon who caused some serious damage to the bodywork on his new car. This was soon repaired, however, with the help of a large roll of tank tape and he would start fourth on the grid. The timekeepers initially had Pieter Bakker on pole-position by almost 3 seconds. They later issued a revised timesheet which put him on row four. Ian Hulett was debuting his new car fitted with a Lenham bonnet. As well as being one of the most attractive bonnets available for the Spridget, it also helps to win races as it is slightly longer than any of the others and therefore crosses the finishing line sooner! Ian also qualified well, in third place. Ian Burgin was flying in his one litre Frogeye, having done some more development work over the winter, for sixth on the grid. Malcolm Self in the other one-litre car seemed to have found some reliability, at last, and was also going well. One of the guest drivers who was making his debut in the International Spridget Competition was Mick Hopkins. Mick normally races in the MG Owners’ Club Championship in the UK and had his first race win at Zolder recently, having started at the back of the grid. As MGOC cars don’t produce as much power as the more modified FISC cars, he qualified quite well down the field in a respectable fifteenth place, just in front of Robert Halewijn in my old car. Michael Harder qualified twelfth in his new yellow Frogeye which seemed to be performing better than his old Midget. Unfortunately, Rob Bierman didn’t make it to the circuit as his bus broke down en-route. I was due to be deputising for ‘webmaster’ Steve Waddington but as my new engine wasn’t finished, I was without a car!

Qualifying 2 – Saturday
The second qualifying session was fairly uneventful. The front row was unchanged with Rupert Douglas-Pennant on pole with Antonio Bertini alongside him. Dave Shannon had demoted Ian Hulett to fourth and John Faux had slipped from the third row to the sixth. Most people had improved on their times as they got to know the circuit.

Race 1 – Sunday morning
The first race was extremely early on Sunday morning – so early that I couldn’t even recognise what time it was – so I was quite relieved that I wasn’t actually racing. As is usual with Spridget races, it was to be a rolling start. Pieter Bakker and Michael Harder both stalled as they were about to set off on the warm-up lap, Pieter managed to get going and take up his place in the pack whereas Michael had to be push-started by the marshals and a willing band of supporters from the pit-wall. He soon caught up with the pack but there was then some confusion as the officials decided to abort the start and halt all the cars on the grid again. This was completely unexpected by most of the drivers and completely unnecessary, as most of the spectators thought. Michael was made to start from the pit-lane after all the other cars had passed. It had been agreed beforehand that, after the pace car had left the circuit, all cars would remain in formation until after the chicane that had been added to the start-finish straight in order to minimise the chance of a multiple pile-up. This had the effect of spreading the field out very quickly. Rupert Douglas-Pennant and Antonio Bertini were fighting for the lead and pulled away from the chasing pack. Third place was being contested by Dave Shannon, Ian Hulett, Pieter Bakker, John Faux and Ian Johnson. Further down the field, Mark Dols was testing the limits of adhesion of both the track and his tyres by spinning several times, much to the amusement of the spectators. The battle for first place looked like it would go to the wire with Rupert managing to hold off Antonio’s challenges until, with two laps to go, Antonio tried a do-or-die manoeuvre to try and pass Rupert into the chicane. From the trackside it didn’t look like it was ever going to work, and it didn’t…Antonio collected the tyres, smashing his front wing and forcing Rupert into a spin which would ultimately cost him seventeen places. In the resulting confusion, Dave Shannon nipped through to take first place. Ian Hulett snatched second place from Antonio, who slowed as he crossed the line to pick up the remains of his front wing! John Faux finished in fourth place, just ahead of Ian Johnson with his best placing in the FISC series, to date. Pieter Bakker came home in sixth place with the fast-improving James Bilsland seventh. Ian Burgin was going very well until his engine seized on lap six, whilst Simon Page and Michael Harder were the only other retirements, both suffering from clutch hydraulic problems.

Race 2 – Sunday afternoon.
As we all sat in the Spridget Café, eating Sunday lunch, the heavens opened. As it was only about half an hour to the second race, the drivers had to decide which tyres to choose. It stopped raining before the race and most people opted for ‘dry’ tyres. A few people went for ‘wets’ and were caught out as the track had dried. As the race started, it was another battle for the lead between Antonio and Rupert. Unfortunately Rupert had opted for his wet tyres and immediately started to drop back through the field. Another man on the wrong tyres was Malcolm Self in the open Sebring Sprite. Ian Burgin was running again, having installed his spare engine, but was a couple of seconds off the pace. Michael and Simon had both repaired their clutch hydraulics and Andy Baillie had replaced his head gasket, having missed the first race. Andy must surely win the award for the greatest distance travelled to a race – all the way from Scotland. Meanwhile, Antonio seemed to be having it all his own way at the front of the field, although Ian Hulett was beginning to catch him up. Further down the field, Ian Johnson had an impressive spin whilst avoiding another car and was now fighting his way through the pack. Mark Dols was still exploring the limits of adhesion – he must have been dizzy by the end of the race!! So, as the flag dropped, it was Antonio Bertini who crossed the line first with Ian Hulett a very close second. Pieter Bakker finished in third place ahead of Dave Shannon in fourth, although he had already scored maximum points in race one. John Faux was a lonely fifth with Rupert a long way back in sixth, just ahead of James Bilsland, Mark Hope, Steve ‘snowboard’ Chapman and Ian Whitt. The only retirements were Nick Rose and Malcolm Self, whose new-found reliability had deserted him. His crankshaft had broken into three pieces! That’s a fairly comprehensive blow-up by anyone’s standards.

The next round is at the world-famous Le Mans circuit in France. This will be Spridget Competitions' first visit there and one that we are all looking forward to. Especially me, if my new engine is finished in time, as it will be my first outing this season.

Dave O'Neill.