THE race series for you racing Midget or Sprite

Race Report for Spa 2000

As usual, click on any picture for a blow up

Well race fans, the FISC 2000 season has finally started, and what a start !

Most drivers arrived Thursday evening & early Friday morning to find a damp & absolutely packed Paddock area. Unfortunately that is one of the problems in Spa, Paddock space is fairly limited. But after a bit of to-ing & fro-ing with various trucks, trailers & vans everyone got into our allocated space.

It was nice to see some "old" friends again & meet some new ones too.

The first 20 minute practice was a damp one & most people took it reasonably steady to get used to their cars again following a winter rebuild or in some cases get used to a completely new car. The only noticable problem following the 1st practice was for Nicholas Rose who managed to dump all his engine oil out onto the track & "Cook" his engine. It was a very short weekend for Nick, But I'm sure he got a good impression of us on his first FISC weekend. He was quickly put to use & took all of the action photo's on this page.

Spa start
On the way down to Eau Rouge for a flying start

The first practice was used to set the grid positions for the first race on Saturday morning.

There was a 4 hour gap between practices & the second 20 minute practice started at 14:30, giving the drivers time to refuel, check, perform some minor repairs & adjustments & eat something in the excellent Spridget café.

At the start of the second practice there was no rain and a dry line on the track from the previous cars. There was just enough time to get an out lap & a quick lap in before the heavens opened up again, the rest of the session was wet & rainy.

I usually look for some "free track" to try out lines & concentrate on me & the car. So practice isn't something I can right pages on.

I'm afraid I can't write anything at all about Friday nights activities since I fell asleep at 16:00 & woke up too late to join in.

Saturday morning was an early start! 07:00 wake up, since we had to be in the collecting area at 08:00 for an 08:30 race start. At 07:45 Ian Whitt was still in his bed ! He was woken & 45 mins later was racing !

It had rained heavily overnight & we were the first cars on the track. Not quite as slippery as in training but still not dry enough to be "easy". The Halfords Class "A" cars (Highly modified with upto 10" Slick tyres) where being held back. They started 40 secs behind the last of us. The reasoning here is that most of the slower FISC cars would be lapped if they started in their "rightful" qualifying position & to give the slower boys their fair share of track time the cars on slicks started at the rear & had to fight their way through. I love it ! 08:30 , I have never seen daylight at this time on a Saturday morning & now I have to watch my mirrors for a car on slicks trying to get past me! This is why I go to work !
Spa start
Following the pace car out for the start

All FISC races are rolling starts, this helps save start line "incidents" & is much easier on your clutch, transmission & car generally. Rupert Douglas-Pennant (pole position) took us past the start finish line at 50 KMH & then we where off! This is what life is about ! 42 racing Midgets all blasting down towards Eau Rouge trying to get the quick 1st lap advantage. Ian Whitt was still in Never Never land & was expecting a 2nd warm up lap ! A few got by him before he realized !

But I'm glad to say that there wasn't a single incident at the first bend.

At this point it is hard to write objectively. I am in the race myself. My heart is going at about 7,200 rpm ! & the lights have gone green. I am not a calm cool driver. I sweat, I swear, I shout at myself (& the guys around me) through my helmet. For the next 30 mins all I want to do is overtake as many of my friends as I can. I can see guys ahead & behind me. I don't care what colour car it is or who they are. I just want to get past the guys ahead & keep the others behind. 7,200 RPM on 155 road tyres at 08:30 on a slippery Saturday morning, on one of the worlds most famous racing circuits ! Thank you God !

Spa start
Some 30+ racing Spridgets going through Eau Rouge at Race speed !

I have no idea who was having a good battle behind me, but I somehow found myself in 4th place & could see the 3 ahead. Pretty soon Antonio Bertini had caught me & I could see his head lights closing to within a few car lengths. We approached Eau Rouge & I backed off to 6,500 as usual. Drove through, headed for the 2nd tall tree over the blind brow, & floored the throttle. Just a quick second to look in the mirror & there were Antonios lights about 18" from my Boot ! "Oh Dear" I thought, This one will hurt. Then a horrible skidding noise & he was gone ! I could just see him struggling to catch a very sideways Midget behind me. I couldn't believe he hadn't hit me. He had dropped back a 100 feet or so but was coming at me again ! I backed off & waved him past. I don't mind a good fight, but the ease with which he had caught me & the difference in speed in Eau Rouge had convinced me that it would only be a short time before he was passed me & I would rather he passed when I wanted, not when he decided, in the middle of a bend somewhere.

I could see various "casualties" (ALL due to mechanical problems) at the side of the track. Simon Page had broken his differential & seemd to be annoyed that I waved at him everytime I passed.

Antonio & Rupert 'Flat out' towards Eau Rouge
Antonio & Rupert 'Flat out' towards Eau Rouge

After a few laps the Halfords boys caught us up. They run with their lights on & are easy to see. Big tyres & lights = Quick car !!

I stayed on line & waved them past. It's slightly annoying when you are on the dry line struggling for all the grip you can & a guy goes past Off-line, holding the car with one hand & waving with the other ! But I think of their costs (500 for 4 new tyres !) I am happy with my choice.

2 Laps before the end of the race & suddenly, there's John Faux in the gravel !! Another place so now I'm back up to 4th in class ! but the joy was short lived. My car started to run badly. Immediately you think of a million possible causes, plugs ? bent valve ? melted piston ? unleaded fuel ? Wait a minute FUEL !!! I was running out ! A bit of swift weaving & she was on form again !

Over the next 2 laps 9 cars passed me ! I should appologize to the guys here . My arm was up & down like a dealer at an antiques auction ! Every time I was coasting without fuel I was waving with one arm, then the engine would fire up & the arm would come down. 2 laps of this ! Sorry to the guys behind me who couldn't work out what I was doing. I didn't deliberatley slow down in the worst possible places !

It was so bad at the end that I free-wheeled down the hill towards Eau Rouge & over the finish line. I pulled in at Eau Rouge & so did the next 4 cars ! You're supposed to do a slowing down/cooling down lap guys !

I ended up in 10th place in class. 18th overall from 40 starters & 35 classified finishers ! Not bad. Moments like this always remind me of my School reports. "Stephen has the ability, but makes no effort". Thank you Mrs Frederickson I will never forget that comment. I'm making the bloody effort now !

So, back down to planet Earth. Everyone is now my friend again & not either an inconvienience slowing me down on he track or someone who can spend more time preparing their car than I can. Could they simply be a better driver I hear you ask ? Nah, Get real !! - Well OK, but I'd prefer to ignore that reason.

We all queue up for post racing scruntineering & check over. All cars where deemed to be OK with one minor exception. Rupert (who had finished 2nd place in class) had been found with twin Webers, a car that was 2 cm too low & a "solid" toneau cover. He was disqualified from the results. I guess 1 "problem" alone would have been OK, 2 Cheeky, but 3 ?? There was a petition organised & most drivers signed it to say it was OK to let the results stand as long as Rupert sorts the "problems" for the next race weekend, (Yes I did sign - the guy is miles quicker than me & if he beats me by 5 secs or 25 secs it doesn't matter !). But Rules are rules & Rupert bent them a little bit too far.

Spa start
Queuing up for scruntineering

As is usual with FISC drivers though, a spare inlet manifold, single Weber carb & the right jets where soon found, the Tonneau removed & the 2 cms ignored. Rupert ran in the 2nd race & finished 2nd (see below).

This is a normal thing with us. Wherever possible most people will help a fellow driver to race. Rupert lost the drivers standings trophy by 1 point last year & here we are trying to get him out so he can beat us again !

The second race was planned for 13:05 on the Sunday. we now had 28 hours with not a lot to do. Various cars where repaired, Rupert (carb), Simon Page(Diff - see pics), John Faux (cleaning out the gravel - Tee Hee) etc. Everyone checks the brakes & fluid levels, give the cars a quick wash & then ?

Malcolm & Simon fixing a Diff
Malcolm & Simon fixing a Diff

I Slept ! (Again!) Some people went into Francorchamps & came back loaded with Belgian Beer. Rupert drove to the Nordschleife in Germany. We are racing there later this year & for about 20DM (7 or so) you can drive a lap of the circuit (14 KM !) in a road car. The weather was great high 20's, Low 30's Centigrade Enough to turn some of us Brits into the usual bright red holiday lobsters. The other races on at Spa included Classic Formula Ford, Super Sports (including a 900 BHP CAN-AM car - BRM P154) & the Caterham Challenge, Great stuff ! (oh Yeh & loads of boring Porsches !). It's nice to have the time to watch the other races. We are all fans that's why we do it.

Saturday evening in the Spridget cafe was as usual. Not a spare place to be found. Packed with happy people all talking about the days events & looking forward to another similar day. The Salmon & Asparagus was Excellent. Thank you Chef & team !

On the Sunday, we had the first race after lunch. Red Hot & Bone dry. Oh Dear ! I was hoping for a wet cold day , so I had a chance with my limited petrol tank capacity.

I knew I wouldn't have enough petrol to run the full race distance , so my plan was to warm the engine 30 mins before the race (as usual), refill the tank, free-wheel to the collecting area, drive all the uphill bits of the warm up lap, & free-wheel all the downhill bits. Maybe in this way I could squeeze another race lap at full speed & struggle for the last lap. It wasn't much of a plan but it was all I had.

Collecting area at Spa
'Front-Row Faux' & the rest of us queuing up for the start of the 2nd race

We started as usual. No incidents (as usual) & everything seemed to be going well. I was amazed at the amount of gravel left on the track from the previous race at Eau Rouge. It looked pretty slippery to me & caught Harald Sailer out in the 2nd lap putting him into the gravel trap on the left. On the same lap I caught Rob Beirman just before Blanchimont. For those of you who don't know, this is the quickest bend at Spa. I take it flat out, on the limiter in 4th, (about 200 KMH !! 120 MPH) on 155 road tyres. The car slides from the inside of the track right to the outside. It is a great feeling when you get it right. But I'd hate to see what happens if you get it wrong !!! (I hope my mum never reads this). I have seen some people braking there. I was about 12" from the back of Rob through the bend & knew from his description of the first race he took it "Flat" too, so I didn't let up. Thank you Rob ! We came out stuck together like Simon & Garfunkel. He moved over to the left to defend for the Bus stop & somehow on the change down to 2nd gear I managed to squeeze round the outside of him ! Finally I had outbraked someone into the Busstop & stayed on the track !!

6 racing Spridgets all fighting for Eau Rouge
6 racing Spridgets all fighting for Eau Rouge - It's close !

Next in my sights was John Faux.

I caught John on the way down to Eau Rouge. I went left & he went right. I came out ahead ! There is a God !! I had just "out-bottled" someone into Eau Rouge. This was my day ! I was now in 3rd place & could still see the leading 2. Please God, let them break down & I'll get my first EVER win.

Pretty soon the Halfords "Slick" boys passed me & My brakes went off terribly. I hit the floor with the pedal at least twice. I had to pump the pedal 2 or 3 times for each corner & was starting to miss my Apex's on the bends. Then I noticed John catching me again. So I pushed harder & cut across a few rumble strips. Then, on the way into the Busstop I changed down to 2nd, cut accross the rumble strip as usual & floored the throttle. NOTHING !! Just a screaming engine. SH*T what a time to miss a gear, try again, NOTHING, Try 3rd NOTHING, Try 4th NOTHING. Yes I even tried 1st ! (not a good idea at 60 MPH - but I did !) NOTHING.

So I pulled to the side, jumped out as quick as I could & over the concrete wall.

At this stage you start to go through the possible causes & costs. It could only be Diff or halfshaft & since I had just battered the car across some pretty wild rumble strips it's likely to be halfshafts. OK. Not too bad, running in 3rd place & the car isn't too badly damaged. Let's watch the rest of the race.

Simon, thank you for your waves. I now know how annoying it is !

I had covered just less than 4 laps of an 8 lap race.

After 5 mins or so the red flags suddenly came out & everyone slowed down. What a horrible feeling. The guys out there are my friends. What has happened ? I now know how my mum feels at each race weekend. It turns out someone (Sorry I don't know who) was on the right in the gravel at Eau Rouge. So that was both sides blocked. No-one was hurt & no-one had crashed.

This is a double edged sword. I could have kept John behind me (I reckon, anyway) for 1 laps & I had enough petrol for a shortened race. I had just lost 3rd place & broken my car, because I cut across a few rumble strips.

We all learn !

I think about 1/3rd of the field had some stone damage to their Windscreens ( Ian Johnson had 7 large chips) Due to the amount of gravel left on the track at the start of our race. But apart from that I didn't notice any damage at all.

The paddock was then a flurry of activity as everyone tried pack up as quickly as possible & head home.

A few of the Brits had planned to take the Monday as holiday & where going to spend a night on mainland Europe & some where driving straight to the ferry & then Home. I think Andy Baillie from Edinburgh had the furthest to go. That's a long way to drive Andy !

A short prize giving was held & the cups distributed. Well done lads !

I had a 4 hour drive to South Germany & plenty of time to plan the next few mods/repairs to my car.

22:00, in my own bed & what a great weekend. I just have to earn some money to finance the next few weekends now.

Ian Johnson's justification
Ian Johnson's justification

Till next time.