Race Report for Spa 2001

World Record Race

Hello FISC fans.

Not all of the pictures on this page expand.

This report covers the largest Spridget race EVER held. A world record ! We had at least 59 cars in the paddock, with drivers attending from the UK, Holland, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Sweden. I have covered the weekends event from a mainly FISC angle, there will be a report covering the same race from a FADS viewpoint on their site. ( link available via our links page)

This event saw some new faces joining us , Noticeably Tord Andersson & Elmon Larsson from Sweden and a couple of ex- FISC full members ( Rolf Soesman & Patrick van Broeck) who were racing with us again, as well as some of our "regular" guest drivers.

The Bus stop chicane
The Bus stop chicane

Friday morning was the first training session for the world record attempt. A total of 57 cars were recorded on the track, all kinds of racing Spridgets from John Hopwoods FIA Sprite (Wire Wheels, Steel pannels & absolutley NO non-period modifications - he even uses an original Dynamo - not an alternator !) to Paul Sibley's highly modified FADS class A car (runs on 8" Slicks, the engine has been relocated as close the middle of the car as possible etc etc). The session itself was relatively uneventful, except to say that some of the FISC drivers I had expected to do well had qualified quite a way down the grid. Rolf Soesman qualified a very respectable 9th with the FISC cars.

John Hopwoods FIA Sprite
John Hopwoods FIA Sprite

There were however 3 engine failures, which effectively ruined the 3 drivers weekends. One of Patrick van Broeck's valves broke & completely destroyed the piston & block. His weekend was over. He had qualified ahead of 5 cars on slicks ! Ian Whitt & Dave Brown both managed to melt pistons. Ian called it a day & decided not to race, He removed a piston & rod from his engine, so that Dave could rebuild his. Unfortunatley one of them uses a Marina engine & the other an MG engine. They have different sized crank bearings & after a lot of work, Dave had to also give in.

Patricks car Patricks piston Patricks head
Patrick van Broecks Car, Piston & Head

The second session was held in the middle of the afternoon & although it was dry, the drivers say the track was very slippy. Most times were slower than in the morning session. Conrad Bos had offered Ian Whitt a drive in his car (what a mate !), so Ians weekend was looking better. Unfortunately Ian pulled in after 2 laps since the car wasn't running correctly. It turns out that plug leads 2 & 3 were on the wrong way round (what a mate !) During the session Rob Halewijn had a mechanical problem with his steering & was very lucky to stop with hitting anything or anyone. Peter Hiley had a gearbox problem & Ian Johnson had a halfshaft come out of the casing, he didn't quite loose wheel though. The times in this session showed few surprises. An exception being Rob Bierman who had qualified 3rd in class. The top drivers being Bertini, Shannon, Bierman, Faux, Hulett, Bakker, Hope, & van der Velde ( welcome Eric !) with about 6 seconds seperating them.

Some of the cars lining up for the start
Some of the cars lining up for the start

Saturday morning saw the worlds largest gathering of racing Spridgets. 56 cars lined up for the start. There has not been a bigger Spridget race ever before. Every driver there was making history. I expected the line up to take forever, but the Spa race officials did a great job & the formation lap got underway with the minimum of fuss. As usual it was a rolling start. What an impressive sight ! The cars did a formation lap behind the pace car and as they approached the Bus stop chicane the FADS Class A cars held back. We have a gentlemans agreement that the cars on "Slicks" would start 30 secs behind the "road tyred" cars. The marshalls I could see, looked a bit confused by this, but it works wonderfully. The Slick cars are upto 30 secs a lap quicker than the "road tyred" cars & this gap means that the Slick Boys don't have chance to lap most cars. ( they can overtake most but not lap them), thus allowing most cars to complete full race distance.

The cars come through on the formation lap
The cars come through on the formation lap. If you expand the picture ( click on it ) you'll see the FADS "Slick" cars in the background.

Between collecting & setting off on the formation lap Dave Shannon had had an electrical problem, & his car wouldn't start. So he did what any decent racing driver would do. He hit the dash as hard as he could & the car started. By this time everyone had left for the formation lap. This meant that his top 10 qualifying place was wasted & he had to start as last car, behind all the cars on Slicks & at least 30 secs behind the rest of the FISC cars.

The race got underway, but seperate 1st lap "moments" from Mark Dols & Pieter Bakker slowed down the pack. As the cars approached the Bus stop for the 1st, Ian Hulett had a HUGE lead. Antonio Bertini was the only (non-slicked) car catching him and Antonio was flying !.

13 cars at race speed through the bus stop
13 cars at race speed through the bus stop

I didn't know where to look. There were so many racing spridgets that I just watched the racing & wished I was taking part. I spectated at the Bus stop for both races. There was not a single case of contact. Plenty of out braking & locking up of tyres. A couple of guys out braked themselves & had to use the emergency exit, but the driving was clean ,close & very competetive.

Pieter Bakker was suffering from bad understeer & having lost his bonnet somewhere on the track retired. Mick Hopkins car overheated badly, but his fastest lap was still 0.3 secs faster than Ian Johnson. Mick & Ian had built the car specially for this event & the engine budget was 500 GBP. Ians car was repaired following his roll in the last race. Simon Page had a leading position until he outbraked himself at the Bus stop & he & 2 other cars took to the grass. But as I said there was absolutley no contact or damage.

These guys are racing  - without contact !
These guys are racing - without contact !

Meanwhile in the race, Ian Hulett had been caught & passed by Antonio. Paul Sibley (on Slicks) had worked his way up to 3rd on the road and was at least 30 secs ahead of the next Slick car.

Unfortunately Stéphane Devoucoux had a "moment" at Blanchimont ( Flat out left hand bend at about 120 mph) on Lap 6, hit the barrier, then bounced back across the track. This brought out the red flags & stopped the race. So the positions at the end of lap 5 were the final standings. Antonio had won the race, from Ian Hulett ( 0.5 secs seperating them), with Paul Sibley 3rd on the road & John Faux 3rd in class. Antonio had set a new FISC lap record, beating his old record by 0.5 secs. The results show, 8 from the top 10 cars ran without slicks. We all know that given another 3 laps this would not have been the case.

The winners from race 1. Mark Dols received Antonios prize for him & shows Antonio how to celebrate
The winners from race 1. Mark Dols received Antonios prize for him & shows Antonio how to celebrate

Almost every driver deserves a mention but I'll just pick out a few. Eric van der Velde finished 9th on the road & 8th in class. He had qualified in 42nd place & improved his lap time by 20 seconds ! Mark Hope drove a solid race and finished 5th on the road & 4th in class. Mark is looking like a regular top 5 driver this year. Following a disasterous 2000 season, where he only drove once, Rob Bierman finished 5th in class. Peter Hiley's "New" gearbox worked & he finished 10th in class (12th on the road). Ian Burgin in his 1000cc car was 7th on the road & 6th in class. - keep going Ian, there's a podium place coming soon ! Nick Rose also improved his lap time by 20 seconds.

Walking around the paddock after the race showed a few race casualties. The most noticable being Rolf Soesman, who had put his car on its roof at Eau Rouge. This was a double blow for Rolf because he had just sold the car that morning. Ian Johnson had broken a tooth of a gear had to change his gearbox. Nick Rose had finished without a clutch & worst of all Rob Halewijn's TOUGHENED screen had shattered. Mick Hopkins was worried about his engine temperature.

 New gearbox for Ian Johnson
A new gearbox for Ian Johnson

Rolf packed up. Ian swapped his gearbox. Rob removed his screen, frame & roof, built a wind deflector & would run his car open on the Sunday. Nick & his mate Andy had the engine & gearbox in & out 4 times over Saturday night, neither of them sleeping before the race on Sunday ! Pieter Bakker lent his radiator to Mick Hopkins.

Rob Halewijns Open car
Rob Halewijns Open car

Saturday night in the Spridget Café was amazing. Willem & the Catering Crew prepared & cooked over 90 meals. A wonderful dish with chicken, Cheese wrapped in bacon, potatoes, vegetables and a light curried cream sauce. I would happily pay for food like this in any restaurant, but FISC drivers get it for free. Again, only happy people, amazing stories & plenty of laughter. I did some (not all, thank God !) washing up & would like to thank Charles Marriott & his friend Richard ( FISC Guest drivers for the weekend) who also helped. It was nice to see a couple of new guys getting straight into the spirit of the race series. There were plenty of other volunteers, but these 2 in particular made an impression.

At the risk of becoming boring I would like to personally thank each & every member of the Catering Crewe. Willem-Jan Koemans (Cook), Gerda Lindemann ( Gerda is said like "Heather" ), Ton van Loon, and Willem Mesman. As Simon Page said "You guys turn a great race series into a brilliant one !". I can't put it any better than that.

Spridget cafe Spridget cafe
The Spridget Café

Sunday morning saw 48 cars lining up for the second race. Not all of the missing cars were "casualties", some drivers had elected only to drive 1 race. Rob Halewijn had borrowed a full face helmet with a visor. Conrad Bos drove his car & not Ian Whitt ( as planned on the Friday). Dave Shannon had no problems - he had presumably been hitting the dash all morning!!! The race got underway, again excellent FADS behaviour, holding themselves back for 30 secs for the rolling start - Thankyou !.

Another clean rolling start
Another clean rolling start.

As they went through the Bus stop toward the end of lap 1, Antonio Bertini, Dave Shannon, Ian Hulett, John Faux & Mark Hope were all within 4 seconds of each other, with a large gap behind.
On lap2 - Antonio had a huge lead & Mark was dropping off a bit.
Lap 3 showed Antonio with a massive 6 second lead. Ian succesfully dived up the inside of Dave going into the Bus stop. A clean move, well appreciated by the spectators.
Lap 4 showed how the race was developing. Antonio was now leading by over 8 seconds, with the following cars being Dave, John & Ian. These 3 ducking & diving amongst each other, the sequence constantly changing.
On Lap 5 Paul Sibley & Peter May passed the FISC cars & assumed lead of the race. Antonios lead had reduced slightly to just over 8 seconds. But Dave, John & Ian were seperated by less than 1.8 secs as they crossed the line.
The race was red flagged on Lap 6. The marshalls deciding that Rob Biermans car was in a dangerous position, Rob having slid into the gravel.
It looked like the FISC class winner Antonio Bertini had set yet another lap record, BUT further down the results sheet, Ian Hulett ( 4th in class) had beaten that. 3:11:474 with an average speed of over 131 kmh ! This is an amazing time, as quick as some of the slower Formula Fords racing over the same weekend, & we are on 155 road tyres ! Congratulations Ian.

So the weekend was over. A great success and a world record has been set. Antonio had won both races, Dave Shannon & Ian Hulett both salvaging second places, John Faux had 3rd place both times. This season is already lining up to be a cracker. As well as these guys, don't write off Pieter Bakker, Simon Page or Mark Hope ! Also keep your eye on Ian Burgin in his 1000 cc car. It's surprisingly quick ! The best result of the weekend counts & a DNF ( Did Not Finish) for a coupe of the drivers will quickly change the drivers standings postions.

The winners from race 2.
The winners from race 2.

I would like to close this report with a note about windsreens & helmets. Over this weekend from about 60 cars there were 3 broken TOUGHENED screens. That's 5%. That is not acceptable ! It should be 0%, ZERO ! There is no place for a toughened screen in a race car. They are dangerous. When they break, the screen instantly shatters into thousands of tiny pieces, there are then 2 options. Either the glass comes in the car and sprays the driver. This is not good and if the driver has an open helmet or no visor, imagine what the glass can do! OR the glass stays in the frame, but the driver can't see through it. - Also not good. Laminated screens are much cheaper than plastic surgery, glasses, or eyes. Please check your screen now !!! if it doesn't say LAMINATED on it, remove it. A TRIPLE XXX screen is not automatically laminated. Don't take any chances. That's why they have been banned from racing.

To put this in perspective, there have been no other cases of toughened screens in 7 years of FISC racing.

toughened screen laminated screen
1 stone chip on the toughened screen ( left/above ) against 33 on the laminated ( right/below ).

Also, as I said in my report from my accident in Dijon last year, use a helmet visor. You may be sitting behind a laminated screen, but the side screens are NOT LAMINATED. They will also shatter and spray glass. I know, I've been there, done that & cut my nose. I was lucky.
Car # 71 ( Paul Draycott) had 33 stone chips on his screen. A single stone on a Toughened screen could have disasterous consequences - think about it !
Finally, with so much gravel flying around, have you got any meshing or a grill in front of your radiator and oil cooler ? again a single stone could cost you a race, a weekend and a lot of money.

Enough lecturing. Check out the following pictures. This is what the weekend was about !

Where do you look ? Where do you look ? Where do you look ?
What a weekend - where do you look ?

Shannon, Hulett, Faux
Shannon, Hulett, Faux - great stuff !

The next race is in England (Snetterton), in June. I'm hoping to be there. The racing is guaranteed to be close, clean & fair.