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Spa Race Weekend – June ’18

Barely 2 weeks have passed since the trip to Oulton Park and it’s time for another one. This time, it’s the biggest event of the year, the pilgrimage to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium. In previous years, we’d gone to the effort of getting a van to take us over, but this time we decided a Land Rover Discovery was enough. Dave’s judgement of space was bang on and we were able to get all three of us in, along with all of the tools, spares and even an engine!

Like all of the previous years we wanted to maximise our track time so we travelled down on the Wednesday in order to make it in time for the open testing sessions on the Thursday. A small delay on the ferry and we still made it down to the circuit in time for dinner and the first of many BBQs.

Thursday kicked off with sign on & scrutineering, before heading out for a late morning test session. No problems at all and Dave and Ryan both got some good seat time in, this left the afternoon free to head out to the shops for some food before settling back in at the campsite.

Friday was qualifying day and the grid consisted of over 60 cars, 19 of which were in the Tin Tops class. With a number of the big players not making it to Spa, we were in with a good shot at a strong set of results this weekend and that would begin with qualifying. Last year’s fastest lap was 2:56.674 and we were all curious as to how much quicker the car was this year. After continuing to grow in confidence, Dave went out in qualifying and managed to squeeze a 2:53.940 out of the car, he was chuffed. That lap had put the team in 10th overall and 1st in Tin Tops, with the Civic of Dan Fisher sitting in 2nd and the Field & Field Proton in 3rd.

After qualifying, we decided that it was time to put some new tyres on but we only needed a front set as the rears had plenty of life back in them. We got that done after qualifying and settled in for the evening, another BBQ of course.

Saturday was here and it was time for Race 1, we were confident and ready for a good race. Dan Fisher wasn’t far behind so we knew there would be a fight for the Tin Tops win. Dave would start Race 1 and as could be expected with a rolling start amongst more powerful machinery, a couple of places lost on the run down to turn 1, La Source. That shouldn’t be too much trouble as the Clio was one of the quickest cars in the middle sector and would soon make it back.

Things didn’t go quite to plan heading up the Kemmel straight and in to Les Combes though. Dave thought he could outbreak Alan Thompson in his bright green BMW, but he locked up trying to do so and gave Alan a little love tap. Fortunately, it was a wheel to wheel impact, but this didn’t make Dave any less frustrated with himself. Alan caught the slide and was able to carry on, but the Clio had cut out and as Dave coasted whilst restarting the engine, around 10 cars went past.

He got back up to speed and soon started catching a few other in front of him. A couple of laps passed and Dave could see Dan Fisher ahead in the Civic and he pushed on, perhaps a little too much. Heading in to the infamous Eau Rouge, Dave was carrying a little too much speed and lost the back end of the car going up the hill. Somehow, miraculously, he caught it as it was going backwards just missing the fast approaching barrier on the right hand side.

In the process, the front tyres were flat spotted and the car was vibrating a little, but it wasn’t enough to stop, so Dave continued and put in a few safe, but quick enough laps before bringing the car in to hand over to Ryan. The guys in the pits weren’t sure what had happened to Dave but the car was still running reasonably well up the order and most importantly, 2nd in the Tin Tops class. Dan Fisher had pulled a decent lead after Dave’s little incidents.

Ryan got up to speed and started lapping consistently, soon realising he had a decent gap back to 3rd as well as a gap in front to 1st. Then, a safety car came out and soon the lead Dan Fisher had built up was completely diminished and Ryan had a shot at the Tin Tops win. The safety car came in with just enough time for 1 flying lap. Unfortunately, Ryan couldn’t hold on to Dan, as he was well in the groove and lapping quicker by this time. A valiant effort, but a justified 2nd place in Tin Tops was the final result for Race 1.

After the race, Dave went straight to Alan Thompson to apologise for the love tap at the beginning, fortunately, Alan had still made it to the podium in his class, so Dave was able to breath a sigh of relief. Following the podium celebrations, the team inspected the car and there was no damage, apart from the badly flat spotted front tyres, so they would have to be replaced for the next race. Saturday evening and time for a de-brief, a few beers and another BBQ.

For Race 2, the start positions would be the finish position from race 1, so Ryan, would line up right behind Dan Fisher, ready for another little battle, but the Field & Field Proton wasn’t too many places back either and they were getting quicker and quicker in the previous race, so they were ones to look out for.

Ryan got a reasonable start and went straight to battling with Dan, who unfortunately for us a had bit more straight line speed and was able to pull a gap through the first sector, but Ryan of course would try his best to pull that back over the rest of the lap. Despite Ryan putting in a few 2:54 laps, Dan was able to pull a little gap as he continued to get quicker, dipping in to the 2:52s even. And as we approached the pitstops, Dan had pulled a lead of around 10 seconds.

A reasonably quick changeover for us combined with a slightly slow one for Dan saw Dave come out of the pits a few seconds ahead of Dan, who was around 15 seconds ahead of the Field & Field Proton. Dave had seen that Dan had some good pace and so was expecting him catch in the remaining 20 minutes. Sadly though, this battle never happened as Dan dropped off almost straight away. We were to find out later that he had developed a fuelling issue and his pace slowed by around 5 seconds a lap.

Dave came round a few laps later to see a 20 second lead had developed and Ryan gesturing to Dave to take it easy and protect the car. So, that’s just what he did. By this time, Field & Field had got passed Dan for 2nd place and the lead gap stabilised at around 20 seconds. A nice easy drive to the finish for Dave and a Tin Tops win to take home! A very successful weekend and a happy Chase Racing team head back to the UK with a brace of trophies.

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