We will begin our rollout of Formula 1 tours with three major European races from next year’s 23-race calendar: the Austrian, Belgian and Dutch Grands Prix, before adding more events to our offering in the coming months.
All three races will include multiple travel, accommodation and ticketing options to suit everyone wishing to be trackside for the world’s premier motorsport championship next season.
“We are so excited to add Formula 1 to our growing list of motorsport offerings for customers in 2021,” said Andrew Melley, the Director of Travel Destinations. “With so much pent up demand for travelling, and Formula 1 visiting so many incredible circuits around the world, it makes sense for us to expand our offering to give our customers even more options for future holidays.
“We look forward to welcoming fans to some of the most well-attended and exciting motor races in the world from 2021 onwards.”
Packages to the Austrian, Belgian and Dutch Grands Prix are on sale now.
To make a booking or register your interest for one of the other races on the calendar, call Travel Destinations’ office on 01707 329988 or email email@example.com
All bookings are protected by Travel Destinations’ Refund Guarantee, so you can book with confidence!
The 2021 World Endurance Championship calendar has been revealed. Next year will see a reduced six-race schedule.
The season, the first for the new Le Mans Hypercar formula, will start with a trip to Sebring for a 1000-mile race, in a double-header with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the 12 Hours of Sebring. This will mark the return of ‘Super Sebring’ after the 2020 edition was cancelled at the last minute.
After that the teams will race at Spa-Francorchamps for the annual six-hour Le Mans 24 Hours ‘dress rehearsal in May. The third round of the season will then be the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 12-13th.
Following the Le Mans 24 Hours the teams head to Italy after a summer break for a weekend at Monza, in what will be the first ever FIA WEC race at the ‘Temple of Speed’ and the championship’s first appearance at the circuit since the pre-season Prologue test was held there in 2017.
Two further trips out of the country then round off the season, the first being a race at the Fuji Speedway, for Toyota’s first home race with its Hypercar, the second the season finale at Bahrain in November.
There are three key omissions from the original 2020/21 calendar which was shelved in favour of a calendar year schedule due to the pandemic. The WEC will not head to newly renovated circuit at Kyalami for the first time or return to either Shanghai or Silverstone for the first time in WEC history. Both circuits have been ever present since the inaugural WEC season in 2012.
2021 FIA WEC Schedule (Provisional)
13-14 March: Pre-Season Test (Sebring) 19 March: 1000 Miles of Sebring 1 May: 6 Hours of Spa 12/13 June: 24 Hours of Le Mans 18 July: 6 Hours Monza 26 September: 6 Hours of Fuji 20 November: 6 Hours of Bahrain
The 2021 GT World Challenge Europe provisional calendar has been revealed by the SRO, the campaign featuring 10 rounds including the Spa 24 Hours which will be held on 29th July – 1st August.
Travel Destinations will be offering tours to the Spa 24 Hours in 2021, offering reserved camping pitches or hotel stays for the event as part of a package including event tickets and crossings.
Prior to the 24 Hours at Spa the season begins with a three-hour Endurance Cup contest at Monza on 16-18 April, returning the historic Italian venue to its traditional position at the start of the season. It will be followed by another old favourite, Brands Hatch, which will kick off the Sprint Cup on the national bank holiday weekend (1-2 May).
A further two Endurance Cup events will follow. The first will take place on either 7-9 May or one week later on 14-16 May, with the venue yet to be finalised. Then, on 28-30 May, Circuit Paul Ricard will stage its popular 1000km contest.
The battle for the Sprint Cup title will heat up with a pair of summer events. The first takes place on 18-20 June at Dutch seaside venue Zandvoort, which will stage the series for the fifth time. The annual trip to Misano follows two weeks later (2-4 July), when the Adriatic track will welcome GT World Challenge Europe for a seventh year in succession.
Following the Spa 24 Hours, racing then resumes at the Nürburgring on 3-5 September, with the German venue retaining its status as an Endurance Cup event and bringing the curtain down on the long-distance championship.
To enquire about a trip to the 2021 Spa 24 Hours, call our offices on 01707 329 988 and speak to a member of our team.
2021 Provisional Calendar
16-18 April – Monza, Italy (Endurance) 1-2 May – Brands Hatch, UK (Sprint) 7-9 May or 14-16 May – TBA (Endurance) 28-30 May – Circuit Paul Ricard, France (Endurance) 18-20 June – Zandvoort, Netherlands (Sprint) 2-4 July – Misano, Italy (Sprint) 29 July – 1 August – Total 24 Hours of Spa, Belgium (Endurance) 3-5 September – Nürburgring, Germany (Endurance) 24-26 September or 8-10 October – Barcelona, Spain (Sprint) 24-26 September or 5-6 November – TBA (Sprint)
Following the announcement from Spa Six Hours organiser Roadbook that the 2020 edition of the Spa Six Hours will be held behind closed doors later this month, provisional dates for the 2021 edition have been revealed.
Next year’s event will be held on the weekend of September 24-26* at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, and promises to be another exciting edition with the usual gathering of more than 600 historic race cars all taking to the circuit.
Following each FIA WEC race, Travel Destinations’ Stephen Kilbey runs through the matters of the moment, re-capping the weekend’s action before looking at what lies ahead in the coming months.
His first ‘WEC Debrief’ column covers the FIA WEC’s return following a six-month hiatus caused by the COVID 19 pandemic at Spa-Francorchamps and some of the pressing topics in sportscar racing as motorsport comes roaring back.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
Sometimes you just can’t be stopped. Even with a six-month break from racing, huge success handicap penalty, heavy rain and a heap of new protocols to adhere to, the No. 7 Toyota of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez still found a way to win at Spa.
Since Porsche’s LMP1 exit a Toyota victory may seem like standard service, but the No. 7 genuinely wasn’t expected to emerge victorious here. The Success Handicap system, in use this season to help balance the field in LMP1, has served its purpose thus far, allowing privateer non-hybrid LMP1 cars win races outright without relying on miscues or reliability woes from the factory hybrids.
At Spa, the No. 7 was the hardest hit in the Success Handicap table, and could only muster a combined time good enough for a second row spot on the grid, a second and a half off Rebellion Racing’s R-13 which took pole. Had the race stayed dry, then surely Rebellion would have been able to pull off a third win of the season? But the four-wheel-drive systems in the Toyotas, as expected, provided the team with a huge advantage in heavy rain and changeable conditions.
In practice, the TS050 HYBRIDs had far better traction through corners and punch through traffic, while the R-13 struggled for grip, specifically early on when the team reportedly suffered an issue with tyre pressures. To make matters worse a gamble on tyres, putting new wets on with the level of rain reducing, cost Norman Nato, Gustavo Menezes and Bruno Senna further time and ultimately, a chance to truly challenge for anything other than a third place finish.
But even with Rebellion faltering, the No. 7 should still have been beaten by the sister car, on pace at least. The No. 8 of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Kazuki Nakajima, with only a single win thus far this season back at Fuji, had the speed to take a comfortable victory thanks to its more favourable handicap. It took the lead early and powered off into the distance with Buemi at the wheel, but suffered an intermittent fault which caused a loss of hybrid power that ultimately cost the car the better part of a minute during the first half of the race. It left the No. 7 crew with the task of staying out of trouble and making the finish, which they did, with a faultless run, extending their championship lead to 12 points ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours next month.
“With the success handicap we had, we just assumed we would finish third, maybe second if things went really well. But it’s been a great day and it’s a fantastic result,” a surprised Mike Conway said after the race. He will hope that the momentum will translate into a first victory at La Sarthe for the No. 7 crew.
LMP2 on the other hand, was action packed but served up a rather more predictable result: a United Autosports win.
It must be said at this point that United’s form is simply astonishing. Across both ELMS and the FIA WEC competition, Richard Dean’s team have won five straight races dating back to the Bahrain WEC race last year. The switch from Ligier to ORECA has paid off hugely.
It wasn’t a dominant performance in the race for the pole-sitters, by any means, but when it mattered most towards the end the car was still very much in contention and took control. Granted, Racing Team Nederland’s driver line-up, featuring Bronze-rated Frits van Eerd, meant a victory was always going to require an element of luck up against United’s line-up of Phil Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Paul Di Resta. Still, that shouldn’t take the shine of what was nevertheless a hard-fought victory.
RTN’s Giedo van der Garde was easily the driver of the race here however. The Dutchman, with another one of his trademark opening stints drove from the very back of the grid to the lead in the class, and ultimately put the team in contention for a second victory this season. Following Job van Uitert’s efforts, Van Eerd gave his upmost to defend the lead, but was powerless to resist when Di Resta got within striking distance and made the winning move.
The incident a handful of laps later involving Thomas Laurent also garners a mention here, although for a rather different reason. Van Eerd, blinded by traffic, didn’t see Laurent’s attempt at move for second in the Signatech Alpine up the inside through Blanchimont. The Dutchman closed the door to take his line sending Laurent onto the grass and veering off the track to the barriers on drivers’ right. It was a big hit, so those watching were left relieved that he was able to walk away.
Modern day prototypes continue to amaze on the safety front…
The Aston Martin-Porsche-Ferrari battle in GTE Pro was simply unmissable. It’s been a similar story for most of the season, but it’s still baffling at times that a six-car field can provide so much entertainment. The current Automated BoP system that governs the class has come into its own this season, keeping everyone guessing throughout every race; no lead has ever been safe.
Porsche eventually took the win – its first at Spa in GTE Pro for eight years. The No. 92 of Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen found a breakthrough in the final hour of the race after each of the three teams held a lead at various points. The evolving conditions and safety car periods kept the field bunched up at key stages, each one finishing on the lead lap.
Aston Martin completed the podium with its pair of Vantage AMRs. Its title hopefuls in the No. 95, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen took second, ahead of the No. 97 which led into the final hour but lost the top spot to an error by Maxime Martin, before being forced in for a late splash that dropped them to third.
The change in order late meant Thiim and Sorensen hold a 19-point lead and have to be considered favourites going into Le Mans, though only by the slimmest of margins. The duo certainly had luck on their side in Belgium, a puncture early in the race could have ended their podium chances. Thankfully the left-rear blowout occurred at the end of the lap, allowing for a quick stop for a fresh set of rubber that didn’t cost too much time.
AF Corse were the biggest losers, the No. 51 looking quick and consistent enough to take the win for lengthy portions of the race. Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado though were the first of the two 488 GTE EVOs across the line, but could only muster a fourth place finish (for the fourth time this season), denting their title hopes significantly.
Even so, it wasn’t all bad news for the Italian team as in GTE Am its No. 83 trio of Manu Collard, Francois Perrodo and Nicklas Nielsen took their first win since the season opener at Silverstone, extending their points lead in the process. The Porsche 911 RSRs in the field appeared to have the pace for the majority of the meeting, but the lottery created by late pit stops and safety cars propelled AF Corse to the front after a stealthy run through the five-hour mark.
This all leaves us with a tantalizing prospect for Le Mans next month. You’d be hard-pressed to pick a favourite in either GTE class.
It should also be pointed out too that the simple act of being able to look forward to Le Mans 24 Hours happening marks real progress. Seeing the FIA WEC back in action in Belgium was a huge step forward in uncertain times. The WEC was by no means the first championship back following the COVID-19 lockdowns around the world, but the organisers and team personnel deserve real praise here. ACO racing is back, let’s hope the return of trackside fans will follow shortly…
The calendar conundrum
On the subject of fans returning to watch WEC racing trackside, the 2021 calendar is currently being formed behind the scenes and it has real potential to benefit keen race-going fans in the UK and continental Europe.
It appears that the schedule will be shorter than usual, with six races being reported following a briefing to the media from FIA President Jean Todt. And the likelihood is that it will comprise of a selection of the more cost-effective races for the teams involved.
What do we know? Or think we know? Well Le Mans will, as usual, be the centrepiece, and the race at Spa-Francorchamps will serve as a dress-rehearsal. Beyond that no other trips are ‘set in stone’, publicly at least.
The WEC remains as keen as ever to return to Sebring in March for a double-header with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s 12-hour race. At present it would be a tough ask, but a lot can, and will, change in the coming months. It’s not a cheap event for competitors, yet it is popular with teams and drivers and there is an element of unfinished business surrounding ‘Super Sebring’ after it was cancelled just days before the start of the event way back in March.
Silverstone will surely feature too? A mainstay on the WEC schedule since the inaugural season, a return to ‘Home of British Motorsport’ is a relatively easy race to manage, both in terms of logistics and cost.
The question beyond that becomes, how many of the remaining races on the calendar will be held outside of Europe? F1 is currently touring the continent as part of its flexible 2020 calendar which continues to grow as the season wears on. Is there any reason to believe the WEC couldn’t follow suit and become firmly European next season? It would be significantly cheaper, and easier to tweak should travel restrictions continue to cause headaches. Lest we also forget that the ACO has plenty of experience putting on events at a slew of European circuits with the European Le Mans Series….
European-based fans keen to explore some of the best circuits on the continent could very well be in for a treat in ’21!
Hypercar’s silver lining
It’s strange to think that the original debut of the Le Mans Hypercar category was set for next month, yet here we are, still in the midst of a season that should have finished two months ago. It’s not all bad news though. Delaying the debut of the FIA WEC’s top class may prove to be a blessing in disguise, as it has given Toyota, Glickenhaus and ByKolles additional time to prepare their new cars.
Toyota being ready is paramount for the championship and its health. While it would have ultimately found a way to attend the season opener from the original calendar, it has admitted to Travel Destinations that it wouldn’t have been a comfortable experience, with extremely limited testing for its car between Le Mans and the opener at Silverstone.
Now, with an additional six months until its debut to play with, and the team spending much of the lockdown making progress, the GR Super Sport Concept is set to be truly ready for the 2021 season, whenever it starts. Travel Destinations understands that bodywork for the car already exists, with the first chassis set to be built up the week after Le Mans next month before its testing programme begins in October.
Whether the extra time to ready the car will translate into reliability and pace from its debut onward remains to be seen, though the crew behind the scenes are far more confident in their ability to hit the ground running than they were at the start of the year.
It’s a similar situation for Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, which is committed to racing in the WEC next year with two of its new 007s. The aero design is currently being put through its paces in a windtunnel, ahead of a full chassis being built up for circuit testing. Jim Glickenhaus himself had previously revealed that the team would be unable to make the start of the 2021/22 season, with its debut then expected to come in the race at Kyalami next year. Thankfully, with the calendar now torn up, it now has a chance to be there from the beginning and take the fight to Toyota with its Pipo Moteurs-powered challenger.
Glickenhaus has publicly stated recently that it plans to debut the car at Sebring next March for what would serve as the team’s home race. Wouldn’t it be something if the BoP works as planned in the class and the unpredictable nature of multiple new chassis being put to the test on such a punishing circuit ended up creating a shock result for the plucky American manufacturer?
Who else is set to join the party? Lest we forget that ByKolles remains committed with its own Hypercar from next year, and Peugeot Sport is slated to return to the top-level of sportscars in 2022. Little is known of the current status of ByKolles’ Hypercar, nonetheless its return to WEC action at Spa last weekend (albeit with its rather fragile CLM LMP1) should be considered encouraging.
Pegueot has also been quiet, though news on its progress is expected sooner rather than later. It isn’t yet clear whether or not it has decided to compete in Le Mans Hypercar or the parallel LMDh formula (which will see manufacturers able to compete with the same car alongside Le Mans Hypercars in the WEC and the top class of IMSA) with its new model in the WEC. Industry sources have indicated to Travel Destinations that a Hypercar is and has always been the more likely of the two, especially as there now appears to be potential for the debut of the LMDh ruleset to be pushed back a year to 2023 and the French make is still planning for a 2022 debut.
That’s all still a long way down the line. For now we still have the 2019/20 WEC season to finish! Next stop, Le Mans…
Images courtesy of Toyota Gazoo Racing, Porsche Motorsport, United Autosports, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus & dailysportscar
The 2021 calendar of historic races by Peter Auto has been released, featuring nine events across the year. With Travel Destinations you can book a travel package and be there to experience the highlights with trips to the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or and the 10th running of both the Spa and Le Mans Classic all now on sale.
The 10th staging of Le Mans Classic is no doubt the centre-piece of the year for Peter Auto. The 2021 running will be held on July 1st to 4th, and promises to be bigger and better than ever. As usual, a selection of grids featuring iconic cars from Le Mans history racing day and night on the full Circuit de la Sarthe.
Before that though, over in Belgium during May (14th – 16th), the Spa Classic returns. It is another increasingly popular event for fans, during with a wide variety of historic machinery hit the challenging Ardennes circuit.
Then, a month later in France, the 56th edition of the Grand Prix de L’Age d’Or will take place at Dijon. It presents a rare opportunity to see some of the most spectacular historic race cars – everything from sportscars, single-seaters and touring cars – on a circuit with an ‘old school’ charm.
Below is the full calendar, with the events we are selling packages for in bold. Call our offices on 01707 376 888 to book a trip today…
4-5 March – Series Test Days – Circuit Paul Ricard (France) 26-28 March – Dix Mille Tours du Castellet – Circuit Paul Ricard (France)19-24 April – Tour Auto Optic 2000 – Rally (France) 14-16 May – Spa-Classic – Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) 4-6 June – Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or – Circuit Dijon-Prenois (France) 1-4 July – Le Mans Classic – Circuit des 24 Heures (France) 17-19 September – Monza Historic – Autodromo di Monza (Italy) 21-25 September – Rallye des Légendes Richard Mille 8-10 October – Estoril Classics – Estoril circuit (Portugal)
This weekend is set to see a landmark for GT racing, with the 70th running of the 24 Hours of Spa. A grid of over 60 GT3 cars, from 13 marques, with plucky privateer teams, factory-backed efforts aplenty, and a Pro class that has the potential to provide those trackside and at home with a thrilling Spa 24 Hours.
Our man in the stands looks forward to four of the things he is most looking forward to seeing during the 2018 Spa 24 Hours.
Endurance Cup title battles
The Blancpain GT Series and Intercontinental GT Challenge has created a plethora of title races across the board, with so many trophies available for teams to gun for now. But, at its core, the Spa 24 Hours is a round of the Blancpain Endurance Cup, and for the majority of European GT3 teams, winning the Endurance Cup titles for Drivers and Teams is the crown jewel they most want.
As it stands, at the head of the field in the teams title is Emil Frey, and it has been a remarkable story so far for the Swiss team and its new Lexus programme. After years of running its Jaguar GT3s (which it is still running this year, but in the Silver Cup), it is now racing with a pair of Lexus RCF GT3s, which already have proven to bring far more to the table than just variety. Emil Frey won last time out at Paul Ricard, and will look to continue that form heading into this weekend’s race. That won’t be easy though, as with it being so tight at the top, it is often a lottery at Spa. Strength in numbers can be a deciding factor between a manufacturer winning or struggling to get a car inside the top twenty. It is close though, as ex-FIA WEC team Strakka Racing (Mercedes) and Team Parker Racing (Bentley) are within 10 points.
In the Drivers standings meanwhile, it’s WRT’s trio of Alex Riberas, Chris Mies and Dries Vanthoor leading the way, by just two points over Emil Frey’s trio of Marco Seefried, Albert Costa and Christian Klien. The WRT crew’s win at Monza has proven to be the deciding factor here, but with three sets of points on offer during the 24 (at hours 6, 12 and 24), it’s an incredibly important event for the teams, and strategy will be at play to ensure that cars are high up the order at various points during the race to score points. And, if it all falls into place, the conclusion of the Spa 24 will not only provide fans with an incredible finish, but will also see a set of title races that will go down to the wire at the season finale in Barcelona.
The stacked Pro field
The race’s organizing body, SRO, has intentionally capped this year’s Pro class in the Spa 24 Hours, to ensure that the private teams are able to make up the majority of the field. But that is unlikely to detract from the race for overall honours, as instead, it’s forced the factory teams and high-end privateer efforts to concentrate on fewer cars, and stack them with talent. This year’s 30-car entry in Pro for the Spa 24 Hours is stunning, an all-star cast, with no real weak links. And with efforts from Aston Martin, Audi, Bentley, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lexus, McLaren, Mercedes, Nissan and Porsche, there’s no real favourite either.
There’s plenty of new machinery in amongst the class too. Bentley brings its new Continental GT3 to Spa for the first time, a car which looks and sounds stunning. Whether or not it is ready for a big win this early in its life though, remains to be seen. As mentioned above, Lexus too, brings spice to the party, with the RCF GT3, which may not be a brand-new car (in fact, it’s been in development for years and raced with customers in 2017), it is new to Blancpain and despite being ahead in the points standings, Emil Frey is still a dark horse here with real potential. The final new beast, is from Nissan, it’s 2018-spec GT-R GT3 a fundamentally different car to the previous model, with the engine placed lower and further back in the chassis, and radically different aero at each corner of the car. The results haven’t shown yet, but with RJN running the new car, and Balance of Performance a factor, there is no reason a signature result can’t be achieved here. Add in existing cars from the other brands, and you’ve got an unmissable battle at the head of the field.
Outside of the Pro class, the entry which will likely receive the most attention at the Spa 24 Hours is the Castrol Honda Racing NSX GT3. 18 years on from its last Spa 24 Hours appearance, Honda is back with this effort at Spa, which will be run by JAS Motorsport. This weekend’s race is both the NSX GT3’s Blancpain GT and European 24-hour race debut, as part of a push from the brand’s customer programme.
The car will compete in the Pro-Am class, with Bertrand Baguette and Esteban Guerrieri, ex-F1 driver Riccardo Patrese and Loic Depailler. This will be a very interesting entry to follow, and surely a fan favourite with its Castrol-livery. And the NSX GT3 has a real chance to have a clean run to the finish, as badged as an Acura in the USA, it’s had some notable results already with Michael Shank Racing. But, in this environment, and with a relatively inexperienced driver crew, whether or not it will be a contender in its first appearance, remains to be seen…
This year’s Spa 24 Hours field, as well as featuring a vast selection of machinery, is one of the most incredible list of GT drivers ever assembled. And in among those are some real stars, that aren’t necessarily known for GT3 racing. As mentioned before, Riccardo Patrese is part of the entry, an F1 race-winner. Another F1 race-winner meanwhile, is Rubens Barichello, a man who had a similar career to Patrese, just decades later. Barichello will race with Strakka Racing, for the team’s second attempt at trying to win at Spa, and after competing at Le Mans last year, he is clearly inspired to carve out a small post-F1 career in sportscars.
Outside of that, Attempto Racing will race with DTM ace Jamie Green, back for his second Spa 24 Hours, again competing in an Audi, to match his touring car commitments. Former Le Mans winners and LMP1 stars Marcel Fassler, Marc Lieb and Timo Bernhard will also be present, racing for WRT, Manthey Racing and Team75 Bernhard respectively, so it’s safe to say they all have a real chance at an overall podium or win.
And finally, slightly out of left field, Top Gear presenter Chris Harris is also back again, this time with Garage 59 in the Am class driving a 650S GT3. Thus far it’s been a hugely successful season for Harris, who with his teammates leads the class standings after winning two races this year. It is safe to say he’ll be more motivated than ever at this years Spa 24 Hours.
2018 begins in Daytona, Florida with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. This is the start of the Weathertech Sportscar Championship and is your first chance to see new technology and international drivers take on the banking at this famous circuit. Our hotel on Daytona Beach is the perfect place to stay and enjoy this great event.
Continuing out travels in February, we visit Australia for the Bathurst 12 Hours. If you have never visited the Mount Panorama circuit before, then this is a must. We not only have downtown hotels and apartments available for this race, but we include 3 days hospitality so you can enjoy practice, qualifying and the race from the privileged position on the pit-lane roof.
We are back in Florida in March for the 12 Hours of Sebring. This is America’s oldest and most prestigious sports car race. In 2019 Sebring will also host a round of the FIA World Endurance Championship “Super season”, but you can also visit in 2018 & stay in our lakeside condos, just a few minutes drive from the circuit.
May’s Spa Classic goes from strength to strength and the event now attracts more than 30,000 spectators each year. With a mixture of classic endurance racing, Group C racers and historic touring cars there is enough variety to entertain everyone. We have a selection of nearby hotels and camping available to accommodate everyone, and entertain all our customers in our hospitality suite overlooking Eau Rouge.
The Le Mans 24 Hours needs little introduction. Following the withdrawal of Audi and Porsche there is guaranteed to be a new name on the winner’s trophy. Toyota will be back, and this time with an F1 champion behind the wheel. They will be joined by a good number of privateer LMP1s adding to the fun. The ever competitive GTE Pro class sees the return of BMW to take on the might of Ferrari, Ford, Aston Martin, Corvette and Porsche so there a plenty of manufacturers present too. As always Travel Destinations will be offering on-circuit options including our exclusive private trackside campsite at Porsche Curves, our Glamping option (Event Tents) and our pop-up hotel (Flexotel).
The pinnacle of historic motorsport is July’s Le Mans Classic. It is unrivaled in its scale and history. The racing only features cars that once raced at Le Mans, from the 1920s through to the 1980s (now including Group C). If the on-track spectacle is not enough for you then the gathering of more than 8,000 classic cars on the Bugatti circuit may tempt you away. Much like the 24 Hours, Travel Destinations has private track-side camping, glamping and pop-up hotel rooms available at the circuit, as well as hotel rooms, camping and B&B options further afield.
Endurance racing also returns in July with the 24 Hours of Spa. Being track-side, watching as Audi, BMW, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Nissan & Bentley all speed through Eau Rouge through the day and the night is a joy to behold. The racing is punctuated with a pop concert and fireworks display above the paddock at night as the cars continue around the track. We have both camping and hotel options for this event enabling you to enjoy the whole spectacle.
August sees the Nurburgring host the Oldtimers Grand Prix. This historic motor racing weekend, has a mixture of single-seater and sports cars compete around this historic circuit. Wandering the paddock is like going back in time as the mechanics work on this classic machinery. We have trackside camping or a 4 star hotel to choose from when you attend this great event.
September is a busy month for classic cars and historic motor racing. The Circuit des Remparts event in Angouleme (South West France) is quite unique. The Sunday of a long weekend of car events, sees a full day of historic racing around the walls of the old town. This tight street circuit is overshadowed by the town’s cathedral and spectators fill the stands at every turn; it is quite a sight and well-worth the drive down to see it all in person.
Mallorca classic week is organised by the island’s residents with a focus on classic cars both resident and visiting the island. With the emphasis on the social side, there are gatherings and displays around the island with competitions and scenic drives to some of the most beautiful parts of the Mallorca. It may seem a long way to go, but with ferries taking the strain the driving distances are shortened and you could participate by clocking up less than 1000 miles in your car but stay for two whole weeks.
The Spa Six Hours in September has always felt like a racers weekend that spectators have been allowed access to. There are few restrictions on access and teams are always relaxed and happy to chat. There are a variety of grids racing over the weekend, with the highlight being the classic endurance race on Saturday afternoon that continues in to the autumn night. If you like your GT40s, D-Type Jaguars and AC Cobras competing at speed, driven by skilled drivers then this event is perfect for you. We have a range of hotels and camping available within 10 minutes of the track, so you can enjoy it all in comfort.
You can secure your place at any of these events now. Reservations are open, but availability is limited, so please call Travel Destinations now, on 0844 873 0203.
Travel Destinations guests at the Spa 24 Hours were blessed with good weather for this year’s race and the action on the track didn’t disappoint either. There was a close run race and plenty of talking points for our man in the stands to discuss afterwards. Here are some of the highlights from that discussion.
Another one in the books for Audi Team Sainteloc’s victory in last weekend’s Spa 24 Hours was nothing short of spectacular. The team’s trio of Markus Winkelhock, Christopher Haase and Jules Gounon battled through sunshine and the showers, day and night, fending off the best that Bentley, Mercedes, Ferrari and Porsche had to offer to score Audi its fourth Spa 24 Hours win.
As remarkable as the French factory-blessed team’s win was, what was more impressive, was the performance of the car. The Audi R8 LMS, which to many, will still feel like a new kid on the block, is actually well into its life-cycle, and continues to impress on almost a weekly basis around the world, but consistently in longer races. The win means that the R8 LMS has won both big European 24-hour races in 2017, following Land Motorsport’s emphatic Nurburgring 24 Hours triumph. The R8 LMS almost won the Rolex 24 Hours GTD category too, after a late charge by the aforementioned Land squad at the end of the race.
It’s portfolio continues to pad out, as does Audi Sport customer racing. With BMW already bringing an evo kit to market for the new M6 GT3 this year, and Aston Martin developing a new GT3 model, Audi is sticking to its guns. As the R8 LMS fifth season approaches, it looks just as good as it did on its debut back in 2014, when it stormed to victory at the Nuburgring. It is an incredible car, which will go down as one of the most successful in GT3 history.
Bad luck for Bentley Another year and another near miss for Bentley. Once again, the British marque finished just shy of the win, but in very different circumstances to last year when weather at the end of the race cost the team its lead. This time around its lead Continental GT3 charged into the fight for the win in the closing stages due to good pit work, and incredible driving for Maxime Soulet, Vincent Abril and Andy Soucek. It was a hard pill to swallow for the M-Sport crew, to again miss out on winning the car its first big endurance race, but nevertheless it was a promising performance.
Soulet at the end of the race piled the pressure on the leading Audi, closing the margin to just seven seconds in the final minutes, but the traffic, which is always a factor at Spa, played a big part in deciding the final outcome. On raw pace there was really nothing between them. The Continental GT3’s tenure as Bentley’s marquee GT3 is clearly coming to a close, and despite numerous attempts to win the Spa 24 Hours, Nurburgring 24 Hours and Bathurst 12 Hours, it has yet to sit on the top step at any of them.
Maxime Soulet, Vincent Abril and Andy Soucek now lead the Driver’s title race, and the M-Sport team now leads the Team’s Championship in the Endurance Cup. A big championship win in what will likely be its final season is now likely the only chance left of a fond farewell to the Crewe-based marque’s first GT3 project which has been a fan-favourite from the get go.
Team Bernhard has a future In the Pro class, Porsche had just one team representing it. It wasn’t the usual Manthey, or even Herberth Motorsports for that matter. No, it was Team75 Bernhard making its 24-hour race debut with its 911 GT3 R. Driving the car were works drivers Michael Christensen, Laurens Vanthoor and Kevin Estre, and they were predictably superb. The team though, was an unknown going into the race. Owned by Timo Bernhard (Le Mans winner and all-round top talent) the team had only competed in ADAC GT Masters sprint races in Germany heading into the weekend, but with Porsche’s support they were on fine form, and kept the Stuttgart-based marque in the running for the win all the way to the finish, eventually finishing third overall.
They genuinely could have won it too, as without a three-minute stop-go penalty for causing a collision in the early stages, they would have been almost a lap ahead of the field. There looks like a real future for Timo’s team, which is aiming to become a full factory squad in the years ahead.
Misery for McLaren While Porsche, Audi, Mercedes and Bentley all had good to great runs in the Spa 24 Hours, McLaren’s effort was much the opposite. Strakka Racing brought its quartet of 650S GT3s, and last year’s Endurance Cup Champion Garage 59 brought another, to make it a five-pronged attack for the Woking brand. But none of them featured in the running on pace throughout practice and Qualifying, and in the race only briefly looked competitive.
Four of the five failed to make it into the final third of the race; Strakka’s entire fleet retiring for one reason or the other, leaving a delayed Garage 59 650S GT3 in the AM class to bear the flag for the marque. But Chris Harris, Alexander West, Bradley Ellis and Chris Goodwin could only do so much, after a problem in the pits and a collision out on track left them over 10 laps down on the other Am class runners. In the end the quartet came home last in the class and second to last of the classified runners.
It’s been an extremely tough season for Strakka Racing, which is still clearly adapting to GT racing after years in prototypes. It is not the drivers, as it’s stable is littered with McLaren GT’s young guns and factory drivers, instead it has appeared to be a mixture of rotten luck, and a struggle to work with the current Pirelli tyres, which has left the team flailing. Thankfully there is still a couple more chances this season to score a good result. A win, or even a podium before the end of the Blancpain season would go a long way to keeping the morale up.
There is life in the old Aston yet
Leading early, and eventually finishing second, the Oman Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage of Euan Hankey, Le Mans-winner Jonny Adam, Ahmad Al Harthy and Salih Yoluc enjoyed a whirlwind of a week at Spa racing in the Pro-Am division. Much like its GTE brethren, the GT3 version of the Aston Martin Vantage has been around a long time, lacking customers globally now, as the brand prepares for its next GT3 machine to go to market. But with its incredible build, performance, and design, coupled with today’s Balance of Performance, it is still competitive. Scoring Pro-Am Pole and staying in the fight for the Pro-Am victory throughout was a sight to see, the Oman Racing squad run by TF Sport running like clockwork throughout the event.
Not only was the podium a success in itself, but the strong run also sealed the Blancpain GT Series Pro-Am Drivers’ title for Adam and Al Harthy and the Teams’ title win for the Oman Racing Team with TF Sport. A great effort for this retiring Aston.
The 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship moved on to Belgium and the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit this last weekend. As always this is the last FIA WEC race before Le Mans, so whilst there were battles on the track for championship points, there was also a lot of planning for the Le Mans 24 Hours. Ever present, our man in the stands was present trackside to follow all the action and bring you this exclusive report, looking at the main talking points and what we learned from the race.
1. Toyota’s Le Mans chances look good Toyota Gazoo Racing has started the FIA WEC season with two wins from two races, and a Le Mans outlook which has arguably never been stronger. The 2017 TS050 Hybrid is a winning machine, with the regular drivers in the No.7 and No.8 cars both proving to be in the form of their lives heading into the big race next month. The question remaining though, concerns the aero-package. At Spa, the No.9 car of Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Sarrazin and Yuji Kunimoto debuted the low-drag configuration of the car, which the team will race at Le Mans, while the No.7 and No.8 full-season FIA WEC entries ran the high-downforce kits that the team will use at the six-hour races all season.
While the performance (a fifth-place finish) for the Le Mans option is likely down to the team using the race as an extended test session for both the car and drivers, it was interesting that it didn’t feature all weekend. The car did briefly take the lead when Lapierre out-braked himself into La Source at the start, but after that it failed to feature in the race for the podium, finishing far behind the two other Toyotas and both Porsches.
The difference is that Porsche has been running its own Le Mans kit all season so far, and has therefore had much more race experience with it, which is confidence building, as even though it hasn’t won yet, it came close at Spa with the No.2 919 Hybrid, which would have been involved in a grandstand finish had Brendon Hartley not lost time in the pits due to a nose change late in the race following a clumsy collision with the No.36 Signatech Alpine.
It remains to be seen how close the two marques will be on-track at Le Mans because of this, though it has all the makings of a classic should Toyota have some speed up its sleeve.
2. Aston Martin struggling for pace? Aston Martin Racing has had a remarkably quiet 2017. While its two Vantages are still relatively fresh from combining to score the Teams’ Championship and Drivers’ Championship last year, so far this year they haven’t looked like even sniffing a podium.In GTE Pro it’s been all Ford and Ferrari so far, with Chip Ganassi Team UK and AF Corse in turn dominating Silverstone and Spa. Porsche has had flashes of pace, but the new car looks to be a few months from being perfect in the reliability and consistency department. Le Mans could well be a different story though. Le Mans will have a separate and thus far undetermined Balance of Performance applied, and this could favour Aston Martin’s Vantages as the cars have looked to be struggling.
In addition, the No.95 did produce one single lap in Free Practice 2 at Spa which put Dane, Marco Sorensen seconds quicker than his teammates, and atop the standings in the class. After that it was unable to produce a similar time, but it begs the question, is there something in reserve?
3. The Ferrari 488 has arrived As mentioned above, the Ferrari 488 dominated at Spa, and in the second half of the race proved totally untouchable. It has been reliable – which it wasn’t last year – and now has the speed to match. AF Corse’s driver line-up too seems to be strong from top to bottom, with newcomer Alessandro Pier Guidi looking both quick and consistent over his stints in the car.
The team finished the race 1 & 2, and looked unstoppable. If they can continue their form at the Le Mans 24 Hours, then they may well emerge as title favourites, should Ford not keep tabs, the Porsche get up to speed and Aston pick up the pace.
4. The new LMP2s look reliable Before the season started there was much speculation as to how reliable the new LMP2 cars would prove. In testing the cars were suffering from electrical woes, and gearbox issues which often prevented teams from having extended runs. Silverstone and Spa though, have been very encouraging, the 2017 cars looking strong over long distances all of a sudden. Last weekend there was only one retirement in the field, which was Tockwith Motorsports’ Ligier JS P217, which suffered from a gearbox failure at the very end of the race. Tockwith is new to racing in LMP2 though, and the FIA WEC is a difficult challenge to master.
Le Mans may be a different story, as going for twenty-four hours is much harder than six. But so far the signs are positive, and Le Mans’ potential to become a race of attrition is looking increasingly slim.
5. And race well together too! As well as being reliable, the race at Spa put to rest the nay-sayers who assumed the racing in the FIA WEC’s LMP2 class would be poor, with the entire field being made up of Oreca 07s. The cars are aerodynamically sophisticated and performance wise much more powerful, which on paper in effectively a ‘spec series’, has the potential to produce processional racing. So far that hasn’t been the case, especially at Spa, with the 07s able to get a good tow and race close together.
The drivers are enjoying racing with the new kit, and so are the fans. So when Le Mans rolls around, with a diverse 23-car grid, it could be the class to watch!
The next round of the FIA WEC will be the 24 Hours of Le Mans, taking place on the 17th -18th June 2017. If you would like tickets to be at the big race of the season then please call the Travel Destinations team now on 0844 873 0203. Availability is limited, but we can still look after you.
This last weekend saw the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue take place at Monza. This was a first chance for the public and the media to see this season’s cars on track and it revealed some insights in to what we may expect in the forthcoming FIA WEC season. As ever, our man in the stands was trackside in Monza and has filed his latest report.
The 2017 LMP2s flexed their muscles Last week at Monza, for the first time in a public setting, the new breed of LMP2 cars were shown off, and they didn’t disappoint. The new LMP2s are quick, look sleek and are being driven by arguably the best crop of drivers in the category’s history this year. While the FIA WEC LMP2 class doesn’t have any variety in chassis, it won’t detract from the racing. At Monza, the Oreca 07s – in their high downforce configuration – all managed speeds close to 200mph with their Gibson engines, with the best lap time – Bruno Senna’s 1:36.094 – eclipsing the 2008 LMP2 pole time by almost a second. And when it comes to the full season, we expect that figure to rise, especially at Le Mans, as at the Dunlop test before the Prologue one team managed to reach 220mph in the high downforce package.
Who knows what can be achieved down the Mulsanne straight this year?
Either way, the important thing to note here is that the LMP2s are likely to be quicker than LMP1 cars in a straight line, which could provide some hairy moments in heavy braking zones. Those images of LMP1 cars skipping past the LMP2 field may be just memories of seasons gone by.
Porsche’s new GTE car impresses Porsche’s new 911 RSR GTE car continues to impress. It is reliable, and notably fast. Michael Christensen set the quickest time of the Prologue – a 1:47.379 on Saturday – as the team consistently sat at the top the timing screens. The car also ran without any hiccups, racking up a ton of mileage and getting its drivers even more tuned into its new characteristics.
While testing times win no awards, they are an indication of what we can expect to come. For this year the Balance of Performance system has been overhauled for the GTE Pro teams, and at Monza the cars were running with their baseline BoP. So it is first blood for Porsche GT Team heading into Round 1 at Silverstone next week.
LMP1 reliability Both Porsche and Toyota’s new LMP1 challengers were officially unveiled at Monza and initial signs were good; Not only in their continued advancements in hybrid technology, but in their ability to complete long runs. All four factory LMP1 hybrids on show managed to complete well over 1000km of running over the two days, with the No.2 Porsche 919 clocking up the most mileage from 327 tours of the circuit, which totaled just a fraction under 1,800km.
None of them spent any extended periods in their garage aside from during the thunderstorm on Saturday night, and aside from a couple of brief technical hiccups, there were no dramas on track either. The preparation from both Toyota and Porsche in the off season therefore looks to have paid off, with Porsche confirming it had completed at least one 24-hour test, and Toyota stating that it had completed four 30-hour runs.
After last year’s shaky start to the season on the reliability front, this year could be a turn around, and the races at Silverstone and Spa could turn into sprint races rather than races of attrition & constant niggles.
Dunlop makes further GTE gains Dunlop has drawn in more interest in the GTE side of its endurance commitments, with both Dempsey Proton Racing and Gulf Racing making the change away from Michelin tyres for this season. Last year Aston Martin Racing took the risk and ran with Dunlop tyres, which at the start of the season left the two Vantages in the GTE Pro class heading into Le Mans with consistency, but not much to show for in the outright pace department. From Mexico onwards though, and with a new compound, Aston Martin made incredible strides, winning races and eventually the Drivers and Teams championship. For this year, Gulf Racing and Proton Racing are hoping for similar results in GTE Am, as their 2015-spec Porsches – and Aston Martin’s No.98 entry – take on the likes of Spirit of Race and Clearwater Racing with their different sets of rubber. The WEC’s GTE tyre war is now in full swing, and should be fascinating to keep tabs on as the season progresses.
Monza magic impressed the paddock This year’s trip to Monza was the first for Le Mans Prototypes in an officially sanctioned event since 2008, and it was greeted positively up and down the paddock. Not only is it a circuit which everyone enjoys making the visit because of its history, but it is a valuable place to test on too. The Paul Ricard circuit, where the Prologue took place in previous years, is hard to test on because of its hard winds and unique surface which is tough to read when It comes to tyre testing. Monza meanwhile provides a good simulation for the teams ahead of Le Mans, and it showed, as most teams made the most of the chance to run their cars on both days.
Fans turned up in their droves too, making for an extremely busy pit walk on both Saturday and Sunday, and giving the grandstands a bit of an atmosphere at times. There’s certainly a case for Monza being put onto the full FIA WEC calendar for a race in the future, which would prove popular with the series’ increasing supporter base.
Although the Le Mans Classic doesn’t return again until July 2018, you can still get your fix of classic car racing with annual Spa Classic event.
In May 2017, the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium will host the 7th Spa Classic, an historic race weekend, that features a variety of grids including Group C cars, classic touring cars, Italian sports cars and sixties endurance racing. In addition to the on track action, classic car clubs from across Europe are invited to display their cars within the paddock areas, creating a show of beautiful cars and motoring history.
Travel Destinations have been looking after customers at every Spa Classic event since its inception. This has enabled us to become the official agency for this event giving us access to the best tickets and options available. In particular Travel Destinations invites all its customers arriving at Spa in classic or sports cars, to park in our private car parking area within the circuit, in pride of place, on the top level adjacent to the F1 garages. From this car parking area you can see across the paddocks to both the La Source hairpin and the hill at Eau Rouge.
All Travel Destinations customers are also invited to join us in our hospitality suite overlooking Eau Rouge for light refreshments throughout the weekend. From this first floor suite you can relax for a while, enjoy complimentary tea & coffee and still watch all the action. It is a great place to socialise with other guests and meet the Travel Destinations team.
All our Spa Classic offers include your choice of travel and accommodation. You can choose from the Eurotunnel, or the ferries from Dover or Hull. All the packages also include entrance tickets to the Spa Classic that also allows access to every paddock and grandstand. You are free to wander and view from wherever you like.
We have a choice of five different hotels and a campsite to stay at. All of the properties are within 15 minutes of the circuit and each of the options has been visited by Travel Destinations staff. We have been using all of them for a number of years and have many repeat guests, so they all come highly recommended. We have tried to offer something for every budget and taste, but please feel free to ask our staff for a recommendation when you call.
Five things we learnt from the 2016 24 Hours of Spa
Following the Spa 24 Hours last weekend, our man in the stands, Stephen Kilbey, takes a look at 5 main points that arose from the race.
The BMW M6 has come into its own
Few people would have predicted a BMW M6 would come out on top, after a lengthy battle with Bentley for the win at the Spa 24 Hours this year. After the Nürburgring 24 Hours (the M6’s big 24-hour debut) didn’t go to plan with various incidents and mechanical failures prevented it from splitting up the Mercedes armada, hopes were not high. But Spa was different. With Mercedes’ uber-quick AMG GT3s on the back foot before the race even started, Audi having yet another very un-Audi race, McLaren proving to lack strength in numbers, Bentley suffering bad luck and serving penalties and Lamborghini not having a real challenge it suddenly became ROWE Racing’s to lose; and this time they didn’t.
For any new car to come in and win a 24-hour race in its first year is impressive, and that’s definitely a worthy adjective to describe ROWE’s performance top to bottom. Alex Sims, Philip Eng and Maxime Martin all drove flawlessly and in the end had the luck, bold strategy calls and speed to win the race and deliver the team its first big win. After so many attempts at winning both Spa and the N24, ROWE Racing wont be forgetting this year’s Spa 24 Hours in a hurry. Neither will BMW, as the M6 looks like it’s a good all-round package that will remain a challenger on big stages for years to come.
Driving standards have improved After the debacle of two years ago, when the Spa 24 Hours of 2014 was marred by a series of huge incidents following multiple safety car periods, it was good to see that such an enormous 65-car field produced a clean race. In recent years, the amateur/gentlemen drivers have really upped their game in the spirit of competition and its safe to say that it’s been at the benefit of GT3 racing across the board. Whilst there were naturally a couple of big shunts (one particularly scary one on pit-exit which saw Kevin Estre’s Attempto Porsche thrown into the Armco after contact with a Ferrari running at full speed) the racing overall was hard and fair, with most of the field leaving the event feeling encouraged by the performances of their peers.
As much as enormous grids are used as a yard-stick for the success of a series/event these days, safety is just as important. It’s good to see that the SRO’s Blancpain GT Series continues to attract quantity and quality.
Mercedes has some post-Spa PR work to do
This year’s race will most certainly always be remembered for the post-qualifying exclusion of the Mercedes runners in the Top-20 Shootout. What should have been a 1-2-3-4-5-6 formation on the grid for the Stuttgart-based brand turned into a PR nightmare after an illegal engine map was found on all the cars, giving them a pace advantage. All the six cars featured several values in one of the three homologated maps in the car (Qualifying/ Race and Safety Car) that did not comply with the quoted values. As a result, they lost their qualifying times and received a five-minute stop and hold penalty at the start of the race too, effectively putting all the Mercedes contenders out of the running before the lights went green. It is an incredible achievement that the leading AKKA ASP Mercedes came home second, overcoming an enormous disadvantage.
It’s one thing to dominate due to sloppy Balance of Performance (BoP) adjustments, but when the manufacturer does more than just ‘play the game’ it is another entirely. Mercedes declined to comment on the reason for the issues, but failed to put in an appeal because they ‘ran out of time’. If it genuinely didn’t have any part in changing the engine maps on purpose, then so be it, but a lot of people will look at the 1-2-3-4 at the Nürburgring 24 Hours earlier in the year and now become suspicious of the result.
Bentley blew its big chance
The Bentley Continental GT3 has won plenty of races in its lifespan, but has thus far failed to win a marquee race. This year, with ex-Audi engineer Leena Gade at the helm, the British M-Sport crew had a very good chance of winning, pushing the ROWE team to its limits as the race wore on. A mixture of bad luck under full course yellow conditions, penalties and a late puncture cost the Bentley squad dearly. It was agonizing for the team after having the lead with just over two hours remaining in the race.
In years past Bentley hasn’t featured in the running for the win of either the Spa 24 Hours or the Nürburgring 24 Hours, and it felt like that it may of missed out on its big chance last weekend to get a signature victory under its belt before the next chassis comes in to take its place in the coming years.
Maxime Martin got his big win It has been a long time coming, but Maxime Martin finally has a career-defining win. The Belgian GT star, who will always be remembered for his astonishing performance towards the end of the 2013 Nürburgring 24 Hours, where he hunted down the leading Mercedes through adverse weather in the closing stages, only to finish second, now has a big 24-hour race win. After coming so close at both Spa and the ‘Ring in recent years, the 30-year-old Belgian couldn’t contain his emotions after winning the ‘big one’ on his home soil. And it is no surprise because every Belgian GT driver wants to win the Spa 24.
It was a very deserving victory. Martin still has many years left in his career to add to his resumé as a BMW factory driver be it in GT3, DTM or wherever he ends up in the future. Few people have any doubts about his talent, and he now has a trophy to show for his efforts.
A week after the FIA WEC 6 hours of Spa-Francorchamps it was the turn of the golden oldies of the world of endurance racing to take to the legendary Belgian circuit for the 6th Spa Classic. If the weather was a bit cooler than the weekend before, the action on the track was equally competitive and the spectacle was equally enthralling.
The spectators formed a guard of honour around the lines of historic cars about to go out onto the track, and everyone was able to take advantage of the relaxed nature of the Spa Classic to get up close to the drivers and their machinery.
The weekend provided people with the opportunity to relive some of the greatest events in the history of the Spa-Francorchamps 24 Hours in the touring car era, as well as the Spa 1000 km with prototypes and GTs covering the period 1952 (Aston Martin DB2) to 1993 (Peugeot 905). In all, four decades on this circuit marked by victories of emblematic models like the Ferrari 250 LM (1965), Ford GT40 (1968) and the Porsche 962 (1986), all of which were represented on the track this weekend. A total of some 216 racing cars divided up into six grids (Classic Endurance Racing 1 & 2, Group C Racing, the Heritage Touring Cup, Trofeo Nastro Rosso & Sixties’ Endurance) put on a nine-race action-packed show out on the track from Friday onwards, including one that felt absolutely magic on Saturday evening as night fell.
Spectators, who were able to tear themselves away from the racing that continued nonstop out on the beautiful Belgian circuit, for a few minutes were able to experience musical and motoring entertainment both in and out of the paddocks, whilst children could have their first taste of driving pedal-powered karts round their own circuit, and then take on their parents at the controls of radio-controlled cars. Other forms of entertainment included jazz music and a unique DJ housed in VW van as well as many boutiques (scale models, clothes, bookshops, etc.).
One of the great assets of an event like the Spa Classic is the access all areas philosophy that allows spectators to wonder through the garages and paddocks, as well as access all of the grandstands and visit the Brasserie on top of the F1 building. The more adventurous also enjoyed a walk along the footpath that offers spectacular views around the whole circuit.
Inside and outside the track car clubs gathered to add to the weekend display. Four different BMW clubs that had chosen Spa Classic to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the make, many owners of historic cars came to the Ardennes to enjoy the party and represented makes as diverse as Corvette, Datsun, Honda, MG, Porsche, Triumph and TVR. Enough to retrace the history of the motor car through 700 models ranging from the legendary Citroën Traction Avant to the incredible Lamborghini Miuras, Ferrari F40s and F50s.
Guests booked with Travel Destinations enjoyed the Spa Classic more than most. Not only did they park their cars in pride of place, stretching the full length of the top level F1 paddock, but they also had access to the Travel Destinations hospitality lodge overlooking Eau Rouge, where they could enjoy their own pit stop with tea, coffee and biscuits without missing any of the action. Those with dreams of being racers themselves were also able to take their cars out on track to enjoy the twists and turns of Spa-Francorchamps first hand.
The Spa Classic event will be returning in May 2017 & Travel Destinations will once again be there in the middle of the action, enjoying this great event. If you are interested in joining us at the Spa Classic in 2017, please register your interest with us now, to be among the first to receive our special offers.
There’s never been a better time to attend the 24 Hours of Spa
There was a time when Spa Francorchamps’ annual 24-hour race was a touring car contest, relevant only within Belgium’s borders, but those days are very much over. Since 2001, it’s become a pure GT race, and in many ways much better for it. The 24 Hours of Spa is a race that’s become famous for its gritty and spectacular racing. If you love witnessing feats of motorsport endurance first hand, there’s few better places to go than the Ardennes Forest in July.
These days, a capacity grid of around 60 cars take on the Spa circuit through day and night for the ultimate prize in Belgian motorsport. Like the Nürburgring 24 Hours, the 24 Hours of Spa has benefitted greatly from the addition to SRO-regulated cars, with the three classes in the race now made up entirely of GT3 cars from the Blancpain GT Series. With no significant difference in pace between the fastest and slowest car on the grid, the drivers at the front have to work extra hard to fight through the hordes of traffic.
As a result, the cars that cross the line on Sunday afternoon after 24 hours of racing always look incredibly beat up because the competition up front is so fierce. In recent years, the race for the overall lead has been decided within the final few hours, with the adverse conditions at the circuit often taking their toll on even the most sophisticated examples of modern GT machinery in the closing stages.
Plenty of factory-backed teams are due to be on the bill for this year’s race, showcasing the latest and greatest cars that SRO-sanctioned racing has to offer. The 2016 edition of the race has the mouth-watering prospect of having McLaren, Bentley, Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, Nissan, BMW, Ferrari and Aston Martin-backed squads in attendance.
When you’re there, spectating up-close at Spa for the 24 has a unique charm. Unlike the Le Mans and the Nürburgring 24 hours, you can walk the entire way round the 4.3-mile circuit as a fan, visiting both the inside and the outside at various points with relative ease.
Many of those in attendance spend the first half of the race doing a complete lap. They start on the start/finish straight grandstand and end up at La Source before taking a rest during the early hours of Sunday morning and coming back as dawn breaks to do the same again but in reverse, seeing the cars cross the line at the end of the race. Food options away from the main paddock are limited though, so packing your own food is advisable if you plan on spending much of the race out in the forests.
The night hours of the race are particularly special. We all know Spa is a picturesque circuit in the day, but seeing over 50 cars it the pitch black, flying up Eau Rouge, with flames spitting out the exhausts and brake discs glowing is incredible. It’s the Spa we all know from watching Formula One and the WEC on TV, but on an another level.
Standing atop the hill on the outside of the no-name corner heading down to Pouhon is also extraordinary. On a clear night, you can see cars passing through areas as far the Bus Stop from certain vantage points.
With Travel Destinations you have the choice of camping at a private site towards Stavelot, or staying at a hotel in Malmedy. It’s quick and easy to access the track by calling a cab, or taking a short car ride throughout the race and its build up, because it has far fewer fans than a place like Le Mans.
For everyone standing trackside, it has a far more relaxed feel than the other marquee endurance races, but that doesn’t in any way detract from the experience.
The Spa 24 Hours capture’s everything that’s appealing about watching an established race at a legendary circuit like Le Mans or the Nürburgring, but without huge crowds, sometimes limited spectator access and necessity to take a whole week off work to see the event.
If you’ve not been to Spa for the 24 Hours, as an endurance racing fan it simply must be done.
It’s a motorsport event that deserves your attention.