Formula Ford 2000, Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, July 2013.

The Spa Race Festival which took place at the famous Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium over the weekend of July 19th/21st.

This article was written by Noel for
Here is my blog from the Spa Race Festival which took place at the famous Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium over the weekend of July 19th/21st.
Since my successful race weekend last August at the Phoenix Park races with Iain Rowely’s Delta Motorsports team, we had being working hard to be able to race with each other again and together with experienced race engineer Chris Smith we managed to put in place a deal to complete at the HMR double header races at Spa-Francorchamps Grand Prix circuit with a Formula Ford 2000 Delta T79.
A planned test session a Mallory Park (Leicestershire UK) didn’t materialise due to some technical issues, so I headed to Spa a circuit I had never driven on before having not tested the car, plus I had not driven any race car since the Phoenix Park races. This was not ideal so once I got to Spa I walked the entire 7km race track to get a feel for this unbelievable challenging circuit.
The organisers scheduled two qualifying sessions on Friday and outlined that the fastest lap from the combined sessions would count for Saturdays grid position, with Sundays grid position determined from Saturdays race finish position. So we decided to use the first session as a test session, however after 4 laps I came back to the pits as the engine temperature was excessively high due to the heat wave all of Europe has been experiencing. While in the pits the session was red flagged and was not restarted, so not much information was gained. In the second qualifying session I managed to string together some good consistent laps, and managed to set my fastest lap on my final lap, but I didn’t think this lap was that quick as I encountered slow traffic at Pouhon and the quick Blanchimont corners which did comprise my lap time. However I was both surprised and satisfied to learn that I had in fact qualified 8th from an entry of 55, and second in my class behind the quicker Formula Atlantic and Formula 3 cars.
Due to the large number of cars the race was started using a rolling start behind a pace car, having never done a rolling start before this was to be a new experience for me, so I decided to be cautious and made it into La Source and down the hill towards Eau Rouge without loosing or gaining a position. I did manage to go up through Eau Rouge and onto Raidillon better than Hans Meskes (Holland), and I stayed in his slipstream to enable me to gain more speed to overtake him before Les Combes. Just as I was moving to Hans Meskes right he suddenly slowed, but at 200kph I was unable to miss him and my left front wheel went over his right rear wheel and I was launched skywards. I can remember every detail of the accident as if it was in slow motion with my main concern being that the car would not land upside down and to be collected by one of the approaching cars. The car landed heavily on its rear and then spun backwards up the track before stopping on the right hand side of the track. I stayed in the car until the course and medical cars arrived, and I got out of my car unaided and was then taken to the circuit’s medical centre. I was given a full check up by the Doctors and given the all clear, and despite having sore ribs down my right side my first taught was how badly was the car damaged and could the team fix it to enable me to race the following day. Sadly upon inspection it was discovered that the gearbox housing and adapter plate was cracked, so the car could not be repaired at the circuit overnight. So my first race at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit was a very short one, and it was also very frustrating as my race engineer and the team had made a number of adjustments that would have made the car quicker in the race. I am not being arrogant, when I say that I feel we could have challenged for the class victory in both races. But there are a lot of positives that I can take out of the weekend from this fabulous race track, as from the moment I drove it I felt a home on it and despite having not driven a race car in 11 months I was very quick as my official qualifying times showed. But more important was that I was lucky to walk away from a massive accident with just bruising. On the negative side our small budget is now stretched to repairing the car.
The race accident it was discovered was caused by Anders Hedensjo (Sweden) who tried an over ambitious overtaking manoeuvre for 4th position which resulted in him putting all his 4 wheels on the grass and then spinning out of control across the track from left to right which resulted in Kees van der Wouden (Holland) and Hans Meskes to take avoiding action, unfortunately due to my close proximately to the rear of Hans Meskes I was unable to miss hitting him. Both Hans and I were not adjudged to have caused the accident by the race officials. At this point we have to regroup and see what we do next, but one thing for sure is that we will be aiming to be back racing as soon as is possible. I would just like to thank my sponsors, National Tile Ltd, The Dress Outlet, Whiteriver Park Karting, Heat Pumps Ireland, John Laverty motor factors and Safe Products UK. My race engineer Chris Smith, Iain Rowely and all the guys at Delta Motorsport, and to everybody who contacted me after the accident with there concerns and support. But I want to finish this blog by showing what a community “Motorsport” people really are. On Saturday the HMR organisers held a barbeque in the paddock and organised a collection among the teams and drivers for both Hans Meskes and myself, as we were both knocked out of race one on the first lap and unable to complete in race two due to no fault of our own. They managed to raise €400 which was split between Hans and me, personally I found this very touching and it showed a great bond between all the teams and competitors.
So that’s it, not the result I was hoping for from my first visit to Spa-Francorchamps but one I will never forget.