Having successfully transitioned to working in the data sparce Historic racing industry previously, with Essex based historic race team SZ Motorsport, MPS were delighted to be asked to take on the Race Engineering responsibilities for the same team as they competed in the prestigious Masters Historic Spa Six Hours classic race with their FIA papered Ford GT40 Historic racer.
The V8 engine’d, Ford built racer to take on the might of Ferrari at Le Mans, is a bit of a pin up car for MPS’ director Ben Newman and therefore the opportunity to work with one was made even sweeter when it was to take on the prestigious Spa Six Hours.
The race sees competitors enter FIA registered historic racers of the type that raced in 1965 and before and race them and their 60+ year old technologies for 6 hours straight on the 7 kilometre long F1 circuit in the Belgian mountains.
There are very few regulations which dictate how the team implement their race strategy, to go as far as possible around the Spa GP circuit within the 6 hour race period, and therefore the strategy component of the race engineering responsibilities was an exciting challenge for MPS’ Ben.
For safety reasons, all competitors must re-fuel their vehicles during the 6 hour race from one of the 4 fuel pumps situated at the end of the Spa-Francorchamps Endurance Pit Lane – with circa 90 cars competing in the race; team work, good communication with the absence of pit to car radios and a bit of luck feature heavily in a successful race strategy, which would be one that avoids spending too much time waiting at the petrol pumps.
Alongside the strategy engineering responsibilities, there were some driver development actions to take on too, with the rules allowing a modern VBox Motorsport video logger to be fitted for the practice sessions.
With experienced historic and GT40 specialist racers within his team, the car’s owner / entrant driver, Craig Davies, had some great video and data to study and learn from throughout the testing.
After the practice and qualifying sessions, the team of drivers as a whole were looking strong in comparison to their competition and in contention for the overall honours come race day.
Craig took the start of the prestigious race and performed excellently in the opening stint, driving the car with mechanical sympathy and running in a competitive position before the team called him in for their first pit stop.
MPS and the SZ team performed seamlessly in the pit lane and the strategy played off beautifully as the team’s pro driver, Chris Ward, drove straight onto a fuel pump without waiting and was able to get in the regulations mandated maximum amount of fuel into the GT40’s twin fuel tanks, before heading out on track aiming to take on a 2+ hour long second stint.
As the various pit stop strategies played out, it became clear that the SZ crew had gained a 1 minute + long advantage in the pit lane over some of their nearest competitors and now Chris was competing at the front of the field for the overall podium as the rain fell in the middle of his stint.
As conditions worsened, Chris showed his class and was routinely the fastest man on track in the #7 SZ machine.
By the end of his allotted time, Chris had put the team in the lead of the race and confidence was high as GT40 specialist, Andy Newall, was last to take over the car to continue the battle for the win.
However, worries were raised almost before Andy’s stint had properly begun as the fuel station suggested that the GT40’s fuel consumption had been far greater than was expected during Chris’ middle stint.
The cause to this greater consumption was quickly proven shortly into Andy’s stint as the experienced driver was battling with a sticky throttle from the outset. One unfortunate occurrence of the stuck throttle preventing Andy from slowing for the corner effectively and taking him off of the track and out of the race.
A bitter end to an amazing team effort by all involved.
However, a thoroughly enjoyable event and MPS hopes to be back in the future to enjoy the fierce competition of this prestigious historic race.