Andrew & Max Banks charge to strong FIA Masters Historic Sports Car win at Spa

On their way to a clear victory in the FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race at Spa, Andrew and Max Banks proved untouchable in their McLaren M6B, Andrew first opening up a 30-second gap to Olly Bryant in the first of the chasing Lola T70 Mk3Bs, and then Max thundering to fastest lap of the race when it really mattered – straight after a safety-car restart for a one-lap sprint to the finish.

It was hard work”, said Andrew Banks on his opening stint. “I knew I had to get on with it with someone like Olly chasing you, and especially at the start it was pretty tricky, with oil at Eau Rouge.

I didn’t realise!” said Max Banks upon hearing of his demon final lap of the race. “Actually, the car felt awful on the lap, so I’m amazed! When I got in the car I knew that all I had to do was match Olly’s laptimes and not stress the car. But then the safety car came, and I started doing the maths. I realised that it could either be one or two laps to the finish, and with Olly right behind me all I had to nail it!

I struggled with brake balance, actually”, said Bryant of his inability to challenge the Banks brothers, “so the pace I was driving at was the best I could sustain. So unfortunately it became a bit of a lonely race…

Right from the start, Andrew Banks set a scorching pace, the McLaren M6B storming off into the distance with a sequence of fastest laps of the race from laps 2 to 4. Fiftien minutes into the race, Banks was leading the Lola T70 Mk3B of Olly Bryant and David Hart by 15 and 22 seconds respectively. Michael Gans in the Lola T290 had moved up to fourth, having dispatched with Mike Donovan’s Lola T70 Mk3B and Leo Voyazides in the T70 Mk3B he shared with Simon Hadfield. After that, Donovan and Diogo Ferrão in the Lola T292 shared with Manfredo Rossi also got ahead of the Greek.

The battle for pre-65 Hulme class supremacy was handed a big blow when the Keith Ahlers/Billy Bellinger Cooper Monaco King Cobra pulled off on the opening lap. This handed Chris Jolly (in the Cooper Monaco T61M shared with Steve Farthing) a big lead over Richard McAlpine in the McLaren M1B shared with Chris Keen, as Jolly’s main rival Justin Maeers dropped out on lap 6, his Lola T70 Mk1 Spyder succumbing to lack of oil pressure. The order remained unchanged to the end.

It was all pretty straightforward after Billy pulled off”, said Jolly. “We just cruised around, even though it was quite slippery early on. And what else can I say? The best way to spend a Sunday afternoon is to race a car at Spa.

Second-placed man Chris Keen agreed. “It was fantastic, it’s simply a privilege to race here.”

In the Bonnier class, Greg Thornton’s Chevron B8 was leading Andrew Owen’s example, with Tommy Gilmartin’s B8 further back after an unscheduled stop on lap 2. John Sheldon, meanwhile, was leading imperiously in the Siffert class for Chevron B16 cars, well ahead of Alain Crefcoeur who in turn had the B16s of Giampaolo Benedini/Luigi Moreschi and Jamie Boot well covered.

At the stops, the gap from Banks to Bryant had increased to 31 seconds, with Hart a further ten seconds back, as Gans tried to close in on the Dutchman. Behind them, Ferrão had passed Donovan for fifth on lap 9. While Voyazides and Hart wasted on time in handing their cars to their quicker team mates, Andrew Banks stayed out one lap longer, with Gans and Donovan following suit on lap 11. Bryant, however, prolonged his first stint to the longest possible time before coming in at the start of lap 13.

When he returned to the track, the gap to Max Banks now in the M6B proved unchanged, Bryant still trailing the McLaren by 30 seconds. Behind them, Gans and Pastorelli (now in Hart’s T70 Mk3B) had traded places, the American now eight seconds ahead of the Dutchman who had Simon Hadfield closing on him at an alarming rate. In fact, Pastorelli was in trouble, so not just Hadfield was past but then Gans, Manfredo Rossi (in the Ferrão/Rossi Lola T292), Fletcher (having made up ground in his Chevron B19) and Donovan as well before the Zandvoort winner pulled off at La Source.

I just passed anything I could”, said Hadfield. “And it was good to pass Pastorelli, as I think his car was still OK when I got him. Apart from that, we’re just lucky to be able to race in these fabulous cars.

Until lap 19, Max Banks was controlling his 30-second gap to Bryant, with Hadfield and Gans closing in, but then – with six minutes to go – the safety car was called when Alain Crefcoeur spun out of second place in the Siffert class and ended up in the gravel at Fagnes. Now the battle was well and truly on for a one-lap sprint to the finish as the top six were covered by less than ten seconds when the green flag was waved with just over two minutes on the clock.

In the end, however, Max Banks nailed the restart to produce the fastest lap of the entire race, with three purple sectors along the way, leaving Bryant a whopping 7.6 seconds in his wake, with Hadfield a further two adrift. Gans, Fletcher and Donovan were next.

John Sheldon was untouchable in the Siffert class but Jamie Boot snatched second in class from the Benedini/Moreschi Chevron B16. In the Bonnier class, Nick Padmore in Andrew Owen’s Chevron B8 stole the win from Greg Thornton on the final lap. The Klaus Horn/Pablo Briones Porsche 911 RSR was best in the Pescarolo class.