Davies takes controlled Masters Pre-66 Touring Car win at Spa

Against strong opposition, Craig Davies won a finely poised Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race at Spa, the Mustang driver maintaining a small margin to the Julian Thomas & Calum Lockie Ford Falcon and Olivier Hart’s Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA all the way.

“I really enjoyed watching the guys behind”, said a smiling Davies. “Great circuit, great race!”

Davies jumped pole-sitter Hart at the start and never looked back. Behind the winner, Hart worked with Thomas in a combined effort to catch Davies before being hit by a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits. That blunted the young Dutchman’s challenge in his second stint, in which he became focused on fending off a strong run by Alex Taylor in a Ford Mustang.

“That was a proper race!” said Thomas. “Oli and I were actually working together to try and catch up to Craig, as he was so quick. He followed me on the straights, and then I would follow him in the twisty bits. It was coordinated!”

“We lost too much time fighting each other”, Hart explained. “So we decided to cooperate to try and close up. A pity about the time penalty but we simply weren’t quick enough to keep pace with Craig. The car was good, though.”

Taylor beat the Mark Burton/Graham Pattle Mustang to fourth while James Dorlin won the Mini class in sixth overall. Tom Bell was next up in the second of the Minis, leading John Spiers’ Cortina (second in the THC class) and the Scott Kendall/Jeff Smith Mini. In 13th overall, the Allan Ross-Jones/Mark Hales Cortina took third in THC.

“My throttle pedal got stuck before the pitstop!” said young Dorlin about some of the excitement in his race. “But I had a great battle with the Mustang and the Cortina, so that was good.”

“It was good in the beginning”, said Bell about the multi-car Mini fight during his opening stint before he broke away to take second in class, “but then it got a bit boring…”

The race got off to a false start when Ron Maydon lost the left-front wheel of his Mini at the top of the Raidillon, but the racing got going at the end of lap 2. It had been going in the first few corners already, though, Craig Davies’ Mustang getting the drop on the pole-sitting Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA of Olivier Hart before the safety car was dispatched. At the restart, Davies hung on while Hart soon had Julian Thomas in the Falcon fight him for second place.

On a dry track, the Mustangs of Alex Taylor and Mark Burton were quickly up into fourth and fifth, chased by Pedro Macedo Silva in the first of the Cortinas. James Dorlin in Nick Swift’s Cooper S led the Mini class as Rob Fenn in another Mustang rose up the ranks too. Behind Fenn, a trio of Minis pedalled by Scott Kendall, Tom Bell and Ian Curley led John Spiers who was third in the THC class in the second Cortina in the top-12.

Fifteen minutes into the race, Davies had inched out a lead of five seconds of Hart and Lockie who since the restart had already switched places at least four times – it would later transpire that they hadn’t actually been fighting but instead were profiting from each other’s strengths. Taylor was a further three seconds back, with two ticks in hand on Burton, the pair of Mustangs now a threesome, as Fenn had passed Macedo Silva for sixith. In the Mini class, Dorlin in eighth still had seven seconds in hand on the group consisting of Bell, Curley and Kendall – these three also continually changing their order around.

With the pit window fast approaching, Hart was still switching places with Thomas but the young Dutchman was made to fight with one hand tied behind his back when he was slammed with a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits. This was soon followed up by the warning flag for the Alfa Romeo driver. Meanwhile, further back, Spiers had made his way into the top-ten by mixing it with the Minis to split Curley and Kendall from Tom Bell still in front of him.

As the pit window opened, Davies’ lead on Hart had slimmed down to just 1.5 seconds – so 6.5 seconds with the penalty taken into account – but Thomas had closed to less than two seconds as well. A small error by Hart then virtually dropped him behind Taylor, but he quickly made up for that with a blinding next sector. The Dutchman took that as a sign to be the first of the leaders to pit, with Burton following him in to hand his Mustang over to Graham Pattle. Curley was in too, Bill Sollis at the ready to jump into the Mini.

On the next lap, Taylor, Dorlin, Bell, Thomas, Fenn, Macedo Silva and Kendall all came in, the latter four handing over to Calum Lockie, James Barclay, Rui Macedo Silva and Jeff Smith respectively, while Davies and Spiers stayed out to pit at the last opportunity.

As the pit window closed, there was no change at the front, Davies still leading the Alfa and the Falcon by some two seconds on the road, so in fact by seven seconds to Hart. Taylor was still fourth, now 14 seconds down on the leader, with Barclay a further ten seconds back. Dorlin had jumped the Burton/Pattle Mustang at the stops, the Mini trailing Davies by 33 seconds and leading Pattle by five. Bell in the second of the Minis now held a handsome lead over Spiers and Smith in ninth and tenth respectively.

At three-quarter distance, though, Davies had eeked out a bigger gap, leading Lockie by four seconds and Hart by eight more. In fact, Taylor in fourth was the quickest man on track now and closing on Hart before the Dutchman began matching Taylor’s laptimes. Barclay and Fenn were a long way away from Taylor now, having dropped close to half a minute before Barclay trundled into the pits with six minutes remaining. This handed sixth to Dorlin, who had seen Pattle move back past earlier.

As they entered the final lap, Davies had kept 1.5 seconds in hand over Lockie, who gave up to float across the line eight seconds adrift. Hart was third, 11 seconds down, ahead of Taylor and Pattle. Dorlin won the Mini class ahead of Bell and Smith/Kendall, as Endaf Owens’s Mini beat Bill Sollis to take tenth overall. The Cortinas of Spiers in eighth and Allan Ross-Jones & Mark Hales in 13th took second and third in the THC class.