Deman charges to the front to take win in first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Spa

Coming from fifth on the grid, Loïc Deman (Tyrrell 010) fought his way to the front to win the first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Spa. In front of his home crowd, the Belgian sailed past Mike Cantillon (Williams FW07D) for second place on lap 2 before going on to pass his countryman Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C) for the lead on lap 4.

Meanwhile, on the warm-up lap, pole sitter and championship leader Michael Lyons (Williams FW07B) had dramatically seen his engine expire into the first turn, taking him out of the equation.

“When I saw that Mike had blown his engine I thought I had a chance”, said a happy Deman. “The car was good in the beginning, I could overtake quite easily, but I developed a bit of understeer later on, so I had to push to keep in front of the pair of Williams– they are going quicker and quicker!”

D’Ansembourg was hounded by Cantillon all race but gave it away right at the end when he spun at Fagnes. Cantillon nipped past while the Belgian hung on to third place after his recovery. This ensured that CGA Engineering took a highly successful 1-2-3 finish.

“It was an amazing race”, said Cantillon, delighted with his second place. “I had already qualified well, and when I saw Lyons’ engine expire I knew that if I did well I could be on the podium. Loïc got me after Eau Rouge, on the Kemmel straight, and then I was hoping that Christophe would make a mistake – and he did!”

“I spun into the ‘piff-paff’”, said d’Ansembourg about his spin into Fagnes. “I selected the wrong gear, and there I went. It was so stupid.”

A safety-car period from laps 5 to 7 in order to retrieve Mike Hazell’s Williams FW07B from the gravel trap at Malmédy was unable to upset Deman, who maintained a narrow lead over his team mates before opening up a bigger gap right at the end.

Nick Padmore claimed a lonely fourth in his Shadow DN5 while also taking a dominant pre-78 win, with the ground-effect cars of Steve Hartley (Arrows A4), Joaquin Folch (Brabham BT49C) and Mike Wrigley (Williams FW07D) following in his wake. In the opening stages, their order had been reversed but Hartley battled his way past Wrigley on lap 3 and took Folch for fifth place on lap 4.

“It was nice”, said Padmore, “A bit lonely, yes, I just sat there, and saw Hartley in my mirrors, and that was it. You really need to have a ground-effect car here…”

Greg Thornton (Lotus 77) won his private battle with pre-78 class rival Max Smith-Hilliard (Fittipaldi F5A) by overtaking Smith-Hilliard at the Bus-Stop on lap 3 and claiming second in class in the process.

“Max defended heroically!”, said Thornton about the defense that Smith-Hilliard put up. “We had a problem yesterday, which we think we solved, so the car was good. I was on Max’s tail, trying to outbrake him in at least five spots on the track. Let’s say we have a history of under braking, so we gave each other space this time. In the end, I got him braking for the Bus-Stop and then taking a different line in order to be on the power sooner than him, and got him around the outside.”

“It was a better drive by him today”, Smith-Hilliard admitted, “but we’ll see about tomorrow!”

Jason Wright looked set for fourth place in class but the Italian headed into the pits on the final lap to hand the place to Jamie Constable’s similar Shadow DN8.