Gans/Wolfe handed Spa win in Stena Line Masters Gentlemen Drivers as Bryant gets demoted

Oliver Bryant looked to have repeated his 2016 Stena Line Masters Gentlemen Drivers victory at Spa but was then handed a post-race penalty for overtaking under yellows, dropping the AC Cobra driver down to third in the final results. As a consequence, the win fell into the hands of Michael Gans and Andy Wolfe who in their similar Cobra had powered their way forward from the back of the grid to take what looked like a distant second place.

“It was pretty busy!” said Gans about the work he had to do from the back of the grid. “It was a lot more work than I thought it would be, with everyone having their own battles.

“Still, he was doing what he was told to do”, said Wolfe with a laugh, “which was to leave the car in the top-five before he gave it to me.”

Following home the unlikely winners were Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield in their Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé. They were subsequently classified in second place after Bryant’s time penalty was applied.

“I had fun for 40 minutes in a great car”, said Hadfield when asked about his relatively uneventful race. “You can’t not like it… And two more laps and I could have had Andy!

As the winner on the road, Bryant had been in the lead for two laps during his opening stint before being repassed by Julian Thomas in the Jaguar E-type, but with Calum Lockie in the E-type for the second part of the race, Bryant used two laps to close on the Jag and got passed when his adversary missed a gear in Bruxelles corner and spun off.

Calum was very defensive”, said Bryant about what seemed to have been the decisive move, “but then he missed a gear into Bruxelles and we just touched. The track was very low-grip, and in the second half I lost my brakes, so I backed off right at the end to bring it home.

Roger Wills had grabbed the lead from Thomas on lap 2 but the thundering Bizzarrini 5300 GT was in on the next lap, the American V8-powered Italian machine out for the race. Thomas’s renewed was shortlived, though, as first Bryant (on lap 6) and then Funke (on lap 7) stormed past. One more lap later, Funke subsequently dealt with Bryant to move into the lead. Unfazed by his earlier setback, Thomas nipped back into second place on lap 11.

The top-three remained at relatively close quarters, even though Funke had gradually opened up a 10-second lead over Thomas by the time the pit window opened. Meanwhile, from the back of the grid, Michael Gans had made his way forward to a fourth by lap 5 – albeit a distant fourth, 40 seconds down on the leader – while over a minute in arrears Leo Voyazides and Carlos Monteverde fought over sixth. At the end of lap 13, the Greek was the among the first to come in for their driver change.

Funke, on the other hand, stayed out as long as possible before handing over to car owner Georg Nolte – in fact, he waited one lap too long, which resulted in a stop-go penalty, and with Nolte not anywhere near the pace of his competitors, the German car soon disappeared from the leaderboard.

Now, all eyes were on Calum Lockie leading in Julian Thomas’s E-type but with Olly Bryant hot on his heels. Andy Wolfe, having taken from Gans, was faced with a gap of over half a minute to the leaders while Simon Hadfield was over a minute away in fourth. On lap 19, though, Lockie made a huge mistake halfway through the lap, and Bryant was through into a clear 16-second lead. After that, Lockie quickly dropped back into the clutches of Andy Wolfe before grounding to a complete halt on lap 25.

Bryant maintained a 24-second cushion to Wolfe to take his second consecutive Spa Gentlemen Drivers win, with Voyazides/Hadfield a further ten seconds down. One hour later, though, it transpired that both Bryant and Funke would be penalised for overtaking under yellows while a car was being recovered that had stopped near the exit of the Bus-Stop chicane.

After fairly lonely races for both cars, the John Davison/John Spiers Elan and the Carlos Monteverde/Gary Pearson E-type took fourth and fifth respectively while the Chris Chiles Sr & Jr Cobra edged out Jamie Boot’s TVR Griffith by two tenths, after a tense race-long battle.

In CLP, Graham Wilson (Lotus Elan 26R) did well to stay with early leaders Ron Maydon (Ginetta G4R) and Alexander Schlüchter (in another Elan) before handing over to David Pittard. His young team mate had no trouble in gaining ground on Maydon’s guesting team mate Martin Lauber, passing the American on lap 18 before storming into the overall top-ten on lap 20. In his wake, Andrew Haddon – having taken over from Mark Martin – passed Lauber on lap 23 to take second in class. German Schlüchter ruled himself out of contention with a second pitstop.

“It was good”, said Wilson, who with Pittard had also been in Saturday night’s Spa Six Hours, in the same car, “and that was something after the Spa Six Hours. We had the engine out twice this morning after problems with the clutch. And then we found a crack in the chassis and welded that up, too. The Six Hours takes its toll on a car!”

“I had a good scrap with Graham”, said Martin, “then I spun, got back on and was back in the frame. Andrew did most the work though…”

“I liked it very much”, Lauber said on his guest drive in Ron Maydon’s Ginetta. “It was only my second time out in the car, after qualifying in the wet on Friday, and my first time here at Spa. Ron convinced me that the car has to slide sideways to go fast, and once I got the hang of that I was fine.”

C2 was dominated by Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger. In their Morgan SLR, the pair led throughout. Initially, Dion Kremer in the Morgan Plus 4 Supersports he shared with father Gabriel ran a close second to Bellinger, but the Chris Clarkson/David Smithies Austin Healey 3000 became Ahlers’ closest rival in the second part of the race. The Crispin Harris/James Wilmoth Healey collected third in class.

With clear class favourites Mark & James Bates failing to appear for the start in their Porsche 911, C1 easily fell to the Mark Cole/Johan Colruyt MGB. They were followed at considerable distance by the Peter Tognola/Steve Monk 911 and Mark Hope’s MGB.

Ad van der Kroft dominated the A class in his Cooper Bobtail. The Dutchman only lost the lead during the pitstop phase when Guy Peeters kept going and missed the pit window in his Lotus XI but Van der Kroft had already retaken the class lead before the Belgian came in for his pitstop and his subsequent stop-and-go penalty.

B2 and B1 classes fell to the Nick Naismith/Phil Perryman Aston Martin DB4 and the Marc Gordon/Nick Finburgh Jaguar XK150 respectively.