Home hero D'Ansembourg wins first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Spa

In a race twice interrupted by safety cars, Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C) held his nerve to win from pole in the first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Spa. Having already taken two Masters Endurance Legends victories, the Belgian added one more by doing enough to stay clear from Joaquin Folch (Brabham BT49) at the first restart and then Mike Cantillon (Williams FW07C) at the second restart, Cantillon having got ahead of Folch on lap 3.

It was a difficult race, because every time I had built a lead I lost it with the safety cars”, said D’Ansembourg. “And then at the final restart I was so desperate to stay clear of Mike that I said to myself, ‘I mustn’t lift in Eau Rouge, I mustn’t lift in Eau Rouge – and I did it, flat out for the first time! I’m really happy with this victory. To win in F1 on home ground…

Both of D’Ansembourg’s pursuers had their own problems to deal with, though, handing the Belgian a much-needed break at the second restart with one lap still to go.

I was trying to hang on to Christophe, and then I spun at the Bus-Stop on the penultimate lap…” said Cantillon. “But it was a good race!

Folch had a different view. “It was a bit of a disaster”, said the Catalan, “because I spun trying to catch Mike. And then I was too ambitious when he lost it too, going too wide, so he was able repass me again!”

Steve Brooks (Lotus) swapped places twice with runaway pre-78 class winner Henry Fletcher (March 761) to clinch fourth ahead of Mike Wrigley (Williams FW07) and Jamie Constable (Tyrrell 011). In ninth and tenth overall, Greg Thornton (March 761) and Gregor Fisken (Shadow DN5) completed the pre-78 podium.

It was a very short race!” said Fletcher. “But I’m happy to have finally won the class. The fight with Steve was nice but there’s not too much you can do with the aero cars. It was fun though!

The race was neutralised for the first time on lap 2 after Steve Hartley (Arrows A4) and Matteo Ferrer-Aza (Ligier JS11/15) made contact at La Source right after the start, an incident that warranted no further action. First Hartley spun coming out of the hairpin, overdoing it on cold tyres while Ferrer in trying to avoid the Arrows spun as well to slide into Hartley’s car.

Hartley was out on the spot, but Ferrer continued and pitted under the safety car to have the damage to his sidepod checked. He was told to carry on and fought his way back up to eighth and pole on the top-eight reversed grid for Sunday’s second race of the weekend. For this, Ferrer pipped Thornton for the crucial position on the final lap.

“Safety car after safety car!” said Thornton. “I had the cunning plan of getting P8 for tomorrow’s pole but then the Ligier came through. I didn’t even know young Matteo was still there, I thought he was out! And then I had a misfire at the esses at the back but, hey, the pressure’s off now. I’ve won the title, I’m simply driving for fun here.”

Matt Wrigley finished 12th in the March 721G, the youngster easily winning the pre-72 class from Paul Grant’s De Tomaso 505/38.

The safety car was deployed for a second time on lap 5 when Michel Baudoin’s Hesketh 308 lost its right rear wheel going into La Source and got beached in a dangerous position.