Tilley provides wet-weather masterclass in second FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Spa
Kyle Tilley (Ensign N177) was in a class of his own in a very wet second FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Spa, taking the field by storm from sixth on the grid. Unperturbed by a triplet of safety-car interruptions in the opening stages, the American-based Briton hit the front by rising from fourth to first in one single lap. Posting fastest lap after fastest lap thereafter, Tilley eventually won by 16 seconds from Jason Wright’s Shadow DN8.
“I love racing in the rain, I love this place and I love the car”, said a succinct Tilley. “We had the pace yesterday but didn’t have the opportunities. I can’t thank James Hagan enough for allowing me to drive the car.”
“I was lucky, I could see something!”, Wright said about finishing second after leading the first half of the race. “We also made some changes to the car to make it work better in the wet. And then Andy Wolfe showed me his lines – they were all quite different in the wet.”
Three pre-78 cars almost made it into overall top-three but Joaquin Folch’s post-78 Brabham BT49 pipped James Hagan’s Hesketh 308 for third on the final lap. Christophe d’Ansembourg took fifth in the Williams FW07C, ahead of post-83 class winner Mark Hazell (Williams FW08) who held off class rival Georg Hallau’s Theodore N183.
“He came past towards the final corner and I outbraked myself there”, Hagan said about failing to make it a pre-78 1-2-3.
“He was very difficult all race”, said Folch about Hagan’s defense. “In the end I caught him out of Blanchimont and then he braked too late for the Bus-Stop. I was looking for the class win anyway, so I’m very pleased. It was a race to survive, but it went much better than yesterday. I’m superhappy, for the team as well.”
“It was awful, this was one of my worst races”, said d’Ansembourg. “It was not so much the grip, but the visibility! You couldn’t see anything, it was like driving with your eyes closed…”
“It was really slippery”, Hazell said about his race. “I was using half gears, and just trying to keep it straight…”
After a dry start to the day, the rain was back an hour before the start of the Formula One race, so the drivers had to brace themselves for their second wet race of the weekend, to be started from behind the safety car. From the reversed-grid pole, Vincent Rivet initially led away in the March 811, chased by Jason Wright’s Shadow DN8, Joaquin Folch’s Brabham BT49 and James Hagan’s Hesketh 308. Race favourites Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C), Kyle Tilley (Ensign N177), Mike Cantillon (FW07C) and race 1 winner Steve Hartley (McLaren MP4/1) occupied places five to eight. Like the day before Charles Nearburg (FW07C) declined to start the race, professing a profound dislike for racing in the wet.
As Wright got the drop on Rivet into La Source, with Folch and Hagan following through soon after, the safety car was back out again almost immediately as Alain Crefcoeur had spun out his pre-71 March 701. Meanwhile, Richard Hope’s Alfa Romeo 182 retired into the pits after the opening lap, this weekend ending up slightly less successful for the Alfa aficionado than his brave Paul Ricard showing with the Osella-Alfa Romeo FA1E.
At the start of lap 3, the race returned to green conditions. Hartley had moved up into fifth and soon made that fourth by passing Rivet, with d’Ansembourg and Tilley quickly following through. However, yet another safety car had to be deployed because of a tangle between Rivet and Cantillon, but it quickly removed itself when the cars were moved to a safe spot quicker than expected.
At the front, Wright had two seconds on Folch, but with a blinding second sector Tilley made it past Hagan and then got third place as a gift as the McLaren slid off at the back of the circuit. Amazingly, at the end of the lap, Tilley was in the lead! Even more dramatically, he was followed by two more pre-78 cars, as Wright and Hagan continued to stay ahead of Folch and d’Ansembourg as the first ground-effect runners. Now in sixth, but a long way back, was Mark Hazell in the post-83 Williams FW08, Hazell leading his class rival Georg Hallau in the Theodore N183. From the back of the grid, Antoine d’Ansembourg had made it up into eighth in the other Brabham BT49 in the field.
At the front, though, Tilley repeated his Zandvoort wet-weather masterclass in the wet by winning another rain-afflicted Historic Formula One race. Lapping as much as five seconds a lap quicker than his rivals, the American-domiciled Englishman opened up a gap of 16 seconds to Wright when he passed the chequered flag. The order remained unchanged until on the final lap Folch made his way past Hagan for third. In sixth, Mark Hazell won the post-83 class while Paul Grant in the De Tomaso 505/38 profited from his countryman Crefcoeur’s early demise to take the pre-71 class win in 12th overall.