|July 07, 2012
|Belgian FF: Tandy Takes Hat-Trick at Spa
| Nick Tandy won all three of the Spa EuroCup Champion races at Spa in his return to action|
(Photo: Jakob Ebrey Motorsports Photography)
Nick Tandy, returning to his Formula Ford roots for a fun weekend (July 6-7) in the EuroCup at Spa-Francorchamps, did exactly as expected and claimed a clean sweep of race victories at the Belgian Grand Prix circuit, and with them the Spa EuroCup Champion’s crown.
However, none of the races was straightforward. The first was abandoned after only three laps due to a serious accident; the second was cut slightly short by another crash, and in the third Tandy and his JTR EcoBoost Mygale were made to work very hard for their win by the talented young Formula Ford regulars.
“I have really enjoyed racing the EcoBoost at Spa. It’s still a driver’s car and yet it has all the latest technology and a really strong engine, and it’s still great racing - that’s the thing. And it’s a whole lot of fun around here.”
Tandy won an accident-hit and truncated opening race in the Formula Ford EuroCup’s Belgian weekend on Friday, but there was little joy in the returning hero’s victory.
A first-lap accident approaching the Fagnes S-bend accounted for five cars. Two drivers were hurt in the incident, 16 year-old Dutchman Jos Kiekens, who suffered a leg fracture, and George Blundell, who broke a toe. Kiekens was airlifted to hospital in Liege where he underwent an operation, which was pronounced a success. Blundell was treated locally for his injury. Also eliminated from the race with car damage were Denmark’s Nicolai Sylvest and British drivers Matt Rao and Ryan Cullen.
The safety car was called on track immediately and picked up leader Tandy before the end of the first lap. Three laps were completed under race-neutral conditions before the decision was taken to bring the event to a premature close.
Tandy scored his second win of the weekend this morning, the JTR Mygale EcoBoost driver claiming a 1.6s victory over Jamun Racing’s Eric Lichtenstein. But once again the race ended prematurely after an accident; had it run to full distance the result might have been a different one.
Tandy set off like a scalded cat from pole position, completing the opening lap 3.2s in front of the pack. It was not just that Tandy had the hammer down, but also that the pursuing Jamun cars of Lichtenstein, Jake Cook, and Luke Williams were delayed into La Source.
“Jake couldn’t get first gear at the start,” explained Williams, “so going into the first corner he held us all up and Nick was gone.”
On the second lap Cook slipped to a distant fourth after an error at the Bus Stop.
“Eric towed past me on the straight but when I tried to do the same again my car wouldn’t do it. We will have to investigate the data to find out why,” said Cook. “Then I tried to outbrake him at the chicane and went straight on, and that dropped me back, and once you have lost the tow here there is not much you can do.”
Lichtenstein and Williams worked well together to try to reel in Tandy. By lap four, Tandy’s advantage was down to 1.6s and a form book upset looked a possibility.
“I pushed too hard at the start and the tyres dropped off a bit,” admitted the pro Porsche racer.
Tandy was saved from embarrassment by the red flag, which flew when Ryan Cullen - at the wheel of a borrowed EcoBoost car following his Friday race crash - touched wheels with Dutch Duratec runner Michel Florie and Ryan hit the old pit straight wall, his car coming to rest in the middle of the track. Neither driver was hurt in the incident.
Thus the results were declared after six laps, with Tandy in front from Lichtenstein and Williams, Cook fourth and JTR’s Julio Moreno fifth.
“The car was good; perhaps I’ll go a bit easier at the start in the next one,” said the winner.
Lichtenstein was disappointed that the race ended when it did.
“We were working together to catch Nick, and the red flag really upset our plan. We were gaining on him a lot.”
“We spoke before the race about towing each other but our problem was that after the first lap Nick was so far away,” added Williams. “We closed him down quite quickly towards the end but we just didn’t have enough time.”
The battle for Duratec honours was intense and exciting throughout, with Florie, Bart van Os and Max van Splunteren all taking turns up front. GEVA Racing’s van Os had just nosed ahead by the end of the sixth lap and thus took the class.
“It was a very good race but very difficult,” said van Os. “We were overtaking the whole time; first I would lead then Michel, then Max. What ended the battle was the crash on the hill down from La Source; I don’t know what happened because it was all just behind me.”
“It happened just in front of me: two cars touched and the turbo car went into the guardrail,” continued van Splunteren. “I had to brake hard to miss it and avoid going into the wall also.” Under Dutch championship rules the results awarded Florie class second from van Splunteren, with Falco Wauer fourth for Enigma Motorsport.
Tandy was crowned Formula Ford EuroCup Champion of Spa-Francorchamps but was made to work hard for his third race win of the weekend.
Polesitter Tandy was deprived of the lead on the opening lap by the Jamun Racing machine of Cook and, though the old pro regained top spot on lap two, Cook’s teammate Lichtenstein chased Tandy for all he was worth until technical problems blunted the Argentinian’s pace with three laps to go.
Tandy had vowed not to set too strong a pace at the start, but he may have underestimated the challenge he would face from his Jamun pursuers.
“Here there are always big slipstreaming battles and unless you can make a break it’s always going to be difficult,” he said. “I didn’t have a particularly good run out of Eau Rouge on the first lap and Jake slipstreamed past and then all the others were on me.”
Tandy slipstreamed past Cook to regain top spot down the Kemmel straight on lap two, now with Lichtenstein gunning for him. Cook slipped back.
“I got a really good start and then passed Eric at Eau Rouge on the first lap because he made a mistake. Then I made one next time around which dropped me back to fourth.”
The Tandy v Lichtenstein battle raged until lap five, when Eric started to slow with engine gremlins.
“I had a really good race with Eric - he was driving really well, forceful but very fair. He was really pushing hard and I had to work for it. After he disappeared it was plain sailing and another win for JTR.”
Williams had been running third behind Lichtenstein but suffered his own engine problems on lap five and was forced to retire.
“I nearly went off on Luke’s oil when he had his problem and my temperature gauge started to rise so I had to back off a bit,” said Cook, who crossed the line 8.6s behind Tandy.
Lichtenstein continued to circulate slowly, his and Williams’ problems promoting JTR’s teenager Julio Moreno to third. The Ecuadorian was delighted with his first Formula Ford podium.
“It was tricky. This is my first time here, so I needed to learn the track. Then I had a bad start - I missed a gear - but after that it was a case of trying to catch those in front.”
Ryan Cullen finished fourth on the road in his borrowed EcoBoost Mygale, but a 10s penalty imposed by race stewards for his part in an accident in race two demoted him to eighth overall. Thus veteran Dutch Duratec racer Michel Florie claimed fourth overall and a convincing Duratec class victory for Provily Racing ahead of GEVA men Bart van Os and Max van Splunteren.
Florie’s car had had to undergo major works after his race two crash with Cullen.
“After the crash this morning the team had to completely rebuild the car,” said Michel, “and I had a three-month-old tyre on the left side because my original tyres were shot and I had to use the spares. The result was amazing: I wish my car was always this good! The team did an incredible job for me. I would like to dedicate this win to my team-mate Jos Kiekens, who is in hospital after his crash.”
Lichtenstein was classified seventh ahead of Cullen, with Danish Fluid Van Diemen Duratec men Lasse Sorensen and Nicolai Sylvest completing the top-10.
Full Results abailable HERE