We have reached round seven of the championship at the mighty, daunting, mythical, legendary… adjectives abound, Spa Francorchamps circuit in the Ardennes forest of Belgium. For this race, there was an excellent field assembled, including Group B cars in the forms of a BMW M1, Porsche 911 SC, and Porsche 935, joining the field. Lancia heads the entry with their cars to be driven by Alessandro Nannini and Riccardo Patrese (#4), and Mauro Baldi and Bob Wollek (#5). Derek Bell and Hans Stuck, they have the #2 Rothmans Porsche 962 in P2 on the grid. Watch too, for the third quickest car. This is the #19 Schiesser sponsored Brun Motorsport Porsche 956B of Stefan Bellof and Thierry Boutsen. Next on the grid is the #7 Joest Racing New Man Porsche 956 of Klaus Ludwig and Paolo Barilla.
Down through La Source hairpin and onto the main straight they come! We’ve got a green flag, and we’re underway at Spa! In case you are wondering, the start/finish line for the Formula 1 cars is before the La Source hairpin, whilst the start/finish line for the sports cars, is just before the daunting uphill blast through Eau Rouge. The cars fly uphill out of Eau Rouge for the first time, with Riccardo Patrese in the Lancia leading this motor race.
Derek Bell is solidly in second spot in the #2 Rothmans Porsche 962 he shares with Hans Stuck. Jochen Mass and Thierry Boutsen are having a great battle along the Kemmel straightaway. These boys are running absolutely Harry Flatters up the straight right now. What does yours truly mean by Harry Flatters? Flat out. Top speed. Boutsen wants by Derek Bell, but Jochen Mass is covering for his team mate and says to Boutsen, “no way, sunshine.” So, the order is Patrese, Bell, Mass, Boutsen, Ludwig, and Brundle. Martin Brundle has the Jaguar in sixth place.
Riccardo Patrese is whistling off into the distance while it is a fair fight between Derek Bell and Jochen Mass at the moment, as the two Rothmans Porsche’s are having a fair old scrap for position! They fly to the top of the hill at Raidillon and plunge down into corners like Pouhon, Stavelot, and Fangnes while the Lancia still leads the race. Jochen Mass is all over the Lancia like a cheap suit, and the Lancia has a misfire in the motor which is not allowing Patrese to use the available power. Mass is really applying the blowtorch. He’s all over Patrese here, look. Thierry Boutsen has brought the #19 Schiesser Porsche 956 to third overall. That is the car Stefan Bellof will drive in the next stint.
On the inside, as Mass has his target set on the Lancia, Boutsen, sneaky genius, he whistles right through and slams the door in Jochen Mass’ face! Lancia leads as we are seeing sports car racing at its finest here at Spa! This is what Group C racing is all about. Plunging down through Eau Rouge and back up through Raidillon another time, on this roller coaster ride on the back part of the circuit. Jochen Mass has finally dispensed of Thierry Boutsen. He’s said, “OK, Thierry. No more games. Please, may I play through?” Boom! Mass takes the spot away.
Meanwhile at the back of the field, Jurgen Lassig at the wheel of the #20 Obermaier Racing Porsche 956, he has his hands full. Wallop! He has a coming together going into La Source with the #160 Porsche 935 of none other than a bloke called “Victor”. Well, that’s “Victor” the masked racer. He is an Italian driver, who is sharing his Porsche 935 with fellow Italians Tony Palma and Luigi Taverna. OK. So, we get by “Victor” and we still have a simmering battle at the front of the field here, chaps. It’s still Thierry Boutsen wanting to race with Jochen Mass and Riccardo Patrese. Mass is going for the lead against Patrese on the downhill part of the circuit through Pouhon, Stavelot, and Malmedy (a section of the course now called Piff Paff). Mass leads, but the Lancia team better know their car has a misfire as it is falling into the clutches of Boutsen in the #19 Brun Porsche.
Its pit stop time for the #1 Rothmans Porsche. It’s halfway through the race and the car pits for fuel, tires, and a driver change over to Jacky Ickx. The #4 Lancia is dropping like a stone because of the misfire, and Thierry Boutsen brings the #19 Brun Porsche 956 to the lane, for service and to hand over to Stefan Bellof. The battle will now resume as Jacky Ickx will be leading, but Stefan Bellof will be determined to hunt down and pass the Belgian, the legend, who has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, six times. We haven’t paid much attention to the C2 cars in this race. But, it’s the usual story. Gordon Spice and Ray Bellm lead in class and if they win here at Spa, no matter what their competition does, they will be World Champions in the C2 division.
Now, things are still hotting up between Bellof and Ickx, but they are about to take a serious, tragic turn. Bellof is closing on Ickx all the time as they round La Source. They plunge downhill to go back up through Eau Rouge. But, look out! Jacky Ickx is spinning through Eau Rouge! Crunch! He’s had a massive impact with the wall! The top two cars are out of the Spa 1,000 Kilometers! Can you believe it! Things are about to take a turn, for the worse. Jacky Ickx gets out of his car. But, this is an eerily similar accident to Manfred Winkelhock’s Mosport crash last time out. Like Winkelhock, Bellof is trapped inside his Porsche. Ickx is going to try to help free Bellof from the wreckage of that car.
Bellof’s Porsche has burst into flames. It’s got to be a ruptured oil line or fuel tank. The marshals will have to get there to help him escape the blaze. We watch an eerie sight as the onboard camera in Jacky Ickx’s car is still running, still recording film of these desperate scenes to free a fellow racer from danger. Ickx is out of the car, but the #1 has also caught fire as the marshals tackle the blaze with the extinguishers. The camera continues to eerily turn through clouds of smoke in the cockpit. Jacky Ickx, and Jean Louis Schlesser from the Jaguar team, they walk away forlornly from the accident scene. This is not a good sign. Will Stefan Bellof survive his head on impact with the Eau Rouge guardrail?
The Ickx/Mass Porsche is wrecked, and though Stefan Bellof has been extricated from the mangled wreckage of his Porsche 956, much concern still remains over his condition. Bellof has been transported to the infield medical center here at Spa. This is the most devastated Group C racer yours truly has ever seen. We fear for the man’s life, and word of the inevitable, is received. One hour later, Stefan Bellof is pronounced dead at the age of 27 in the Spa Francorchamps medical center. Rest in Peace, Stefan Bellof. This is incomprehensible, that we’ve now lost two of the world’s best sports car drivers, in large accidents, within two consecutive races.
Will the World Sports Car Championship be able to bear the weight of these heartbreaks? After meeting with the teams, it was agreed that, as a mark of respect for and celebration of the life of Stefan Bellof, and for Manfred Winkelhock certainly, too, the race at Spa, will not continue. The race has been abandoned. Lancia wins. But it is a hollow victory. We have lost, a world champion, a hero, and one of Germany’s finest young racing drivers. Once again, Rest in Peace, Stefan Bellof.
- #5 Wollek/Baldi/Patrese Lancia LC2 Martini Lancia
- #2 Bell/Stuck Porsche 962 Rothmans Porsche
- #7 Ludwig/Barilla Porsche 956 New Man/Joest Racing