The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is central to the motor racing story of Thierry Tassin. It’s the place his love affair with the game began, the place he scored the most important successes of his profession with a quartet of victories within the Spa 24 Hours and the place he’s this weekend in his capability as one of many sporting administrators of the crack WRT Audi crew for its assault on the race during which he made his title.
“I’ve so many nice souvenirs from Spa,” says Tassin, now 63. “My father raced sportscars throughout with Ecurie Nationale Belge, however Spa is admittedly the place I began watching races.
“My grandparents had an enormous home within the city, and after I visited, I’d go to the monitor to see the automobiles on the previous 14km monitor with my grandfather. We’d watch at Burnenville, Malmedy, the Masta Kink, all these loopy locations.”
Tassin additionally bought his first style of competing at Spa, not on the circuit however in his maternal grandfather’s again backyard: “He purchased an previous kart of his grand kids after which determined to pave a part of his backyard, so we have been racing towards the stopwatch from the age of 5 or 6.”
It was at the same age that Tassin’s ardour for motor racing was ignited, fittingly on the 24 Hours, then a touring automobile race.
“My first robust reminiscence is from the Spa 24 Hours a while within the mid-1960s,” he recollects. “I bear in mind wanting up on the winners’ rostrum after the race and considering, wouldn’t it’s superb if someday I might be up there? That will be the very best day of my life.
“All these years later after I took the primary of my 4 victories within the 24 Hours in 1983, I used to be up on that very same podium down within the previous ‘endurance’ pits. I regarded out on the crowd – and in these days the race used to get 90,000 or 100,000 spectators – and puzzled if there was a bit of child down there considering the identical as I’d executed all these years earlier than.”
Tassin celebrates victory within the 1983 Spa 24 Hours, a outcome he says modified his life
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Victory at Spa in 1983 driving a Juma BMW 635CSi with Hans Heyer and Armin Hahne was a pivotal second for Tassin on his racing journey.
“That victory in 1983 at such a younger age with the Juma BMW was so necessary in my profession,” he explains. “I went from being an unknown to the entrance pages of the newspapers in Belgium within the area of 1 weekend. The race bought a full web page in Le Soir.
“I had been doing Method 2 that yr with Onyx, however I needed to cease as a result of a sponsor hadn’t paid. The win helped me a lot in single-seaters; it allowed me to return to F2 the next season.”
Speak to Tassin about Spa and his love for the monitor, and he makes a distinction between the place then and now.
“Blanchimont was the very best nook for me. I promise you it wasn’t flat in a touring automobile again then, no means: you had the Armco possibly three or 4 metres on both aspect of the monitor. To pay attention for lap after lap throughout a stint within the 24 Hours was very tough” Thierry Tassin
He clarifies: “Once I speak about Spa being my favorite, I imply the seven-kilometre circuit because it was within the 1980s and ‘90s after I raced on it, with the obstacles proper as much as the sting of the circuit. Eau Rouge was tighter then, extra of a left and a proper. It was extra of a problem and rather more harmful.
“I had an enormous accident there in F2 driving at Toleman for Alan Docking. We have been on Avon tyres, which have been solely aggressive within the moist. I used to be operating third within the European championship race at Spa in 1982 behind the 2 Spirt-Hondas on Bridgestones and what was a small puddle on the backside of Eau Rouge on the lap earlier than had turn into a really large puddle the following time.
“I hit the obstacles on the backside of the previous grandstand there and the automobile went up within the air. I by no means wished to have a look at the images as a result of it was a scary accident.
“However Blanchimont was the very best nook for me. I promise you it wasn’t flat in a touring automobile again then, no means: you had the Armco possibly three or 4 metres on both aspect of the monitor. To pay attention for lap after lap throughout a stint within the 24 Hours was very tough. There was no margin for error. Spa was a a lot larger problem, so a lot better again then.
Spa was a fearsome monitor earlier than run-off areas have been launched, and Tassin had an enormous F2 crash there in 1982 earlier than his breakthrough win
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“The adjustments which were made to the circuit with extra run-off over the previous 15 or 20 years have eliminated a lot of that problem. Now when you go off, possibly you get a track-limits penalty. Once I was racing there, you ended up in hospital or a minimum of destroyed the automobile.”
It was a realisation of the hazards of Spa that introduced his driving profession to an finish in 2002, save for a quick comeback 10 or so years later. The set off was seeing the wreck of the Carsport Holland Chrysler Viper GTS-R he had been driving in parc ferme.
“We have been main the race, possibly by a lap, and considered one of my team-mates, Anthony Kumpen, had an enormous crash happening the hill from La Supply to Eau Rouge,” explains Tassin, whose major function at WRT is on the World Endurance Championship LMP2 programme. “He managed to get out of the automobile, however I believed, what if that had been me? Would I’ve been in a position to get out?
“That was the yr that my daughter was born. I knew it was time to cease, so I turned the web page. I wasn’t ready to take the dangers any extra.”
Tassin wouldn’t participate once more within the Spa enduro, a race during which he adopted up on his 1983 victory with wins in 1986, 1994 and 1996, every garnered on the wheel of a BMW. His first look within the race had are available 1980 when as a younger Method three driver he was referred to as as much as drive a Ford Capri for Gordon Spice Racing.
That was truly his first race of any form at Spa, two years after the shortening of the circuit, so he missed out competing on the previous monitor at which he had spectated as a child. He had solid his profession in Britain — “the very best faculty for a racing driver”, he says — first in Method Ford after which F3.
“It was solely after the monitor had been shortened that I bought to race there for the primary time after I drove one of many Belga Ford Capris,” he says. “However it will have been nice to do the previous one as a result of it had all these improbable corners the place I used to look at as a child.”
Tassin took his second of 4 Spa wins in 1986 and continued racing on the monitor till 2002
Photograph by: Motorsport Images