1978 Ford Capri 3.0S
Ford began a three-year reign at the Spa 24 Hours in 1978 with its Mk3 Capri 3.0S. Gordon Spice and Teddy Pilette raced the 3-litre V6 coupe to beat two BMW 530is onto the podium’s top step.
The top two finishers actually completed the same number of laps (305) ensuring the ’78 race was one of the closest of its time. In fact, 23 hours into the race it was a BMW that held first place, with the Ford lagging behind after suffering a holed radiator. But heroically, Spice pushed the Capri hard to make up ground and managed to retake the lead with just 30 minutes to spare.
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This was the last 24-hour victory on Spa’s 14km layout, with the following year’s race the first to take place on the modern 7km track.
1981 Mazda RX-7
The Mazda RX-7 stole victory from the BMW 530i just 90 minutes before the 1981 race finished in dramatic style, as a broken rocker cover on the BMW allowed the Tom Wilkinshaw and Pierre Dieudonné driven RX-7 to take the win against all odds. This marked the first victory for a Japanese car at the Spa 24 Hours.
The Tom Wilkinshaw Racing RX-7’s high-revving rotary engine was potent (in race-spec it produced around 225bhp), but it was miniscule compared with the rest of the race’s frontrunners. It was just 1146cc in size, though admittedly it was rated as being equivalent to a 2.3-litre piston engine. Even with this larger equivalency size in mind, it was still close to 700cc smaller than its main rivals and significantly more compact than the 5.7-litre V8 Chevrolet Camaros.
As a result, the underdog RX-7 has become a legend of Mazda’s motorsport history. evo’s Richard Meaden got the chance to sample it in our recent YouTube video review – watch it below.
1990 E30 BMW M3 Sport Evo
The third of four Spa 24 Hour victories for the E30 BMW M3 came in 1990, when Fabien Giroix, Johnny Cecetto and Markus Oestreich beat the sister M3 and leading Ford Sierra RS 500 Cosworth to take the win. The two naturally aspirated 2.5-litre M3s and chasing 2-litre turbocharged Ford all completed 468 laps, confirming how close 1990’s competition was.
Porsche mightn’t have challenged for the podium places, with five 911s finishing sixth to tenth. Other notable finishers include three R32 Nissan Skylines, which finished eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth.
The race distance was also cut short thanks to a lengthy red flag, and as such the winning car’s 3248km race distance was beaten by more than 300km the following year.
2001 Chrysler Viper GTS-R
Chrysler’s 2001 win at the Spa 24 Hours marked the first time an American car had won the event. Driven by France’s Christophe Bouchet and Jean-Phillipe Belloc, the 8-litre V10 Viper headed home its team’s sister car and two other Vipers to secure Chrysler the top four places.
The Viper’s closest competition came from Porsche, as three 911 GT3-RSs followed home in fifth, sixth and seventh.
2001 was the first year the Spa 24 Hours was featured in the FIA GT Championship, switching it from a touring car to sports car race.