Video: When touring cars ruled the Spa 24-hours

On the eve of the latest Spa 24-hours this weekend, Duke Video looks back 30 years to when the event was a clash of touring car giants – Ford vs BMW

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In advance of this year’s Spa 24-hours, Duke Video has shared fascinating video footage from the 1988 event, when the legendary endurance race saw two touring car titans go head-to-head.

Thirty years ago the famous event at the spectacular Spa-Francorchamps circuit was a battle between the iconic Texaco-liveried Ford Sierra RS 500s and the BMW M3s.

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Sights & Sounds – 1988 ETCC Spa 24-hours video

Ford had won six of the seven championship races that year, but running for 24 hours without problems would be another matter. BMW, meanwhile, had numerical strength with 22 marque representatives including 17 M3s. It also had history on its side, having won the Spa race 13 times.

Showing the strength of the race, it boasted a field of 57 cars. This included a familiar face in Thierry Boutsen driving one of the Texaco Fords. He was taking time out from a Formula 1 season for Benetton, wherein he finished fourth in the world championship.

Flashback Interviews – 1988 ETCC Steve Soper

The race was part of that year’s European Touring Car Championship, too. Title protagonists Steve Soper (Ford) and reigning World Touring Car champion Roberto Ravaglia (BMW) both sat back in the pits in the race’s early hours before deciding which car to join, so to maximise their race and therefore their championship chances. Soper discusses this very matter in the video short above.

The first three places on the grid were Texaco coloured but, as it was, the fears about the Sierra’s reliability came to pass.

Ford had to make do with finishing second and fourth (the latter crew included Soper), both cars with technical delays, while its third machine crashed out early after a wheel collapse. This followed on from heartbreak in the previous year’s event, when both its cars retired – one of which had led for 21 hours. Meanwhile, the BMW aboard which Ravaglia jumped stayed out of trouble and won.

These days the Spa 24-hours lives on as a GT race, and its popularity remains. In total, 65 cars are entered this time, and again the driver line-up contains well known faces.

Formula 1 race winner Riccardo Patrese returns to international motor sport for the first time since 2006 to compete in an Acura Honda NSX GT3 in the Pro-Am Cup, while Le Mans winners Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber are there, too, in a Porsche 911 GT3. Meanwhile, Top Gear presenter Chris Harris is in a McLaren 650 S GT3 in the AM Cup.

Images courtesy of LAT Archive.

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