Mission in the Ardennes: 4 Hours of Spa Classic

American vintage motorcycle racers invade Europe’s Spa Classic.

| January/February 2012

Two American teams took on this year’s 4 Hours of Spa Classic, an endurance race for 1980 and older superbikes at Belgium’s iconic Spa Francorchamps circuit. It was the first time U.S. riders have ever taken part. This is their story.

“It’s like a weird sensory deprivation experience in the dark. You can smell the oil, then you can make out the oil on the track; there are lines of oil you are flying through. And then there’s smoke. Your headlight just goes ‘womp!’ — everything’s just white and wide, you whiteout, and then as you come out the other side your headlight narrows back down again to nothing. Darkness returns.”

That’s Christopher Page describing racing Spa Francorchamps in the dark. It’s a long way from Portland, Ore., to Belgium, and it’s a strange concept to figure placing four American riders among 156 Europeans on this most iconic of race circuits. On 30-year-old motorcycles. But this is the 4 Hours of Spa Classic.

Spa Classic inspiration

The four were connected, however, and Andrew Gray was the number one reason they were here. “I read about this event six or seven years ago. Then I read about how Moto Bel’, the French Guzzi team, had won and I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ Then I started racing my own Guzzi three years ago. Being born European, it was a natural draw for me to come here, a new challenge,” Andrew says.

That Andrew turned his dream into reality was no surprise to those who know him. His co-pilot in this adventure, Christopher Page, knew it would happen, as Andrew had established his can-do attitude upon their first acquaintance. “Andrew had a Guzzi street bike,” Christopher recalls. “He was on a trip up the coast to a friend in Portland who was taking a road race school. He arrived on Thursday night. On Friday he safety-wired his bike. On Friday night he went to the classroom sessions. On Saturday he did the novice school on track. On Sunday he raced the bike, on street tires. And on Monday he and his partner, Kristina, rode home to Los Angeles. That impressed us all. I was his novice school instructor, and we’ve been friends since.”

And so it is that Andrew and Christopher — Team Guzzi Nerd — are here at Spa on Andrew’s Moto Guzzi Le Mans III, really little more than a home-modified street bike. And Ralph Hudson — a very successful AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) classic racer with Daytona wins to his name — is here because his workshop is just five minutes from Andrew’s in L.A. They got to know each other racing classic Honda 160s.

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