Steve Soper wasn't best pleased. He was shaved, showered and ready to fly home to see his new-born daughter. But Bigazzi team owner Gabriele Rafanelli could smell victory and had other ideas.
Rafanelli reckoned Soper and team-mates Jean-Michel Martin and Christian Danner could still win the 1992 Spa 24 Hours touring car classic. That was why he wanted his star driver back behind the wheel of the second-placed BMW M3. The boss got his way and set up a thrilling dash to the flag that resulted in what remains the closest finish in the 90-year history of the Belgian enduro.
Soper, who by his own admission was no fan of 24-hour races, wasn't sure that putting his dirty overalls back on was going to be worth the effort. The leading Schnitzer BMW driven by Eric van de Poele, who was teamed with Joachim Winkelhock and Altfrid Heger, had been in front since Saturday evening in what was always going to be a race fought out by the five factory M3s split across three teams. Now the leader was the better part of a lap up the road and, in Soper's eyes, out of reach.
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Gary Watkins has, for reasons best known to himself, devoted all his working life to covering sportscar racing. This season is his 25th as a motorsport journalist, during which time he has reported on major long-distance events on four continents and approaching 60 24-hour races. He reckons a degree in political philosophy makes him well qualified for covering the sometimes Machiavellian world of international sportscars.
Gary, who also writes for RACER, Autoweek, Motor Sport, Autocourse and others, lives in Surbiton but spends more time on the road than at home for most of the year.