In Tazio 5, we look back on the closest finish in the history of the Spa 24 Hours. Just 0.48 seconds separated Steve Soper and Eric van de Poele in 1992. For the last two laps, the two BMW drivers were at each other’s throats. Thirty years on, we reconstruct that race.
Spa 1992. Both driving for BMW but not for the same team, Steve Soper makes it the closest finish in the Spa 24 Hours ever. Spa 2022. It’s the same car and it’s the same crew.
The one that got away
Thirty years on, Eric van de Poele still has not forgotten that big blow. Even if, with five wins in the Spa 24 Hours to his tally, he is the record holder, it’s the one that got away that still hurts. “I never should have lost that race,” the Belgian says.
Yet he did. Because… because Soper of course. The British touring car ace has a killer instinct unlike any other. “When I got back in that car for the final stint, I didn’t care: either it was going to break, or we were going to win.”
“Not the last lap. Oops”
The complete story, a touring car thriller unlike any other, is spread out over twelve pages in the latest issue of Tazio, entirely focused on the 50 years of BMW Motorsport. For this reunion, we were able to bring Steve, Eric and the #5 Bigazzi BMW M3 back to Spa. Whilst still taking a tough pose in the pictures, both are great friends once the cameras and microphones are tucked away. They share a common past and have tons of incredible stories to tell. As we found out over the impromptu lunch on a terrace in the Francorchamps village. These two are still sparring, as they were in their prime.
Some controversy ensued in the Spa race when Soper muscled his way past with just one lap to go. “If Steve made that move again now, he’d be penalised,” van de Poele says now. “I thought it was my last lap move. Only to find out we had another lap to go as I rounded La Source. Oops,” Soper laughs.
Jean-Michel Martin’s birthday
The next day, more stories flowed when the whole crew of the #5 car was reunited at Jean Michel Martin’s BMW dealership in Brussels for a surprise party that was thrown for his 69th birthday. With Christian Danner, Jean-Michel Martin, Steve Soper, and Bigazzi team manager Didier Debae together at the same table, more stories flowed. Thirty years on, this is still one of the strongest tales in the history of BMW Motorsport. It stems from a time when sport still prevailed over team and manufacturer politics. A rare thing these days.
Our thanks go out to Luís Pedro Liberal, to Curbstone Events and to Thibaut Miserque at the Jean-Michel Martin dealership