Historic Season Preview 2000
For the historic motor racing fan this season promises to be the biggest and best yet. Marcus Pye looks ahead for ways to while away a summer weekend
History, by its very definition, grows inexorably. Every segment of time consigns its predecessor to the past, leaving memories spanning the full gamut of emotions. The duration of a calendar is pre-defined, for a year is a year, but the pace of technological development runs faster in motorsport. This not only drives competition forward, but the resultant obsolescence of machinery is the very foundation of the historic sport we love. And, as automobile racing enters its third century, there has never been a greater choice.
The year 2000 sees more showpiece events than ever before. Monaco's Grand Prix Historique, Goodwood's Festival of Speed and Motor Circuit Revival, and Coys Silverstone are the jewels, and magnets to enthusiasts the world over. But there are many other great meetings too, including Monza's charismatic Coppa Intereuropa and Nürburgring's Oldtimer GP (which the AvD promises to restore to its former glory). And no season should be without a trip to Spa-Francorchamps, where sensational Group C and Can-Am sportscars return in May.
On a domestic level, the cacophony of 500cc cars at Brands Hatch in July heralds the 50th anniversary of International Formula Three and is bound to attract a few of the old-stagers who are not going to Coys on the same weekend. Such is the unprecedented popularity of historic motorsport that date clashes abound, so you'll not get along to everything. By using this broad preview as a companion to the annual Motor Sport Historic Calendar and juggling your diaries carefully, a summer of delight is guaranteed.
Goodwood race meeting & Festival of Speed
The sylvan setting of Goodwood House is, on the face of it, an unlikely canvas on which to embroider motorsport history. Especially when contemporary Grand Prix cars are hurtling through the verdant Sussex garden back-to-back with hulking pioneers and an eclectic mix of world-beaters and curiosities from every era in between.
No fewer than four Grand Prix teams — McLaren, Jordan, Williams and Ford's newly rebadged Jaguar equipe — were planning to run as we closed for press, with all sights set on new Prost Formula One signing Nick Heidfeld's stunning course record, set in the McLaren-Mercedes MP4/13 last June. Sir Frank Williams' squad is also reuniting Alan Jones with his 1980 World Championship-winning FW07. It will be interesting to hear what the famously forthright Australian makes of the experience.
Jaguar is the featured marque, and 30 priceless machines will trace its sporting heritage on course, and in the coveted pole position outside the house. Twenty-five cars are coming from the USA, including Indycars and NASCAR stockers, while others will be airlifted in from far-flung corners of the globe. A fun aside this year is the inaugural soap box derby, running down the hill, in which F1 designer Gordon Murray has been influential. Early testing suggests that the quickest entries could top 55mph.
September's Motor Circuit Revival is a different kettle of fish altogether. Rooted in racing and aviation history, and set against a superdetailed airfield backdrop plucked straight out of the 1950s, Goodwood reopened in 1998, and continues to host just one meeting per season. It's quite the most mesmeric motorsport weekend in the world.
Three days of non-stop action replicate the type of events run at Goodwood between 1948 and 1966. The programme centres on races for single-seaters (from 500cc F3 to '60s Grand Prix cars), sportscars (production racers to World Championship contenders) and saloons, interspersed with wonderfully emotive celebrations — like Stirling Moss's 70th birthday, last year — and flashbacks to great moments in the sport's history.
A one-hour, two-driver RAC Tourist Trophy Celebration on the Sunday afternoon is invariably packed with star names from the realms of F1, Indycar and sportscar racing. Following Damon Hill's participation in '98, major efforts are being made to get a number of current Grand Prix drivers in the field this time.
Goodwood: 01243 755 000
Coys International Historic Festival
Subject to engine availability, high-speed demonstration laps by Nigel Mansell in his 1992 World Championship-winning Williams-Renault FVV14B will see fans flocking to the home of British motor racing. A rare opportunity to see triple champion Jackie Stewart reunited with his 1971 British Grand Prix-winning Tyrrell 003 is another reason to be at one of the season's top attractions.
The first five decades of World Championship Grand Prix racing will be represented by Froilán González (back in a Ferrari), Moss, Stewart, John Watson and Mansell. And by a broad selection of cars — both running and static — to illustrate defining moments in the development of the sport at its pinnacle.
Logistics permitting, the scope is endless. But the prospect of seeing an Alfa Romeo 158 similar to Giuseppe Farina's 1950 Silverstone winner (and Carlo Vogele plans to race his), alongside a 'Syracuse' Connaught, Maserati 250F, Lancia D50 reproduction, Vanwall and new-fangled rear-engined Cooper-Climax of the 1950s could set the scene admirably.
Many of the 1.5-litre and early 3-litre F1 cars will be seen in action on the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association (Pre-66) and Classic GP (Pre-72) grids, the latter hopefully including Lotus 49 and 72 models, a Brabham-Repco, and several sweet-sounding V12s. Groundbreaking cars like the Lotus 56B turbine, a shrill turbocharged Renault and the six-wheeled Williams are on the co-ordinator's wish-list.
Races for Pre-52 and Pre-60 Grand Prix cars, host club BRDC's own 1950s Sportscar series, Pre-64 GTs, Le Mans cars and (for the first time) a spectacular Formula Junior thrash are included in the provisional programme on the splendid Historic GP course. Over on the Roger Clark Circuit, another of the wacky Rallysprints will feature the mighty Group B rally cars of the 1980s.
Silverstone: 01327 857271
Monaco GP Historique
Seventy-one years after French-domiciled Briton William Grover "Williams" won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in his patriotic green Bugatti, the streets of Monte Carlo, jewel of the Mediterranean, are still the most famous in Formula One. If the sight of today's downforce-laden carbon-fibre rocketships bucking over the camber out of Casino Square is awesome, it's certainly no less challenging in a skinny-tyred racer of yesteryear.
Historic races have occasionally graced the F1 programme, but the Automobile Club de Monaco staged its first meeting exclusively for the cars in 1997. While drivers loved the opportunity to wrestle their machines over the hallowed tarmac, the Grand Prix Historique was financial disaster, due, it is believed, to poor promotion. That's being addressed this year, and with keen ticket prices (£20 on raceday) there's a real determination to pack the grandstands and hotels with enthusiasts a week after the F1 race.
The six-race card on May 28/29 features four events for Grand Prix cars — in Pre-'34 (two-seater), Pre-'52, Pre-'61 and Pre-'66 splits — and one for Pre-'59 drum-braked sportscars. Watching them dancing between the barriers in flurries of tyre smoke and opposite lock will be fun, but the most hotly-contested event could be for 1100cc Formula Juniors, a GP support class at Monaco into the early '60s. More than 80 prospective entrants have applied for just 30 grid slots, leaving the selection panel in a quandary...
AC de Monaco: 00 377 93 15 2600.
FIA cup for Thoroughbred Grand Prix Cars
Year six of the world's premier historic championship — for 3-litre Grand Prix cars built from 1970-84 — will be the most competitive yet. The departure of champion Bob Berridge has left the door wide open. Nobody wants to fill the breach more than Joaquin Folch in his Classic Team Lotus 91.
Folch, the similarly-mounted Steve Hitchins and Richard Eyre — now in a sister 'ground effect' Williams FW08 to Berridge's — have the equipment, experience and technical support to succeed. But the participation of Martin Stretton in Simon Bull's sensational six-wheeled Tyrrell — winner at Brands and Kyalami last year — in a full programme is currently dependent on budget.
However, the arrival of rapid German Christian Glasel (in the ex-Riccardo Patrese Brabham BT49D, a TGP winner in Ian Giles' hands) and American Duncan Dayton's ex-Mario Andretti Lotus 79 could throw the cat among the pigeons. And Paul Ingram should be quickly up to speed with his ex-Michele Alboreto Tyrrell 011, repaired since its Monza aerobatics.
Geoff Farmer is back, after a two-year sabbatical, with his ex-Stefan Bellof Tyrrell 012, and will surely be swiftly among the frontrunners. The same applies to Sweden's Johan Rajamaki, set to run an Arrows A3. Tony Smith, runner-up in '98 with his Williams FW06, graduates to an FW07 for this campaign.
Stretton will be the class of the pre-ground effect division when he appears, with the ex-Ronnie Peterson P34-6 teetering on the edge of adhesion, but expect a sterner chase from Mike Whatley (Ensign) and the shared Tyrrell 008 of Roger Earl/Trevor Reeves. Look for Steve Allen and Graham Goodman to join the fun with their March 761s.
The Pre-72 class should be stronger too, with Graham Wilcox (McLaren M14), Ean Pugh (Brabham BT34) and Giorgio Galvanin (March 701) planning to challenge ex-F1 crew chief Erwin Derichs in his March.
The opening round is at Brands Hatch on April 9/10, when TGP guests on the British Touring Car Championship bill. Fans will also flock to Donington on September 2/3, for a race within what will be a riotous Jordan Grand Prix 10th anniversary party.
Thoroughbred GP: 01451 810855
Classic GP cars & Formula 5000
If the scream of BRM, Ferrari and Matra V12 Formula One engines was a pretty empty promise in last year's inaugural season, the Force's competition did get off the ground. Fortunately, the F5000 and F2 drivers held it together, but the number of 12-cylinder cars now pledged or known to be in preparation would suggest that the Classic GP series for Pre-72 cars can begin to fulfil its hype.
The F1 class is always going to be a Cosworth DFV benefit, although takers were few and far between in '99, not helped by two blowing engines at the first race. That situation will change too, with Graham Willcox's gorgeous McLaren M14 and F5000 regulars Frank Lyons and John Bladon bringing out Surtees TS9s. When eight or ten three-litre cars run consistently, it should indeed be a spectacle, with the best 1600cc F2s snapping at their heels.
Unsubtle Chevrolet-engined F5000 grunters — and Adrian Stoop's Palliser-Rover V8 — took on the sophisticated F1s on occasion, and the muscular appeal of this stockblock class has made it (like Group C sportscars) one of European historic motorsport's boom areas over the winter. This summer, a pilot series of F5000 races will cement its future. With the likes of Simon Hadfield and Ian Giles preparing to race the monsters, expect fireworks.
Classic GP action begins at Nogaro in April, and the circus has a second chance to impress at Silverstone's Coys International Historic Festival on July 21-23. Donington Park hosts the inaugural — and its first ever — Formula 5000 race on June 3/4.
The Force: 01306 730517
Historic Grand Prix Cars
After many years of organising a short series of races throughout Europe for Pre-'61 cars, the HGPCA added a separate competition for rear-engined Pre-'66 machinery to its itinerary last year. An enormous success, it rekindled enthusiasm for 1.5-litre Formula One and Tasman Championship cars, indeed the startling shriek of small Climax and BRM V8 engines was one of the enduring highlights of the 1999 Coys Festival.
Richard Attwood, who made his Grand Prix debut in 1964, Paul Alexander and the irrepressible Barrie Williams will be out in BRM P261s, but Duncan Dayton flies in his ex-Bob Anderson Brabham BT11, and preparation guru Sid Hoole (Cooper T73) is seldom far adrift. Series newcomer Ted Williams should be quick in the 2.5-litre class with his newly-acquired Cooper T53.
New combos in the events for earlier cars include Allan Miles in a Cameron Millar Maserati 250F, and Barrie Baxter's unique Tec-Mec, Valerio Colotti's evolution of the 250F theme. Aside from the two main series, and a large number of regulars aiming for Monaco, a special race for Pre-52 cars will also be staged on the legendary Linas-Montlhéry speedbowl outside Paris in June.
HGPCA: 0207 607 4887
The return of Formula Two cars to the streets of Pau on June 10-12 is big news. Set in the French Pyrenees, the scenic university town is steeped in motorsport history, having staged its first 'Grand Prix' in 1901. Promoters of the Acemai F2 Trophy series, principally for 2-litre cars built before 1979, pulled off the coup, thus defending champion Michel Quiniou (March-BMW 782) can try to emulate Bruno Giacomelli's victory there with a sister car in 1978.
The longer-established Euro F2 Trophy championship, covering F2's previous 1600cc incarnation, is the home of the best slipstreaming in the sport. Briton Bob Juggins won the title for the second time last year, but the Lola T240 driver can expect renewed challenges from series organisers Fredy Kumschick and Peter Stobinski (March 712s). Colourful Brabham drivers Duncan Dayton and Sid Hoole will be right in there too as the potent 260bhp machines storm the continent, from Nogaro to Dijon-Prenois.
Acemai F2 Trophy (Pascal Legris): 00 33 1 4640 1818
Euro F2 Trophy (Peter Stobinsld): 00 49 70 3122 6151
A year after the revival was first mooted, Group C fuel formula cars of the 1980s had their first race in Europe as Historics at Donington last June. Since then, the market for the awesome coupés — already well developed in the USA, where they run regularly at Daytona with the HSR group — has gone mad.
Four races, starting at Spa in May, should see strong marque rivalry between Jaguar, Porsche and Aston Martin. Greater news still is that star drivers Jan Lammers and Win Percy are to be reunited with Silk Cut Jags, among a full range of XJR models. German stalwart Sigi Brunn is preparing several Porsche 962s, while Ray Bellm — three times a winner of the World Championship's C2 class — has bought back one of his Spices.
Alfa Romeo T33s continue to take on Lola T70s at the sharp end of Group 4's renamed European Sports Prototype Trophy series, with Jeremy Agace, Jon Shipman and Paul Grist joining Jonathan Baker in the Italian V8s. Not since Kent Abrahamsson beat the Lolas at the Nürburgring in '97 has a Chevron B16 run up front, but Michael Schryver is out to 'do a Brian Redman' with his 1800cc Cosworth FVC-powered version.
A Porsche Cup section, created this season to satisfy customer demand, offers a level playing field for 906, 907, 908 and 910 models, and will hopefully entice the occasional 917 out, including German Michael Kuhn's normallyaspirated PA Spyder. A wonderful programme takes in the Monza, Coys, Nürburgring Oldtimer GP and Spa classics, and visits Most (in the Czech Republic) and Dijon-Prenois for the first time.
Can-Am buffs will be blown away by the sheer grunt of the McLaren, March and Lola cars in the Supersports fields, which hark back to the world's wildest sportscars. Horsepower is not everything though, and the sensational handling capabilities of the 2-litre Chevrons and Lolas occasionally plays into the hands of 70s star John Burton and reigning champion Andy Wolfe. See them at their best at Spa in May, or closer to home at Donington on July 14/16. A1-Ring and Zolder both mark circuit debuts.
AMOC: 01353 777353
Group 4 Racing: 0207 440 8721
Supersports: 01420 87622
Vintage Sports Car Club
The VSCC's outstanding '99 season — with a record attendance for the marvellous Mercedes-Benz commemoration of Richard Seaman's life at Donington — will be difficult to shade, but this increasingly progressive band always comes up with the goods. Special events are great, but at the end of the day, the magical quality of its racing speaks for itself, whether it's between Pre-War Grand Prix, '50s Sports or stately road-going machines. Sportsmanship, on and off track, and a deep-rooted passion for cars majestic and humble, underpins the calendar, ensuring a spectacle which attracts fresh converts every year.
VSCC: 01608 604777