Euro Preview -- your guide to the season ahead

Channel all your energies

If the British historic and classic calendar isn't enough for you, venturing across the channel opens up a glorious array of historic motorsport at some of the most challenging and scenic venues that Europe has to offer. With ridiculously cheap flights available to any number of destinations, there has never been a better time to plan a long weekend away.

April:

The standout event for April has to be the Tour Auto (25-30). A weekend in Paris followed by a tour through some of the best French countryside watching 200 cars from the 1951-73 period competing on race circuits and closed roads; can there be anything better? The route heads south to Clermont-Ferrand before swinging west to finish at Biarritz five days later.

A new event at Hockenheim in Germany (23/24) will celebrate the career of Jim Clark and is notable for the opening round of the FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix Championship as well as Euro F2 and International Supersports.

May:

Italy moves to the forefront of the calendar in May with three highlight events. Two classic events on public roads are followed by the major historic race meeting of the season at Monza. The Modena Cento Ore Classic (7-10) is akin to the Tour Auto, while the Mille Miglia Retrospective (19-22) sets a gentler pace with a predominance of regularity sections. This year the Brescia-based event marks the 50th anniversary of Stirling Moss, Denis Jenkinson and Mercedes' famous win. A week later, just up the E64, Monza hosts TGP, Group C/GTP Supersports and much more during the excellent Coppa Inter Europa meeting (27-29). The Grand Prix de Pau Historique (14/15) is another must-do (see below).

June:

Star event for June has to be the Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or (25/26) at Dijon in France. Moving the event title from the closed Montlhéry, the organisers at Rayon d'Action have put together a cracking race line-up: GP Masters returns to Dijon, while the HGPCA, Gentleman Drivers and Top Hat all have a presence. Also clashing with the Goodwood Festival of Speed is the Jan Wellem meeting at the Nürburgring (25/26), with Group C/GTP and Supersports headlining. And don't forget the Le Mans Legends race supporting the 24 Hours (18)— see page 111.

July:

Zolder will never have the charisma of its Belgian counterpart at Spa, but it is one of the easiest venues to reach by road from the UK, two hours from the channel ports. Over the first weekend of July (2/3) is the European Historic Grand Prix, with a strong race line-up: GP Masters and World Sportscar Masters are the big attractions, backed up by European F2 and FIA Historic Touring Cars.

The new Grande Premio do Porto (8-10) will be a major draw (see below). Then it's back to Belgium for the other notable event in July. An hour south of Brussels, just inside the French border, is Chimay, and over the weekend of 23/24 the town is given over to the Historic Race Festival. All the Top Hat classes tackle the daunting road circuit.

August:

One event dominates August: the Oldtimer Grand Prix meeting at the Nürburgring (12-14). Established now for more than 30 years, the Oldtimer continues to pack the paddock with an all-star race programme which kicks off on Friday afternoon with the AvD Marathon on the full Nordschleife circuit.

The rest of the weekend features much of the cream of European historic racing competing on the contemporary GP circuit, including GP Masters and World Sportscar Masters, International Supersports, HGPCA GP cars and HGPCA drum-braked sportscars, as well as the hard-fought Lurani Trophy Formula Junior Championship.

Moving away from Europe, the most prestigious historic race meeting in North America is the 32nd Rolex Monterey Historic Automobiles Race Meeting (19-21) at Laguna Seca. Chaparral is the featured marque, although the history of Chevron will also be celebrated.

September:

France is divided over the opening weekend of September (3/4), with classic meetings at Le Mans and Magny-Cours. On the Bugatti circuit the combo of GP Masters and World Sportscar Masters tops the racing on a weekend that will also celebrate the famous racing 'blues' of France. Two hundred miles away at Magny-Cours, TGP and Historic F2 are the big draws at the home of the French GP.

The annual Angoulême race meeting (17/18) keeps the focus on France (see below) before the month ends with the biggest historic race meeting of the year. The Classic Six Hours event at Spa-Francorchamps (23-25) is simply wall-to-wall historic racing, with the enduro topping a bill that includes, well, just about everything! If you only manage one cross-channel foray in 2005, make it this one.

October:

Wrapping up the major European events of 2005 are race meetings at Dijon and Estoril over the weekend of 8/9. Supersports, Lurani Trophy Formula Junior and Euro F2 star in France, while the Portuguese track hosts the deciding TGP race of the year along with races for the HGPCA. Get booking those flights and ferries now!

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Worth a visit -- Pau, Oporto and Angoulême are three events you should catch...

Pau (F): Why not enjoy a French street party ? -- May 14/15, Grand Prix de Pau HIstorlque

Website: www.grandprixhIstorique.com

Tucked away in the foothills of the Pyrenees in south-west France, Pau is a gem in the calendar with a history back to 1930. The street circuit is steeped in racing lore and remains one of the most popular and challenging venues.

The race programme is packed with quality, topped by the 3-litre F1 cars from Grand Prix Masters. With DFVs echoing off the city walls, the double-header race is a real highlight of the weekend.

But Pau is also about F2 history. The Jochen Rindt F2 Trophy named in honour of the three-time Pau winner is on the bill once more and a capacity grid of the screaming 1600cc cars will be in action.

World Sportscar Masters, with an evocative grid of Lola T70s. Chevron B16s and B8s, is another Pau favourite, while the HGPCA will field grids of pre-61 and pre-66 Grand Prix cars. With Gentleman Drivers, Cloth Cap and Top Hat races, as well as French Formula Ford and F3, the weekend is crammed with quality.

It's easy to get there. By road it's a long but rewarding haul down through France, but Ryanair flies straight from Stansted every day. Check out www.ryanair.co.uk for bookings.

Oporto (P): You can't pass over the port -- July 8-10, Grande Premio do Porto

Webslte: www.cIrcultodaboavista.com

Once host to the Portuguese Grand Prix, this street circuit will reverberate to the sound of racing engines this summer for the first time since the late1960s. Shortened and brought up to appropriate safety standards, the Circuito da Boavista will host races for the HGPCA, Pre-War Sports and Gentleman Drivers series as well as Formula Junior and HGPCA drum-braked sportscars.

Sitting on the west coast of Portugal, the street circuit includes a stretch of the seafront as it winds around the city park.

Ryanair offers two services a day from Stansted to the city. Alternatively, check out www.grandtouringclub.co.uk

Angoulême (F): Wall-to-wall historic action -- September 17/18, Circuit des Remparts

Want an alternative to Goodwood? Look no further than the historic walled city of Angoulême north-east of Bordeaux. The Circuit des Remparts pits grids full of historic racing cars against a unique challenge. A race dedicated to Bugattis is always a big attraction and the British Frazer Nash 'chain-gang' brigade are regular visitors. Some events are races, others claim to be demonstrations, but the distinction is seldom clear!

Angoulême is around three hours south of Le Mans by car, but Ryanair flies to four airports within easy driving distance. Best bets are Poitiers and Limoges.