Wheel to wheel - The month in historic motorsport

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Big boost for GP Masters

French GP support in 2006; Amon F1 car to race again; historic super-series for ’07

The Grand Prix Masters movement will provide the grid for a classic Formula One race run in support of the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours on July 15/16.

The race, which will run in two parts for up-to-1978 3-litre cars, marks a celebration of 100 years of grand prix racing by the FFSA, the French governing body.

“There are a whole lot of things going on in France in the run-up to the Grand Prix to mark the centenary,” said Christopher Tate of Grand Prix Masters. “We’ve worked very hard to be allowed to be the support race and have been tasked to produce a grid.” Some rare and unique cars are expected, including a 1967 Brabham BT24 from Australia.

Unveiled at the Historic Motorsport Show at Stoneleigh was the latest project of Masters boss Ron Maydon: the unique 1974 Amon F101. Built by John Thompson for the Kiwi ace, the F101 eventually started just one grand prix and was abandoned at the end of the season when funds ran dry.

Maydon discovered the car in Germany and has had it restored, with assistance from Amon. He plans to race the car for the first time in the GPM opener at Brands Hatch in May before taking it to Monaco, where Peter Williams is expected to drive it.

Announced at Stoneleigh was a new tie-up between the Masters Series and the HGPCA. The two organisations will work together under the Grand Prix Events Ltd banner, while retaining their own identities and race series. Major changes are likely in 2007, when combined meetings, increased promotion and TV exposure could all be features of the new partnership.

New sports series

Motor Racing Legends boss Duncan Wiltshire has launched a new race series for pre-1956 sportscars. The Royal Automobile Club Woodcote Trophy will be for cars from up to and including 1955, with both disc and drum brakes.

“I’m keen to encourage cars of the right specification for the period” said Wiltshire. “It will be very much in the spirit of our pre-war series and each race is an invitation event.” The new series comes as a result of competitor requests, and will have races at the Silverstone Classic and Spa Six Hours meetings this year before expanding to four races in 2007

Matra hat-trick

One of the stars of the Historic Motorsport Show at Stoneleigh was the freshly restored ex-Jabouille/Migault Matra MS670B chassis 5, which finished third at Le Mans in 1974.

Now owned by Abba Kogan and superbly rebuilt by James Watt Automotive, the car should be ready for a shakedown test in March, after two years of restoration. Kogan now owns three of the 10 MS670s built.

Once tested, the car is set to race in World Sportscar Masters events and would be perfect for Classic Le Mans.

March to Monaco

Historic racer David Brown will realise the ambition of a lifetime when he races at Monaco this May. Brown, who will mark his 70th birthday shortly after the Historic GP has been granted an entry for his ex-John Watson March 721.

“I’m really chuffed about it,” he said. “It’s probably my last chance to do Monaco. I’ve entered twice before, but never got an entry.”

The March, which will run in Hexagon colours, has not been seen in Europe for over 30 years. Brown bought it from John Delane in America last year and it is being re-prepared by Retro Track and Air.

Mini hero to contest series

Thirty-six years after his last full season racing a Mini, John Rhodes will contest the Heritage GT Series this year in a Mini. The veteran racer, who will reach his 79th birthday in August, is teaming up with newcomer Nathalie Boyd to run a 1960s-specification Cooper S.

“I shouldn’t really be racing these days — I should be in the garden,” said Rhodes, who was one of Britain’s top saloon racers of the 1960s. As well as taking four consecutive 1300cc class titles in the British Saloon Car Championship between 1965 and ’68, Rhodes also added the ’68 European Touring Car Championship 1600cc crown to his tally.

Although he stopped racing regularly in 1973, Rhodes has been a star performer at Goodwood since the creation of the Revival Meeting, and his presence in the seven-round Heritage series will add greatly to the profile of the championship.

“I think it’ll be superb,” said Rhodes of the chance to race with Boyd in a car built and prepared by her partner, Mike Youles. Boyd has only raced the car once to date. Youles, meanwhile, will team up with Pat Thomas to race two ex-John Miles cars, beginning with a Lotus Elan 26R and switching to a Lotus 47, the race version of the Europa, by mid-season.

Groovy Spa car

The Vauxhall Firenza that Gerry Marshall and Peter Brock raced to a class win in the 1977 Spa 24 Hours has returned to racing.

It is thought to have stood for 15 years before Adrian Goding bought it. Martin Thomas restored it, with advice from former DTV mechanic Gerry Johnstone, who built the car in 1977 and from Marshall before his death in April 2005.

“Our hope was to have Gerry in the car again,” said Goding. “But now we’d love to get Peter Brock reunited with it.”

Goding plans to race it in ‘Groovy Baby’ 1970s Saloons races.

Maxted goes F2

Classic F3 champion Steve Maxted steps up to the Derek Bell Trophy and European F2 series this year with a Lola T360.

Ted Wentz raced the1975 works development car in FAtlantic and two F2 races, and Tony Trimmer and Mike King raced it later. Maxted will use a 2-litre BDG engine: “I’ll race it in F2 specification as it has the twin fuel tanks and deformable structure as used in F2.”

He plans to start the season in the Argo JM6 F3 car and switch to the Lola when it is ready. The Argo will then be handed over to 16-year-old Oliver Thorpe.

GT champ for GpC

Mark Sumpter is the latest driver to confirm plans to race in Group C/GTP this year, in a Porsche 962 thought to have been used only in Le Mans qualifying in 1991 and now owned by George Purdie.

Sumpter, a former British GT champion, hopes to do at least half of the races, including the UK events at Brands Hatch and Silverstone.

“It’s taken a year to restore the car,” said Sumpter, who has recently sampled the 962. I was blown away by it! It feels like you are stepping into a GT1car.”

Targa celebration

The Targa Florio centenary will be marked by four weeks of events, races and rallies in Sicily, starting on May 6/7 with the 90th running of the Targa Florio.

The first event was held on May 6 1906, when 10 cars took to the roads around Madonie, and was won by the Itala of Alessandro Cagno. Although the road race finally ended on safety grounds in 1977 a rally soon took its place.

While the opening event is a round of the Italian Rally Championship, the plans include regularity rallies and events for classic cars before wrapping up with the Trofeo Florio Historic Rally on June 3/4.