Matters of moment, August 2002

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Audi trio set new Le Mans standard

For the first time in the 75-year history of the Le Mans 24 Hours, the same driver line-up has won three times in a row. And Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela and Tom Kristensen have driven one of Audi’s R8s each time.

Audi will now keep the Le Mans Trophy in recognition of its hat-trick. “This is our biggest achievement yet in Motorsport,” said Audi Sport’s boss, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich.

Twice before the same drivers/car combination has won back-to-back races: in 1973-74, Gerard Larrousse/Henri Pescarolo won in a Matra MS670B, and in 1986-87 the Porsche 962C of Derek Bell/Al Holbert/Hans Stuck was victorious.

Other back-to-back winning driver combos are Olivier Gendebien/Phil Hill in 1961 (Ferrari 250TR) and ’62 (Ferrari 330LM) and Bell/Jacky Ickx in 1981 (Porsche 936) and ’82 (Porsche 956). Bentley’s Woolf Bamato won three times in succession, but had a different co-driver each time: Bernard Rubin (1928), Tim Birkin (1929) and Glen Kidston (1930).

Damon Hill to race two-seater Minardi

Damon Hill will return to the cockpit of a Formula One car for the first time since his retirement during the annual ‘Thunder in the Park’ event at Donington Park on August 11.

The 1996 world champion has been tempted back by Minardi boss Paul Stoddart to drive one of his team’s two-seater Formula One cars in a demonstration event.

In 2001, the mock race ended in a famous crash for Nigel Mansell, who had an unfortunate or fortunate depending on your viewpoint passenger on board.

Hill, who last sat in a Formula One car at the end of the 1999 season, will drive one of eight two-seaters in the demo, also with a paying guest in the passenger seat.

British GP boss steps down

Rob Bain resigned from the post of Chief Executive Officer, Octagon Motorsports Group, the day after the British Grand Prix.

His move was prompted by the negative comments expressed about the organisation of the meeting by Bernie Ecclestone.

“I’m very proud of the Grand Prix we staged,” said Bain, “and it is very disheartening still to hear gratuitous outside comments about the event. I do not wish them to overshadow what the team has achieved.”

Ex-winners head Sarthe

Three Le Mans-winning cars will race at the track in September during the Classic event Phillippe Leroux will drive the Lorraine that won in 1926, while the 1955-winning Jaguar (above) and victorious 1959 Aston Martin will be driven by Win Percy and Per Hardman.

Other notable entries include Bobby Rahal (Porsche 917), Jean Sage (1935 Delahaye), Mark Knopfler (Maserati 300S), Nick Mason (Ferrari 250 GTO), Richard Atiwood (AC Cobra) and Jean Ragnotti (Alpine M64).

Jo Siffert award revived

A Jo Siffert award will be handed out at each Classic Grand Prix race run by the FORCE to celebrate the memory of the Swiss racer who died at Brands Hatch in 1971.

Following Siffert’s death, his longtime sponsors Philip Morris conceived the ‘Prix Rouge et Blanc Jo Siffert’ which was presented after each GP for a driver showing the best fighting spirit. No with the support of Siffert’s family, the initiative is being revived for races run for cars from the period in which he rose to stardom.

Works Maserati reunion

The four works Maserati 250Fs from the 1957 season were reunited at Donington Park recently.

Neil Corner had his first run on a track for nearly a decade in his chassis 2528 — in more recent years, his son Nigel has driven the car — while event organiser Willie Green drove Juan Fangio’s German GP-winning car, 2529.

This famous Modenese quartet was completed by Peter Neumark (2527) and Chris Drake (2534).

Moss back at Shelsley

The presence of String Moss, after 40-year absence, ensured bumper crowds at the Shelsley Walsh hillclimb in early June.

Moss took to the famous hill in seven:II cars, including a Cooper-JAP, reminiscent of the one he drove there in 1949. In this car (left), he clocked a time of 38.57sec.

Silverstone gets pits revamp

Silverstone’s pits (below) are expected to be bulldozed soon as part of the next phase of development at the track, making way for a new complex to be built on the same site.

The Jimmy Brown Centre, currently situated above the garages, is due to be replaced by a new media facility, while the hospitality suites between the race control building and the BRDC’s clubhouse are also likely to be pulled down and rebuilt.

Racing during the latter stages of the 2002 season should not be affected, although some areas of the current paddock will not be available.

Silverstone could see the return of a significant historic race meeting in 2003 if current rumours of an event to mirror the HSCC’s Historic Superprix at Brands Hatch are proved correct.