Events of the month

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Eco Targo Florio: Sicily, Italy

In May 2012 I received a letter out of the blue from Sandro Binelli, Chairman of MAC Group, inviting me to take part in a new historic presentation of the Targa Florio.

The Porsche museum from Stuttgart then decided to enter five historic cars, including a 1958 356 1600S Speedster for Hans Herrmann and a 1956 356 1600 Speedster for me. We would share three journalists as co-drivers rotating over the three-day event: Ed Heuvink from Holland, and Roland Lowisch and Kirsten Rehmann from Germany.

Entries ranged from a 1926 Amilcar and a 1927 Bugaffi to a 1972 Alfa Romeo and a 1973 Porsche.

The day before the start we were invited to the opening of yet another new Targa Florio museum, this time at Termini lmerese so now there are four! As is so often the case in retrospective race reunions, there was a certain amount of flexibility with the route compared with the past, as well as dramatic examples of the evolution of the automobile over the past 40 to 50 years. Leaving the official start at the University of Palermo, we were led out of town in groups onto the autostrada where Hans and I were not alone in being unable to keep up with our police escort on the way to the real start at the original pits at Cerda.

Leaving Cerda we followed the route of the Piccolo Madonie circuit to Caltavatura, then went through the mountains to begin a series of precision average speed tests on the EnnaPergusa circuit. Hans and I are still quite good at going fast, but neither he nor I, nor any of our co-drivers, were much good at slow-speed tests, as shown by the final results. Hans finished 82nd while I was 100th out of about 110 cars

at the finish! My old friend and rival Nanni Galli was 98th.

A long afternoon and evening saw us to the finish of day one at the magnificent Donnafugata Castle and its beautiful resort hotel.

Day two started at the Ragusa marina and led through one of Europe’s most beautiful little cities, Noto, before heading to the coast and what might well be Europe’s most notorious permanent traffic jam, Siracusa. Gaffing to the city centre, doing a tour of the island and gaffing out again meant spending a solid hour in first gear. Definitely not a place for the meek.

From Siracusa, we had a couple of hours of heavy rain before climbing the hairpin-strewn road to Taormina and its incredible theatre, erected first by the Greeks and then built over by the Romans. Here the organisers produced a first surprise with the roadbook taking the competitors through the middle of the city on its tiny, narrow pedestrian street. I suppose the idea was to excite the tourists taking their evening stroll after dinner by seeing the cars in their midst, as well as to give the drivers a unique view of what is normally a carfree environment, but I am not sure that either group really appreciated it.

Saturday dawned bright and clear, but during a couple of long sections around the slopes of Mount Etna the rain soon returned; and because of the altitude, the cold came with it. I resisted the temptation to put the top up, partly so the spectators could see us but also because with the low windshield the canvas top really gives a feeling of claustrophobia in the tiny car. Descending from the masses of dark brown solidified lava that have poured from Etna over the years we found a warm welcome and wonderful buffet lunch awaiting us at the winery Santa Anastasia. Another urban trip had been planned for Cefalu but it was having its own mini carnival which closed the streets to traffic. Since they are even narrower and much longer than those of Taormina this was perhaps not a bad thing.

Along the coast to Cerda, and then we set off on the Grande Circuit° Madonie: Cerda Caltavatura Casteliana Sicula Petralia Soffana Geraci Siculo Castebuono.., but then instead of continuing the original lap through Collesano and Campofelice we went straight to the Autostrada and then back to the University of Palermo. Pity, because Collesano and Campofelice figured in both the short and long Madonie Circuits over the life of this famous race and both have magnificent museums dedicated to it.

It seems almost superfluous to announce a winner after such a wonderful tour. Going fast was not the way to win, but for many drivers it was definitely a way to enjoy the route and their wonderful cars.

The prize-giving ceremony took place in the beautiful Politeama Garibaldi Theatre in Palermo on Sunday and many trophies were awarded, the most popular being that for first place overall taken by Giordano Mozzi, guided by his stopwatch-wielding mathematical co-driver his mother Irene Guarnieri.

*

City Challenge: Baku, Azerbaijan

The unlikely concept of motor racing in Azerbaijan became a reality in October as City Challenge hit Baku. The brainchild of German promoter Hartmut Beyer, the man behind the Bucharest street circuit, it took place on a track built in 11 days, measuring just over two kilometres and lined with nearly 1500 concrete blocks.

His idea was simple: take cars that people can get excited about. Hence, three days of activity centred around GT3 cars (for three races), Classic Grand Prix Cars (a mixture of proper Fl cars and Boss GP miscellany) and drifting. Off-track, there were concerts and entertainment for the younger fans, and while the Azerbaijani government had clearly spent many a euro on the occasion, it was rewarded with a cracking event and a big crowd. Even on Friday the stands were nearly full, as a curious audience delighted in a new sport it had never seen up close before.

The circuit was mostly first and second-gear corners but the drivers acknowledged it was a challenge, and the crowd cheered loudly throughout. Despite some heavy damage to a number of cars, the reaction of those involved was overwhelmingly positive. It was well-organised and they’d been given a warm welcome by a proud nation.

The only negative was a massive accident that befell Abba Kogan (March 761) after his throttle stuck open and he burrowed under a tyre wall, after which the car caught fire. Kogan thankfully escaped with minor burns.

Frédéric Makowiecki made history by winning the first race in the country in the Hexis McLaren MP4-12C, but the second race was stopped twice owing to oil on the track and accidents. Sunday’s double-driver race was won by Makowiecki and his co-driver Stef Dusseldorp. David Addison

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London to Brighton Veteran Car Run: London-Brighton, Great Britain

Braving at times torrential rain, 372 of the 449 starters completed the 2012 edition of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, the oldest motoring event in the world.

Stars including Sir Stirling Moss and Jochen Mass were cheered on by thousands of fans despite the poor weather as the pre-1905 veteran cars drove from London’s Hyde Park.

First to finish was Ian Moore from Hampshire, who crossed the finish line at 10.21am in his 1899 Panhard et Levassor, while the last competitor officially home was Derek Payne. He arrived at 4.38pm in a 1901 De Dion Bouton after many problems on the 60-mile route.

Other celebrity participants included Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, TV adventurer Charley Boorman and land speed record contender Andy Green. Along with Moss and Mass, all of them reached the finish. Mason, who has taken part every year since 1985, drove his 1901

Panhard et Levassor Roi-des-Belges, while Mass partnered Dr Alexander Schroeder-Frerkes in his 1904 Autocar. Sir Stirling and Lady Moss were passengers with Chris Jaques in a 1903 Panhard et Levassor, a car that has taken part in around 35 London to Brighton runs. Paul Lawrence

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Shanghai Six Hours: Shanghai, China

Audi drivers Andre Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler became the first world champions of endurance sports car racing in 20 years on a day that Toyota’s T5030 Hybrid again proved superior to its German rival’s R18 e-tron quaffro. The Audi trio sealed the title with third place, but Toyota’s Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre dominated the final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship at Shanghai.

Lofferer, Tréluyer and Fässler took the title with a conservative run that was always going to be more than enough to secure the honours, despite finishing a place behind their rivals and team-mates Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen. That was the good news for Audi; the bad news was the domination of the T5030, which made it 3-3 in its head-to-head meetings with the R18 in the WEC.

Toyota was on top from the word go on a circuit that favoured the T5030 in both layout and surface. The predominance of slow corners followed by long straights played into the hands of its supercapacitor energy-retrieval system, while the car’s high-downforce chassis looked affer its Michelin tyres on Shanghai’s smooth, low-grip asphalt.

The Toyota’s drivers needed to make 40 seconds on the chasing Audis in order to make what has become its de rigueur final splashand-dash fuel stop. It had built up that margin in the space of two hours.

Toyota’s dominance over the second half of the WEC, in what was billed as a test and development year for the T5030, must make the Japanese brand favourite for next year’s WEC and even its centrepiece at Le Mans. Audi has promised to react, but by its own admission it cannot produce the new car that many believe it needs.

Audi has stressed that its focus is the forthcoming 2014 rulebook and the all-new machine that will be required. That means it will race on with a further update of its R18 and its existing hybrid system, which it now admits is no match for Toyota’s.

Pat of that deficit is down to the so-called ‘120 Rule’, which prevents stored energy being returned to the track through the front wheels below 120kph (75mph), but the WEC rulemakers have confirmed that there will be no change in this rule for 2013.

Yet even Audi admits that this is only pat of the reason for its inferiority in the hybrid stakes. The Toyota system offers more of a punch because although it is bigger and heavier, that is compensated for by Toyota’s petrol engine being lighter than Audi’s turbodiesel power plant.

Audi now faces a busy winter’s development to try to claw back the gap to Toyota. Gary Watkins

*

Gold Coast 600: Surfers Paradise, Australia

The third instalment of the V8 Supercars Gold Coast 600 delivered familiar yet inspired results during the unique two-race, 300km format which pairs 28 drivers of international repute with the 28 V8 regulars at Surfers Paradise.

Sébastien Bourdais and Jamie Whincup kept up their top form from last year by winning the first race from pole position. The star duo almost did the double, only to lose an 11-second lead during one of several questionable safety car interventions.

Ford Performance Racing’s Will Davison and ex-Formula 1 driver Mika Salo would eventually triumph in race two, with Bourdais claiming his second consecutive Dan Wheldon Memorial Trophy, given in honour of the late Indy 500 winner to the international driver with the best average finishing position across both races.

A date conflict with the American Le Mans Series finale at Road Atlanta kept some regulars away but a number of new IndyCar Series names filled the void. Marco Andretti received high marks for his aerobatic displays over the chicanes. Marshall Pruett

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