Trophée des Ardennes

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The feature event of the 9th Trophée des Ardennes Historic meeting over the classic Spa-Francorchamps circuit in May was the annual HGPCA 100-mile race for pre-1959 Grand Prix and F2 cars.

For the first time the event was scheduled to be a one-part race with one compulsory pit-stop and the option of a driver-change. Sadly, it did not run the full distance following delays as a result of an accident in the Steigenberger Supersports race, but still ran to a respectable 81 miles. Comfortably fastest in practice was Nigel Corner in the Corner family 250F Maserati from expatriate Welshman Lindsay Owen-Jones’ ex-Bamford Piccolo 250F closely followed by Nick Mason’s 250F, shared with Gary Pearson. From the start (the traditional downhill starting-grid being used for this meeting) Corner was first through Eau Rouge from Owen-Jones and a fast-starting Martin Stretton in Beasley’s 2-litre Cooper-Bristol to take a lead he was to hold to the finish, although the Maserati was trailing an ominous cloud of oil smoke over the closing laps as Owen-Jones closed to within 1/5th second at the flag. Stretton’s race lasted a scant five laps before engine trouble halted a promising drive, with the Mason/Pearson 250F taking third followed home a few seconds adrift by Robin Lodge/Tony Merrick in the former’s ex-Gilby 250F. Jeffrey Pattinson nursed his ex-Moss example to fifth with no oil pressure, and Richard Pilkington was first non-Maserati finisher in sixth with the Totnes Motor Museum Talbot Lago. First pre-war finisher was Ludovic Lindsay sharing ERA ‘Remus’ with Alain de Cadenet, who was lucky to extricate himself from the gravel trap soon after taking over, on his first experience in the car.

A superb entry for the European Historic F2 Championship was bolstered with pre-’77 F1, F3 and F5000 cars, and after a damp practice dominated by Alain Filhol’s Lotus 69 it was current champion, Swiss Freddy Kumschick, who anihilated the opposition with his similar car, with John Harper emerging as best of the rest after a fierce battle with Lotus team-mates Filhol and Steve Hitchins.

The 1950’s Sports Car Race encompassed some 1960 cars not regularly seen, but it was regular protagonists Frank Sytner, Gary Pearson and Lindsay Owen-Jones who produced a splendidly close fought battle for the lead which went the full race distance and which became a little fraught on occasions, Sytner in the Bamford ‘D’ Type Jaguar taking the lead from the short-nosed Andrew Baber version driven by Gary Pearson and Owen-Jones’ 3-litre Birdcage Maserati. Sytner was displaced by the Birdcage with a few laps to go while Pearson held third, well clear of the rumbling Lister Chevrolet of Steve Griswold, and John Harper with the Dutch Motor Museum’s ‘D’ Type, while Nick Mason completed the top six in his 2-litre Birdcage Maserati.

The race for pre-’65 Rear-Engined Single Seaters produced the hardest-fought contest of the weekend, between Alan Baillie (Braham BT14 Twin-Cam) and Simon Hadfield (Lotus 22). The pair frequently arrived side-by-side at La Source hairpin, eventually resulting in contact, which saw both cars come to a halt on the exit, Baillie accelerating away downhill with nosecone pointing skywards. Next lap the Brabham was entirely devoid of its nose and top body section and on the final lap a do-or-die effort resulted in another dose of contact. but on this occasion Hadfield kept going as Baillie came to a halt once more, to take victory. Third place went to Thomas Bscher’s glorious BRM P261, reviving memories of Hill and Ginther in Belgian GPs of the early ’60s.

The honour of being the fastest man of the meeting fell to German Wido Roessler in the Steigenberger Supersports race, who, after recovering from a spin which cost him second place, and possibly even a win, hauled his ex-Soames Langton McLaren M6B up to fifth. After being red-flagged on the second lap when Dutchman Dick Waaijenberg planted his McLaren M8C over the barriers at Les Combes, after colliding with Kent Abrahamsson’s Chevron, Charlie Agg led the curtailed re-run in his M8F McLaren from start to finish, with 2-litre cars filling the next three places headed by John Sheldon (Chevron B19) from Ed Swart (B19) and Sean Walker (Toj 205). Probably the most outstanding drive of the race came from Helen Bashford (B19) who, although finishing sixth, set second fastest lap, only .43 seconds slower than Roessler.

Other British successes went to Tony Thompson (Lotus Elan 26R) who beat Denis Welch (Healey 3000) in the pre-’65 GT race, while Steve Williams (MGBGT V8) won the MG/Triumph/Morgan/Healey Challenge from the MGB V8 of Paul Canfield. Trevor Needham (Ginetta G4) was runner-up to Swiss Marcel Hayoz (Lotus 23) in the pre-’65 Sports Car race. A S D C

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