'Euro Classics' called off at last moment

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The unforeseen ‘postponement’ of the one-off Reims retro and the cancellation of the traditional Trophee des Ardennes meeting at SpaFrancorchamps has robbed Historic racers of the opportunity to compete on two of Europe’s most challenging road circuits.

Promocourse International, the Paris-based organisation which had put together a sensational package under the banner ‘1997 Reims 12 Hours — Return of a Legend,’ was forced to call the July 5-6 meeting off in late May, just a week after the Belgian classic foundered.

‘The political situation which has affected France for the past month leaves no alternative hut to postpone this festival to a later date,’ said a terse statement from Promocourse’s Jean Francois Rageys. ‘We stress that it has been postponed, not cancelled.’

Organisers had already met demands to restore the pits, paddock, grandstands and public areas to their original condition in an effort to recreate an historically accurate picture of the Reims-Gueux en Champagne circuit as it was last used in 1969.

But the summer’s French general election allegedly contrived to stall the bureaucratic machine, and overrunning road works in the area would mean diversions onto the Route Nationale 31 — the former Grand Prix track’s incredible main straight. ‘We cannot accept the idea of running over a shortened course,’ said Promocourse.

Around 250 competitors from around the world, including Sir Jack Brabham, had pledged their support for the event, which was scheduled to feature an authentic 12-hour Sports Prototype race (starting at midnight) and events for Vintage, GT, Touring and Grand Prix cars through the ages.

The cancellation of the SpaFrancorchamps event, two weeks before its May 24-25 date, apparently stems from default in payments to the circuit for last year’s meeting. The new organiser of the 1997 event, French based Rayon d’Action, was faced with the ultimatum of paying last year’s debt (believed to be in excess of £50,000) at the same time as this year’s circuit hire fee or calling it off.

‘It is a racket against the organisers,’ said a spokesman. ‘We were asked to pay a great deal of money which we do not owe and could not accept that. We have 400 competitors who want to race at Spa, but it is not possible on those terms.’