Racing luminaries from then and now shone when the GP Euro Series made an impressive and highly entertaining debut at Donington Park. Paul Lawrence reports
Virtuoso performances from racing legends Brian Redman, Jackie Oliver and Andy Wallace headlined the first running of a GP Euro Series race meeting. While other historic festivals fête the celebrities, pay their expenses and put them on show, this trio was in action for the pure love of racing. Having three star names wandering around the paddock, chatting to fans and enjoying the whole thing, helped make this a successful start for the alliance between the Historic Grand Prix Car Association and the Masters Racing Series. Its programme was crammed with quality events and grids were generally excellent.
An impressive paddock set-up encouraged fans to get close to the cars in an informal atmosphere, and at a venue where getting any size of crowd seems to be a challenge, the spectator turn-out was acceptable.
There were a few negatives. An endless series of driver changes left everyone, notably the expert commentary crew, regularly in the dark as to who was driving what. Relying, at times, on the ability of a commentator to identify a driver from his crash helmet is no way to communicate with the audience at a high-profile historic festival.
Fortunately, the quality of the on-track action was excellent. A truly epic Grand Prix Masters race, a wonderful Chevron B16 battle between Redman and Oliver, and an absorbing Sports Racing Masters contest were among the highlights.
“He kept me honest, didn’t he?” said James Hanson with a broad smile after the second Grand Prix Masters race of the weekend. The former European Touring Car racer had worked incredibly hard to stave off the dogged Frank Sytner, in a battle that was denied the explosive finish it deserved when the DFV in Sytner’s Penske PC3 failed with a lap to go.
Duncan Dayton had won with a typical charge in Sunday’s opening race in his Brabham BT33 as Hanson’s March 761 struggled with a grained front tyre. Dayton then handed his car over to his mate Wallace for Monday’s race. “I hadn’t driven the car before I sat on pole,” admitted Wallace. “I was sitting there wondering what I was doing.”
Wallace held on for a couple of laps before recognising that learning about a car with a train of four more classic F1 cars snapping at your heels is perhaps not wise. Eventually, it came down to Hanson against Sytner.
The Redman v Oliver contest, between men who were team-mates in Porsche 917s over three decades ago, came in the World Sportscar Masters race on Monday. While Leo Voyazides romped away for a second win of the weekend in his freshly rebuilt Lola T280, Redman and Oliver had a ball in borrowed Chevron B16s until Redman had a spin.
In Sports Racing Masters, Mark Hales climbed back into the cockpit of an Attila for the first time in 20 years, took it by the scruff of the neck and romped clear before handing it over to owner Charles Cook to complete the job. Preparation aces Simon Hadfield and Andy Newall teamed up in Irvine Laidlaw’s Ford GT40 and chased hard until Newall had a spin at the chicane. With his Alfa Romeo T33 still being finished, Jon Minshaw concentrated on racing his Lola T70 Spyder and Jaguar E-type. He was less than amused to be bundled into the gravel at the first corner in the Lola, but shared the Jag with younger brother Jason to score a commanding Gentleman Drivers’ win.