Le Mans winner Andy Wallace was one of the stars of the inaugural GP Euro Series meeting at Donington Park, handling three cars from Duncan Dayton’s stable with class and approaching the event with his customary humility.
Dayton fielded three of his cars under the wing of Hoole Racing, and invited friend and former team-mate Wallace to sample historic racing.
With a Lotus 16, Brabham BT11 and Brabham BT33 at his disposal, Wallace was immediately given access to three iconic F1 designs from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
“The first time I went to a racetrack would have been in 1968, with my dad, when I was about seven years old,” said Wallace. “We saw quite a few F1 races and we walked around the paddock looking at cars that are not dissimilar to those here this weekend. It is fantastic to see these cars and that so much loving care and attention is being spent on them. It’s a bit of a flashback for me.”
Racing the front-engined Lotus 16 on Saturday represented Wallace’s first single-seater race for 19 years. In 1988 he completed the Formula 3000 season and turned his back on single-seaters in order to lay the foundations of a supremely successful sports car career.
“It’s incredible to get to drive some of these cars,” he said, even though changing weather conditions made it a challenging weekend for learning three very different GP cars. “The guys who used to drive these cars back in the day were brave as hell, weren’t they?
“When you think of people like Villeneuve and what he used to do in that Ferrari…” said Andy, letting the end of the sentence hang, not needing to add anything. “You look at some of them now and think, ‘That looks really, really crude.’ But way back then they developed some clever solutions to the problems.”
In a rare outing in a front-engined car Wallace won the HGPCA Pre-1961 race in the Lotus 16. “It’s front-engined and I did drive the Panoz,” he said with a grin, leaving unsaid the obvious chasm between the 1950s F1 car and a modern sports-prototype. “You don’t have the pendulum effect, so you can hang it out more easily, but you are so far back in the car that you get the feeling that you’re more sideways than you really are,” he explained. “It’s quite a hoot! You can turn the steering wheel on the 16 and it does make a slight difference, but not much. I look over to where I want to go and it gets over there somehow.”
Starting the Brabham BT33 from pole in the Grand Prix Masters – earned when Dayton won the first race – was a baptism of fire, as Wallace had not run in qualifying because of gearbox problems. Meanwhile, a flat battery halted a strong run in the Brabham BT11 in the Pre-1966 Grand Prix car race. He reckoned that the BT11 reminded him of the Formula Ford Hawke DL11 he’d raced 25 years ago while still an apprentice gas fitter in Oxford, albeit with rather more power.
“It’s very kind of Duncan to allow me into his cars and I’ve had a fantastic time,” said Wallace. “The atmosphere here is wonderful.”