Events of the month

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Grand Prix de Monaco Historique

Notionally this was the 10th Grand Prix de Monaco Historique, though at times it felt more like an unofficial Formula Junior Festival, more than 40 front-engined cars having been gathered for the occasion. The entry was such that two qualifying heats were scheduled, despite which every driver was permitted to start the final. Science is powerless to explain the Automobile Club de Monaco’s rationale: best just to sit back and enjoy the show. 

Highlight of the weekend should have been the closing race, for 3-litre Formula 1 cars from 1973-76. It was a triumph for glorious diversity, both sonic and visual, but 41 cars lined up – and there are good reasons why Monaco once restricted its Grand Prix grid to 16. A rolling start was imposed in a bid to dilute potential chaos, but Stuart Hall’s stricken McLaren was dropped by a ‘recovery’ crane before the race began in earnest and a safety car then triggered further mayhem by exiting the pitlane in the middle of the accelerating pack, a few drivers subsequently hitting each other in the confusion. The red flag came out while marshals cleared the mess, after which former Grand Prix racer Alex Caffi (Ensign N176) won comfortably from the closely matched Katsu Kubota (March 761) and Joe Twyman (Shadow DN8), with Emanuele Pirro (Ferrari 312B3) completing the top four. It was the only time all day that a non-British national anthem was played.

On his maiden visit to the principality – and first time out in a Lola Mk2 – Jonathan Hughes took a comfortable Formula Junior victory after early leader Joe Colasacco (Stanguellini) spun at Mirabeau. Colasacco recovered from eighth to third before another mistake dropped him back again. Christian Traber (Lola Mk2) and Ray Mallock (U2 Mk2) completed the podium, the latter competing in Monaco for the first time (although the car knew its way around, his father Arthur having raced it here in 1964). Colasacco and Hughes won Saturday afternoon’s two heats, although Chris Drake (Terrier) would have taken the first without a jump-start penalty that dropped him to third. He would be a first-lap casualty in the final.

History records that there weren’t too many 1-2 finishes for Tec-Mec and Scarab in period, but Tony Wood and Julian Bronson were the class of the field in the Pre-61 race for F1 and F2 cars, with Roger Wills (Lotus 16) an in-touch third. Ian Nuthall (Alta) was best of the F2 runners, in seventh.

Andy Middlehurst (Lotus 25) completed a hat-trick of Monaco victories in the 1.5-litre F1 race, after passing Joe Colasacco’s Ferrari 1512 in a superbly judged move at Mirabeau on the second lap. Martin Stretton threatened to be a nuisance in the Scirocco, which he handled with wonderful aplomb during qualifying, but a broken driveshaft put him out after just half a lap. Dan Collins (Lotus 21) completed the top three.

Chris Ward picked up a couple of practice knocks while hurling JD Classics’ C-type Jaguar through the streets, but the patched-up car – twice previously a winner here in Alex Buncombe’s hands – was no slower for a couple of scuffs. Fred Wakeman (Cooper-Jaguar) and Till Bechtolsheimer (Allard) joined him on the podium. John Ure (Cooper T24) should have started on pole, but a slower car moved across on him in qualifying and a glancing blow translated into a significant impact that precluded further participation. 

Before his misfortune in the most modern F1 joust, Stuart Hall dominated the 1966-72 race in the Rofgo Collection’s McLaren M19A, a beautifully judged performance that put him almost 40sec clear of Max Hilliard-Smith (Surtees TS9B). Charles Nearburg’s Brabham BT33 suffered a tweaked front wing in the early stages, but his closest rivals’ more serious maladies enabled him to salvage third.

During the race, a cheer from the portside yachts signalled that Max Verstappen had taken the lead in the Spanish GP… while Red Bull aero architect Adrian Newey was concurrently on course for a slightly less conspicuous success. He took his Lotus 49B to a class-winning seventh, one lap behind Hall.The weekend’s most disappointing element was the absence of a race for pre-war cars, which were restricted to two rather dreary demonstration runs – longer than most of the races, at half an hour apiece – that added nothing to the spectacle. It could also be said that there’s scope to incorporate more than six races and a couple of pointless qualifying heats over the course of two and a half days…

The event is a magnificent slice of sporting theatre, but with a little more thought it could be better yet. Simon Arron

Donington Historic Festival

Even the capricious British spring weather could not derail the sixth Donington Historic Festival as the first major event of the European season brought together an expansive array of leading categories.

Spread across three long days and 17 races, including several hour-long contests, the Donington Festival is all about the racing as many cars emerge from winter rebuilds.

Ironically, the low point of the weekend should have been a key feature as the three-hour race for the 1000Km series cars ran into the early evening on Saturday. Unfortunately, only a dozen cars came to the line and rather proved that demand for long races, particularly at this stage of the season, is muted. A better-supported feature race will doubtless take this prime slot in 2017.

That race aside, grids were strong and racing was competitive, regardless of track conditions. Some of the worst weather arrived during Monday’s Jaguar Classic Challenge opener as the heavens opened, but that did little to hinder Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie who duly splashed Thomas’s E-type to a stylish victory. This was recompense for the GT and Sports Car Cup event 24 hours earlier, when Thomas had the gearlever come off in his hand.

Over the preceding two days, Lockie starred in Sean Danaher’s Maserati 6CM within the pair of Nuvolari Trophy pre-war Grand Prix car races. In Saturday’s wet and oily race, Lockie had even less grip than most as oil leaks from the Maserati’s rear hubs ensured the 1938 voiturette spun its wheels in every gear.

On Sunday, Lockie and Saturday race winner Michael Gans (ERA R11B) had a mighty lead contest as they went wheel to wheel and it was only finally decided in Lockie’s favour by seven tenths of a second.

Showing the event’s reach, other races ranged from the ‘Mad Jack’ Trophy for pre-war sports to the Super Touring Trophy for cars as little as 16 years old. However, top of the tin-top pile was the opening round of the Historic Touring Car Challenge with a mighty 40-car grid for the rejuvenated series. Chris Ward and Steve Soper – with an ex-Broadspeed Ford Capri from JD Classics – proved too strong a package for the rest of the field. Ward also stormed to victory in the Stirling Moss Trophy for 1950s sports cars in the JD Lister Costin. Paul Lawrence