Curtain-Raiser

British and Czech interests got together on 30 September/1 October to present a new development in historic racing — a major race meeting on the other side of the old Iron Curtain.

The venue was the ultra-modern Brno autodrome in the Czech Republic, which hosted the final 1995 rounds of both the FIA Cup for Thoroughbred Grand Prix Cars and the International Super Sports Cup.

Champion-elect Martin Stretton impressed in the El field with fastest qualifying time in the first of two sessions at the wheel of Simon Bull's Tyrrell 005, one of the oldest cars in the field, and although Sean Walker put the Classic Team Lotus 87B on pole in the second session, the Tyrrell retained a front-row position ahead of Ermanno Ronchi (Brabham BT49) and the rest. However, another pre-race favourite, John Fenning (Williams FW07), was forced to sit out both sessions while an ignition-timing problem was sorted out.

The first -three set off in grid order, but Ronchi slipped into second on the second lap and Stretton could do nothing about it. The three leaders drew away from the pack and became slightly separated, leaving Bob Berridge (RAM 03), Ian Giles (Tyrrell 012) and Mike Littlewood (Shadow DN9) disputing fourth place for 13 of the 15 laps. At that point Giles retired with an electrical problem and Littlewood was finally able to pass Berridge, whose brakes were now fading.

Fenning had meanwhile stormed into seventh place in the 23-car field after only three laps and had caught and passed the Berridge/Giles/Littlewood pack within another eight laps.

Ronchi, seemingly assured of his best placing of the series in his Ecclestone-owned car, pulled off with fuel-pump failure two laps from the end, which left Walker to take a deserved win from Stretton, Fenning, Littlewood and Berridge.

By winning the class for older cars Stretton confirmed his position as the first FIA Cup winner, following his success in taking the 1994 European Historic F2 title. Both his March 712 last year and the Tyrrell in 1995 were engineered by Derek Gardner, the F1 car's original designer. The only other possibility for the F1 title, John Wilson, was away getting married, and in fact dropped behind Walker on the final points table.

Charles Agg (McLaren M8F) was overall winner of the Super Sports Cup race winning Saturday's heat by a clear margin from Richard Eyre's similar car and chasing Eyre home in the other race. Chris Chiles in his M6B version was third on both occasions.

From a championship viewpoint the interest in this event was in Class D, where veteran John Burton (ex-Lauda Chevron B19) had to beat Ian Barrowman (Martin BM8) to take the overall title. This he succeeded in doing in Saturday's race, and although a spin on Sunday left him behind his rival, combined times were enough to give him the title — by 0.66sec. Having twice finished runner-up in the European 2-litre Sportscar Championship in the early 1970s, Burton was delighted to have finally won an international title.