Zandvoort Historic GP

Sixty years after Alberto Ascari headed a Ferrari 1-2-3 in the inaugural World Championship Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, the wonderful seaside circuit’s first Historic GP event brought happy memories flooding back as the music of racing engines rang out through the dunes on September 1-2.

It has been 27 seasons since Zandvoort bowed out of Formula 1, with a photo finish between the McLaren-TAG turbo cars of Niki Lauda and Alain Prost in ’85, yet enthusiasm for racing – ingrained since the roller coaster track was opened in 1948 – has never waned in a town which depends on it and tourism.

A hard-won noise limit waiver laid the foundations for the showpiece’s three-year deal. Special attractions included a Saturday night cavalcade of race cars.

Star names – including double Le Mans winner Gijs van Lennep, Jan Lammers and Toine Hezemans - plus a heady mix of F1, F2, sports prototype, GT and touring cars of yesteryear guaranteed entertainment on one of Europe’s most challenging tracks. No wonder 31,500 spectators – the previous weekend’s DTM round drew 37,000 – rolled up.

Zandvoort-born Lammers headed the driving cast. The 1988 Le Mans winner (and veteran of 23 GP starts from 1979-92) anchored Michiel Campagne’s snarling Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport clone to a narrow Masters Gentlemen Drivers victory over the DHG team Cobras of Tom Coronel/David Hart and Hans Hugenholtz/Alex van der Lof.

Now 56, the ’78 European F3 champion also returned to his single-seater roots, accepting the offer of a Sunday HGPCA Pre-’66 race in Jan Biekens’ extraordinary replica of Olivier Gendebien’s Ferrari 156 ‘sharknose’. Jan drove it beautifully, of course, delighting fans by howling it halfway up the field from the back.

After Saturday winner Peter Horsman (Lotus 18/21) was penalised for a jump start, young Will Nuthall (Cooper T53) – who had chased relentlessly with Max Blees (Brabham BT7A) – deservedly scored his first HGPCA victory in race two. The front-engined Pre-’61 races fell to Philip Walker (Lotus 16) and Julian Bronson (Scarab), with Mark Valvekens (Gordini) and Adrian van der Kroft (HWM) duelling in their wake.

Driving a Lola T70 Spyder and Mk3B GT respectively, Dutchman David Hart was unstoppable in Sports Racing Masters and World Sportscar Masters. Martin Stretton went off in David Coplowe’s coupé on the final lap of the latter while catching Hart. Stretton’s reward came in Historic F2 where he thrashed his opposition, lapping quicker than the 3-litre F1 cars in his agile March 742.

Manfredo Rossi di Montelera piloted his Martini Racing Lotus 80 to the GP Masters double over Christophe d’Ansembourg’s McLaren M26. Despite only eight starters – legacy of damage sustained at last month’s Nürburgring OldtImer GP, a practice blow-up and a rash of no-shows – the Cosworth DFV cars looked and sounded stunning.

Highlight of the Gentlemen Drivers enduro was a fantastic scrap for fourth, behind the big bangers, between Andy Wolfe and Nelson Rowe in Lotus Elans. After numerous order changes and grassy excursions Rowe prevailed when Wolfe gyrated during lappery at the final corner. Local fans also cheered the gruff Porsche 904 – period mount of Dutch heroes Ben Pon and Rob Slotemaker – in which Michiel van Duivendijk and Prins Bernard van Orange won their class. Marcus Pye