Nurburgring historics

Old racing cars never die… they may fade away for a bit, but sooner or later someone cares for them and gives them a new lease of life. Over the week-end of August 14/15th it seemed that most of Europe’s old racing and sports cars had assembled at the Nurburgring for the 4th Internationales Rennen fur Historische Renn-und Sportwagen. This was run by the Automobilclub von Deutschland with the co-operation of the Club Historische Renn-und Sportfahrzeuge Nurburgring, who by dint of much hard work by their Rennleiter Hanspeter Nyffeler and a little financial inducement attracted a very large number of competitors from all countries of Western Europe, including a very good contingent from the UK. No doubt the growing reputation of this meeting for its quality, efficiency and friendliness over the past three years helped. This year was no exception and the superb weather was an added bonus. As usual the races were run over the 2.292-km. Star-und Zeilschleife which in shape at least is reminiscent of Avus with its two straights and two corners, one sharp and one not. Many of the competitors would have much preferred to have been racing on the magnificent 22-km. Nordsehleife, unlike many of the Grand Prix stars a fortnight earlier.

The large, oversubscribed, entry catered for everything built since World War One until the end of 1960, being divided into the FIA recognised categories of Vintage (1919-1930), Classic (1931-1940) and Historic (1941-1960). Such was the size of the entry that it was divided into no less than twenty classes by engine size, and if that was not enough three-wheelers, vintage motorcycles -and combinations were catered for, and there was even class for Messerschmitt Tiger bubble cars! The two days were packed with events almost non-stop, each driver getting two practice sessions and two races, while an extra race at the end called the Matadorenlauf was run for the fastest twenty competitors irrespective of type or age. In all there were thirty-six sessions and the marshals had little or no break from the moment things began at 7.15 in the morning!

It would be impossible in a short report to record in detail exactly what happened in every race, so only highlights can be mentioned. One such was an all 328 BMW race to celebrate 40 years since this famous sports model was introduced, of which, incidentally, only some 420 or so were made. Surprisingly, the fastest four on the grid were piloted by British drivers, with Michael Bowler in Tony Hutchings’ red car in pole position. Although he won his second heat easily, a mysterious lots of power dropped him to Sixth in the first heat, so the overall winner was Philip Selwyn-Smith ahead of Mike Campbell and Mike Barker. On aggregate times Mike Bowler was fourth. His former 1940 Mile Miglia version, now owned by BMW themselves, was driven in this race by none other than its original pilot Husehe von Hanstein. Incidentally, Karl Kling demonstrated the W196 Mercedes-Benz GP car in an interval.

The main event for vintage sports and Single-seaters with classic sports cars was dominated by Anthony Blight and Stephen Curtis in their 105 Talbots. Anthony was lucky to make the grid having had a rare failure of the Talbot’s back axle the week before at Osterreichring and instead of doing some Alp-bashing came back on a train while Martin Morris brought out spare parts to the ‘Ring. Tony Manson did well in his little 1500 Riley Special to just hold off Wood’s big Invicta low-chassis 4 1/2. Other British competitors were Tom Threlfall (Lancia Lambda), Trisha Pilkington (Alfa Romeo 1750 SS) and the Marsh brothers with their 30/98 Vauxhalls. Amongst the single-seaters were six Bugattis, of which the fastest, Marc Nicolesi’s 1924 Type 35, was probably also the oldest and most original. Sadly in his second heat he retired when a Dunlop Cord punctured. Luigi Castelbarco produced one of the rare 1927 1,100-c.c. supercharged six-cylinder Amilcars, but fitted regrettably with a new Alfa Giulia 5-speed gearbox!

The post-war Historic Sports and GT race was a Philip Renault benefit, his modified Jaguar XK120 walking away with both heats. Hans Glaser from Freiburg gave chase in a fixed-head XK120 and just held off Ed Swarts 250 SWB Ferrari in the first heat, but slowed in the second to finish third overall. The Ferrari was very well driven and was only half-a-second behind the Jaguar in Heat 2. Van der Lof was fourth overall in another 250 SWB ahead of fellow Dutchman Han Van Willigen in his DB4GT Aston Martin. James Murray did well to get his DB2/4 Aston into eighth overall ahead of a 300SL Mercedes and a DB4.

The well-supported race for the smaller Historic sports and single-seaters had an entry from the Porsche factory no less, a 1959 RS60 to be driven by current racing manager Manfred Jantke. In both his heats he made a poor start and had to work hard to catch Mike Ottroumotr’s little Lola Mk. I and managed to beat him by less than a second.In the second heat Mike drove brilliantly and kept the 1,220-c.c. Climax,engined car in front for the whole 10 laps, to the amazement of all the Germans, but lost out on aggregate by a fraction of a second. Another good drive was put in by Frenchman Bernard Thevenot in another Porsche RS60 for third place. Maseratis were handled by the colourful Graf Von Doenhoff (who also has an Auto-Union but without engine) and Baron Von Hammerstein in an A6G SS. The little DB-Panhard single-seaters of Dubois and Berton came fifth and sixth.

The fastest race was for Classic and Historic single-seaters together with Historic sportsracers, and was dominated by Lister Jaguars, of which five were -entered. Philip Renault’s shed a wheel in practice and non-started and John Harper’s “new” car (with familiar MVE registration) struck fuel-pump trouble in both heats and retired after contesting the lead. This left David Ham with a clear and popular win from Bert Young (the 1975 winner) and Barry Simpson. Von Doenhoff’s 450S Maserati (driven by Manfred Rimbock) had to be content with fourth, while Paul Shouwenberg from Holland drove his 1954 Monza Ferrari brilliantly to fifth but could not overcome the power disadvantage on this circuit. Martin Morris (ERA) was sixth and winner of the single-seater class, but only after overtaking Richard Pilkington’s Lago-Talbot at half distance. Mixing it with them both was Peter Martin’s sports Maserati which has the almost unique 2 1/2-litre four-cylinder engine. Van der Lof had his superb 4 1/2-litre 1951 GP Ferrari going well and was second in class to Pilkington and ahead of the little F2 Climax-engined Coopers of Arthur Curnow and Ken Moore. Behind Morris in the prewar class were the Manns, Peter in ERA and Chris in 8C Monza Alfa. Dan Margulies had his 1939 4C s/c. Maserati going well for once and beat Dudley Gahagan’s ERA.

The final event of this full two-day meeting was over 15 laps and for the fastest 20 competitors overall. This was perhaps the best race of all . as John Harper got his Lister to last more than a few laps and contested the lead closely with David Ham until David pulled off with an overheating engine, leaving Harper to come home with the Trophy. Bert Young was a steady and safe-looking second, but after Barry Simpson’s pit stop, third place was hotly contested by Philip Renault, Paul Schouwenberg, Richard Pilkington, Manfred Jantke and Mike Ostroumoff. It was the latter who forced his white Lola to the flag in third place ahead of the XK120, the Monza Ferrari, the RS60 and the Lago Talbot. Peter Martin, although lapped, put his 250S just ahead of the Martin Morris ERA.

The prize-giving was a very jolly affair and the trophies that Were given away were truly magnificent and seemingly endless. The number of racing miles covered during the weekend must have been enormous but the meeting ran happily accident free. This is now established as the leading European historic race meeting, and one wonders just what the AvD will come up with in 1977, the fiftieth anniversary of the magnificent Nurburgring. B.K.J.