Historic racing

Bellof’s racer back on the menu

Rescued from a Spanish restaurant, one of the last DFV F1 cars has been restored to its former glor

Back on track this summer for the first time in more than 30 years is Tyrrell 012 chassis number 2, one of the last Cosworth DFV-engined cars to run competitively in Formula 1.

The chassis was mainly raced by Stefan Bellof, who famously finished third on the road at the rain-soaked Monaco Grand Prix in 1984, but it has not run since being crashed at Detroit the following season. As the only non-turbo car on the Monaco grid, Bellof drove superbly in tough conditions to climb from 20th and last to third, only to be excluded months later over the car’s weight and ballast in the water tank.

When the car was crashed by Martin Brundle at Detroit in 1985 the bits were sold off and a couple of years ago Liaz Jakhara from Zul Racing in Derby resolved to get the car back to race-ready trim.

“I had quite a few of the bits and the chassis had been converted to look like a Ferrari Formula 1 car and it was on display at a restaurant in Spain,” said Jakhara. “I found it and brought it back and I had the gearbox case as well. It has not raced since Detroit.

“Luckily I had all the moulds and 90 per cent of the jigs. We’ve had to make the rest. The back of the tub was destroyed at Detroit so we had to start again with that. Everything else had to be re-made. I’ve rebuilt it as it ran at Monaco in 1984 where Bellof finished behind Senna in the rain. 

“Neil Davis was the head man at Tyrrell and he was a friend of mine. He was Ken’s right-hand man for many years. Sadly he passed away shortly before we got it running again. Now it belongs to Katsu Kubota and he will race it in Historic Formula 1.

“On and off, I’ve been working on it for about two years and full on since Christmas,” said Jakhara. “It’s looking good! We had a first test at Silverstone in May and Katsu flew in from Japan to drive the car.”

Thirty-two years after it last raced, the last of the Cosworth DFV-powered Grand Prix cars will return to racing in the 1984 livery of the late Bellof, one of motor racing’s greatest lost talents.

Reynard rewinds clock 

Adrian Reynard, one of the leading race car designers and manufacturers of his generation, returned to race one of his early designs recently when he drove a Reynard Formula Ford 2000 at Brands Hatch.

Reynard, now 66, raced his own designs through the 1970s and was back in one of the SF78s he last raced in 1979. Car owner James Lovett offered Reynard the chance to turn the clock back 38 years.

“The phone call from James came out of the blue,” said Reynard, who has more recently competed in a Radical SR3 sports-racer. “1979 was the last year I drove one of these and it was 40 years ago that I last drove on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit. It was lovely to be back in it, but I’m probably not quite as daring as I was in the 1970s.”

Reynard’s first cars were Formula Ford 1600s and he then progressed into the FF2000 slicks and wings category. “This was probably the most enjoyable era of my life. Back then I was designing every single piece of the car. They were real racing cars and had wings. I really enjoyed competing in Europe – I
just loaded up a Mercedes van and off we went.”

Those overseas trips earned him the 1979 FF2000 Euroseries title, but then his own racing took a back seat as the company rapidly expanded. It became the largest producer of racing cars at one point, with success right across single-seater racing, and came close
to an F1 entry.

Now, Reynard is racing purely for fun and enjoyed his single-seater return. “This is the car I drove in 1978 and I think I had my first FF2000 win in this car. I checked back and I sold it to a guy in Holland. I got more comfortable with it and I’d like to do a bit more.”

C for effort

Patrick Peter is planning a radical overhaul of the race calendar for the Group C series next year, in response to poor grids suffered by the category over the first half of the 2017 season. 

Group C racing is for the spectacular sports cars of the 1980s and has been promoted by several organisations over the last decade. For 2016 it transferred to the French-based Peter Auto but grid levels have been disappointing in recent months.

“The number of cars for each event has been uneven, but we had 44 participants at the Le Mans Classic in 2016, and more than 60 different cars during the 2016 season,” said Peter. “These figures made us too optimistic and we scheduled seven races for 2017. It is obviously too much. Thus, we are going to adopt a more reasonable calendar for 2018, with four meetings including the Le Mans Classic. We hope that we will reach an average of 25 cars for each of those four races, and we really hope to beat the record of 44 cars in the next Le Mans Classic.”

The current season started at Jarama with 12 cars and only 11 started the race weekends at Dijon and Monza (below), with just five cars finishing the second Monza event. There were 20 cars at Spa in May, but category insiders say the current calendar is not attracting drivers to the grid.

“Peter Auto is pushing car owners to support the races, but people are voting with their feet and didn’t want to race at Dijon or Monza,” said one car owner. “The entry fee of £3000 per weekend is another barrier to entry.”

Nuvolari honoured

The Historic Grand Prix Car Association is honouring the memory of Tazio Nuvolari this season with a new award for drivers of pre-1951 Grand Prix cars. The Association has been invited to engage with the Scuderia Tazio Nuvolari Italia and has commissioned a solid silver trophy that will be presented annually to the driver of a pre-1951 car competing in HGPCA races.