The Judgement of Paris

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Today is a significant day as the Special Correspondent turns 80 although you would never know it to speak to him or to read his wonderful articles. In defiance of convention the Birthday Boy gives us all a present, his thoughts and reflections of the recent Rétromobile. The show is without doubt one of the highlights of the motoring year, the 2018 edition maintained the high standard set by its predecessors. So please enjoy this cornucopia of automotive ‘Rare and Interesting’.

This is a Matra-Bonnet Djet and is the result of Engins Matra taking over the assets of René Bonnet’s small sports car company in 1965. These cars were made initially in Bonnet’s factory at Champigny-sur-Seine before production was transferred to their own plant at Romorantin.

One of the surviving pre-war prototypes of the 2CV Citroën. The car was designed to carry four people and 50 kilos of luggage at 50 km/h in great comfort. Its introduction was delayed by the declaration of war and it was finally presented to the public at the 1948 Paris Salon.

A Talbot Lago, a Coupé America of 1962, and one of the very last of this famous name.

Simca took over the Talbot Lago marque and its factories in 1958 and went on to complete just five more of these elegant coupés, equipping them with their Simca Vedette V8 engines.

With a 4-cylinder 951 c.c. engine, this Renault Type KG1 was the company’s response to the big popular demand for cars after the First World War. The early Renaults were characterised like this one by their scuttle-mounted radiators and it was only at the 1929 Paris Salon that policy changed and their cars henceforth had their radiators mounted at the front. A wide choice of bodywork was available and this cabriolet dates from 1923.

A one-off Siata built for 500 c.c. class records. It is based on an upgraded Fiat Topolino chassis with the engine reduced to 488 c.c. The bodywork was by Motto of Turin and Borrani made special wheels.

First seen at the Geneva Show in 1947, the Maserati A6 1500 was the company’s first true production road car. The elegant body was by Pinin Farina and the car was in the vanguard of the evolution of the GT car. An example, in the hands of Franco Bordoni, won the 1500 class in the May 1949 Coppa Inter Europa at Monza, the first race for GT cars. This car dates from 1949.

The Renault Type A G was the first proper Parisian taxi. From 1905 it gained in popularity despite customers reluctantly giving up the horse-drawn equivalents. It achieved immortal fame as the type of Renault which became known as the “Taxis de la Marne” when General Joffre needed urgent reinforcements to repel the German attack threatening Paris in 1914. It had a 2-cylinder engine of 1206 c.c.

A 1912 Mercer Type 35 Raceabout. This car was the work of Finlay Robertson Porter and it put the company of Trenton, New Jersey, on the American motoring map. It had a 4916 c.c. T–head engine and was capable of 75 m.p.h. It was often raced and would usually be driven to and from events. Two raced in the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, finishing in 12th and 15th  positions; in 1912 one came 3rd while a year later a Mercer finished 2nd. Its great rival was the Stutz Bearcat and their respective fans would taunt each other with remarks such as “There’s no car worser than a Mercer” and “You’ve got to be nuts to drive a Stutz”!

This 1950 Jaguar XK120  was raced privately in period and came 9th and 2nd in class in the first Goodwood Nine Hours race in August 1952.

A Peugeot Type 176. This model was introduced in 1925 and was made in the factory at Issy-les- Moulineaux in southern Paris. It had a 4-cylinder sleeve-valve engine of 2493 c.c., being classified as a 12CV. The body was by Ets Charles Felber. During the Twenties Peugeot used sleeve-valve engines for all their larger capacity models.

There is no longer any trace of the original Citroën 2CV Barbot so this is a replacement – its history is too interesting to ignore. It was the dream of the engineer Pierre Barbot to transform a 2CV into a competition car – he cut off the roof, shortened the chassis, lowered the suspension, changed the aerodynamics and modified the engine extensively while reducing the capacity to less than 350 c.c. to qualify for records in Class J. On the 27th September 1953 Barbot and Vinatier father and son, aided by Yacco oils, drove the car at Montlhéry for 12 hours at an average of 90,960 km/h and for 24 hours at an average of 85,02 km/h, breaking 9 international records. Jean Vinatier also drove the car in the 1953 Bol d’Or at Montlhéry,  car no. 80, finishing in 19th position and winning its class. Interestingly in homage to the records, this replica ran on the track at Montlhéry in 2016 for 6 consecutive hours at an average of 104,31 km/h; among the drivers was a certain Jean Vinatier.

Velam was the Isetta bubble car made under licence in France and the company built this special car with a 236 c.c. motor to tackle records in Class K ( under 250 c.c.). At Montlhéry in 1957 drivers Bianchi and Peslier won seven international records including 24 hours at an average of 109,662 km/h. This is the actual car that achieved those successes.

This is one of two Guépards built in Paris between 1952 and 1953 by S.E.R. It is the car for Paul Bobet and has a tuned Renault 4CV engine and originally a barchetta body by Pichon.

 

It raced in the 1954 Bol d’Or with Bobet finishing 22nd and after an accident Bobet decided to have it re-bodied with the intention of making an attempt on the world records for the 750 class.

 

Marcel Riffard designed the new body which was similar to those he had done for Panhard’s Le Mans cars; it was made by Heuliez. The car took on the new name of Riffard-Renault. In 1956 it was raced at Montlhéry but again it was involved in an accident.

At the 1927 Paris Salon Chenard et Walcker presented two new sporting cars: this one, the ”Tank” Type Y8, a 1500 c.c. with an i.o.e. engine conceived by the engineer Toutée. It was based on the very successful racing “tanks” of 1925 and although a road car it was to be found in private hands on race tracks (one ran in the 1931 Spa 24 Hour race) and in the hugely popular Concours d’Elégances.

On the neighbouring stand a Chenard-Sénéchal, a roadster with more conventional body with cycle wings – the Y7 “Torpille” which used the same engine. In 1928 the Sénéchal name was dropped ( Chenard had been making the popular Sénéchals for Robert Sénéchal in the preceding years).

This Y7 saloon was 4,000 Francs more expensive than the roadster and did not find public approval!

Industrialist Jérôme Donnet bought the Zedel concern in 1919 and produced cars of conventional design to become France’s fifth largest car manufacturer by 1927. He then acquired the Vinot Deguingand company with their factory at Nanterre which he expanded considerably and inherited a 4CV design which he produced as the Donnette. This is unusual in having a twin cylinder 740 c.c. 2-stroke engine designed by the engineer Marcel Violet, the acknowledged master of the 2-stroke cycle. Possibly about 100 only were made and this car is thought to date from c.1932.

Marcel Violet presented his cyclecar in 1924 with a 496 c.c. air-cooled flat twin 2-stroke engine. It scored numerous successes, claiming in 1925 alone the Championship of France, two world records and winning all the major races in the 500 c.c. category. This car dates from 1925.

Think of Amilcars and we tend to remember the sporting CC, CS, CGS and CGSS but over the years Amilcar had developed a range of tourers and at the 1928 Paris Salon the Model M was introduced. This Model M3 came in October 1931 and had a lowered chassis, powered by a 4-cylinder side-valve engine of 1244 c.c.

This strange looking machine is a Dolo. It was first seen at the Paris Salon in October 1947 and subsequently at Brussels and Geneva. It had a 592 c.c. horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine driving the front wheels and all-round independent suspension by torsion bars. It had a rigid box type chassis and the roof was a “plexiglass” dome, a new material at that time. During 1948 two cars travelled across France, visiting fairs etc. This came to be stored under the Autodrome at Montlhéry and was rediscovered in 1967.

The Deep Sanderson 301 Coupé which made the marque’s first (of three) appearance at Le Mans in 1963. It used Mini mechanicals set transversely amidships (before the Miura!) and was driven by Chris Lawrence and Chris Spender before being flagged-off for covering insufficient distance.

TAILPIECE

Fernand Maratuech was an inventor/constructer who lacked the means to build his own aeroplane so he made this “aeroplane without a wing”. He used a 250 c.c. single-cylinder motor-cycle engine and covered more than 5,000 kilometres in his 3-wheeler.

David Blumlein, February 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light Blue Touch Paper

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The first rays of sunshine arrive from the East, over the Atlantic. For those still circulating at Daytona International Speedway it signals that they have made it through the dark………the Chequered Flag is almost in sight……

Not for everyone though, some will suffer the heartbreak of a late problem at the Rolex 24. Daylight is visible in the sky as James Weaver punches onto the Tri-Oval banking after the Bus Stop at NASCAR Three. Under acceleration the Ford V8 emits a blue flame, a signal confirming the damage to an exhaust valve, dramatically reducing power. A 27 lap lead over the pack would evaporate, as following the demise of the Cadillac SRP challenge, the Viper/Vette GT train gained a handful of seconds every lap. The clocked ticked away, the gap shrank, the maths played out and the inevitable happened, victory slipped from the Poughkeepsie team’s grasp. The only consolation to “the death of a thousand cuts” would come later in the season when the 45 points scored by James Weaver for staggering round to fourth place would give him the inaugural Grand-Am Drivers’ Title.

John Brooks, January 2018

Out of the Limelight

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Back in the last century, the lights were not turned on at night in Daytona International Speedway during the sessions that the Rolex competitors ran in. When it rained as it did for the Test Days in early January ’99 matters headed to the dark side. However with a bit of luck you could get something different. This slide needs to be scanned again but it gives something of the flavour of standing on the gas out of NASCAR Two down the back straight and seeing the Bus Stop accelerating towards you, it took more than a bit of intestinal fortitude to keep poking the bear. That’s why I had a camera in my hand rather than a steering wheel of a Riley & Scott.

Let’s hope that these conditions remain in the past while the 2018 Rolex rumbles on.

John Brooks, January 2018

Analogue Racing

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Twenty years ago this week I jumped on a plane and headed for Florida, destination Daytona International Speedway, It was the first phase in what I laughingly now refer to as a career in motorsport. Since the early ’80s I had combined a real paying job with the weekend vice of shooting races as a member of the media. I had witnessed the final stages of Ayrton Senna’s pre-F1 career, watched with awe as Group C flowered and was eventually destroyed by dark forces and followed the re-birth of endurance racing in the ’90s. I was hooked.

Now it was time to leave behind the comfortable existence of a monthly salary, an chunky bonus most years and a new BMW 7 or 8 series every four to six months. I was going to be a full time motorsport photographer following in the footsteps of those guys I knew in F1 who had made it to the Majors. They were doing very well, better than me or so they would have you believe. What they did not tell me was the the bit about the pain and penury, the uncertainty of where the next job or cheque would come from and the sheer grind of endless travelling for a living. All this while trying to keep clients and the bank manager happy.

No matter, I was gung-ho on my way to Daytona. My flight and a fee were being paid for by the charming Laurence Pearce of Lister Cars fame, it was always going to be like this I told myself…………roaming the planet on someone else’s dollar, creating art………Terry Donovan eat your heart out………..

I had shot in the USA the previous year when following the FIA GT circus to Sebring and Laguna Seca, now I was about to find out how things were really done in America.

The 1998 Rolex 24  was a race run in a time of great upheaval and transition, both on and off the track. On a broader scale the world was shifting on its axis from analogue to digital, the new-fangled internet and email was here to stay, and old farts like me would have to get used to it, embrace it even, Dot-Com was the buzz word on everyone’s lips. A new century beckoned and a totally unjustified optimism was all around, as if we had all bought into Donald Fagan’s vision:

A just machine to make big decisions,
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision,
We’ll be clean when their work is done,
We’ll be eternally free, yes, and eternally young

On the tracks the world was also going through a revolution, especially in the rarefied arena of endurance racing in North America. In the post-Andy Evans era, Daytona in 1998 was the first battleground in the looming conflict between the traditional powers, aka the France family, and the new broom, Don Panoz, controller of three tracks, and his plans for sportscar racing in North America that would evolve into the American Le Mans Series. We all know how that turned out in the end.

For a foot-soldier such as I this all seemed remote, all I could see was the beautiful Florida sunshine, a real contrast to the grey, soggy conditions back home. At the track there was the amazing banking, there were also a lot of fences and gates to negotiate and even more security guards to deal with, all dressed in blue, seemingly  with an agenda all of their own.

On track the cars were something of a throwback, the favourites for victory came from the various Ferrari 333 SP teams or the Ford-powered Dyson Racing Riley & Scott MK III pair. These fine cars would have been nowhere if faced by the top practitioners in Europe such as the Mercedes-Benz CLK LM or the Toyota GT-One who were in a different league of performance and, of course, budget.

Indeed from the European scene three Porsche 911 GT1s, a brace of Panoz GTR-1s and a Lister Storm GTL were on the Rolex 24 GT1 entry list creating a problem for the local officials who wished for the top step of the podium to be the property of the prototype class, cunningly renamed Can-Am. What relationship these cars had with the Group 7 legends of yesteryear was unclear but it made the PR guys feel warm and everyone pretended that it was absolutely logical.

Another PR canard doing the rounds at the race was the insistence that the 1998 Rolex 24 would be a re-run of the Ford v Ferrari battles of the ’60s, Phil Space and his mates in the old press rooms would have been proud. Like the Can-Am non-connection no one was fooled but we were all too polite to mention it.

Perhaps the whole paddock that year would have wanted to see Gianpiero “Momo” Moretti finally achieve a win at Daytona. He had first raced the 24 Hours at the tri-oval in the 1970 edition driving a Ferrari 512S no less. 28 years and fourteen attempts later he knew that time was against him but 1998 was as good an opportunity as ever. As Momo put it at the time, “With all the money I have spent at Daytona I could have bought a thousand Rolexes easily, but I wanted to win this race.”

His Ferrari 333 SP was run by the vastly experienced Kevin Doran and he had a stellar line-up with Mauro Baldi, Arie Luyendyk and Didier Theys, it was now or never.

Joining Momo on the grid, though a few rows back was another driver who had raced in the 1970 Daytona 24 Hours, Brian Redman. Back then Redman was a key part of the JW Automotive squad and the 1970 race was eagerly anticipated as it would see the first full contest between the Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s. Brian achieved the bizarre feat of finishing both first and second in that race as he drove the winning car of Pedro Rodriguez and Leo Kinnunen for a couple of stints while waiting for his own 917 to have its clutch replaced. The Finn was placed on the naughty step for ignoring team orders to slow down while enjoying a huge lead, his punishment was to witness Redman pounding round in his car.

In 1998 Redman joined 1990-Le Mans winner Price Cobb in a Porsche 993 Carrera RSR but there would be no fairy-tale for the veteran Brit, a broken gearbox on Saturday brought his career in 24 hour races to an end.

 

Opposition in Can-Am Ferrari ranks came principally from the Scandia Racing example crewed by Yannick Dalmas, Bob Wollek Max Papis and Ron Fellows. Dalmas took pole with a 1:39.195 lap, just shy of 130 mph average speed, this was a serious effort at winning outright.

Doyle-Risi Racing had left their 1996 Daytona-winning Oldsmobile-powered Riley & Scott behind in favour of a 333 SP, backing up Wayne Taylor behind the wheel were Fermin Velez and Eric van de Poele, another serious contender for overall victory.

There were arguably five serious Riley & Scott contenders, all Ford powered. Two from Rob Dyson’s crack outfit based at Poughkeepsie. #16 for James Weaver, Elliot Forbes-Robinson and Dorsey Schroeder as well as the Guv’nor, seen here at the wheel.

In #20 Rob was joined by Butch Leitzinger, John Paul Jr., and Perry McCarthy. Rob was keen to repeat his Daytona triumph of the previous year, his cars were always in contention down in Florida, in 1998 they started from 4th and 5th places.

Henry Camferdam enlisted Scott Schubot and Johnny O’Connell in his R & S MKIII, they started at a respectable sixth spot.

Michael Colucci ran a pair of Rileys in association with turkey-magnate Jim Matthews. Matthews was partnered in #39 by the ‘dream team’ of multiple champions Derek Bell and Hurley Haywood plus David Murry.

#36 had Eliseo Salazar, Jim Pace and Barry Waddell on driving duty with Matthews hedging his bets as an entry in both cars.

Back at the turn of the century some frankly weird contraptions would show up and ‘race’ at Daytona during the 24 Hours. This pioneering spirit was very much in the ‘run what you brung’ tradition and is somewhat missed in these politically and corporately correct times. In 1998 the Chevrolet Cannibal was oddball of the year, in fact there grounds for thinking that it would be oddball of any year.

1998 also saw the Mosler Raptor take to the tracks, designed it would appear by Captain Nemo, with the distinctive split screen. At home at Turn Three or 20,000 leagues under the sea…………….

Other left field entries would include the Keiler KII which was a development of a Chevron B71. Powered by the ubiquitous Ford V8 it was a good example of the can-do engineering spirit that ran through the North American racing scene in the last decade of the century.

As mentioned earlier the GT1 class should have provided stiff opposition to the leading prototypes. However the powers that be decided that a Can-Am car would triumph, so the regulations were changed, not for the first, or the last, time in Volusia County. The Panoz pair with an all-star line up of Eric Bernard, David Brabham and Jamie Davies in #99 and Andy Wallace, Scott Pruett, Doc Bundy with 1987 World Champion, Raul Boesel, in #5 should have been rattling the Ferraris and the Dyson squad in the speed stakes. However………….

The Porsche 911 GT1 trio should also have been there or there abouts, but USRRC, no doubt under instructions from above, had other ideas. Ballast was added and there were smaller restrictors if the GT1 had carbon brakes or electronic engine management – hello the computer age! – the final cut was reducing the fuel tank size from 100 to 80 litres to match the Can-Am cars. It was all a bit farcical and it fuelled the rivalry between Panoz and what was to become Grand-Am. The ‘not invented here’ attitude was alive and flourishing.

There was the usual pre-race ballyhoo, speeches, songs, prayers and parades. Former heroes rumbled round the track at a dignified pace, provoking this cop to bellow incomprehensible instructions to move which were largely drowned out by the engine noises, this despite being in a place that was allowed by our passes……….my way or the highway…………..it was easier to leave than try and argue.

 

A full grid of 74 cars took the start under blue skies. As I have learned with 24 Hour races, and the Rolex in particular, everyone heads off for the first corner with optimism in their hearts but it does not take long for the cracks to appear in even the best racers. One by one the favourites are hobbled to a greater or lesser degree, Daytona International Speedway has a deserved and hard earned reputation for being cruel to the aspirations of racers and their teams, the 1998 Rolex 24 would be no exception to this rule.

The race ran to plan for the leaders till the second hour. A Full Course Caution was spotted by Andy Wallace in the Panoz as he headed into Nascar Four and he lifted off just as James Weaver’s R & S was following him a full pelt, the resulting collision effectively ended both cars chances though both plugged away after extensive repairs, neither was running at the finish.

Doyle-Risi was next to stumble. First a pit official waved Eric van de Poele out of the pits even though the exit was closed, then the mistake was compounded by neglecting to inform Race Control, a two lap penalty was the consequence. Shortly after night fell the Belgian crashed out at the West Horseshoe, knocking out both himself and the Ferrari from the race.

The lead was taken on by the Scandia Ferrari with the #20 Dyson car giving chase. Around 04.00 on Sunday advantage switched to the latter as the 333 SP suffered first a sticking throttle, then the transmission caught fire, another leading contender was out.

This left Dyson on target for a successive victory but the Racing Gods had other ideas. The engine started to give concern and with about three hours to go matters came to a head with the car being forced into the pits while smoking and leaking fluids………..another dream dashed.

While Dyson were suffering despair the Moretti Ferrari was now in a lead that it would not surrender. Momo took the final stint, he had earned that right the hard way.

There were emotional scenes on the podium, a dream had come true, Momo had his Rolex. The Italian veteran would have an Annus Mirabilis in 1998 taking victory at both the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Watkins Glen Six Hours, throw in a top ten finish at Le Mans and it was time to leave the stage.

What of the other places? In spite of the best efforts of the USRRC to slow the GT1 entries they were there at the Chequered Flag, surviving the carnage that had engulfed the Can-Am runners. The Porsche 911 GT1 Evo of Rohr Motorsport finished second some eight laps down on the winner.

This was despite an all-star driver line up, almost an embarrassment of riches: Allan McNish, Jörg Müller, Danny Sullivan, Uwe Alzen and Dirk Müller enjoy the applause but no Rolex watches despite the podium and the class win, still rankles with a Wee Scot or so I am told. Not that any of us ever remind him, oh no sireee…………

Third spot was occupied by another Porsche 911 GT1, the Larbre Compétiton entry of Christophe Bouchut, Andre Ahrle, Patrice Goueslard and Carl Rosenblad………….a top class effort, much as we have come to expect from Jack Leconte’s outfit.

Porsche also took GT2 honours with the evergreen Franz Konrad guiding his squadron of gentlemen drivers to victory in the 911 GT2. Toni Seiler, Wido Rössler, Peter Kitchak and Angelo Zadra all did their bit in this fine result.

The final class winners were PTG and their BMW M3. Bill Auberlen, Boris Said, Peter Cunningham and Marc Duez climbed the top step of their podium at ‘The World Center of Racing’ to receive their trophies, no false modesty at DIS.

The eternally youthful Bill will line up for the factory BMW outfit this weekend, as will his fellow class winner from 1998, Dirk Müller. Dirk will be hoping that his Ford overcomes Munich’s finest.

What did I learn from the experience of my first Rolex? Well like most Europeans who go racing to North America I had the idea that we were more professional in Europe, with our F1, our Le Mans, our traditions. I soon realised that was complete bollocks, the driving, engineering and every other aspect of motor sport on that side of the Atlantic was the equal of anything over here. Just look at the record of Penske, Pratt & Miller, Chip Ganassi and see the facts as they are.

If some of the officialdom was dodgy or the decisions were difficult to understand then consider some of the horror stories perpetrated over here. If security was inclined to make things up on the hoof, then recall dealing with Belgian police, the CRS or any of the private security firms now involved……….I rest my case. It certainly opened my eyes and made my decision to follow the ALMS in the early years a certainty.

Did I learn anything else? Well don’t go drinking with Julian Bailey in an airport bar, we almost missed the flight home as we got well refreshed. We picked up the last call and boarded the plane to jeers of those who knew us, I think I slept well that flight. It was the first chapter in a grand adventure…………..maybe I am due a new one soon.

 

John Brooks, January 2018

A Midsummers Night’s Dream

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A day full of reflection and contemplation, my mind drifts back to the summer of ’96. On track at 04.58 and shooting, I must have been keen back then. Keen and lucky if this shot of a 911 GT1 accelerating past the pits in pursuit of the Joest TWR-Porsche is anything to go by. Maybe you make your own luck, maybe your luck makes you. I don’t see much of this in prospect in our Brave New World of batteries and robots.

John Brooks, January 2018

Living In The Past

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The slide from one year to another encourages us to reflect and recall the past both recent and distant. I am on a scanning mission at present and this moment from the 1996 Pre-Qualifying at Le Mans caught my eye while plundering the archive. Not just the F40 GTE and the F1 GTR catapulting on to the Mulsanne Straight in pursuit of a distant 911 GT2 but the riot of emerald green.

Simpler, happier times, or am I just dreaming?

To the readers, may I wish you and yours a happy and healthy 2018, anything more would be a bonus.

John Brooks, January 2018

Putting on the Ritz…………

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OK what’s the excuse this time? Why the radio silence for the past few months?

Well rather than answer that I think we should jump back behind the wheel for another triple stint………..the first laps should be about a recent event that I was lucky enough to be invited to, a celebration of 25 Years of GT Racing hosted by SRO at the Palais Brongnian Paris. 

The former French stock-exchange was a suitably imposing venue for such a celebration. The Great and the Good of GT racing turned out for an action packed evening in Paris.

 

Everywhere I turned there were stars and outside there were cars, from the Venturi Trophy and 1992 to the latest Blancpain racers, via BPR, FIA GT, GT3, GT1 World Championship and Lamborghini Super Trofeo.

Seeing some of the participants for the first time in many years was emotional for me, from Laurence Pearce to Michel Neugarten or Ray Bellm to Thomas Bscher, the memories came tumbling back.

We are all a little older, greyer but even faster than we were back in the day, at least that is what we told each other.

Stéphane Ratel was the star of the show, without his vision and hard work over the years none of us would have assembled on a chilly November night in the heart of Paris. He had saved endurance racing from oblivion in the early ’90s and his actions helped the ACO rebuild their Great Race. The following evening I was flicking through the channels when I stumbled upon “Stones in the Park”, some of Mick Jagger’s moves looked very familiar……..

Of course Stéphane has assembled a great crew of people over the quarter of a century, none more important to the cause than Patricia Kiefer, though she prefers to remain out of the limelight. No such modesty was permitted on this night when the achievements of SRO and its crew were saluted by the GT paddocks.

The others who have steered the SRO ship over the years were also present; Jürgen, Patrick, Olivier, Benjamin, Jean, Gustave, Lucette, Jacquie, Laurent, Claude, Sophie, Mike, Richard, Bernadette, Fiona, Valerie, Adelheid, Sébastien, Anthony and many others that I have not encountered in the SRO family, if I have missed someone out I apologise.

Speaking with Audi’s Dr Ullrich before the event I learnt that he is in the final few weeks of his stellar career with the German giant, time waits for no man, motor sport will miss him.

The 828 guests who sat down to dine and celebrate were treated to various entertainments from SRO’s Mike Scott’s excellent videos about the racing down the years to the undoubted charms of the ladies of the Moulin Rouge………….well it was Paris.

It was a night to remember……………….

John Brooks, December 2017

Scenes at a Festival

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Time to wrap up the coverage from Goodwood. Simon Hildrew was clearly on pole position in the Photographic Grand Prix……………here are some highlights from his triple stint.

john Brooks, July 2017

Sportscars at Goodwood Festival of Speed

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As one might expect, at Goodwood there was a fine display of sportscars from the early days right through to the 2017 winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours. There was also a special tribute to the Great Dane, Tom Kristensen, nine-time victor at La Sarthe.

Our great snapper, Simon Hildrew, was also on tip top form, so enjoy the penultimate gallery on DDC from the Festival of Speed.

John Brooks, July 2017

Goodwood’s Silver

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Can it really be 25 years ago that Lord March first introduced the Festival of Speed? These days it is part of what used to be known as ‘The Season’, a must attend for all of those who take pleasure in the automobile. Our man,  John Elwin, was in attendance at the very beginning, so who is more qualified to bring us a report of the delights to be found on the Hill in 2017?

With this being the 25th running of the Festival of Speed you might be forgiven for thinking that Lord March and his team would have run out of ideas for things to celebrate. But no, they found a whole raft of subjects worthy of commemoration to draw in the crowds.

In a departure from tradition they chose to celebrate an individual rather than a make of car with the pride-of-place sculpture on the lawns in front of Goodwood House. The person concerned was no less than Bernie Ecclestone who has recently stood down as the head honcho of Formula 1. Relative newcomers to the sport might think that a controversial choice but he has done more than anyone else to make the sport what it is today and in reality much of what we watch with awe every year at Goodwood simply wouldn’t have happened without Bernie’s drive. There were initial fears that a life-size statue in front of the house would look like a garden gnome but as usual Gerry Judah worked his magic with a creation depicting ‘The Five Ages of Ecclestone’, five representative cars soaring into the sky. Starting with the Connaught he tried unsuccessfully to qualify for the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix, it progressed to Jochen Rindt’s Lotus 72 (Bernie was his manager) a Brabham BT49 from the period when he owned the company, a Ferrari from the Schumacher era and last year’s World Championship-winning Mercedes.

On Sunday Ecclestone was driven up the Hill by Lord March in an open AC that belonged to his grandfather, Bernie being warmly received by the enormous crowds. They were followed by a cavalcade of F1 cars, led by reigning World Champion Nico Rosberg – a big fan of the Festival – at the wheel of a 2014 Mercedes. They returned to the House, where Bernie was introduced from the balcony to the waiting fans. There was something of scrum to get a view and Rosberg, being the last to arrive, had a job to get his race car to the front doorstep. Bernie was then interviewed by Mark Webber, not the most accomplished  emcee in the world, it has to be said, before enjoying a Champagne reception surrounded by many luminaries from the F1 world, ranging from former Brabham designer Gordon Murray to FIA President Jean Todt. As if you needed reminding that the times are a-changing, amongst them were Ron Dennis and Peter Sauber, two long-standing team owners who have recently relinquished control of the teams they ran for so long, leaving them in the hands of corporate non-entities.

The cynics amongst us could be amused that the new guard in the shape of Chase Carey, head of Liberty Media, was left to rub shoulders amongst the riff-raff at ground level, some of whom reportedly resorted to fisticuffs! Carey may well have gone away re-thinking his ideas to give the public more access to the Formula 1 Paddock – maybe Bernie wasn’t so wrong after all! He also got to ride up the Hill in Duncan Pittaway’s fire-breathing monster 27-litre Fiat; aside from testing the aerodynamic qualities of his faintly ridiculous moustache (he didn’t wear a helmet) it may also have given him ideas about returning to proper engines. Pittaway drove the monster to Goodwood from his home in Bristol, requiring eleven fuel stops en route – imagine that in a GP!

Another nod to the passing era was the celebration of the Williams Grand Prix Engineering’s 40 years in Formula One. Sadly Sir Frank himself was not well enough to attend but daughter Claire and son Jonathan were present, supported by Patrick Head and Bernie and including others with Williams connections such as Adrian Newey and drivers Nico Rosberg and Damon Hill. Whilst Claire busies herself with the day-to-day running of the team, Jonathan is taking care of the history. Williams has retained ownership of many of its old cars, as recently seen at the birthday celebrations staged at Silverstone. Jonathan has a programme to bring the old cars back to life, aiming to work on two a year. This year’s projects have been the six-wheeler that never actually raced, and Nigel Mansell’s 1992 World Championship-winning FW14B, which remarkably has not run in the intervening 25 years! The FW14B with its Renault engine is not compatible with modern software, but fortunately Williams still has the original tower computer from the day, complete with floppy discs, and it still works! Both cars took to the Hill at Goodwood. With Claire and Jonathan firmly ensconced, and Claire shortly to give birth, hopefully this most British of teams will remain under the control of the family for many years to come.

The Cosworth DFV was the mainstay of many Formula One teams for some years, including Williams, and this most successful engine of all time celebrates its 50th birthday in 2017, having debuted in the back of the Lotus 49 at the Dutch Grand Prix in June 1967. Lotus boss Colin Chapman had convinced Ford to fund development of the engine for the exclusive use of Lotus initially, in the new 3-litre formula, but such was its dominance, everyone wanted it in the following years.

The DFV powered all three of Sir Jackie Stewart’s World Championships, scored whilst driving for Ken Tyrrell’s team. Remarkably, all three cars were at Goodwood, so Jackie together with sons Paul and Mark demonstrated them on the Hill several times during the weekend, driving the 1969 Matra MS80, 1971 Tyrrell 003 and 1973 Tyrrell 006 in what must be a unique convoy.

No motoring event this year has been complete without a Ferrari 70th Anniversary tribute and Goodwood was no different. One could get a bit blase about the Prancing Horse-adorned machines but Goodwood did bring together a breathtaking collection from the very beginning to the very latest and since most were demonstrated on the Hill, it was an aural as well as visual feast. Amongst them was a re-creation – the originals were all destroyed – of the Sharknose 156, giving Derek Hill an opportunity to find out what his late father Phil’s 1961 World Championship-winning machine was like. During the course of the weekend Jackie Stewart was also re-united with the 330 P4 he and Chris Amon drove to second place in the 1967 BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch, thus helping Ferrari clinch the World Sportscar Championship. It is the sole-surviving example of a car Jackie himself describes as possibly the most beautiful racing car of all.

We are becoming immune to the eye-watering numbers being paid at auction nowadays for almost any Ferrari, so it was somewhat amusing to learn that Nick Mason paid £4,000 for his 250 GTO! I can recall seeing it parked, two wheels up on the kerb, outside a well-known model shop on a busy road many years ago – bet he doesn’t do that now. It also has the registration number 250 GTO, leading one commentator to muse that that alone was probably worth more than his house. Another Ferrari in long-term ownership is Sally Mason-Styrron’s 1949 166. The combination was actually the very first to drive up the Hill at the first Festival back in 1993. What’s the betting Sally and her Ferrari will be back for the 25th anniversary FoS next year?

The Ferrari demonstration led neatly into a tribute to the late John Surtees, who passed away earlier this year. Surtees won the 1964 World Championship at the wheel of a Ferrari. John was a stalwart supporter of the Goodwood events from the very beginning, bringing along cars and ‘bikes from his own collection, as well as cajoling others to come along. Amongst them was Stuart Graham, who like Surtees also successfully made the switch from ‘bikes to cars, although not in Formula 1. He was, however, the only man to win the TT on two and four wheels. At Goodwood, Stuart both rode ‘bikes and drove a re-creation of the Brut 33-liveried Chevrolet Camaro he campaigned so successfully in touring car racing.

The John Surtees tribute included a minute of noise, in the presence of John’s wife and daughters, Lord March and Bernie Ecclestone, followed by a demonstration of various ‘bikes ridden by the likes of Freddie Spencer, and cars including a Lola T70, Surtees F1 and F2 cars, and of course a Honda F1 car.

The AMG business is now the sporting arm of Mercedes-Benz, but it started out as a tuning business run by Hans-Werner Aufrecht, ultimately becoming synonymous with Mercedes’ successes in DTM, the German touring car championship, in the 1990’s and progressing to the then-new GT1 sports car programme, culminating in that famous flying incident at Le Mans. Now owned by Mercedes, the company celebrates 50 years this year and to mark the occasion Bernd Schneider, a driver who has been associated with many of its successes, demonstrated a DTM Mercedes C-Klasse. Of course, Mercedes was very much in evidence elsewhere, with everything from turn-of-the-century (that’s last century!) racers to recent Formula 1 cars. Amongst them was Ben Collings’ 1908 French GP car that was driven on the road from Bristol in convoy with another Mercedes and Pittaway’s Fiat. Imagine seeing that lot looming up in your rear-view mirror!

Doubtless there were many other anniversaries and celebrations, but Justin Law marked his own 40th birthday by setting the fastest time in the Shoot-Out that brings proceedings to a close on Sunday. Driving an IMSA Bud-liveried Jaguar XJR 12D he set a time of 46.3-seconds, just pipping Jeremy Smith’s Penske PC22 Indy car. Showing the way to the future, Nick Heidfeld was fifth fastest at the wheel of the Mahindra Formula E prototype. With Lord March stating we will see autonomous cars on the Hill next year, times really are a-changing…

…and one last word. Not celebrating any anniversaries that we are aware of, that incorrigible enthusiast Emanuele Pirro really must have thought all his birthdays had come at once, for he got to drive the MoMo Ferrari 333SP, Lotus 56 Turbine Indy car and the six-wheeler Williams. That’s not bad for a day out, is it?

John Elwin, July 2017