June 30 - July 2 2017

Grand Prix de France Historique



June 30 - 2 - 2016

Grand Prix de France Historique




It was a damp weekend at the Grand Prix de France Historique as we made an exciting
return to the circuit of Nevers Magny Cours, theatre of the Formula 1 Grand Prix of France until 2008. This inaugural event, promoted by HVM Racing and the FFSA did not disappoint despite the somewhat troublesome weather!



Lyons romps to victory in first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Magny-Cours

 From pole, Michael Lyons took a commanding win in the first of two FIA Masters Historic Formula One races at Magny Cours’ Grand Prix de France Historique. His RAM Williams FW07B taking like a duck to water, Lyons conquered the treacherous wet conditions to take victory by over a minute from Belgian Loïc Deman (Tyrrell 010) and Monegasque Historic F1 rookie Frédéric Lajoux (Arrows A1). Lajoux was second until he was passed by Deman on lap 5, but the former historic F3 driver was still a huge surprise in his first-ever Historic F1 race – and on a wet track at that.

“My rolling start wasn’t perfect”, said the winner. “I got wheelspin, so I was lucky I was able to hold the inside line. I got a good drive through turns 1 and 2, and had no pressure from there. The rest of the time I was checking for things like water in the concrete. These cars are so amazing to drive, even in the rain you feel the downforce. At the end I had a nice fight with Mr Wrigley who was a lap down but fighting his way back up. That kept me on my toes.”

 “Yes, I was a little bit faster than Lajoux, and got him on the brakes”, said Deman, who despite his second place wasn’t satisfied. “The car is still too stiff, though, we still have room to improve. It would have been much better if the set-up had been 100% wet.”

 “I didn’t expect to be so high up in my first Formula One race”, said a jubilant Lajoux. “In the beginning I thought that I could hold on to second place, but my tyres were getting old and Loïc was faster. So I preferred to ‘manage’ the podium finish. To be frank, an F1 car is not so different from an F3 car. I just have to get my head around to the fact that I have to go faster into a corner to release all the downforce!”

Greg Thornton (Lotus 77) and Max Smith-Hilliard (Fittipaldi F5A) had a great fight for fourth overall and pre-78 class honours. Smith-Hilliard led initially but Thornton edged closer every lap to grab the class lead on lap 9. The two were the last to finish on the same lap as the winner, such was Michael Lyons’ pace.

“Max and I had a great fight”, said Thornton. “At one time I thought, ‘This is going to end in tears, and it will be my tears!’, so I backed off and then took another run at him. I got him at the hairpin.”

 “I forgot where he got me”, laughed Smith-Hilliard, who had been consummately faster than Thornton in qualifying, “but it’s coming back to me now! I don’t want Greg to get all the credit and get too confident!”

 Despite a drivethrough penalty for a jumped start, Jamie Constable closed the gap to Thornton and Smith-Hilliard, having run second to the Fittipaldi in the opening stages, and was ruing a missed opportunity for a class win.

 “What do you mean I could have been up with these guys if I hadn’t had the drivethrough?” said Constable jokingly. “You know I would have won it!”

 Mike Wrigley’s Williams FW07 was forced to start from the pitlane but Wrigley worked his way up to sixth place at the chequered flag, Jamie Constable the final victim of a splendid comeback drive. Steve Boultbee-Brooks’ Lotus 81 was eighth, ahead of Mark Hazell’s Williams FW07, while Steve Hartley (Arrows) took tenth after starting from the back and losing further time with a spin on lap 9.

 Jason Wright (Shadow DN8) had qualified well in sixth overall but dropped a few places at the start and then saw Hartley and Wrigley storm past in the second part of the race. Meanwhile, the American had his own battle with James Hagan’s Hesketh 308 in which he prevailed on lap 6 before Hagan retired his car on the final lap. Patrick D’Aubréby (March 761) was 12th while Christophe d’Ansembourg’s Williams FW07C uncharacteristically languished down in 13th place.


Deman beats Lyons in damp second FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Magny-Cours

 Loïc Deman (Tyrrell 010) won the second FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Magny-Cours after passing Michael Lyons (Williams FW07B) for the lead three laps from the end. In damp conditions, Lyons took the gamble to start on slicks and miraculously made them work for nine laps of the race, but when the drizzle turned into proper rain there was nothing he could do to hold back Deman. The Belgian set a string of fastest laps of the race to close the three-second gap that Lyons had built up from the start before making the move on lap 10.

 “It was incredible that Lyons was so fast on slicks!” said Deman, who was still quite happy to take the victory. “But then it started to rain just too much, and I was able to overtake him. I should have done better, though, I wasn’t very happy with how the car was handling on wet tyres.”

 “After three laps, when I saw the rain coming, I knew it was the wrong decision”, said Lyons. “But it was fun to try!”

 Max Smith-Hilliard (Fittipaldi F5A) took third overall as well as the pre-78 win after brushing off the attentions of Jamie Constable (Shadow DN8). Smith-Hilliard inherited third when Historic F1 rookie Fred Lajoux – one of the weekend’s surprise stars – was penalised for leaving the grid too late and then driving his Arrows A1 back up to its starting position before the race got underway. Lajoux had been pushing Deman for four laps when a small mistake dropped him back some five seconds – and then the penalty came. The Monegasque didn’t even bother to rejoin the race.

 Initially, Constable was hounding Smith-Hilliard around but halfway into the race the latter stretched his legs to pull out a four-second gap that he maintained until the finish. Jason Wright (Shadow DN8) was a distant fifth while taking third in the pre-78 class.

 “I realised it was going to cause more problems if Jamie kept close”, said Smith-Hilliard, “so I gritted my teeth and put in a couple of quick laps. I enjoyed the fight with Jamie, though, we were almost side-by-side at times but it was all done with gentlemanly conduct.”

 Constable agreed. “Max put in one lap, and that was it. There was just no way I could get it back.”

 Wright, meanwhile, was happier than yesterday but still unsatisfied. “Yesterday I was really struggling, it was better today. It was a lonely race, yes. James Hagan was behind for a bit, but then he fell away. I still feel I didn’t drive very well today, I should have up with Max and Jamie.”

 The American who over the weekend was eagerly following the progress of his two Ferrari 156 Sharknose re-creations which made their public debut at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed, was followed home by James Hagan (Hesketh 308) and Patrick D’Aubréby (March 761) while Mike Wrigley (Williams FW07C) ended up a surprised eighth, having spun on the warm-up lap. His surprise was even greater when he found out he would actually be the third man on the post-78 podium, as Mark Hazell (Williams FW07) spun out on the penultimate lap while lapped by Deman. Lajoux’s penalty then also helped his cause.

 “I went so sideways on the warm-up lap that my engine cut out!” said Wrigley. “My own stupid mistake, so yes, it’s a miracle that I’m up here. Mind you, I already finished third and second here, so I fully expected to be first this time!”

 Along with Lyons, Mark Hazell’s was one of four cars that started on slicks. Steve Boultbee-Brooks (Lotus 81) kept it clean to finish ninth, ahead of Vincent Rivet’s March 811, but Greg Thornton lost his gamble when his Lotus 77 went off at Adelaide on lap 5.


Clever strategy wins Nyblaeus/Welch rain-shortened Masters Three Hours at Magny-Cours

 In a race that was cut short after two hours and 15 minutes due to ever-worsening conditions, Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus and Jeremy Welch used a clever strategy to win the Masters Three Hours at Magny-Cours. The Anglo-Swedish Healey 3000 pair had a full lap in hand over the Andrew Haddon/Mark Martin Lotus Elan and the Billy Bellinger/Keith Ahlers Morgan SLR, the podium finishers proving that lightweight machines were the cars to have in weather like this.

 Nyblaeus and Welch were the only ones among the leaders to take full advantage of a lengthy safety-car period that began 18 minutes into the race and lasted until a full hour of the race was run. With the safety car slowing down to a crawl in order to pick up all the cars, Nyblaeus was brought in for refuelling and an early driver change after 45 minutes, after which Welch managed to rejoin the field while remaining on the same lap. When the rest of the field pitted under green at the halfway mark, Welch picked off each and every one of them while himself revelling in the conditions. When the red flag was waved after two hours and 15 minutes, the field having again circulated behind the safety car for half an hour, the Healey was still in the lead.

 “We were the first people to do refuelling and a driver change under the safety car”, said Welch, “and that was the plan all along. I’m surprised no-one else thought of that! And I must say that these conditions are perfect for a Healey…”

 “What a strategy!” said Ahlers, who was still amazed by what the Welch boys had thought of. “Just when I realised what you had done it was too late to do it ourselves, as the safety car had speeded up again…”

 Mark Martin was equally full of praise. “That safety car went slower and slower, and allowed you to stop and join the queue still on the same lap. Brilliant!”

 The pole-sitting Ford GT40 of Alexander van der Lof and Karsten Le Blanc was the pre-race favourite, the Dutch pair bringing out Hans Hugenholtz’ car for a Spa Six Hours rehearsal. However, with Van der Lof at the wheel, the car was quickly swamped by Andrew Haddon’s nimbler Elan, with Danny Gibson also charging past in Gibson Motorsport’s brand-new Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé. After four laps, Bellinger took third from Van der Lof, before the Dutchman took the place back after the first safety-car period. Their order changed yet again during the driver changes but Le Blanc was unable to do anything against Ahlers in the ten minutes of racing that were given to them before the second safety-car period was called. Just one minute before that, Paul Gibson retired the Cobra Daytona Coupé from fourth place.

 In the CLP class, Haddon and Martin were the clear winners, as the other quick Elan of Graham Wilson and David Pittard was hampered by a lengthy unscheduled pitstop. It still finished ahead of the Ron Maydon/Mike Wrigley Ginetta G4R, though, in sixth and eighth overall respectively.

 Apart from the Gibsons’ Cobra Daytona Coupé, the big V8 cars didn’t figure in this wet race. The Jose and Brady Beltramelli Chevrolet Corvette proved quickest by finishing in fifth overall, while the Chris Chiles Sr & Jr AC Cobra’s challenge was blunted by a series of stop-and-go penalties.

 Pietro Vergnano and Manfredo Rossi were the clear victors in the race between the Porsches, the Italians using a similar strategy to the winners to finish seventh overall and claim C1 class honours from Steve Jones and Robert Barrie’s Porsche 911.

 Nicholas Ruddell and Robert Crofton won the touring-car class in their Ford Mustang, having fought with the similar Mustang of Ghislain Borrelly and Charles de Villaucourt all race.


Diogo Ferrão and Martin Stretton strike in race of two halves to take FIA Masters Historic Sports Car win at Magny-Cours

 In a race that started on dry tarmac and gradually became wetter, Diogo Ferrão and Martin Stretton took their Lola T292 to a fine FIA Masters Historic Sports Car win in the Grand Prix de France Historique event at Magny-Cours. Ferrão battled with Manfredo Rossi’s Osella-Abarth PA1 during his opening stint before handing over to Stretton, who eased out to a lead of over half a minute to Mike Donovan’s Lola T70 Mk3B. Rossi still salvaged third despite spinning several times in the wet second part of the race.

 Rossi led initially after Max Smith-Hilliard pulled off on the second lap, both having pipped front-row starters David Pittard (Chevron B8) and Jason Wright (Lola T70 Mk3B). Soon Ferrão was on his back, though, and on lap 5 the Portuguese driver passed his Italian rival. The pair ran nose-to-tail until the pitstops, in which the Kendle & Adams dealt slightly quicker with Rossi than Martin Stretton Racing did with their Lola. Rossi was back in front, with Paul Gibson ahead them both after illegally stopping ahead of the pit window. Stretton quickly dealt with both Rossi and Gibson to pull out a dominant lead.

 Behind Stretton, a couple of spins dropped Rossi back into the clutches of the Lola T70 Mk3B gang led by Donovan, with Wright and Gibson at close quarters. After an entertaining fight Donovan took an easy second place while Rossi hung on for third. Jason Wright was a close fourth in his T70 Mk3B, and could have been third if the race hadn’t been red-flagged five minutes from the end because of Pierre-Alain France spinning his T70 Mk3B around at turn 10 and leaving it in a dangerous position. Wright had just overtaken Rossi, who had been in yet another spin, but on countback to the standings from the lap before the Italian kept his third place. Paul Gibson was an early contender in his T70 Mk3B but a drivethrough penalty for his early pitstop nudged him back to fifth.

 “It was good fun fighting Manfredo, he’s a true gentleman driver”, said Ferrão. “We didn’t qualify well in the wet, and I was really catching on in those first few laps, learning how the track feels in the dry.”

 “Diogo drove fantastically”, said Stretton about his Portuguese team mate handing it to him on a plate. “Manfredo got ahead at the pitstops but it started to speckle and he was just being a little more careful than I was. I got him going into the hairpin, and from then on it was a matter of driving away and opening up a gap. Conditions changed every lap, which made it difficult but good fun as well!”

 “Yesterday I had no wiper, and was on wet tyres I hadn’t used for three years!” said Donovan about his dismal qualifying performance, which was soon forgotten when the race started in the dry. “It’s a fabulous circuit, it’s the first time for me here, and it’s so difficult in the wet. I enjoyed the fight with Manfredo, Jason and Paul, though, as I had to overtake them having dropped back at the pitstops. Everyone was making mistakes everywhere!”

 “Diogo really gave me a hard time”, Rossi said. “And then in the second half of the race I think I spun five or six times! I could never have kept up with Martin, though. Even Diogo was a bit faster than me.”

 On a dry track, the nimble Chevron B8s were unable to repeat their stunning qualifying form, but poleman David Pittard and team mate Graham Wilson still brought their B8 home in eighth overall and as the Bonnier class winners. Mark and Andrew Owen finished a close second in class, with Eric Perou and Luc Cheminot up next, in ninth and tenth overall respectively.

Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger (Cooper Monaco King Cobra) led the Hulme class all the way, Ahlers stretching away from Chris Jolly’s Cooper Monaco to open up a 30-second gap at the pitstops. Bellinger then pulled away further to win by a minute from Jolly’s team mate Steve Farthing. Gary Wright and Charlie Birkett were third in their Ford GT40.

 “The car was very good, and we had a nice and clean race”, said Ahlers. “I lost sight of Chris fairly quickly, building a gap of one second per lap, and handed it over to Billy with a 30-second lead. Billy brought it home in the rain – I was waving from the pitwall for him to take it easy, as it was so treacherous out there!”

 “I spun, as the brakes glazed up”, said Jolly about disappearing from Ahlers’ mirrors. “We had put on new brakes but in the wet yesterday we were unable to run them in properly. So I couldn’t really push.”

 “In the wet, there was just no grip”, said Farthing. “I’m just happy to have finished!”

 Among the early casualties were the Max Smith-Hilliard/Nick Padmore Chevron B19, the former pulling off on the second lap, while Laurie Bennett gave up in his McLaren M1B without completing a lap. The pit-window period proved to be uneventful – except for the Gibsons’ error, that is – when Christian Tedeschi's Chevrolet Corvette spun off at the chicane to cause the race to be neutralised just when the pit window was about to open.