Voyazides & Hadfield double up in FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race at Magny-Cours

Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield made it two wins in one morning by claiming FIA Masters Sports Car honours at Magny-Cours, having already won Sunday’s opening Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race. In his opening stint, Voyazides kept his foot down to hand Hadfield a slim lead on the Jason Wright/Andy Wolfe Lola T70 Mk3B and the Henry Fletcher/Martin O’Connell Chevron B26, after which Hadfield controlled the gap to the chequered flag – despite a 5-second penalty for pitlane speeding and the engine running on seven cylinders near the end.

“We were lucky”, Hadfield admitted. “The pitlane speeding was my mistake, I was distracted by Martin O’Connell coming in at the same time – and then the engine lost a cylinder two laps from the end. But most importantly – another great stint from the boss!”

“It felt good!” said a buoyant Voyazides. “I like the circuit – and if I like the circuit I go well.”

Agonisingly, the Wright/Wolfe Lola dropped out on the final lap, handing a distant second place to Fletcher and O’Connell, with Manfredo Rossi inheriting third in the Osella-Abarth PA1. Wright and Wolfe were still classified fourth, ahead of the Chevron B19 shared by Matt & Mike Wrigley.

“It was quite frustrating, actually”, Fletcher said about fighting the big-engined Lolas of Voyazides and Wright in the first half of the race. “Over a lap I was quicker, but passing them is so difficult! I tried everything I could but they just pull five or six car lengths… If only the straights were a bit shorter here!”

“That was the luckiest podium ever”, Rossi said with a smile, “but I’ll take it!”

Two spins by Chris Jolly in the Cooper Monaco T61M shared with Steve Farthing gave Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger the cushion they needed to absorb a stop-and-go penalty for missing the pit window in their Cooper Monaco King Cobra, the pair going on for another pre-66 Hulme class win.

“I got overexcited, basically”, said Jolly about his first-lap spin. “And then after the safety-car restart I spun again trying to avoid two other cars.”

“That just gave us too much to do”, Farthing said ruefully.

“Chris going off twice made it easier for us”, said Ahlers. “It gave us a 40-second lead, so the stop-and-go penalty was never going to be a problem. As for our early stop – I was looking at the timing board on the main-straight gantry and thought I had just nailed it…”

After ten minutes of racing in much cooler conditions than those of the day before, the first five were still covered by a mere three seconds. Voyazides had passed polesitter Wright on the opening lap, with Fletcher following the Greek through on lap 2 before sticking to the lead Lola T70 Mk3B’s tail by less than a tenth. Rossi was fourth in his Osella but looking at a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for jumping the start, while Matt Wrigley ran a close fifth in the Chevron B19.

Further back, ‘Mr John of B’ trailed the lead group by 25 seconds in his Cosworth-engined Ligier JS3, followed by Bonnier and Siffert class leaders Mark Owen (Chevron B8) and John Sheldon (Chevron B16). Laurent Fort’s invitational Crosslé 9S was chased by Keith Ahlers in the Cooper Monaco King Cobra – which inherited the pre-66 Hulme-class lead when Chris Jolly at the start of the second lap spun his Cooper Monaco T61M off into the first turn. Jolly recovered the car from the gravel trap but was now trailing Ahlers by 12 seconds.

Among the lead five, Wright had found a groove to set fastest lap of the race while reclaiming second from Fletcher’s Chevron B26 on lap 7. A lap later, Rossi served his penalty, dropping him back by over half a minute – and at the same time, Wright was gone from the lead battle too, dropping it on lap 8 and finding himself with 20 seconds to recover once he got underway again. Meanwhile, Fletcher was back on Voyazides’ tail but the Greek held firm. 20 minutes gone, Wrigley Jr was now 6 seconds down on the leader.

In an eventful few laps, Mark Owen dropped out of seventh place with an unscheduled pitstop but on his resuming halted out on the circuit, so three minutes ahead of the pit window the safety car was called, bringing Wright and Rossi right back into play.

A few seconds before the pit window opened, the green flag was waved, and Keith Ahlers was too quick in pitting to hand over to Billy Bellinger. ‘Mr John of B’ was the next to come in, handing the Ligier over to Soheil Ayari. On the following lap Voyazides, Fletcher, Wright and Jolly all came in for their pitstop and driver change, Simon Hadfield, Martin O’Connell, Andy Wolfe and Steve Farthing taking over their charges. One lap later, Wrigley and Rossi followed suit, the former handing over to father Mike, as their Chevron B19 dropped back behind the flying Ayari.

At the front, Hadfield set fastest lap to keep O’Connell at 4 seconds. Beating Hadfield’s best on the next lap, Wolfe was third, 7 seconds down on the leader, while Rossi in fourth slowly dropped away from the leading trio. Behind Ayari and Wrigley, John Sheldon was running a solid seventh ahead of Billy Bellinger in the King Cobra started by Ahlers. Philippe Scemama was ninth in the Crosslé shared with Laurent Fort while in tenth overall Frazer Gibney’s Chevron B8 had taken over Mark Owen’s mantle as Bonnier class leader.

As Hadfield eased away from his pursuers, Wolfe now had O’Connell firmly in his sights – and on lap 19, the Lola passed the Chevron. With 15 minutes still to go, Hadfield now led Wolfe by 10 seconds, and O’Connell by a further two ticks. Rossi was fourth, 28 seconds down, while Ayari in fifth was 51 seconds in arrears of the leader. On lap 25, however, the former F3000 driver was into the pits, retiring the Ligier with a gearbox problem. One lap earlier, the French had already lost their other local contribution to the race, Scemama also succumbing to gearbox issues with the Crosslé.

Towards the flag, Hadfield controlled his 10-second cushion to Wolfe – and that was wise enough as right at the end he was penalised 5 seconds for pitlane speeding! In the end, though, he didn’t need to as Wolfe’s Lola failed to complete the final lap…

Behind them, O’Connell had dropped back further and further, but Wolfe’s bad luck handed him second place, 34 seconds down, while Rossi inherited third, a further minute back. Wright and Wolfe were still classified fourth. Wrigley and Sheldon were a lonely fifth and sixth, while Bellinger secured the pre-66 class win by keeping ahead of Farthing despite taking a stop-and-go penalty for the premature driver change with Ahlers. Sheldon won the Siffert class while Frazer Gibney took Bonnier class honours.