GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE HISTORIQUE
28 – 30 June 2019
Masters drivers are all heroes in the heat of Magny-Cours
Martin Stretton, Matteo Ferrer-Aza and the pairings of Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield and Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie climbed the top step of the podium at Magny-Cours for the second running of the French Historic Grand Prix, but effectively each and every Masters driver was a hero in the exceptional heat, all having to survive ambient temperatures reaching 40 degrees – and cockpit temperatures well into the fifties!
Masters Formula One – Race 1
Stretton converts pole to win in first FIA Masters Historic Formula One race at Magny-Cours.
Martin Stretton led from start to finish to claim his second FIA Masters Historic Formula One win in three races, the Tyrrell 012 driver holding off local hero Soheil Ayari whose Ligier-Matra JS17 hounded the winner all the way. Matteo Ferrer-Aza was third in his Ligier JS11/15.
“Soheil made me work very hard”, said Stretton. “His car was the faster, especially when the oil was still down [from an earlier race]. Then he got a bit of unlucky break with a backmarker. A shame about the safety car but I had it all under control.”
“I really enjoyed it!” said Ayari about his FIA Masters Historic Formula One debut. “With the backmarker, he just managed to make his way past, and I had to wait one or two corners – and then he was gone.”
“It was lonely”, said Ferrer about losing ground on his two rivals. “It was not my choice, but rather my obligation. Engine temperatures were on borderline, and I decided to choose caution over valour. It’s nice to race but not a cost of an engine.”
Mike Cantillon (Williams FW07D) and Steve Hartley (McLaren MP4/1) fought over fourth all race, Hartley moving in front on lap 5 but losing the place back to Cantillon shortly before the safety car was called on lap 14. Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C) and Jamie Constable (Tyrrell 011) had been battling over sixth when they touched, leaving the latter stranded out on the circuit. The race finished under the safety car.
“Me and Steve had a great fight”, said Cantillon. “He took me with a nice clean pass on the inside, and then three laps before the end he outbraked himself at the second hairpin, and I went through on the inside. It was great fun, and I needed a
Equally, Henry Fletcher (March 761) led the pre-78 class all the way, initially running sixth overall before seeing D’Ansembourg and Constable move past. Patrick d’Aubréby (March 761) and Jason Wright (Shadow DN8) completed the pre-78 podium, the Frenchman and the American never more than a second apart.
“I can’t fight those ground-effect cars”, said Fletcher about his initial fights with D’Ansembourg and Constable. “In turns 1, 2 and 3 I’m crucified! It’s always to be able to race in the beginning, but after that, there was nothing to prove.”
“It was a good race, and I really like this circuit”, said D’Aubréby, “and the heat didn’t trouble me very much.”
“No way!” said Wright when asked if he could have passed D’Aubréby. “Right at the beginning I did what I did at Paul Ricard – got too excited and missed a gear. At that point, they were gone…”
After a single lap behind the safety car to allow for the removal of Antoine d’Ansembourg’s Brabham BT49 who had stalled on the grid, the field was sent away. The order at the top remained unchanged, poleman Stretton leading former French F3 champion Ayari, Ferrer, Cantillon and Hartley, with Fletcher leading the pre-78 class in sixth overall. From his lowly grid position, Jamie Constable was the man on the move, charging up to eighth on lap 4.
Stretton in the lead kept on being hounded by Ayari, the Frenchman knibbling tenths off the Tyrrell’s already slender lead, while Ferrer dropped away to trail by 4 seconds on lap 5. On the same lap, Hartley passed Cantillon for fourth, their battle happening five seconds in arrears of the Italian in third. In the next two laps, Christophe d’Ansembourg and Jamie Constable pushed Fletcher down to eighth, who now had no more buffer between himself and his class rivals Patrick d’Aubréby and Jason Wright, the pair trailing Fletcher by eight seconds. Fletcher wasn’t bothered, though, and controlled the gap quite easily. Meanwhile, Jonathan Holtzman’s Lotus 87 had dropped out of eighth with brake problems.
At the front, Stretton had opened up a gap to Ayari, growing his lead from nine tenths on lap 8 to two seconds on lap 10, a backmarker dropping the Frenchman out of contention. Stretton’s lead on Ferrer, who was nursing his engine home, had increased to 13 seconds, while Cantillon had moved back in front of Hartley. On the next lap, however, the safety car was called after the warring duo of D’Ansembourg and Constable had touched. The Belgian was able to continue but Constable was left stranded out on the circuit. This required the arrival of another safety car, and it stayed out there until the chequered flag.
With Ayari in the invitational class, Stretton was joined on the podium by Ferrer and Cantillon while Fletcher, D’Aubréby and Wright formed the pre-78 podium. Mark Hazell (Williams FW08) and Georg Hallau (Theodore N183) completed the top-three in the post-83 class for flat-bottomed cars, with Stretton its winner. An hour after the race, Hartley was penalised for overtaking under the safety car, a penalty that dropped him to eighth overall. On the upside for Hartley, this meant pole on the top-eight reversed grid for Sunday’s second race…
Masters Formula One – Race 2
Ferrer-Aza takes third FIA Masters Historic Formula One win of the season at Magny-Cours.
Matteo Ferrer-Aza survived a chaotic first few laps to take his ex-Jacques Laffite Ligier JS11/15 to a popular FIA Masters Historic Formula One victory, in front of the car’s home crowd and in the presence of its former driver. It was the Italian’s third win of the season.
“Just about! I had to take more than evasion action!” said Ferrer about everything that happened on his way up from fifth on the grid, as a tumultuous few opening laps saw Henry Fletcher (March 761) and Soheil Ayari (Ligier JS17) clash at the second hairpin and Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C) spin right in front of him.
From pole, Hartley had led away but soon had Ferrer in hot pursuit. Mike Cantillon (Williams FW07D) took up third position while pre-78 class leaders Jason Wright, Andrew Haddon and James Hagan all moved up in the melée of the first laps.
“I had an advantage starting from pole”, said Hartley, “so I didn’t notice any of that!”
After a brief safety-car interlude the green flag was waved on lap 6, and on the next lap Ferrer grabbed the lead while Haddon moved ahead of Wright in the pre-78 class battle for fourth overall. Meanwhile, the man on the move was Jonathan Holtzman in the Lotus 87B, the American making his way through from his lowly grid position, passing Wright for fifth on lap 9, and Haddon on the lap following.
From then on, Ferrer controlled a 1.5-second lead from the front to take his third win of the season from Hartley, Cantillon and Holtzman.
“There was lots happening”, Cantillon said about surviving the first-lap mayhem, “but I had a great race after that. I couldn’t catch Steve, though, he was really good.”
Haddon brought home the pre-78 class win ahead of James Hagan after Jason Wright and Mark Hazell (Williams FW08) touched on the final lap. Hazell’s demise handed post-83 honours to Georg Hallau (Theodore N183), the German finishing seventh overall, ahead of local hero ‘Mr John of B’ in another Ligier JS11/15. Wright and Hazell were classified ninth and tenth, which still meant third in class for Wright.
“I got through!” said Haddon. “It was fun, though, I really really enjoyed that.”
“It was hot!” said Hagan. “Whenever you’re driving the car you don’t feel it but when you stop…”
“I didn’t have the pace today”, said Wright. “I was really struggling. And then that final lap – all this hard work…”
Yesterday’s winner Martin Stretton (Tyrrell 012) and pre-78 class second-place finisher Patrick d’Aubréby (March 761) were non-starters.
Masters Gentlemen Drivers
Thomas & Lockie take Masters Gentlemen Drivers win at Magny-Cours.
Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie returned to their winning ways after a dominant display in the Masters Gentlemen Drivers race at Magny-Cours. Leading from start to finish, except for one lap during the pitstop phase, their Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé was in class of its own.
**I was actually reading my pitboard wrong!” said Thomas about his stunning pace in the opening stint. “It was my laptime instead of the gap, so I pushed harder than I should…**
**It’s nice to be back on the top step”, said a well-satisfied Lockie. “I was worried about all temperatures during the whole of my stint – engines, brakes, tyres – so on the last laps I back off even further. But the car was just amazing, the guys did a superb job of repairing it after the Donington fire.**
The chase was led by Andrew Haddon’s CLP-class-winning Lotus and the Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield Daytona Cobra. When Haddon was hit by a 10-second time penalty for crossing the white line on pitlane exit, Hadfield took second place by closing on Haddon just enough. Haddon’s lead at the finish was six seconds.
**Story of my life!” said Haddon about crossing that line. “Yeah, I drove bloody hard but it wasn’t enough. It was a lot of fun though!**
**I was saving the car”, said Voyazides, “but it turned out I was saving it too much! I thought the temps were too high but it still held out at the end.**
Frenchman Didier Gruau took fourth in his AC Cobra, having run third early on.
“It was a very hard race, very hot”, said Gruau. “I was looking at my oil pressure all the time, so I’m happy the car made it to the finish.”
In fifth, Ron Maydon grabbed second in the CLP class, his Ginetta G4R battling with the José & Brady Beltramelli Corvette until that became a late retirement. Fighting back after an unscheduled early pitstop, Mark Martin completed the under-2-litre podium by claiming sixth overall.
**It was very hard work”, said Maydon, “I couldn’t have caught Andrew anyway, so I’m very pleased with my position. I think I lost five kilos of weight along the way though!**
“The clutch broke!” said Martin about his additional stop. “I had no clutch for the rest of the race, and every now and again it wouldn’t go into gear. I’m lucky to be here.”
Finishing an incredible seventh overall, the Michiel van Duijvendijk/Pascal Pandelaar Porsche 904/4 won the C1 class, while Billy Bellinger and Keith Ahlers took their Morgan Plus 4 Super Sports to 12th overall and the C2 class win.
The opening ten minutes saw Thomas storm off to a 10-second lead over Andrew Haddon, who had passed Voyazides for second on lap 2. Trailing the Greek by a couple of seconds each were Frenchman Gruau and Beltramelli Sr in their Cobra and Corvette respectively, while Ron Maydon swapped places twice with Laurent Dutoya in their intra-Ginetta G4R battle for sixth. Meanwhile, Mark Martin was on his way back up, having dropped places at the end, and passed Christophe Kjaergaard’s similar Elan on lap 2 to take eighth, with Chris Atkinson in another Elan in tenth.
Just outside the top-ten, Manfredo Rossi (Shelby Mustang GT350) and David Smithies (Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé) had their own fight for 11th while behind them Michiel van Duijvendijk and Billy Bellinger – leading their C1 and C2 classes respectively – traded 13th and 14th places, as they both easily led class rivals Peter Tognola (Porsche 911) and Caroline Rossi (Austin Healey 3000). Sadly, the C2 class was missing the fight with the Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus/Jeremy Welch Healey, the Welch truck having had an accident on its way to Magny-Cours.
A further ten minutes on, Thomas’ lead over Haddon had increased to 18 seconds, with Voyazides a further 12 ticks behind and fending off the attentions of Gruau – on lap 10, the Frenchman found a way past. Ten seconds down the road, Maydon had left Dutoya behind and was now harrying Beltramelli for fifth. Mark Martin, meanwhile, had dropped from the CLP-class chase, pitting on lap 8 and resuming well down in 14th place. Taking up the fight was Atkinson, who had passed Kjaergaard to move up into eighth.
Progressing steadily in the fastest car on track, Thomas had 26 seconds in hand over Haddon at one-third’s distance. Gruau was now 51 seconds, while Thomas’ real rival Leo Voyazides trailed by more than a minute, with José Beltramelli and Ron Maydon breating down the Greek’s neck. Meanwhile, Christoph Kjaergaard was into the pits, his Lotus Elan the first retirement of the race, driveshaft broken and young and quick Nicolai Kjaergaard denied a race. This allowed Manfredo Rossi and David Smithies into the top-ten, while just seconds behind, Van Duijvendijk and Bellinger were still at it, now in 11th and 12th respectively while still consummately leading their classes.
As the pit window came ever nearer, Thomas showed no sign of relenting, improving fastest lap of the race to 2.06.641. His lead over Voyazides was now a whopping 1 minute and 18 seconds, the two Daytona Cobras still sandwiching Haddon (39 seconds down on Thomas) and Gruau (1 minute and 11 seconds behind). On lap 19, Gruau and Voyazides both took the first opportunity to pit, the latter handing the wheel to Simon Hadfield. Joining them from 15th was Roger Barton, handing his Elan over to Richard Bateman. Maydon, Tognola and Philippe Achard’s Elan were next, the French car in 17th and put in the hands of Jean-Michel Piat.
On lap 21, at precisely the halfway mark, Thomas came in to hand his seat to Calum Lockie, with Beltramelli Sr (relieved by Brady Beltramelli), Martin, Smithies (handing to Chris Clarkson) and Caroline Rossi joining him on the same lap. This left Haddon in the lead, but the class-leading Elan was in on the next lap, along with Van Duijvendijk, who handed the Porsche 904/4 to Pascal Pandelaar, with Keith Ahlers taking over from Bellinger. Dutoya and Manfredo Rossi were the last to pit.
The pit window now closed, Calum Lockie resumed in the lead, back in the car that had caught fire in the previous Masters Gentlemen Drivers round at Donington Park but was expertly parked next to the fire truck in the pitlane by a Lockie thinking quick on his feet. The lightweight cars having to stop shorter, Haddon now trailed Lockie by 28 seconds, with Hadfield looking at an 81-second deficit. At this moment, the gap was only increasing, as Lockie was on a series of fastest laps of the race that had his lead on Haddon increase to 37 seconds in the space of four laps.
Behind Hadfield, Maydon had jumped Gruau at the stops and was a strong fourth overall at the one-hour mark. Beltramelli Jr was sixth, but looking at a stop-and-go penalty for stopping short, with Steve Jones in seventh in the Elan taken over from Chris Atkinson. In eighth, Rossi had left the Smithies/Clarkson Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé behind, the gap filled by Mark Martin on the way back up, a very quick Pandelaar, and Laurent Dutoya in the other Ginetta in the field. In C2, Ahlers had a lap in hand on Caroline Rossi.
In the final half hour, the top-three went into preservation mode, their lap times dropping by a couple of seconds. The Corvette of the Beltramellis dropped a lot more, though, as their stop-and-go penalty turned into instant retirement due to loss of oil pressure – it was only the second retirement of the race, and this on the hottest time of day, temperatures having reached 39 degrees. The Corvette’s downfall promoted Steve Jones up into sixth but Mark Martin was flying in his Elan and catching Jones at a rapid rate. Further up the road, Gruau had repassed Maydon for fourth.
Further boosting Lockie’s comfortable lead, Haddon had to accept a 10-second time penalty for crossing the white line on pitlane exit. With 16 minutes on the clock, Martin moved ahead of Jones to take third place in the CLP class, but had a similar time penalty to account for. However, just minutes later Jones began dropping time at a worrying rate, with Rossi and Pandelaar also coming past. The Dutchman was pounding in the laps at the such a rate that Rossi fell victim of the Porsche too, which now was in a remarkable seventh overall.
As the race ran out, with 42 laps completed, Lockie took a crushing win for Thomas and himself. Some 40 seconds behind, Haddon failed to do enough to offset his 10-second penalty, his brave efforts keeping him ahead of Hadfield by just six seconds. This promoted Voyazides and Hadfield into second place, but Haddon still won the CLP class ahead of Maydon and Martin. Gruau completed the over-2-litre podium.
Masters Pre-66 Touring Cars
Voyazides/Hadfield win tense Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race at Magny-Cours.
Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield claimed victory in a very tense Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race at Magny-Cours, after a race-long fight with the other Ford Falcon of Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie.
“That was a lot better than yesterday!” said Hadfield, referring to their turning the tables on Thomas and Lockie, who resoundingly beat them in the previous day’s Masters Gentlemen Drivers race. “Leo’s stint was the best stint of the week, and put me right in there. Calum was locking his brakes all the time, so I knew I had him…”
Voyazides indeed drove a strong opening stint, keeping Thomas behind for 23 minutes of the race before finally succumbing to his rival’s pressure. That left Hadfield with a deficit of 4.7 seconds to Lockie – and with a series of fastest laps he closed down the gap. A first attempt went awry when Lockie locked up and touched Hadfield but two laps later another lock-up by Lockie helped Hadfield to take the inside line into the Adelaide hairpin and move past.
“It was absolutely fantastic!” said Thomas about his fight with Voyazides. “Leo gave me one centimetre of room when I passed him…”
Mark Martin overcame his gearbox problems to haul his Cortina up to third overall, having initially dropped down to sixth. Tom Bell took an amazing fourth overall, making it four out of four Mini class wins to continue his exceptional season.
“It’s a gearbox weekend!” said Martin with a smile, having also suffered ‘box issues in the Masters Gentlemen Drivers race. “In the hairpin you need first gear, but it wouldn’t go in – and then it wouldn’t go into second either! So I drove around the problem and got there in the end…”
“In the first part of the race I was trying to manage it”, said Bell about his race plan. “Then, after the stops I put a few quicker laps in, and from there I just drove it home.”
Eventually taking second in the Cortina class, Geoff Letts ran a close third to Voyazides and Thomas in the first half of the race, but brother Alan was then unable to keep Martin and Bell behind.
“It was a good first half by my brother – he was right there”, said Alan Letts. “I just couldn’t match Mark’s pace in the second part. He was simply quicker.”
On a cooler track, covered by clouds coming in overnight, the Falcons of Voyazides and Thomas stormed away from the front. The Greek had his rival crawl all over the back of him lap after lap, as Geoff Letts kept a close eye on the leading pair two seconds down. Running fourth from lap 3 on, Tom Bell’s Mini was 20 seconds down with 12 minutes of the race done. Chris Clarkson’s Falcon had moved up to fifth from seventh on the grid while Mark Martin initially went the other way in his Cortina – from fourth to sixth, but chasing Bell and Clarkson hard. On lap 6, though, Martin back into fourth.
Half a minute behind the leaders, Ron Maydon had moved his Mini ahead of Steve Jones’ example, with Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Audoin’s Mustang a further three seconds down. On the verge of the top-ten, James Hagan was having a lonely race in his Mini, the Irishman well ahead of two more Minis piloted by Richard Longdon and Billy Nairn.
At the front, Voyazides momentarily saw the Falcon in his mirrors diminish in size as he set fastest lap on lap 7. On the next lap, however, Thomas beat that time to be stuck closer to the Greek’s boot than he had been all race – a mere two tenths. Voyazides valiantly held on for three more laps, but two minutes before the pit window would open, Thomas claimed the lead from the other Falcon. Geoff Letts was now ten seconds down, with Martin a further 23 seconds adrift, having opened up an 8-second gap on Bell, who in turn had dropped Clarkson by five seconds.
On lap 12, Clarkson was the first to come in, handing over the Falcon to David Smithies, as the rest of the field continued for another lap. However, Smithies’ time in the car was shortlived as he returned to the pits with a blown head gasket… The next car in was another Falcon – Voyazides being relieved by Hadfield just as Thomas out in front set another fastest lap of the race. Meanwhile, Alan Letts had taken over from brother Geoff in the third-placed Cortina, with Maydon, Jones and Audoin all pitting on the same lap, just as Stephen Upsdell in 12th place, handing the Cortina to Richard Bateman.
With 15 seconds to spare in the pit window, Thomas left his pitstop to the very latest, but he got in just as Tom Bell and Billy Nairn had done their stops, the latter handing over to Carl Nairn. All stops done, Lockie in the leading Falcon led Hadfield by 4.7 seconds. In third, Alan Letts trailed by 42 seconds, leading his Cortina rival Mark Martin by ten seconds – Martin, however, was closing fast. Tom Bell was still fifth, half a minute in front of the other Minis of Maydon and Jones.
At the front, we had a race on our hands, as Hadfield had been on it from the moment he got in, putting in a series of fastest laps of the race to cut Lockie’s lead by 2.3 seconds in three laps. Some 50 seconds down, another battle was starting to develop, as Martin had closed the gap to Letts and was now sitting right on his fellow Cortina’s tail.
It all came to a head on lap 21, when Lockie and Hadfield touched while fighting over the lead, Lockie staying ahead and Hadfield losing ground, but Martin found a clean way past Letts to take third. Having taken a couple of laps to take a deep breath, Hadfield set another fastest lap on lap 23 to close in on Lockie again. Braking for the Adelaide hairpin, Lockie suffered a huge lock-up and ran wide, and this allowed Hadfield to nip past on the inside, as five minutes were all that remained on the clock. Further back, Tom Bell had caught up and passed Alan Letts for a terrific fourth overall.
Hadfield had eeked out a 3.6-second lead on Lockie at the chequered flag, with Martin taking third, one and a half minute behind. Also still on the lead lap, Bell and the Letts brothers claimed fourth and fifth respectively. Steve Jones was the first of the lapped runners in sixth, having pipped Maydon right at the end. Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Audoin completed the over-2-litre podium in his Mustang.
Masters Sports Car Legends
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.