Circuit Paul Ricard, France

GRAND PRIX DE FRANCE HISTORIQUE
11 – 13 June 2021

Paul Ricard delivers stunning historic racing under sun drenched skies!

The Grand Prix de France Historique meeting at Paul Ricard treated us to three days of the finest historic motorsport, run in perfect racing conditions. Blessed by a clear blue sky, the four Masters grids presented the French crowd with six races – all of which entertained from start to finish.

RACE REPORTS

Masters Endurance Legends – Race 1
Lendoudis beats d’Ansembourg to victory in first Masters Endurance Legends race at Paul Ricard

Kriton Lendoudis and Christophe d’Ansembourg produced a thrilling battle for the win, as the Greek and the Belgian fought every inch of the way in the first Masters Endurance Legends race at Paul Ricard. D’Ansembourg’s Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2 led for most of the race but Lendoudis’ diesel-powered Peugeot 90X came up strong towards the end to beat the Lola-Aston to victory.

Shaun Lynn dominated the P2 class, guiding his BR Engineering BR01 to third overall ahead of Marcello Marateotto’s P1 Lola B06/10. Marateotto was an early leader but the Swiss driver jumped the start and as a result was handed a ten-second stop-and-go penalty. The Georg Hallau/Marco Werner Lola-Lotus B12/80 and the Philippe Papin/Karl Pedraza ORECA 03 ended up fifth and sixth respectively to take second and third in the P2 class.

Germans Nikolaus Ditting and Dominik Roschmann had a race-long fight over the GT class win, with Ditting’s Aston Martin DBR9 gaining the upper hand over Roschmann’s Prodrive-built Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello. In the final part of the race, Olivier Tagcogne looked to have secured third in class in his GT2 Dodge Viper GTS-R but Nick Padmore in the Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 snatched the place away right at the end.

Not all cars looked to have awaited the green lights at the start, as Marateotto blasted into the lead followed by d’Ansembourg and Lendoudis. Lynn remained in fourth ahead of Hallau, Xavier Micheron and Papin, while among the GTs Ditting led Roschmann, Padmore and the two Tancognes, son Olivier in front of dad Xavier. Soon enough, the fast-starting Marateotto was handed a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for his jump start, as Lendoudis powered past the shrieking Lola-Aston of d’Ansembourg.

Meanwhile, Mike Furness’ race was over, the Briton retiring the Courage LC75 to the pits with a misfiring Judd engine, while almost simultaneously Micheron was in from his promising sixth place in the hope to have the gearbox problem fixed that was plaguing his Riley and Scott MkIIIC.

As Marateotto in the ALMS Lola entered the pits to serve his penalty, d’Ansembourg kept on harrying Lendoudis for what was now the lead in the race, and indeed hit the front on lap 5. 14 seconds down on the leading pair, Lynn inherited third place, having in turn dropped Hallau by 18 seconds. Remarkably, Marateotto was still fifth, 40 seconds down on the Lola-Aston in the lead.

Such was the leading GT1 cars’ pace that Ditting and Roschmann were now up into sixth and seventh, but Padmore in the Vantage V12 GT3 wasn’t far off. Philippe Papin in the ORECA 03 was ninth ahead of Olivier Tancogne in the Dodge Viper GTS-R, while Craig Davies driving solo in Ron Maydon’s Ligier JSP3-15 headed Michael Gans in the Ferrari 458 GT3 shared with fellow American Jason Wright.

The pit window now open, Papin was the first to come in, handing over the ORECA to quicker team mate Karl Pedraza. The leaders continued, though, d’Ansembourg now pumping in fastest laps of the race to leave Lendoudis behind by five seconds. Behind Lynn, the recovering Marateotto had moved his ex-Intersport Lola past Hallau who now pitted his Lola-Lotus to hand over to Marco Werner. Further back, Xavier Tancogne came in with his 458 GTE while James Thorpe was relieved by Phil Quaife in the 430 GT2.

Ditting was the first of the leading GT cars to blink, and seconds later the overall leader followed him in, d’Ansembourg also making his mandatory stop from a lead that by now had increased to 11 seconds. In their chase of Ditting in the DBR9, Roschmann and Padmore were up next, but Lendoudis and Lynn held on for another lap before taking the final opportunity. As he approached d’Ansembourg’s lap times, Marateotto had closed up to Lynn in the BR01, the gap now down to eight seconds.

In front, d’Ansembourg now led Lendoudis by three seconds, the Greek having profited from a slightly quicker turnaround, but the Belgian further improved on his fastest lap of the race to show his intentions. Lynn trailed the lead fight by 22 seconds, with Marateotto in fourth and Werner in fifth. From behind, Pedraza was looking to join P2 class leaders Lynn and Werner, and passed the leading GT cars of Ditting and Roschmann to be sixth. Behind the two GT1s, Tancogne (O.) and Padmore warred over ninth, while Wright in the 458 GT3 started by Gans led Davies and Tancogne (X.) in 11th.

But who was having the last laugh in front? Now Lendoudis began to really stretch his legs, as the Greek began approaching his stunning 1.57 lap times from qualifying. With five minutes left on the clock, the Peugeot had cut down the gap to the Lola-Aston to less than a second, and on lap 17, the 90X was stuck to the DBR1-2’s rear wing. As the lap came to an end, Lendoudis nipped ahead but only briefly, as the full wail of the Aston V12 and the Lola’s superior traction powered d’Ansembourg back into the lead.

The Peugeot was better under braking, though, and into the twisty bits moved ahead after all, keeping the Lola-Aston narrowly behind at the chicane, d’Ansembourg locking up when his rival cut across to take the line. Having lost his momentum, the Belgian now looked at an insurmountable gap and gave up going into the final tour. And so, Lendoudis won by eight seconds, with Lynn taking third and the P2 class win 40 seconds down on d’Ansembourg but maintaining his lead over Marateotto.

The Hallau/Werner Lola-Lotus and the Papin/Pedraza ORECA were fifth and sixth respectively while Ditting beat Roschmann to the GT class win. Behind the two Germans, Padmore pipped Olivier Tancogne to third in class.

Masters Endurance Legends – Race 2
D’Ansembourg hits back with victory in second Masters Endurance Legends race at Paul Ricard.

Christophe d’Ansembourg did everything right to bag victory in the second Masters Endurance Legends race at Paul Ricard, as the Belgian reclaimed the lead from the fast-starting Marcello Marateotto, and then brushed off the Swiss driver’s renewed challenge towards the end, the Lola-Aston Martin DBR1-2 finishing 2.9 seconds ahead of the Lola B06/10.

Kriton Lendoudis (Peugeot 90X) and Shaun Lynn (BR Engineering BR01) missed out when they stayed out as the safety car was deployed right on the cusp of the pit window. Because of their error, the pair lost well over a minute, but Lynn still captured a distant third and first place in the P2 category. A stop-and-go penalty for overtaking under yellows dropped Lendoudis even further back but the Greek recovered to salvage fourth ahead of the Georg Hallau/Marco Werner Lola-Lotus B12/80 – that took second in P2 – and Xavier Micheron in the Riley & Scott MkIIIC, the latter working his way up from the back. In seventh overall, Philippe Papin and Karl Pedraza took third in P2 with their ORECA 03.

The fight for GT class honours proved to be incredibly tight, Germans Nikolaus Ditting and Dominik Roschmann initially fighting it out at the front in a close tussle between their Aston Martin DBR9 and Ferrari 550 Maranello respectively. However, with a timely pitstop during that critical safety-car period, Olivier Tancogne’s GT2 Dodge Viper GTS-R jumped both GT1 cars to take a surprise class victory. At the end, Ditting lost out to Roschmann as they fought over second place in class.

On the green lights, Lendoudis led away from d’Ansembourg but behind Saturday’s warring pair Marateotto was on an early charge, passing Lynn into the third corner before storming past the Lola-Aston Martin as well to take second. Behind the top four, Hallau stayed in touch in fifth, but a gap had evolved to Ditting in the lead GT car, the German having passed Papin’s ORECA for sixth. The Frenchman was soon usurped by a whole gaggle of GT cars led by Roschmann and Padmore, as Phil Quaife (Ferrari 430 GT2) and Olivier Tancogne also followed through.

Two laps down, Marateotto wasn’t done yet, the Swiss driver also passing Lendoudis, with d’Ansembourg nipping by as well. The Belgian having got into his rhythm now, the Lola-Aston began to harry the ex-Intersport Lola in the lead, and on lap 3, d’Ansembourg outbraked Marateotto into the chicane. By now, Lendoudis trailed the pair by four seconds, with Lynn five more seconds down and Hallau following 12 more seconds further back.

40 seconds down on the leader, the lead GT battle was as hot as it was in race 1, Ditting keeping Roschmann at bay, but from the back Xavier Micheron in his Riley & Scott MkIIIC got into the mix to pass both for sixth overall. Meanwhile, Furness ended a miserable weekend by again retiring his Courage LC75 to the pits, the misfire in his Judd engine playing up once more.

Behind the two GT1 cars, Padmore had his hands full fending off Quaife and the younger Tancogne, while Ron Maydon in the Ligier JSP3-15 was closing up on Papin in 12th. In 14th and 15th, Xavier Tancogne and Jason Wright were having a Ferrari GT fight of their own, GTE versus GT3.

On the opening of the pit window 15 minutes into the race, d’Ansembourg led Marateotto by two seconds, with Lendoudis trailing by seven seconds. Lynn continued to dominate the P2 class, the BR01 now 25 minutes ahead of Hallau in fifth. The German was the first to pit, as he handed the P2 Lola-Lotus over to Marco Werner in the hope that his countryman could do something about Lynn’s advantage. Speaking of Germans, Ditting and Roschmann were now having a real ding-dong for the GT class lead, Roschmann’s Ferrari finally jumping Ditting’s Aston Martin going into the first turn.

As Ditting answered by coming in for his stop, the safety car was out, Michael McInerney having spun his Mosler MT900R. Now everyone was coming in – d’Ansembourg, Marateotto, Micheron, Roschmann, Padmore, Quaife, Maydon and both Tancognes. Lendoudis and Lynn stayed out, however, as they followed the safety car around for another lap. Meanwhile, Eric Martin’s Debora SP91 remained in the pits, the team working on a gearbox issue.

McInerney having got going again, the green flag was waived sooner than expected, and as the safety car returned to the pits, Lendoudis and Lynn followed it in as d’Ansembourg and Marateotto already came storming by. When Lendoudis and Lynn realised their mistake, their rivals were well over a minute up on the road…

So now it was a two-horse race between d’Ansembourg and Marateotto, the Belgian leading his Swiss rival by 1.6 seconds. Lendoudis was still third but one minute and 12 seconds down – and now also had to contend with a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for overtaking under yellows! Because of his mistake, Lynn in fourth had dropped into the clutches of Micheron, with Werner in sixth closing on the two. Meanwhile, Karl Pedraza in the ORECA 03 started by Papin had worked his way up to seventh overall to be third in the P2 class.

Through a timely stop, Olivier Tancogne’s Dodge Viper GTS-R now led Ditting and Roschmann by 6 and 15 seconds respectively, with Padmore lurking in fourth in the GT category, while in front d’Ansembourg looked to have pocketed the win, as the Belgian stabilised a three-second gap to Marateotto with four minutes still to go. Having served his penalty, Lendoudis was now trailing in sixth but soon jumped Werner to chase after Micheron in fourth.

As the race came to a close, d’Ansembourg brought home the win 2.9 seconds ahead of Marateotto while Lynn won the P2 class in third, albeit one minute and 39 seconds in arrears of the winning Aston Martin. Despite his penalty, Lendoudis got within three seconds of the BR01 to take fourth ahead of Werner, both having swamped Micheron in the end. The Papin/Pedraza ORECA took a lonely seventh while Olivier Tancogne surprised by vanquishing the two GT1 cars on his way to victory in the GT class.

Masters Formula One – Race 1
Cantillon comes to the fore to win first Masters Historic Formula One race at Paul Ricard.

From third on the grid, Mike Cantillon powered his way up to win the first Masters Historic Formula One race of the Grand Prix de France Historique at Paul Ricard. The Irish-licensed Williams FW07C driver past Jamie Constable’s pole-sitting Tyrrell 011 on lap 3, and hit the front one lap later as he passed Nick Padmore’s Lotus 77. Padmore had removed Constable from the top spot two corners into the race. Cantillon then romped away to lead Padmore across the line by 5.2 seconds, to add another 2021 win to his pair of victories in the season opener at Donington Park.

Marco Werner inherited the final podium spot after Constable spun away third place. The German had passed Christophe d’Ansembourg for fourth on lap 3, and finished 15 seconds down on Cantillon. In fifth, Lukas Halusa’s McLaren M23 won a drag race to the line to pip Laurent Fort, but the Frenchman had starred by slicing through the field from his back-of-the-grid start in an Ensign N181 that had succumbed to a clutch problem in qualifying. The fight for seventh was equally nailbiting, ‘Mr John of B’ in the Ligier JS11/15 eventually coming out on top after battling with Georg Hallau’s Theodore N183 for two-thirds of the race.

After his spin that dropped him down to 15th, Constable salvaged ninth but it was a true case of ‘what could have been’. Meanwhile, Padmore and Halusa led the pre-78 class but third place in class wasn’t decided until two laps from the end when Nicolas Matilé’s Matra MS120B lost out to Philippe Bonny in the Trojan T103 as the pair fought over tenth overall.

The race’s first drama had already occurred before the first lap was run. Having incurred damage to his Lotus 91 in the dying moments of qualifying, Brooks was unable to start from the first pole position of his career. So it was Jamie Constable who stormed away from pole but two corners into the race, Padmore passed the Tyrrell for the lead. Further back, Marc Devis was seen slowing and stopping in his Surtees TS16.

Behind Padmore and Constable, Cantillon slotted into third, the first three already opening up a sizeable gap to d’Ansembourg in fourth, the Belgian harried by Werner, Halusa and d’Aubréby. In a remarkable eighth overall, Alain Girardet was showing well in the invitational F5000 McLaren M10B, with Georg Hallau in the Theodore N183 up next. However, having started from the back, Laurent Fort had hauled his Ensign N181 up to tenth, and soon moved past Hallau as well as Girardet to be eighth.

At the start of lap 3, Cantillon outbraked Constable into the first corner to take second, while behind the leading trio Werner had removed d’Ansembourg from fourth. Soon, the three leaders were reduced to two, as Constable – who wasn’t taking Cantillon’s pass lying down – spun braking into the Virage de l’Hôtel. He had dropped down to 15th before he got the Tyrrell going again…

Going into lap 4, Cantillon wasn’t done with his march to the front, as he deposed Padmore from top spot. So now, Cantillon led Padmore, with Werner 14 seconds down in third. D’Ansembourg was fourth, another four seconds behind, while Halusa was fifth ahead of d’Aubréby whose March was beginning to smoke and consequently given the ‘meatball’ flag as he started on lap 5.

Soon enough, the March pulled off, and this handed sixth to the flying Fort who by now was trailing Halusa by a mere second. Meanwhile, Hallau in seventh was having to fend off a fast-arriving ‘Mr John of B’, the home hero having switched from his Matra MS120C to his Ligier JS11/15. Girardet was ninth, but the recovering Constable was approaching fast, having already passed Nicolas Matilé in the Matra MS120B, Philippe Bonny in the Trojan T103 and Paul Tattersall in the Ensign N179. Vincent Rivet had dropped to 14th, having been into pits with his March 811, and would soon do so again, handing the place to Michel Baudoin’s Hesketh 308C.

15 minutes into the race, and seven laps done, Cantillon had left Padmore behind by 1.4 seconds, and five minutes from the end the gap had increased to 3.8 seconds. Werner kept his deficit stable at 14 seconds, in a Lotus 92 suffering from vibrations, while d’Ansembourg looked safe from Fort who had worked his way past Halusa for fifth.

As the clock ticked down to zero, Cantillon was home safe ahead of Padmore who took first in the pre-78 class, with Werner in third as the post-82 class winner. D’Ansembourg headed Fort and Halusa who then outdragged Fort on the run to the line to finish fifth and take second in the pre-78 class, while on the final lap ‘Mr John of B’ finally manage to leap ahead of Hallau to claim seventh. A dejected Constable was ninth, while Nicolas Matilé saw third in the pre-78 class evaporate when in the final two laps the Swiss driver saw both Bonny and Tattersall go past. This ensured Bonny third place in the pre-78 class.

Masters Formula One – Race 2
Cantillon charges through the field for second Masters Historic Formula One win in French Historic Grand Prix.

From seventh on the reversed grid, Mike Cantillon took no prisoners on his way to the front as he charged to his second Masters Historic Formula One win in the Grand Prix de France Historique at Paul Ricard. The Irish Williams FW07C driver was up into second by lap 3, and chased Nick Padmore for the lead to pass the Lotus 77 on lap 8. It was Cantillon’s fourth win of the season.

Having followed in Cantillon’s wake from ninth on the grid, Jamie Constable made amends for his spin in Saturday’s race to catch and pass Padmore three laps from the end. Having been in the midst of the reversed-grid action on the opening laps, Marco Werner (Lotus 92), Lukas Halusa (McLaren M23) and Christophe d’Ansembourg (Williams FW07C) drove relatively lonely races to finish in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, while Patrick d’Aubréry came through to take seventh in his March 761.

Padmore, Halusa and d’Aubréby formed the pre-78 podium while Werner won the post-82 class from his countryman Georg Hallau (Theodore N183) who finished ninth after resuming his Saturday fight with ‘Mr John of B’ in the Ligier JS11/15. Marc Devis (Surtees TS16) completed the top ten after a spirited drive from the back of the grid.

From the reversed grid for the first seven of Saturday’s race, ‘Mr John of B’ powered away in his Ligier JS11/15 followed by another local hero, Laurent Fort in the Ensign N181. Behind the two Frenchmen, Werner moved past Halusa to take third, but in the second part of the opening lap the Ligier was swamped by Fort, Werner, and Padmore as well. At the start of the second lap, the two Williams FW07Cs of Cantillon and d’Ansembourg were past too, the pair having pushed back Halusa even further.

Now into the second lap, Padmore had passed Werner for second place and set after the leading Ensign, which he passed as they crossed the line to start lap 3 of the 25- minute race. As Fort dropped further back, Werner came under increased pressure from Cantillon, who passed the German to take second and set after Padmore. Werner subsequently lost out to Constable, who had started from ninth and had been on the move in Cantillon’s wake.

So at the start of lap 4, Padmore led Cantillon by 1.8 seconds, with Constable a further 1.2 seconds behind. Werner was fourth, while Halusa had found his feet to recover to fifth, now ahead of Fort and d’Ansembourg. Behind the Belgian, a large gap had opened up to ‘Mr John of B’ who had picked up his Saturday fight with Georg Hallau in the Theodore N183. Patrick d’Aubréry (March 761) was tenth ahead of Vincent Rivet (March 811) and Marc Devis (Surtees TS16). The Belgian had started from last on the grid but had since overtaken Michel Baudoin’s Hesketh 308C, Paul Tattersall’s Ensign N179, Nicolas Matile in the V12-powered Matra MS120B and the two guesting F5000 cars – Gislain Genecand in the Surtees TS5A and Alain Girardet in the McLaren M10B.

At the front, Cantillon continued to nibble away at Padmore’s lead, the pair leaving Constable behind by three seconds, with Werner a further five ticks adrift. Halusa, d’Ansembourg and Fort were now driving lonely races in fifth, sixth and seventh respectively while ‘Mr John of B’ and Hallau saw d’Aubréry join their fun – in fact, eight laps down and the latter had past both of them and was looking to pounce on Fort as well.

On the same lap, the lead changed hands, Cantillon passing Padmore as the pair braked for the first corner. The leaders finding themselves in traffic allowed Constable to close up, while new leader Cantillon wasn’t getting away from Padmore just yet. We now had a lead trio separated by a mere second, with two minutes remaining on the clock. In fact, at the end of lap 10, Constable pounced under braking for the Virage du Pont leading onto the start/finish straight to take second. This allowed Cantillon to make a break, and after 13 dramatic laps the Irishman was flagged off as the winner, doing the double at Paul Ricard. Constable took second to make up for Saturday’s disappointment, while Padmore won the pre-78 class in third.

14 seconds down, Werner was a distant fourth and winner of the post-82 class, ten seconds ahead of the solitary Halusa – second in the pre-78 class – and d’Ansembourg who finished 51 seconds in arrears of Cantillon. In seventh, d’Aubréby completed the pre-78 podium while ‘Mr John of B’ won his fight with Hallau for eighth. From the back of the grid, Devis salvaged tenth ahead of Fort, Girardet and Rivet.

Masters Gentlemens Drivers
Bianco has the last laugh in dramatic Masters Gentlemen Drivers enduro at Paul Ricard.

Maurizio Bianco lived up to the motto of ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’ by keeping out of trouble to eventually win Paul Ricard’s Masters Gentlemen Drivers race by a country mile. The Italian saw an exciting three-car lead battle evaporate in front of him to allow him to lead home a Jaguar E-type 1-2-3, as the Lee Mowle/Phil Keen and James Thorpe/Phil Quaife pairings completed the podium. Mowle and Keen inherited second place when the Thorpe/Quaife E-type was penalised for a pitlane infringement during the stops.

Bianco went very much under the radar when Nikolaus Ditting and Olivier Tancogne in a pair of Cobra Daytona Coupés entertained the crowd with a titanic tussle for the lead that was later joined by Lukas Halusa in the E-type shared with Alex Ames. However, at one third of the 80-minute race, Halusa’s Jaguar slowed with a gearbox issue while Ditting was forced to pit for an oil leak. After the stops, Bianco had already caught and passed Xavier Tancogne (who had taken over from his son) when the older Tancogne was hit by a puncture and dropped down to ninth.

The CLP class proved to be a similar case of survival. First, Ron Maydon retired his leading Ginetta G4R during the pit stops, handing a massive lead in class to Sander van Gils, whose Elan had been in hot pursuit of the Ginetta. But when the young Dutchman was taken out by a backmarker, the class win went to the Elan shared by Stephan Jöbstl and Andy Willis, the latter moving up to fourth overall ahead of Belgian Laurent Jaspers who produced a strong drive from the back in his E-type, and the recovering Ditting.

Manfredo Rossi was seventh in his Shelby Mustang GT350 while Félix & Christian Godard took eighth overall and a class A win in the feisty Cooper T39 ‘Bobtail’ – by far the oldest car in the field. Andreas Halusa won the concurrent Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race in his Alfa GTA, with Caroline Rossi dominating the C2 class in her Austin Healey 3000.

Masters Sports Car Legends
Wright/Wolfe surge to Masters Historic Sports Car win at Paul Ricard.

Jason Wright and Andy Wolfe cornered the Masters Historic Sports Car win at Paul Ricard, their Lola T70 Mk3B finishing well clear of a close fight for second between Michael Gans (Lola T290) and Serge Kriknoff (Lola T212).

The opening half of the race centered around Gans chasing Robert Beebee in the T70 Mk3B that the latter would share with Steve Brooks, as Wright tried to hang on to third from Kriknoff. Then, a few minutes before the pit window opened, Beebee suffered a sizeable crash in the fast lefthander coming onto the Mistral Straight, which required the deployment of the safety car.

Wright was the first to pit, and so Wolfe found himself in the lead when all the stops were done. With 16 minutes of racing left after a lengthy neutralisation needed to retrieve Beebee’s Lola, Wolfe showed his skill with an impressive string of fastest laps of the race to win by 24 seconds.

Behind Gans and Kriknoff, Carlos Antunes Tavares brought his Chevron B21 home in fourth ahead of the pre-66 class-winning Cooper Monaco T61M of Chris Jolly/Steve Farthing and the Lola T290/294 shared by Paul Châteaux and Michel Baudoin. The quick Chevron B19 of Rolf Sigrist and Davide Mazzoleni was an early retirement, Sigrist running near the front when the Chevron expired.

From the start, Wright blasted away to lead, followed by Sigrist, but Beebee was pipped by the fast-starting Châteaux, who on the straight also flew past Sigrist to take second. However, Châteaux as well as Antunes Tavares were deemed to have jumped the lights and were each handed ten-second stop-and-go penalties.

Next time around, Beebee got the Lola going to thunder past everyone in front of him to take the lead halfway into the second lap. In his wake, the slow-starting Gans also put the hammer down to power into second place ahead of his countryman and friend Wright. In yet more reshuffling, Antunes Tavares was now fourth, and Kriknoff fifth, with Châteaux pushed down to sixth ahead of Sigrist and Chris Jolly in the Cooper Monaco.

Into lap 3, as Kriknoff passed Antunes Tavares for fourth, Sigrist was seen slowing in the B19 before pulling off – the Swiss driver sharing the Chevron with Davide Mazzoleni proved to be the first casualty of the one-hour race. In front, Beebee was having a hard time shaking off Gans, the American setting fastest lap of the race to close within 1.2 seconds of the leading T70. Wright, meanwhile, had dropped down into the clutches of Kriknoff, the pair now ten seconds off from Beebee in the lead.

On lap 5, however, Beebee responded with a storming fastest race lap of his own to put two more seconds between himself and his American pursuer – as both Châteaux and Antunes Tavares came in to serve their penalties. Adding insult to injury, Châteaux crossed the white line on pitlane exit and was hit with another 5-second time penalty…

On the next two laps, Gans reduced the gap again, the big Lola coupé and the little open-top Lola seemingly connected by an elastic string. The same applied to the Lolas of Wright and Kriknoff, now some 20 seconds down on the leading pair – in fact, on lap 8, the Swiss driver nipped past the American to nick third place. Meanwhile in fifth, Jolly had a fight on his hands with the delayed Antunes Tavares and Châteaux.

Then – shock! Beebee had a violent crash on the exit of the Virage de la Sainte-Beaume, the flat-out lefthander turning onto the Mistral straight. The rear end of the Lola was destroyed but fortunately the driver was seen exiting the wreckage under his own power. Naturally, the race was neutralised, the safety car picking up new leader Michael Gans.

The pit window having opened, Wright was the first to come in to hand over to Andy Wolfe, with Jolly also swapping places with Steve Farthing, as Gans continued behind the safety car, as for now did Kriknoff, Châteaux and Antunes Tavares. Those four were in on the next lap, Châteaux being replaced by Michel Baudoin, leaving Wolfe in the lead ahead of Farthing.

Retrieving the stricken T70 lasted until lap 14, leaving just 16 more minutes of actual racing. Farthing was soon usurped by the 2-litre prototypes in his wake, Gans, Kriknoff and Antunes Tavares all flying past. None of them could touch Wolfe in the lead, though, the Briton immediately lapping four seconds faster than any of the open-top prototypes in pursuit.

On lap 17, now fully hotted up, Wolfe was down into the 2.16s, having already opened up an 8-second gap to Gans who still had Kriknoff in his mirrors, and the next time around, the leader even dipped into the 2.15s before aiming for the 2.14s! And indeed, on lap 20, a 2.14.375 proved that Wolfe was having loads of fun while extending his lead to Gans to 20 seconds.

And so, after 23 laps Wolfe crossed the line a dominant first, 24 seconds in front of a battle between Gans and Kriknoff that lasted until the chequered flag, the American holding off his Swiss rival. Antunes Tavares finished a distant fourth, over a minute down, while Steve Farthing ensured Hulme-class honours for himself and Chris Jolly, finishing ahead of the Châteaux/Baudoin Lola.