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2018 Motor Legend Festival report
Turning up the heat


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Martin O'Connell






2018 Motor Legend Festival (April 22, 2018)

Martin O'Connell, ATS D4, Imola, 2018 Motor Legend Festival

The heat was truly on for the Masters Historic Racing season opener at Imola, where temperatures reached peaks of 28 degrees. Sharing the bill with the Dutch Historic Touring Car & GT Championship, Ferrari Corse Clienti and a fine array of Italian-themed demos, the five Masters series produced some excellent racing with some new faces amongst the winners. From the chaos of the FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race to the straightforward Masters Gentlemen Drivers race – the 20,000 spectators were treated to amazing historic variety. And then they had Alfa, Martini and Tecno, and René Arnoux, Jacky Ickx and Giacomo Agostini…

The organisers of the inaugural Motor Legend Festival had dubbed the two FIA Masters Historic Formula One race the first Historic San Marino Grand Prix – which was a nice touch, even though most of the machines preceded the actual first San Marino Grand Prix that took place at Imola. It was all change in the championship, with favourites such as Michael Lyons (the reigning post-78 champion), Loïc Deman and Simon Fish electing not to return, Lyons preferring a full Group C season including the Le Mans Classic for the Lyons family’s Gebhardt-Cosworth C91 while Deman and Fish put their cars up for sale during the winter. With the Forza Historic team and its top drivers Nick Padmore (the 2016 post-78 champion) and Max Smith-Hilliard (last year’s pre-78 champion) choosing to miss Imola to preserve their cars for Monaco, it was an encouraging sign that still 27 cars turned up for the curtain-raiser. It opened up the opportunity to celebrate new winners too – which is indeed what happened.

Nicky Pastorelli, Ferrari 250 GTO/64, Imola, 2018 Motor Legend Festival

Nicky Pastorelli completely dominated Masters Gentlemen Drivers in the Roelofs Engineering Ferrari 250 GTO/64. (photo 8W)

The most prominent newcomer, Martin O’Connell put the Marc Devis-owned ATS D4 on pole, but it was a one-off appearance, O’Connell explained, simply in preparation for the Belgian racing the German-built car at Monaco. His qualifying pace showed that O’Connell had been a British Formula 3 National Class champion in his day – in fact, the OC Racing boss was the fastest man of the entire weekend, and it was only technical failure that prevented him from doubling up. He still won the second race, though, charging up from 21st on the grid.

The first race went to Mike Cantillon ahead of his CGA Engineering team mate Christophe d’Ansembourg, both the Briton and the Belgian racing their usual Williams FW07 mounts, Cantillon now with a new No.7. Last year, Cantillon showed a marked improvement in form, leading to a strong podium run at Spa, his last appearance in the 2017 championship. His driver coach Jonathan Kennard agreed, saying that ‘something clicked’ with Mike during the course of last season, and he was pleased to see that Cantillon had managed to extend that click into the new year. In the opening stages, Cantillon built an impressive 19-second lead over d’Ansembourg and then gladly picked up the lead when O’Connell’s ATS faltered. He then also handled the restart well that came after a late safety-car call. With Steve Hartley having a torrid weekend in his Arrows A4, Cantillon must now be one of the title favourites, depending on the number of races in which Padmore will compete.

Tecno F1, Imola, 2018 Motor Legend Festival

This scruffiest of Tecno F1 cars was part of several Italian-themed static displays. (photo 8W)

In pre-78, Greg Thornton and Jamie Constable were at it hammer and tongues. Thornton had qualified strongly while Constable was way down the grid after a miserable qualifying session in which he was only allowed four laps. In the first race, Thornton’s Lotus 77 kept pace with the quicker post-78 machines, moving up to third ahead of the safety car, and he was planning to drop down a few places to still lead Constable’s Shadow DN8 across the line as the pre-78 winner. A deliberate drop of places? Yes, since for 2018 the championship has adopted the well-known ‘reversed grid’ order for race 2 that is in use in many modern single-seater championships such as Formula 2 and GP3. But when Thornton looked in his mirrors, he found no-one there… Behind him, Joaquin Folch had run into trouble, afterwards reporting a loss of power in his Brabham BT49. As he crawled towards the safety-car line he bunched up the rest of the field led by Steve Brooks. To the Lotus 81 driver’s frustration, he was jumped by no less than three cars – led by Constable’s Shadow – when they finally crossed the all-important line.

Brooks’s loss of position did give him a good starting position on Sunday, and he was the first to profit when pole-sitter Patrick D’Aubréby wildly spun his March 761 on the exit of the Variante Tamburello. Brooks then produced a very strong race to lead until lap 8, keeping O’Connell at bay for the full length of three laps before he finally succumbed to the former British F3 driver and then almost matching O’Connell’s times towards the finish. Meanwhile, Thornton and Constable clashed at Rivazza as they fought over the pre-78 lead, and although the incident was investigated, no further action was taken. Constable kept on track to claim the class win but Thornton’s ailing Lotus 77 dropped down to fifth in class.

Mike Gardiner/Andy Wolfe, Ford Falcon, Imola, 2018 Motor Legend Festival

The Mike Gardiner/Andy Wolfe Ford Falcon could not be stopped... (photo 8W)

The FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race became a race of attrition with numerous safety-car periods and rivals running into each other. Even though Leo Voyazides spun on the first lap and had to give his all to haul his Lola T70 Mk3B back up to fifth place, the Greek and his quick team mate Simon Hadfield again seemed to be ones to survive the mayhem to win where others stumbled – just as they had done in similarly chaotic races at Zandvoort and Spa last year. But then the pair were disqualified for an incident in which Hadfield was deemed to have been too forceful in overtaking Stefano Rosina’s McLaren M8C, which resulted in a shock overall win for the little Chevron B8 of Graham Wilson and David Pittard. Voyazides and Hadfield lost an easy win since a safety-car period just before the pit window opened compensated for all the ground lost by Voyazides’s early spin. Similarly, the quick Pittard was in the front seat, as he too was put in immediate touch with the leaders. From fifth, Hadfield led within three laps and Pittard soon followed him into second place before the two reeled off their laps to the finish. But then the stewards’ call came…

Lancia Delta Integrale, Imola, 2018 Motor Legend Festival

Martini was another theme at the festival, and this meant the presence of a lot of Lancias, including its most famous Group B rally machines. (photo 8W)

Another new face was the winner in the pre-66 Hulme class, as Michiel Smits – who had already threatened in qualifying – put reigning champions Keith Ahlers and Billy Bellinger (Cooper Monaco King Cobra) under pressure, Ahlers in the end spinning his narrow lead away, handing the lead and the win to the Dutchman in the Lola T70 Mk1.

In sharp contrast, the Masters Gentlemen Drivers race went as smoothly as one can imagine, the deployment of the safety car not required on any occasion. It allowed poleman Nicky Pastorelli to lap almost the entire field on his way to an ultra-dominant win in the stunning Dutch-built Ferrari 250 GTO/64. His only competition came from fellow Dutchies David and Olivier Hart but the father-and-son team was out of the race at two-thirds distance when the battery of their Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé caught fire with Olivier at the wheel. This handed second pace to the Michael Gans/Andy Wolfe AC Cobra, Wolfe driving as hard as he could to stay on the lead lap and put Pastorelli under at least a tiny amount of pressure. But the Dutchman was taking it easy, conserving fuel to make it to the end after an explosive opening stint, and the win was his. One lap down, the Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie Jaguar E-type was third while Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield finished an inexplicably sluggish fourth, Hadfield admitting that he was clueless about the lack of speed in their Cobra Daytona Coupé.

Steve Brooks, Lotus 81, Imola, 2018 Motor Legend Festival

Steve Brooks was one of the F1 stars of the weekend. (photo 8W)

In fifth overall, Masters boss Ron Maydon blitzed the CLP class in his Ginetta G4R while Kieth Ahlers and Billy Bellinger saw another win slip through their fingers when they were forced to retire their Morgan SLR with an engine issue. Nils-Fredrik Nyblaeus and Jeremy Welch were happy to say thank you for the C2 class win. In C1, Malcolm Paul and Rick Bourne (TVR Grantura) won in equally dominant fashion, leading the class from start to finish despite Dutch duo Theo en Thijs van Gammeren having claimed pole in their Porsche 911.

The GT contingent of the Dutch Historic Touring Car & GT Championship raced for 60 minutes in the 90-minute race, and saw many of the favourites fail to last until the end. In the closing stages German girl racer Rhea Sautter did everything in her power to defend the lead handed to her by Andy Newell but on the final tour her E-type made contact with the Elan of countryman Alexander Schlüchter trying to dislodge her from the lead. Sautter pulled through to take the chequered flag in first while Schlüchter retired into the pits with crash damage. In doing so, he still crossed the line in second, but unaware he had done so. That is why after his return to the circuit he had to blackflagged after ten minutes…

Martini girl, Imola, 2018 Motor Legend Festival

No more gridgirls in F1? Historic F1 won't be swayed... (photo 8W)

In the one-hour Masters Pre-66 Touring Car race, more dominance was seen in the shape of Mike Gardiner leading away from pole in his Ford Falcon and maintaining his lead until the pitstops. Gardiner then handed over to new team mate Andy Wolfe, who proved to be an able replacement for Phil Keen, racing off into the distance to claim an unchallenged win. In the Cortina class, local man Andrea Stortoni looked to have it all in the bag, only to lose victory on the final lap. An inspired Mark Martin, using a clever pitstop strategy to leapfrog all his rivals, was the grateful recipient of the class win. In the Mini class, there was similar drama when Nick Swift lost a certain win at three-quarter distance, victory instead going to the Ian Curley/Bill Sollis pairing.

The touring-car segment of the Dutch Historic Touring Car & GT Championship turned into an all-Ford Falcon affair, German Norbert Gross dominating, with Martin Bijleveld/Jaap van der Ende and Carlo Hamilton picking up the remaining podium places.

The full Motor Legend Festival event gallery