2016 Oldtimer Grand Prix report
Smaller can be a good thing too
- Mattijs Diepraam (words & photography)
- August 23, 2016
Nick Padmore, Keith Frieser
Williams-Cosworth FW07C, Shadow-Cosworth DN1
2016 Oldtimer GP (August 12, 2016)
It was smaller than ever but that somehow gave it a cosy feel. For the first time in history the Oldtimer-Grand-Prix – once one of the two great summer fixtures in historic motor racing, alongside the Silverstone Classic – decided not to bother with the Marathon on the Nordschleife, containing the event to the GP circuit’s pit-and-paddock area and the historic paddock across the other side of what is often jokingly nicknamed the Ersatzring. Still, now a more usual-sized event using the popular Masters Historic Racing package at its backbone, it proved to be among the best of that kind.
A packed and well-organised clubby meeting – that was the impression of the 2016 Oldtimer Grand Prix. The Friday was reasonably quiet but on Saturday and Sunday spectators turned up in droves to have a really good time. Those cars that didn’t find a place in the pit garages were given a spot inside one of the many tents that the organisers had erected in Peter Auto-style – at the Nürburgring the paddock won’t have given you the campsite experience of, let’s say, the Historic Grand Prix at Zandvoort. And that’s OK, since who would want every event to be a copy of the other?
Graham Adelman's glorious ex-Moss Maserati 250F brightening up a drab pre-event Thursday. (photo 8W)
Also less than Silverstone Classic-size were the gatherings of car clubs for which the entire Mercedes Arena section of the ‘GP-Strecke’ was cut off from the on-track action. One marque equalled Silverstone’s parking-lot-filled-with-beauties bonanza, though: there were dozens and dozens of Porsches, and one of the two Stuttgart brands treated their customers to the slickest form of hospitality in the way only Germans are capable of. Which made it all the more strange to notice the complete absence of Mercedes and BMW at their home historic event. For BMW celebrating their centenary that was even curiouser. There were German mutterings that BMW must have become a Dutch brand since they would have a huge presence at the Zandvoort Historic GP three weeks later. As it was, the Bavarians were at Laguna Seca in the very same weekend, with the same display that the Dutch crowd would see at Zandvoort, so ‘American brand’ would be a better description.
The racing was pretty good, even though some of the races missed a battle up at the front. The stars of the show were Nick Padmore and Manfredo Rossi. The former won both F1 races and came out victorious in a thrilling battle with Martin Stretton for Historic Sports Car pole. Padmore along with his team mate Max Smith-Hillard lost out in the race, however, not just because of a safety car period that wiped out Padmore’s lead but also because of their Chevron B19 breaking down with Smith-Hilliard at the wheel. This paved the way for Manfredo Rossi’s very first win for his Osella-Abarth PA1. It proved to be a glorious weekend for the Martini heir anyway, as he also grabbed wins in both FIA Lurani Trophy races for Formula Junior cars.
It's details like this that make your day. (photo 8W)
In his Williams FW07, Padmore was the clear favourite for a double win in the FIA Masters Historic Formula One races, having already snatched three earlier doubles. Qualifying went smoothly for the championship leader, as Padmore took pole with a clear margin on his nearest rival, Belgian Loïc Deman. It wasn’t all plain sailing in the races, though. In Saturday’s race, the Briton built an early cushion on Deman’s Tyrrell 010 and managed to control the gap, but in the second race Deman kept him on his toes all the way. With Padmore almost making the wrong decision in passing a backmarker into the final corner, before switching back to the right side, Deman was never closer to victory. Still, he lost out by a mere tenth of a second.
“Loïc was gaining massively on the run down to the last chicane”, said Padmore as he explained why Deman was able to keep him honest for the entire race. “The last lap was interesting with the backmarkers, I only just stayed ahead.”
Michael Gans throwing R1B into the Kurzanbindung, the shortcut that bypasses the Mercedes Arena. (photo 8W)
“I pulled the joker”, said Deman, “I put new tyres on as I knew it was the only chance I had to beat Nick. I didn’t find any real passing opportunity, however, until that final lap with the backmarkers. He went left, I went right. His was the wrong side but he changed his mind and I had to lift. I finished the race almost up his exhaust pipes!”
Steve Hartley (Arrows A4) finished a distant third in the first race but lost his rear wing in the second race while circling in the same position. “That was scary, I know!” said Hartley. “Just when you need it the most!” Hartley’s mishap gave Simon Fish’s Ensign N180 the final podium spot. Max Smith-Hilliard (Shadow DN5) won the pre-78 class in the first race when Michael Lyons lost all gears of his Hesketh 308E. The class favourite didn’t have an easy time of it in the second race either, losing his rear brakes on the second lap, but he still snatched the class win by passing Jamie Constable’s Shadown DN8 halfway down the race. He was further helped by Smith-Hilliard ending up in the gravel trap at the chicane.
Jason Wright's Shadow DN8 is ready for F1 qualifying. (photo 8W)
“I lost my rear brakes on lap 2 and nearly ran into the back of the car in front”, said Lyons. “Cooling the brakes during the safety-car period didn’t help, so I had to drive around the problem. As Jamie was braking much later I had to work out a safe place to overtake him, but I finally managed it. Third and first with these kinds of problems isn’t too bad!”
In the FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race on Sunday, Padmore was the early leader in the Chevron B19 he shared with Smith-Hilliard. Followed by Manfredo Rossi’s Osella, his advantage was negated by a safety car period that neatly coincided with the 10-minute pit window. As soon as the green flag was waved, Rossi stormed past Smith-Hilliard who later had to retire the Chevron. Rossi’s open-top Lola rivals had faltered by then, the Michael Gans T290 and the Piercy/Stretton T210 both retiring. This turned the Lola T70 Mk3Bs of Mike Donovan and Jason Wright into Rossi’s nearest opponents, but Donovan was struggling with a misfire when he got below 6000rpm. Forced to run a gear higher in corners, Donovan had to let go of Wright, who at the end closed in on Rossi, who was running into brake trouble. The Italian count held on to the lead to edge out the American by three seconds.
Mark Piercy's Lola T210 at speed. (photo 8W)
The 65-minute Gentlemen Drivers race was an easy affair for the Michael Gans/Andy Wolfe AC Cobra, as it headed Julian Thomas’ Jaguar E-type by 18 seconds. “Michael did all the work, really”, said Wolfe, smiling from ear to ear. “He gave me a fantastic car and a good lead. I just kept a steady pace and made sure the lead stayed the same.”
C2 class winner Nicky Pastorelli took a great third overall in his Ferrari 250 GTO 64 recreated by Dutch Ferrari wizard Piet Roelofs. “We were aiming for the overall podium”, said C2 class winner Pastorelli on his third place overall. “We knew the car was capable of it, and we are happy to have achieved it. I took it easy at the start, as I didn’t want to eat up the tyres but I soon got into a rhythm.”
The historic paddock housed the most beautiful pre-war details. (photo 8W)
There was heartache in the battle for CLP class honours. This easily seemed to go the way of Palle Birkelund Pedersen, but then the Dane’s Ginetta G4R lost a wheel on the final lap. This gifted the win to Ron Maydon’s similar Ginetta.
The Historic Grand Prix Car Association had only brought the front-engined cars to the Nürburgring. Julian Bronson (Scarab-Offenhauser), Tony Wood (Tec-Mec-Maserati) and Tony Smith (Ferrari 246 Dino) occupied the podium after the first race. Bronson and Wood also took charge in the second race, but it was Josef Otto Rettenmaier in the ‘sharknosed’ Maserati 250F who finished third after a fierce battle with Sid Hoole’s Cooper T41.
Chevron B8s line up for the FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race. (photo 8W)
The AvD had also organised two races for pre-61 sportscars, the first of which was held in Saturday’s dusk. Many names and cars familiar from the Revival’s RAC TT and Sussex Trophy had entered. The night race was won by Mark Lewis’ Lister-Chevrolet Knobbly while Tony Wood won the second race in a Jaguar-engined Knobbly. Julian Majzub took second in both races in his Sadler-Chevy.
The Oldtimer Grand Prix also played host to several German national historic championships. Ralf Kelleners won the DRM Revival’s first race in his De Tomaso Pantera, but was beaten by the Beck/Thibault Porsche 935 in the second race. Meanwhile, Mike Stursberg (Ford Escort RS1600) grabbed AvD-Tourenwagen-und-GT-Trophäe glory. The 1964-1984 F3 races went the way of Michael Ringström (March-Toyota 753) and Fred Lajoux (Chevron-Toyota B43) while the Jaguar Challenge – a race open to all sorts of Jags, most of them E-types – was won by the Gotcha E-type of German count Markus von Oeynhausen. Adding to the programme were parades from very different eras. Recent to very recent DTM and STW cars together formed the Tourenwagen Revival, which fortunately turned into a high-speed demo rather than a parade. The historic paddock hosted the Vintage Sports Car Trophy and ASC Trophy pre-war machinery.