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2019 Grand Prix de France Historique report
Magny Heat


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Soheil Ayari


Ligier-Matra JS17




2019 Grand Prix de France Historique (June 28, 2019)

Soheil Ayari, Ligier-Matra JS17, 2019 Grand Prix de France Historique

After the incessant rains of 2017 came the burning sun of 2019 – Magny-Cours felt like an oven for the second Grand Prix de France Historique, as if it was overcompensating for the deluge that marred the inaugural event. Once in the car, though, the on-track protagonists couldn’t help themselves. The racing was usually terrific, and apart from the odd coming together, the heat didn’t get to the drivers’ heads.

As in the first episode of the French Historic Grand Prix, the programme’s emphasis squarely lay with single-seaters, headlined by the third round of the FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship for which a healthy 25-car grid appeared. Continuing their Brands Hatch fight, championship leader (and double Paul Ricard winner) Matteo Ferrer-Aza (Ligier JS11/15) and Saturday’s winner at Brands Martin Stretton (Tyrrell 012) headlined the entry, but ‘Mr John of B’ had put a spectacular guest driver in his Matra-engined Ligier JS17 to make it three Ligiers in the race (including his own JS11/15) at the marque’s spiritual home, 50 years after it was founded. Former F3000 driver Soheil Ayari – John of B’s regular partner in his Ligier-Cosworth JS2 sportscar – was reacquainted with single-seater after decades in sportscars, and relished the experience, splitting Stretton and Ferrer on the qualifying timesheets.

Mike Cantillon, Williams-Cosworth FW07C, 2019 Grand Prix de France Historique

Mike Cantillon turning into the first corner in his Williams FW07C. (photo 8W)

In a tense first race, the order between the three remained unchanged, Stretton winning from pole while fending off Ayari, with Ferrer trailing further back saving his tyres for race two. On Sunday, Stretton withdrew his Tyrrell due to gearbox issues while a second-lap contretemps between Henry Fletcher’s March 761 (the dominant pre-78 winner on Saturday) and Ayari’s Ligier-Matra robbed the race of its star driver and a possible fight with Ferrer, who duly rattled off the laps for the win, having avoided all the thrills and spins of a chaotic few opening laps. Fletcher’s demise allowed Andrew Haddon (Hesketh 308C) to take the pre-78 win.

Supporting Historic F1 in its own spectacular way, a record 30 cars arrived at the Nièvre circuit for the two HSCC Historic F2 races. Initially, Martin O’Connell looked like repeating his Brands form by claiming pole and running away but his Chevron B40 faltered on lap 6. Alain Girardet’s March 77B briefly took over the helm before David Tomlin pushed through in his wonderful Rondel Motul M1, Tomlin making it two out of two in the Motul on Sunday. Matt Wrigley (Chevron B42) stole Girardet’s second place on Saturday but the following day the young Wrigley lost out to HVM boss and GPFH co-organiser Laurent Valléry-Masson making his HF2 debut in the March 77B.

David Tomlin, Rondel Motul M1, 2019 Grand Prix de France Historique

Sun setting on David Tomlin's colourful Motul M1. (photo 8W)

The blossoming French single-seater scene of the eighties and nineties was revived by a triplet of national historic series – the Trophée F3 Classic, the Trophée Formule Renault Classic and the Challenge Formula Ford Historic France.

The dominant F3 winner of 2017, Tristan Gommendy in the Ralt-VW RT3, was put to the back of the grid having initially claimed pole, and this allowed Matthieu Châteaux (Ralt-Alfa RT3) to take a double victory. On Saturday, Châteaux took over when William Westerloppe (Ralt-VW RT3) spun away the lead, and then saw Gommendy – all the way from the back – close to within two seconds at the chequered flag. Châteaux won the second race from the front while Gommendy had to give way to Frédéric Rouvier, whose Martini-Toyota MK34 had finished third the day before.

2019 Grand Prix de France Historique

Formula Renault glory of the Martini kind... (photo 8W)

Making up for the slightly smaller grids of the two Formula Renault races, Florent Cazalot (Martini MK51), Fabrice Porte (MK36) and Marc Klein (MK41) provided some close racing in the first race while dicing for the lead. Cazalot looked to have been given a break when Porte and Klein tangled, but the safety car put Christian Vaglio-Giors (MK51) into play, the Swiss driver pushing down Cazalot two laps from the end. Cazalot prevailed on Sunday, holding Vaglio-Giors and Klein all the way.

The 37 Formula Ford cars were joined by seven F3 1000cc screamers from the sixties, and indeed it was Geoffroy Rivet’s guesting March 703 that led from start to finish on Saturday. Rivet won again on Sunday but had to catch and pass Alain Girardet’s Crosslé 25F to do so.

Leo Voyazides, Ford Falcon, 2019 Grand Prix de France Historique

Leo Voyazides about to enter the final chicane in his Ford Falcon. (photo 8W)

Masters being Masters, the organisers had to allow the full Masters package on the bill – even though the Masters Endurance Legends grid was cancelled due to a shortage of entries. The remaining sportscar and touring-car action more than made up for that, though, as the Leo Voyazides/Simon Hadfield and Julian Thomas/Calum Lockie pairings fought hard for the title of Magny-Cours tin-top kings. In the end, the Anglo-Greek duo took two wins on Sunday, having been initially trounced by Thomas/Lockie in Saturday’s Masters Gentlemen Drivers race. With Hadfield and Lockie equally matched, it was down to their teammates to decide the outcome – and in the 90-minute GT race, Thomas’ strong opening stint put the win beyond doubt in the intra-Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé tussle with Voyazides/Hadfield, Andrew Haddon even managing to squeeze himself between the two in his Elan. It needed a time penalty for Haddon to reverse the order.

However, Sunday was all about Voyazides showing extremely well in the opening part of the races. Having kept Thomas at bay for almost his entire stint, Voyazides handed a slim deficit to Hadfield who then caught and passed Lockie’s similar Ford Falcon. Voyazides and Hadfield then added to their Masters Pre-66 Touring Car win by leading the FIA Masters Historic Sportscar race from start to finish. A late challenge by Andy Wolfe in the rival Lola T70 Mk3B evaporated on the final tour when Wolfe’s persistent gearbox problems culminated in a missed shift and a bump into the barriers.

The full event gallery