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2016 Zandvoort Historic GP report
Down to the wire



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Porsche 917-30




2016 Historic GP (September 4, 2016)

Gijs van Lennep, Porsche 917-30, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

For the first time in its five-year history, spectator figures were down at the ever-growing Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix. While that may have some clear causes, the fact didn’t take anything away from the programme, which was varied as usual, with a couple of wonderful surprises added into the mix, especially in the demo section. The undoubted highlight was the appearance of Mark Donohue’s ‘fastest car ever’, the amazing CanAm Porsche 917-30, driven by Dutch F1 and Le Mans legend Gijs van Lennep, who proved that even a septagenarian can still be as happy as a child.

Having had four sunny weekends in a row, totalling 12 consecutive rainless days over the course of the Historic GP’s entire history, the event’s perfect weather record was bound to be broken. And so it proved, with bad weather predicted for the Sunday of the 2016 Historic GP. It may partly explain why the attendance halted below last year’s 50,000-plus number but other factors contrived to work in the 2016 edition’s disadvantage, too.

Ian Simmonds, Tyrrell 012, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

Calm before the storm: Ian Simmonds ready to go out for early-morning free practice on Friday. (photo 8W)

For one, the event was moved backwards one week to avoid a clash with the Belgian GP where Dutch motorsport fans would be out in droves to support Max Verstappen. This in turn led to the event clashing with the Italian GP, which possibly meant that a certain number of fans with no special interest in historics preferred to stay home to watch Verstappen in action at Monza, especially with the predicted bad weather in mind. Added to that, the first weekend of September came after the end of the summer holiday, which explained in part why we didn’t see any families with children on the Friday. Last but not least, the event’s deal with one of the national lotteries had ended, which meant the end to free tickets for tens of thousands of people.

With all that in mind, the event was still very well attended, and those that came had every reason to. The four championships run by Masters Historic Racing still formed the backbone of the event – and they will remain doing so in the foreseeable future – but there were interesting new faces replacing the some of the regulars that were forced to skip Zandvoort. Again, the calendar movements in this very busy time of year in historics played their part, as Zandvoort now came just one week ahead of Goodwood, that early-September ‘spare’ weekend suddenly gone.

Avon slick tyres, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

WDK mechanics using their Avon slick tyres for an impromptu objet d'art. Or as Lego building blocks. (photo 8W)

This meant that the Historic Grand Prix Car Association had to pass by on Zandvoort, allowing its members to properly prepare for the Goodwood Revival. Both their replacements were a welcome surprise, as Zandvoort was treated to the delights of Motor Racing Legends’ Pre-War Sportscars as well as the 1000cc F3 screamers for the very first time.

On the demo front, BMW had Porsche trailing in its wake last year, its sumptuous selection of top cars from its BMW Classic garages easily outgunning Porsche’s tasteful Revival-style paddock area. It must have left Porsche green with envy so the Stuttgart marque put in a lot of effort to bring some Porsche’s most iconic cars to Zandvoort. Among them were a Porsche 962C, a Porsche 911 GT1 and the true catch of the year – the 1000-1500hp Porsche 917-30 in which Mark Donohue rocked the CanAm championship in 1973. With Jan Lammers, Gijs van Lennep and its legendary designer Harm Lagaaij on the drivers roster, all eyes were going to be on Porsche this year. Especially Van Lennep was beaming from ear to ear, having never driven the Donohue car before. The 74-year-old was like a kid in a candy store.

Shadow DN1, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

More paddock art work. (photo 8W)

Still, BMW didn’t give up without a fight as the Bavarian brand flew their Monterey Sports Reunion centenary display straight over from Laguna Seca to occupy the best part of the paddock area on the infield of Tarzan corner. In fact, BMW even raced the cars that they brought, a BMW Centenary Trophy race added to the programme on Saturday. Let’s call it a draw…

The racing was excellent anyway, a real handful of races finishing with the winner and his nearest rival covered by less than a second. One example was Sunday’s Historic F2 race, in which Matthew Watts (March 772) and Richard Evans (March 79B) fought tooth-and-nail for the win, Evans momentarily snatching the lead with a bold move in the Gerlachbocht before Watts took it back to win by six tenths. Watts had also beaten Evans in the first race of the weekend – and that was by a mere 1.5 seconds.

Gijs van Lennep, Porsche 917-30, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

Gijs van Lennep getting up to speed in the pitlane in the Mark Donohue Porsche 917-30. (photo 8W)

Even more exciting was the almost-photofinish in the second 500cc F3 race. On a very slippery track, Darrell Woods’ Cooper Mk12 seemed to have done enough to just stay ahead of Brian Jolliffe’s Cooper Mk9 when Adrian van der Kroft’s ex-Alan Brown Cooper was left stranded on the exit of the final corner. Jolliffe grabbed the momentum and powered his way across the line 0.122 seconds ahead of Woods. Saturday’s dominant winner, teenager Peter de la Roche gave up one lap from the end.

In the Dutch pre-81 GT and touring car races, Leonard Stolk seemed on course for an easy win on early Saturday morning, but his Porsche 911 was almost overhauled by the Capri of Steve Dance who after a fighting drive through the field almost beat Stolk on the line. He came up short by 0.162… Lex Proper, in another 911, won the second race on Sunday.

Graham Wilson/Nigel Greensall, Chevron B8, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

Nigel Greensall was the true star of the FIA Historic Sports Car race, making up a full lap during his stint to take the class win for Graham Wilson and himself. (photo 8W)

Slipstreaming was the name of the game in the two 1000 F3 screamer races, the first of which became a three-way battle between François Derossi (Chevron B17) and the Brabham BT21s of Ewen Sergison and Peter Thompson. Sergison won on Sunday, turning the tables on Derossi.

In two finishes under caution, Alexander van der Lof and Michiel Campagne shared the honours in both races for the Dutch pre-66 GT and touring car championship, the two having a close fight on Saturday as well as on Sunday. Van der Lof’s Bizzarrini 5300 GT was in the lead when the safety car prematurely ended the first race while Campagne was the lucky one in his Corvette Grand Sport when the same happened in race two…

Mark Bates, Porsche 911 RSR, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

Mark Bates was a double class winner, both in Historic Sports Cars as in Gentlemen Drivers. (photo 8W)

Both sportscar races on the Masters’ books proved to be thrillers right down to the wire. The Gentlemen Drivers 90-minute enduro was the highlight of the Saturday while the 60-minute FIA Masters Historic Sports Car race was arguably Sunday’s showstopper. Both were won by Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield, and both wins were unlikely, given the fact that Simon Hadfield had to charge back up into the lead after earlier mishaps for his Greek team mate. In both cases, the safety car brought a helping hand, though.

“It was the safety car again”, said Hadfield after the Historic Sports Car race, referring to their earlier Gentlemen Drivers win that also came about due to a helpful safety car period. “I have this very useful app on my iPhone that says ‘Safety car please’!”

David Hart, Lola T70 Mk3B, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

Local hero David Hart was unlucky in his Lola T70 Mk3B, running second midway down the Historic Sports Car before dropping back and retiring halfway down his second stint. (photo 8W)

In the Sports Car race, Voyazides and Hadfield bounced back from a drivethrough penalty for Voyazides who had hit Mark Piercy’s Lola T210 on the opening lap. A safety car period just ahead of the pit window brought the pair right back into play as Nick Padmore’s early advantage was wiped out completely. The Chevron B19 that he shared with Max Smith-Hilliard was further delayed when they missed their first opportunity to pit under the safety car, putting Smith-Hilliard all the way to the back after Padmore came in next time around.

This handed the lead to Manfredo Rossi in the Osella-Abarth PA1, but perhaps the Italian was too eager to add to his victory at the Nürburgring three weeks earlier. At the green flag, the Osella stormed off only to jump the safety car – the resulting drivethrough penalty dropped Rossi back to fourth. With Hadfield fighting his way past four cars, he was given the lead when Rossi took his penalty. Michael Gans in the Lola T290 kept Hadfield on his toes all the way to the line, though. On the last lap, their cars were side-by-side but Gans couldn’t find a way past.

Nick Padmore, Williams FW07C, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

A fully focused Nick Padmore, ahead of his first of two wins in FIA Masters Historic Formula One. (photo 8W)

“The last four laps were all about keeping it tidy and don’t stick the rear out. I knew I had an advantage on the fast bit from Hugenholtzbocht to Scheivlak and used that to stay ahead”, said Hadfield.

“You always hope for a little mistake”, said Gans. “Running side-by-side is one thing, but you know what’s going to happen when Simon presses the throttle to summon those 500 horsepowers!”

Matthew Watts, March 772, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

The event was unable to maintain its perfect record: after 14 days of sunshine, the rains came down on day 15. Here, the clouds are gathering above the double Historic F2 winner: Matthew Watts' March 772. They didn't stop him. (photo 8W)

The star of the race was Nigel Greensall, whose barnstormer of a drive earned him and Graham Wilson the light-car class win in their Chevron B8, the pair having lost a full lap during the safety car period.

Voyazides and Hadfield also narrowly beat Gans – now with co-driver Andy Wolfe – in the Gentlemen Drivers race on Saturday. This time, Voyazides locking up his rear brakes and spinning out on lap 1 forced the Anglo-Greek duo to come back from behind. The first half of the race saw an exciting battle between Gans in the Cobra and David Hart in the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé he recently acquired from James Cottingham.

Rüdiger Friedrichs, Alvis Speed 20, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

Local pre-war expert Menno Bouma chatting with Alvis Speed 20 driver Rüdiger Friedrichs ahead of the Pre-War Sportscar race. (photo 8W)

Mid-way down their stint, Hart finally found a way past when Gans was baulked by traffic but for the German things were still going according to plan. If he kept close to the Dutchman, the quicker Andy Wolfe would surely beat Hart’s son Olivier, who would take over from dad at the stops. This indeed proved the case but again, a safety car period brought Voyazides and Hadfield back into play. Suddenly back in the mix, Hadfield put in a storming drive to pass Wolfe four laps from the end. He then maintained a narrow lead until the end.

Gans and Wolfe did take the top step of the rostrum of the Pre-66 Touring Car Masters. This time, Voyazides and Hadfield pulled the shortest straw when their Ford Falcon snapped its crank during qualifying, the pair unable to profit from their pole position. Instead, Gans and Wolfe easily won ahead of three more Lotus Cortinas driven by Mark Martin/Andrew Haddon, Andrea Stortoni and Carlos Monteverde/Gary Pearson.

Harm Lagaaij, Porsche 962C, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

A bit of shocker: legendary Porsche designer Harm Lagaaij didn't think much of the Porsche 962C. He much preferred the 911 GT1. (photo 8W)

Both FIA Masters Historic Formula One races went Nick Padmore’s way again, the Briton making it ten wins in a hugely dominant season. Twice, the Williams FW07C driver charged away from pole to open up a useful lead in the first few laps before settling down to maintain the gap. With Loïc Deman electing to skip Zandvoort, Padmore looked to have an easy time of it but Christophe d’Ansembourg (in another Williams FW07C) kept him honest on Saturday while Greg Thornton (Lotus 91) stayed close on Sunday, even snatching fastest lap from Padmore’s hands. Michael Lyons’ Hesketh 308E won the pre-78 class twice. Forced to start from the pitlane on both days because of qualifying infringement, he had his work cut out for him. Lyons made it look easy on a track that he absolutely loves – on Sunday, the class lead was his by lap 6…

The Pre-War Sportscars had the worst of the weather on Sunday morning, so their machines looked even more than a handful compared with their showing on Saturday when Sam Stretton’s Alta Sports narrowly beat Rüdi Friedrichs’ Alvis Speed 20. In the wet conditions of the race, however, Stretton was unable to keep up, Friedrichs instead getting into a fight with Charles Gillett’s Frazer Nash Super Sports. When the German was forced to drop back with problems, the win was Gillett’s.

Stefano Di Fulvio, Tyrrell 012, 2016 Zandvoort Historic GP

Ready to go home. Martin Stretton's team are about to pack Stefano Di Fulvio's Tyrrell 012. (photo 8W)

The two Formula Junior races for the FIA Lurani Trophy looked like another two easy wins for Manfredo Rossi’s Lotus 22, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Rossi had the first race in the bag as he beat James Murray’s similar Lotus by 13 seconds but chaos ensued in the rain-washed Sunday race, which left Rossi off the road and out of it, and the red-flagged race declared a result after 8 laps, Murray the winner. It was then decided to create one result with both races counting as heats, their times added up to a single total. This made Murray the winner of the weekend.

More pictures of the 2016 Historic Grand Prix at Zandvoort