The Dix Mille Tours, under a glorious sun

This weekend the Dix Mille Tours took place under a glorious Provençal sun. The event launched the start of the 2020 season of the Series by Peter Auto. As this meeting was originally scheduled in April, the resumption was all the more appreciated by those who were able to take part – drivers, team members, services, the organisation and the public – with the health measures in force being respected by one and all.

Ten grids told the history of motor sport out on the track: Fifties’ Legends, Sixties’ Endurance, 2.0L Cup, Classic Endurance Racing I & II, Endurance Racing Legends, Group C Racing, Heritage Touring Cup, The Greatest’s Trophy and guest grid, the Eric Offenstadt Cup (F1/F3). In all, more than 350 cars took part in the races on the famous Paul Ricard circuit. The presence of the many clubs that travelled to Le Castellet added excitement behind the scenes.  Over 380 historic cars turned up and were driven to the inside of the circuit where they went on display and took part in track runs. This weekend was truly an ode to the collector car and in total more than 700 marvellous machines were present at the 2020 running of the Dix Mille Tours!

Race summaries – Saturday

The Greatest’s Trophy – Race: 40 minutes

The race: The Greatest’s Trophy launched the weekend’s hostilities and it turned out to a pretty exciting race! Just after the start the no.12 Tojeiro EE Ford driven by Marco Werner had to return to the pits because of a technical problem. After a few laps, Lukas Halusa took over first place in his no. 17 3.8L Lightweight E-Type Jaguar followed by the no. 68 Bizzarrini 5300 GT in the hands of Dirk Ebeling in second place. In third came the no.12 Tojeiro EE Ford, which was a surprise. In fact, the car had made a lightning comeback after its pit stop. With only 31 minutes racing left the Tojeiro ate into the gap separating it from the leaders as it was over six seconds a lap faster! The drivers were at it hammer and tongs. Unfortunately, mechanical problems eliminated two of them as the no. 17 3.8L Lightweight E-Type Jaguar overheated while the Tojeiro began to lose more and more ground. The reason was the engine, which finally gave up the ghost on the Mistral straight sending the car off the track into a wall!

Endurance Racing Legends – Race: 45 minutes

Next on Saturday’s programme was the first race of the weekend for Endurance Racing Legends, the grid that comprises the most modern cars of the séries by Peter Auto. Eagerly awaited by all the fans was the no. 7 Bentley Speed 8 driven by Shaun Lynn, which made a big impact right from the start as it shot into the lead followed by the no. 33 Ferrari 333SP of Lecourt-Narac, while the no. 60 Keiller KII in the hands of Marc Jully soon ground to a halt in the Beausset double right-hander (corner no. 11). The no. 7 Bentley Speed 8 was still in first place closely followed by the no. 63 Saleen S7-R of Florent Moulin and the Ferrari 333SP as the battle raged for the lead. With just a lap left to run a huge cloud of smoke erupted from the no. 4 Riley & Scott MK III of Jean-Marie Muller, but this did not prevent  Lecourt-Narac in the no. 33 Ferrari from retaking second place in front of the no. 63 Saleen S7-R.

Group C Racing  – Race: 45 minutes

The race for the Group C Racing cars was held in the second part of the day. Unfortunately, missing from the grid were the no. 35 Toyota 92CV  (Eric Helary), which was immobilised after the engine overheated, and Laurent Fort’s no. 106 Tiga GC288 whose engine caught fire during qualifying. Hardly had the race kicked off when more bad luck hit the GC288s made by the English firm as no. 129 driven by Vincent Neurrisse stopped. In the meantime, an old rivalry flared up again on the track between the no. 17 Jaguar XJR14 of Christophe d’Ansembourg and the no. 2 Peugeot 905 with Erik Maris at the wheel. But the outcome was the same as the 905 suffered a considerable loss of power and the Jaguar pulled away from the French car. Raymond Narac in the no. 82 Porsche 962C installed himself in second place running neck and neck with another 962, no. 21 in the hands of Ivan Vercoutere. The two Stuttgart cars then went at it hammer and tongs for first place overall! With only a few minutes racing left the no. 17 Jaguar XJR14, was forced to stop in the Hôtel corner (no. 3) giving off a strong smell of oil, which prevented it from crossing the finishing line despite a great performance. 

Sixties’ Endurance – Race: 2 hours

The drivers always look forward to the Sixties’ Endurance race. It takes on a very special ambiance once dusk has fallen, and was the only race of the meeting run at night. It was almost 21:00 and the sky was filled with beautiful shades of orange as the 56 cars lined up on the grid ready to do battle. As soon as the start was given David Hart in the no. 76 Bizzarrini 5300 GT went into the lead closely followed by the Cobras. Less than an hour after the start Hart’s Bizzarrini 5300 GT suffered an oil leak and fell back down the time sheets. The Shelby Cobras tightened their stranglehold on the race so it was no surprise to see that the fastest lap was set 37th time round by Christophe Van Riet in the no. 16 Cobra 289 at an average speed of 138,8 km/h. As the competitors reeled off the laps cars suffered various glitches like the no. 140 MG A of Simon Nobili hit by electrical issues and the no. 160 Elva GT 160 with Michael Birch at the wheel whose engine temperature went through the roof! This race saw a raft of retirements so restarting the season proved to be a real challenge for the Sixties’ grid. The final victim was the no. 277 3.8L E-Type Jaguar driven by Katarina Kylovalova who was leading the GT4 category. She was forced to rejoin her pit with less than four minutes to go to the chequered flag due to a broken gearbox.

Race summaries – Sunday

Endurance Racing Legends – Race: 45 minutes

On Sunday morning, racing got under way at the Paul Ricard circuit in relatively cool conditions as the drivers in Endurance Racing Legends were ready to do battle, some of them determined to take their revenge after the previous day’s race. Pole sitter, the no. 33 Lecourt-Narac Ferrari 333SP, was unable to take up its position on the grid because of a steering problem. The race kicked off at 09:00 and immediately the drivers began fighting for position so contact was inevitable. The main victim was the no. 31 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 driven by Philipp Zumstein, which went off on the Mistral straight. Out came the red flag and the race was interrupted because of the debris scattered on the track. Zumstein quickly emerged from his car, unscathed. The race restarted 40 minutes later behind the safety car with the competitors in the positions they occupied at the moment the red flag was shown so no new starting grid. The battle against the stop watch resumed. The no.7 Bentley of Shaun Lynn, which had won the previous day’s event, was in the lead again in race 2 setting the fastest lap ninth time round at an average speed of 183 km/h.

The Greatest Trophy – Race: 40 minutes

The Greatest’ Trophy grid was next up for its second race of the weekend. While the previous day’s event had been full of twists, it looked like victory for Christian Bouriez in the no. 46 Bizzarrini 5300GT was a foregone conclusion. No. 46 made a lightning start and quickly opened up a gap over its pursuers pulling out a second per lap. The overall level of driving was high. Soon tiredness began to set in and some of the competitors peeled off into the pit lane like the no. 124  Bizzarrini 5300 GT in the hands of Luis Delso and Dominique Poels in the no. 35 Alfa Romeo Giulietta SZ Coda. It was the end of the races for the grid:  gentlemen, stop your engines!

Classic Endurance Racing 1 – Race: 1 hour

Green light. The no. 34 Lola T70 Mk III B driven by David Hart was on pole but the field didn’t even have time to leave the starting grid as a error by the driver of the no. 40 Ford GT40 (C) led to contact with Josserand de Murard’s no. 104 Lola T70 Mk III immobilising both cars. Race control decided to channel the competitors through the pit lane to avoid the scene of the accident. After 13 minutes racing Gérard Larrousse in the no. 18 Porsche 911 RS 3.0L in the colours of weekly magazine Auto Hebdo suffered a punctured left-hand rear tyre. But this didn’t prevent him from dialling in a stunning lap just afterwards in 2m 19.401s. With 35 minutes to go to the chequered flag the no. 97 Chevron B19 of Emmanuel Brigand ground to a halt losing its second place in the classification. Hart in his Lola chose this moment to set the fastest lap of the race in 2m14.306s, an average speed of 156 km/h. But he was not home and dry yet as he was under pressure from Marc Devis in the no. 11 McLaren M8C DFV, which made a fantastic comeback after mechanical problems the previous day. The battle for victory raged between these two cars until the McLaren suddenly began to fall back before finally coming to a halt. Hart in no 34 went on to win the race by 20 seconds!

Group C Racing – Race: 45 minutes

After his victory the previous day Ivan Vercoutere in the no. 21 Porsche 962C took the lead of the second event closely followed by the no. 2 Peugeot 905 EV1B and Lecourt-Narac in the no. 82 Porsche 962C. With 22 minutes to go Erik Maris in no. 2 spun gifting his second place to Lecourt-Narac. The two gentlemen drivers, Vercoutere and Lecourt, separated by only a few seconds went at it hammer and tongs as victory was at stake. The outcome of the scrap remained uncertain as nos 2 and 21 passed and repassed each other in their Porsche 962Cs putting on a marvellous spectacle.  Finally, Lecourt came out on top in this nail-biting duel with only 0.793 seconds in hand over Vercoutere!

Classic Endurance Racing II – Race: 1 hour

Yves Scemama in the no. 52 TOJ SC 304 was on pole closely followed by Patrice Lafargue in the no. 16 Lola T298. Multiple Le Mans 24-Hours winner Marco Werner (2005, 2006, 2007) made the best start in the GT2 category in his Porsche 935 K3. The weather conditions gave Paul Lafargue in the no. 16 Lola T 286 a few headaches as the car’s engine began to overheat and he had to pit. With 18 minutes racing left Scemama in his TOJ SC 304 had a 17-second lead when Race Control placed him under investigation. With only 15 minutes to go he was given a 33-second penalty for overtaking under yellow flags. Was he going to be able to save his first place? No was the answer as Maxime Guenat in his no. 50 Lola T 298 took the chequered flag. Scemama, though, wasn’t too far behind, only four seconds. His error had cost him victory. 

2.0L Cup – Race: 1 h 30 m

The 911 is one of the most emblematic models in the history of the motor car. More than a million have been made and it has shone on all kinds of terrain. The 2.0L Cup grid pays homage to the first version, the 2. 0L, and around 40 competitors do battle with equal weapons. Only their driving skills make the difference.  At 16:38, the cars took up their places on the starting grid. The tension rose several notches and Andrew Smith in no. 24 took full advantage of his pole position to slot into first place tailed by Simon Ewans in no. 75 and Philippe de Craene in no. 5. All three drivers were fully focused on the task at hand as the slightest error behind the wheel could lead to changes in the classification. Smith managed to hold onto his first place, but was always under pressure from his pursuers. After an hour’s racing the safety car was deployed cutting the field in two. With 16 minutes to go it pulled off and Smith went on to clinch victory.

Heritage Touring Cup – Race: 1 hour

Christophe Van Riet in his no. 72 Ford Capri 3100 RS was on pole and he immediately opened up a gap of 1.5 seconds over Michael Erlich in the no. 40 BMW 3.0 CSL as soon as the race started. The two leaders pulled away from the other cars in the field, mostly Fords and BMWs from the halcyon days of the touring car era. After 16 minutes racing the winner in CER II, Maxime Guenat, in sixth place at the time in his no. 50 Ford Capri 3100 RS, ran into problems. His car was jumping out of fifth gear so he had to pit. With 11 minutes to go to the chequered flag Van Riet in no. 72 led the dance dominating the BMW 3.0 CSLs: it was a rerun of the 1970s!   

Fifties’ Legends – Race: 45 minutes

Then it was time for the Fifties’ Legends, the latest addition to the séries by Peter Auto. The Fifties’ Legends grid pays homage to the oldest post-war cars and is open to the GT and GTS classes homologated and entered for national or international races before 1st January 1962 (Period E), as well as some cars from the TC, TSRC Period E and GTS Period F classes (list of eligible models available on request).  When the lights went out the no. 162 Austin Healey 3000 Mk 2 driven by Jean-Marc Avezou shot to the front in the final event of the weekend comprising around 20 cars. Only five minutes after the start the yellow flags were waved in the Camp corner (corner no. 5) as no. 162 had stopped. Eugène Deleplanque in his no. 47 TVR Grantura inherited the lead followed by Serge Libens’s no. 161 Austin Healey 3000 Mk 2. In third place came Philippe Quiriere in his no. 48 Morris Mini Cooper S. Already the Mini was leaving its mark on the Fifties’ Legends grid as it had done in its heyday. In first place since early on in the race Deleplanque in no. 47 didn’t obey the proper pit stop rules when he came in. This was investigated by Race Control in view of a possible penalty. It could have been good news for Libens in no. 161 who was lying second. Just six minutes from the finish Race Control handed down its verdict and gave Deleplanque’s TVR a one-lap penalty. But Libens was also handed a three-minute penalty for not respecting the regulation time during his stop. This left Pascal Pandelaar in the lead and he went on to win the very first race for this new grid!

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