Na­tional re­ports: Le Mans Clas­sic; Chateau Imp­ney; Sil­ver­stone Masters F1; Thrux­ton; Snet­ter­ton; Ly­d­den; Mon­dello Park

LE MANS CLAS­SIC PETER AUTO JULY 7-8

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - KEVIN TURNER AND MATT KEW

GT rac­ers Stu­art Hall and Pa­trick Si­mon pro­vided some of the many high­lights at the ninth Le Mans Clas­sic, which at­tracted 135,000 spec­ta­tors last week­end, but nei­ther came away with the suc­cess they de­served at the bi­en­nial event.

As usual, the six main groups – fea­tur­ing around 70 cars each – were de­cided over three con­tests, with Group C, Porsche and Jaguar races pro­vid­ing sup­port.

Hav­ing nar­rowly missed vic­tory at the Monaco His­torique in May, Hall was again un­for­tu­nate. He led each race for the 1967-71 ma­chines of Plateau 5 in Roald Goethe’s Lola T70 MK3B, but safety cars kept erod­ing his ad­van­tage. Goethe was over­come by faster run­ners each time, but still the duo fin­ished on the ag­gre­gate podium.

“Ev­ery race I led there was a safety car,” said Hall. “The plan was to build up a cush­ion, but it’s still nice to get third.

Roald had a hor­ri­ble crash at the 24 Hours in 2015, so it’s great to be on the podium here with him.”

Un­usu­ally, it wasn’t a T70 that topped the group. Hav­ing fin­ished fifth in race one, Jacques Ni­co­let took his Gor­don Mur­ray-de­signed For­mula 1 Brabham-cor­nered Duck­hams Spe­cial sports-racer to a close sec­ond be­hind an­other Cos­worth Dfv-en­gined car – the Ligier JS3 of ‘Mis­ter John of B’ and So­heil Ayari – next time out. The Ligier had nar­rowly won the first two races and, in Hall’s wake, looked good for over­all vic­tory bat­tling with Ni­co­let in the fi­nale.

But yet an­other full-course cau­tion brought trou­ble. As with the 24 Hours, three safety cars are used, and much of the field was held at the end of the pit­lane af­ter the stops wait­ing for the next one. The heat was too much for the Ligier, which wilted and was pushed away. Al­though he lost a few places dur­ing the stops, Ni­co­let quickly moved through the field, but seemed to strug­gle for gears in the clos­ing stages.

That set up a dra­matic three-way bat­tle with Pierre-alain France’s T70 and the Chevron B19 of Mau­r­izio Bianco.

The big coupe led go­ing into the Ford chi­cane for the fi­nal time, but Ni­co­let dived down the in­side into the first left-right and Bianco did like­wise at the sec­ond. So it was Duck­hams Spe­cial-chevron-lola across the line, the trio cov­ered by less than a sec­ond, with Ni­co­let se­cur­ing ag­gre­gate vic­tory from the Seiler fam­ily’s T70 Mk3.

Hall drove solo in the first Plateau 6 race

for 1972-81 cars and won in the Gulf GR7 in which Derek Bell and Mike Hail­wood fin­ished fourth in the 1974 24 Hours, but al­ready he knew he was in trou­ble.

“I backed off to save the car, but it had a gear­box prob­lem,” said Hall, who led the sec­ond en­counter be­fore the Mi­rage failed com­pletely. “I’m frus­trated be­cause the car had a lot of pace and we had a goal of do­ing a sub-four-minute lap.”

Pole­sit­ter Yves Sce­mama’s TOJ-DFV SC304 had fol­lowed Hall home in race one and the Swiss took a com­fort­able win in the sec­ond en­counter. He led early on in race three, but was over­hauled by sev­eral cars, led by Chris Ma­cal­lis­ter’s Mi­rage M6. A penalty for too early a pit­stop in race two had ham­pered the 2012 and ’14 Plateau 6 vic­tor and more con­fu­sion – “I am not very good at tim­ing pit­stops! – re­sulted in Ma­cal­lis­ter com­ing in twice dur­ing race three. He still won eas­ily from a cruis­ing Sce­mama, who ben­e­fited from prob­lems for Martin O’connell (Chevron B26) and both La­far­gue fam­ily Lola T298s to take sec­ond. That was suf­fi­cient to give the Toj ag­gre­gate vic­tory by 6m24s, al­though Steve Dance’s su­perbly pre­sented and well driven Ford Capri RS2600 claimed In­dex spoils.

Jaguar D-types were the dom­i­nant cars in the Plateau 2 1949-56 split, and put on some sen­sa­tional bat­tling. From fifth, Pa­trick Si­mon surged for­ward in Clive Joy’s XKD545 to chal­lenge Steve Boult­bee Brooks’s XKD558 for the lead. The duo swapped places sev­eral times be­fore Si­mon, danc­ing the blue

D-type beau­ti­fully, es­tab­lished an ad­van­tage.

Sec­ond fell to Gary Pear­son, who took over Car­los Mon­teverde’s ex-jim Clark XKD517 at the manda­tory pit­stop and got the bet­ter of An­drew Robert­son

Smith, in for Brooks.

Si­mon also tri­umphed in the night race, which fea­tured a fine bat­tle be­tween soloist Pear­son and Martin Stret­ton, start­ing Richard Wil­son’s Maserati 250S. “We were re­ally close, it was bril­liant,” said Pear­son af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond. “There were times I couldn’t see Martin, but I could hear him.”

Si­mon looked set to com­plete a hat-trick, only to slow on the fi­nal lap of the fi­nale. Mon­teverde swept by and pulled out enough of a gap to snatch over­all vic­tory for him­self and Pear­son by just 2.9s af­ter more than two hours of com­pe­ti­tion. With the Brooks/ Smith D-type hav­ing suc­cumbed to a holed pis­ton, third over­all fell to Wil­son/stret­ton.

The qual­ity of the Tal­bot 105 was un­der­lined once again in the Plateau 1 field for pre-sec­ond World War ma­chines, but past mas­ter Gareth Bur­nett had to work hard for his ag­gre­gate suc­cess. The pole­sit­ter stormed into the lead in the first race, only to suf­fer prob­lems with the throt­tle link­age. Once sorted, Bur­nett charged back to 15th, but was left with a three-minute deficit to sta­ble­mate Michael Birch, who de­feated the im­pres­sive BMW 328 hordes to take his first win.

Bur­nett spent the next two races mak­ing up the deficit and won both stan­zas to take over­all hon­ours from fel­low soloist Birch by just 8.8s to se­cure a one-two for John Rus­ton’s Tal­bot team. “It seems Gareth likes melo­drama at the Clas­sic,” said

Rus­ton, point­ing to Bur­nett’s sim­i­lar re­cov­ery to Plateau 1 lau­rels in 2014.

Rob Spencer’s en­thu­si­as­ti­cally driven Bu­gatti Type 35B beat all the BMWS to com­plete the podium and was the

In­dex of Per­for­mance win­ner.

Ford GT40 Mk1s dom­i­nated the Plateau 4 race for 1962-65 cars. They locked out the top seven in qual­i­fy­ing, then, with pole­sit­ter Shaun Lynn slow away, Richard Meaden at­tempted a pass on David Hart for sec­ond. He made it stick around the out­side through the Porsche Curves but suf­fered a scary wheel fail­ure when the front-left jet­ti­soned. Hart avoided the trou­ble and cut into

James Cot­ting­ham’s ad­van­tage.

The pair traded po­si­tions for much of the first leg, de­spite Hart’s pas­sen­ger door swing­ing open and it re­main­ing im­mune to lash­ings of gaffer tape at the pit­stop.

But both cars were dealt a three-minute penalty for speed­ing in a slow zone and that al­lowed Diogo Fer­rao to win race one.

Un­der dark­ness, Hart was only able to take an eight-sec­ond win, mean­ing Fer­rao had over­all vic­tory in sight. Rather than sim­ply bring the car home though, he en­gaged in a thrilling fight with the GT40 Road­ster of Pe­dro Macedo Silva for much of the third leg. Un­for­tu­nately, fa­ther Rui

didn’t have quite the same pace, thus the bat­tle fiz­zled out. That left Fer­rao to con­sol­i­date sec­ond be­hind Cot­ting­ham, eas­ily enough to give the Por­tuguese driver vic­tory over­all.

Had the Plateau 3 race fol­lowed the same cir­cuit con­fig­u­ra­tion as that used from 1957-61, Lukas Halusa would prob­a­bly have walked to vic­tory in the one-off Fer­rari 250 GT Bread­van. But with chi­canes break­ing up the Mul­sanne Straight, the Ital­ian V12 took time to stretch its legs, so Roger Wills was able to fling his ag­ile Lo­tus 15 through the tighter sec­tions and stay in touch.

Halusa won race one, but Wills re­sponded dur­ing the night, climb­ing to first and over­turn­ing the deficit. With ev­ery­thing rid­ing on the fi­nal 43-minute race, Halusa led ini­tially but Wills be­gan to close in. He left it late, pass­ing into the Porsche Curves for both leg and ag­gre­gate vic­to­ries with just seven min­utes re­main­ing.

Martin O’connell com­manded the event’s cur­tain-rais­ing Jaguar Clas­sic Chal­lenge sup­port race. At times he was seven sec­onds a lap faster than any­one else and soon es­tab­lished a half-minute mar­gin over the E-type-dom­i­nated field.

Ger­many’s Mar­cus Graf von Oeyn­hausen was a dis­tant but im­pres­sive sec­ond, leav­ing Le Mans 24 Hours podium fin­isher An­thony Reid and Pear­son to bat­tle for third. They came to blows at the Dun­lop Curve – a slight nudge sent both ca­reer­ing over the gravel, with stones smash­ing the wind­screen on the ex-nasa-owned car of Reid. About to start the fi­nal lap, Pear­son missed a gear to give

Reid cru­cial breath­ing space.

The idea of his­toric rac­ing wind­ing the clock back was taken a lit­tle too se­ri­ously by the Group C grid. Just as in 2016, Katsu Kub­ota headed the pack in his Nis­san R90CK but again me­chan­i­cal mal­adies de­nied the Ja­panese a win – left-rear sus­pen­sion fail­ure af­ter an ear­lier punc­ture. Abid­ing by the script, the Ley­ton House Porsche 962 of Tommy Dree­lan/aaron Scott picked up the man­tle to take the che­quered flag. Only it re­ceived an­other two-minute post-race penalty, just as in ’16 – this time for ig­nor­ing a red light and ex­it­ing the pits – that snatched the tri­umph away. The ad­justed re­sults boosted the 3.5-litre

Momo Geb­hardt-cos­worth C91 of

Michael Lyons to the top of the or­der.

Evens Stieve­nart should have won for a third con­sec­u­tive year at the Cir­cuit de la Sarthe, al­beit a Porsche Clas­sic race vic­tory would be his first not on a push-bike. The 908 Langheck driver an­ni­hi­lated pole­sit­ter Ray­mond Narac’s three-litre 911 RS from the off. When Narac was slapped with a two-minute penalty for slow-zone speed­ing, the re­sult looked a fore­gone con­clu­sion. But Stieve­nart com­mit­ted the same of­fence and so eight min­utes were added to his time, leav­ing the third-on-the-road 910 of Uwe Br­uschnik to take the hon­ours.

Hall starred in Goethe’s Lola (left) in Plateau 5…

…but Ni­co­let’s Duck­hams Spe­cial de­feated the T70 pack

Brooks (25) bat­tles Mon­teverde (21) as Si­mon (blue D-type on right) be­gins his charge in Plateau 2

Bur­nett re­cov­ered well to lead Tal­bot charge in pre-war split

Sce­mama’s Toj only won one Plateau 6 race, but took ag­gre­gate vic­tory

Bat­tle for GT40 supremacy was in­tense and three cars scored Plateau 4 vic­to­ries

Jaguar and Nis­san lead, but the Group C race fell to Lyons’s red Geb­hardt

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