THE FINAL CUT
The first season for the 2-Litre Cup for pre-ʼ66 Fia-spec early 911s came to a close at the Peter Auto Dix Mille Tours du Castellet meeting at Paul Ricard. If you are going racing, a sunny late-summer weekend in the South of France is not a bad time and p
The 2-litre Cup race series ends on a high at Paul Ricard
Afield of thirty or so cars set-up, signed-on and scrutineered on Friday, practiced on Saturday morning, qualified on Saturday afternoon and, not for the first time, raced last thing on Sunday. Hopefully next seasonʼs timetable will be more varied now the series has shown itself capable of delivering good grid numbers and good racing.
For those that havenʼt been to the circuit, Paul Ricardʼs a challenge to drive and, despite the fantastic location, itʼs not everyoneʼs favourite. Lewis Hamilton was rather critical ahead of the French Grand Prix earlier this year. Itʼs flat and, for all the vibrant colour you see in photographs, itʼs a bit featureless from the driver ʼs seat.
At times – not least the approach to the chicane on the otherwise flat-out Mistral Straight – itʼs not even clear where it goes. It is also, to use the jargon, a bit ʻtechnicalʼ. There are corners that tighten awkwardly, and uncompromising kerbs. Itʼs easy to over-drive and itʼs tough on the car. Those are my excuses, anyway.
The top crew of Olly Bryant and Andrew Smith had taken pole in the two previous rounds and Paul Ricard turned out to be no different. Their silver Historika-run car duly headed the time sheet. That said, the ever-reliable Nigel Greensall was only a few thousandths of a second behind in Colin Patonʼs light ivory car, while series newcomer Julian Lepphaille announced his arrival by qualifying third, in Jose Zanchettaʼs recently-acquired silver car with an Argentinian flag on the bonnet.
Elsewhere, the heat, the circuit and some hard racing were taking their toll. The attrition rate was relatively high again and a number of cars didnʼt make it to the race start – including one or two of the fancied runners who had shown good form in previous rounds.
As ever, the race started behind a pace car. As it developed, a talented motoring journalist put in some quick times and moved into the lead. Sadly, it wasnʼt your correspondent, but Dickie Meaden who set a searing pace – including a fastest lap – as he returned to the series to share a car with co-founder James Turner. Could we be on for a late-season upset? Nearly, but not quite.
A longish pit stop by the green car and Turner ʼs steadier pace after the driver swap allowed Smith to ease back into the lead. The race went the full distance and Smith and Bryant scored another win at the flag. A clean sweep for a
talented and consistent crew in a well-prepared and reliable car – a performance made no less impressive by the fact that other car and driver combinations had at times been close and, occasionally, quicker.
Ross Goodwin was second after an accomplished solo drive in Sandy Watsonʼs car, while Turner and Meaden completed the podium with a slightly emotional and welldeserved third. Further down the order, there were strong solo drives from Didier Denat and Erwin van Lieshout. Steve Jones and Robert Barrie (who? – Ed) made a long overdue appearance in the top ten as the latter finally almost got his act together. Finally. Well, almost.
Looking back at Spa, Dijon and, now, Paul Ricard, the first season of the series has been a remarkable success. Well done to all those responsible – you know who you are. If most of us wrote down what we wanted from a race series this would be it. The grid numbers have been good and so have the driving standards – the quick cars have been quick and the rest have been competent.
The racing has been close, yet contact has been minimal. Some more established series could usefully take note. There have been compliance checks and, with very few exceptions, the cars have been correct. Anything that hasnʼt been correct has quickly been corrected. Just as importantly, the paddock has been a fun place to be right from the start, when none of us really knew quite what to expect. Chapeau!
The plans for next season are already in the works – and so, as I understand it, are more cars. Itʼs possible the series will run at some additional venues on the Peter Auto calendar and that the regulations will be tweaked slightly. If anything, however, the theme is likely to be more of the same.
After such a successful first season, itʼs not clear that significant changes are required. For anyone who has been thinking of joining the series and wanted to see how the first season turned out – come on in, the water is fine! CP
“SOME MORE ESTABLISHED SERIES COULD TAKE NOTE…”
Below: Paul Ricard has to be the most colourful track in the calendar! Johan Dirickx’s ‘Art Car’ adds even more colour to the occasion. A great image from the very talented Jayson Fong
Above: The second-place car belonging to Sandy Watson was solo driven by a determined Ross Goodwin
Below left: Winning Historikaprepared car driven by Olly Bryant and Andrew Smith
Below right: From left to right, Ross Goodwin (third), Olly Bryant and Andrew Smith (overall winners) and Dickie Meaden and James Turner (second) fill up the podium at Paul Ricard