Last meeting of the Series by Peter Auto before the summer break. The event took place in warm sunshine and attracted a large entry as competitors fought to defend their positions in the different classifications. The weekend’s racing unfolded on the Paul-Armagnac circuit in this beautiful region in the south-west of France. Not since 1996 and the BPR had Peter Auto and their teams organised an event on this circuit. Race report.
The Greatest’s Trophy
The cars in the The Greatest’s Trophy grid set the ball rolling at the Nogaro Classics meeting. The Bizzarrinis immediately hit the front led by Leon Ebeling in #68 who made a particularly good start followed by Christian Bouriez in #46. It’s not the first time that these two cars have fought for victory. The #46 Bizzarrini driven by Bouriez began to pull away, but Ebeling in #68 was determined not to let him off the hook so easily. With 18 minutes to go to the flag there was a sudden twist when Bourriez ground to a halt in the Rocher Dubos curve with a technical issue. He lost the lead and the safety car was deployed. The restart was controlled by Christian Dumolin in his #20 Ferrari 250 GT SWB, but the Bizzarrini quickly ate into the gap separating it from the Prancing Horse car. Bouriez was so focused on his race that he forgot to come in for his obligatory pit stop! The result? He was given a three-lap penalty and Ebeling in his Bizzarrini romped home to victory.
Second race of the weekend. On the warm-up lap the #224 Maserati 300S stopped just after the pit stop straight in the virage de la Ferme even though it had had a good race the previous day with a top-3 finish in the Index of Performance. Its driver Conrad Ulrich was forced to retire #224 even before the green light. The Maserati was quickly evacuated as the other cars in the The Greatest’s Trophy grid set off. Like the previous day Dirk Ebeling in his #68 Bizzarrini was unbeatable. Pierre-Alain Thibaut in the #20 Ferrari 250 SWB who had taken over from Christian Dumolin was out for revenge after the previous race. The driver put on a sterling performance and closed the gap to #68. With fewer than 27 minutes left the two cars were running nose to tail. The leadership changed hands on several occasions and they were so focused on their no-holds-barred battle that they were unaware of the threat looming behind them in the shape of Christian Bouriez in another Bizzarrini, #46, who ended up going into the lead. But not for long as Ebeling in #68 set the fastest lap in 1m 46.043s, retook first place and pulled away to clinch victory!
Endurance Racing Legends
Just after 14:00 the Endurance Racing Legends were unleashed on the track and Franck Morel set the tone in his #153 Dodge Viper GTS/R. As he reeled off the laps he opened up a comfortable lead and looked set for victory. The main action was provided by the battle for third place between Nick Padmore in his #76 Porsche 996 GT3-RS and Emmanuel Brigand in the #1 Porsche 997 GT3 RSR. It was an absolutely fabulous duel as the two drivers gave each other no quarter. When the Clerk of the Course waved the chequered flag it was the Porsche 996 which came out on top in the battle! Thank you gentlemen for putting on such a spectacular show.
Final race of the weekend. Endurance Racing Legends brought down the curtain on Nogaro Classics. Frank Morel (#153) winner of the previous race in Classic Endurance Racing swapped cars and got behind the wheel of a Dodge Viper GTS/R. He was in first place on the grid and led the field away followed by Benoit Romac in the #52 Porsche 993 GT2 Evo and Emmanuel Brigand in the #1 Porsche 997 GT3 RSR. But Brigand who was hot on the heels of the #52 Porsche 993 GT2 Evo had a problem as flames were shooting out of his car. He pitted immediately and it took just a few minutes to diagnose the reason, an oil pressure issue so he had to retire. Thus, Heiko Ostmann inherited third place in another Porsche, the #18 993 GT2 a car which, according to our friends at Auto Hebdo, had taken part in and won on several occasions the famous Pike Peak hill climb in the 1990s. Morel in #153 was still in the lead, but was coming under heavy pressure from Romac in #52. Suddenly the Dodge Viper stopped just before the double Esses and fell back down the time sheets as Morel was unable to restart because of a failure in the transmission system. Thus, victory went to Romac in his Porsche 993 GT2 Evo.
The previous day’s qualifying had already given a taste of what was in store as the first six cars were covered by a second! They included Shelbys, an E-Type Jaguar and a TVR Griffith. Damien Kohler in his #16 Shelby Cobra jumped into the lead, but after a few laps Vincent Kolb in #64 and Urs Beck in #369 closed the gap and posed a threat to him. A fourth car was also aiming for a place on the podium, Yves Scemama’s #152 Shelby Cobra. He started from eighth place on the grid, put his head down, fought his way up the classification and homed in on first place held Beck in #369. Barely 15 minutes after the start of the race, #64 looked to be in trouble, soon confirmed a few minutes later by Kolb’s decision to pit: the problemwas an oil leak in the braking system. The driver tried to rejoin but was quickly forced to retire, a pity after a really great start. Thirty-eight minutes before the end the safety car was deployed following an off by Vincent Neurisse in #181. German driver Patrick Simon, who had taken over #369 from Beck from Switzerland, led the race. Yvan Mahé in #152 in second place took advantage of the restart to up the pressure on the #369 Shelby Cobra. But this was without taking into account the last-minute charge by Christophe Van Riet who was also aiming for victory. Less than fifteen minutes from the chequered flag he shot past Mahé to snatch second place on the podium. It was a real endurance race!
Heritage Touring Cup
The start of the Heritage Touring Cup took place in the rain so the track lacked grip. The Ford Escorts led the dance with Christophe Van Riet in #72 in first place. There were many errors at the épingle de l’école, a hairpin that caught out many drivers. Olivier Breittmayer in #22 went off and fell down the time sheets and it was the same story for the outsider in this grid, the #121 Mini Cooper S, and also for the leader, Van Riet. Nonetheless, the Belgian managed to limit the damage and secure second position. The #20 BMW 3.0 CLS in the hands of Pierre-Alain Thibaut which had been running in his wake for several laps was now in the lead. Yvan Mahé in #60, one of the favourites looked like he had problems. This was unfortunately confirmed a few laps later when the Ford Capri RS 3100 pitted and retired due to a misfiring engine. With 35 minutes to go to the end Thibaut in #20 was still in the lead followed by Van Riet in #72 with Armand Mille in #150 close behind. The pit stop window opened at the same time and Van Riet’s #72 Ford was immobilised – for good! The cars from the halcyon days of touring car racing had already been battling for more than 45 minutes on the Paul-Armagnac circuit with Thibaut in #20 holding first place followed by Yves Scemama in #62 who had started in seventh spot on the grid. Battle was raging for fourth between Emiller Breittmayer in #123 and Armand Mille in his #150 BMW CSi.
It was time for the Fifties’ Legends, the latest grid in the series by Peter Auto, to take to the track. David Barrere in #25 had dominated the weekend so far in free practice and qualifying. But would he win the race? Verdict in 45 minutes. The green light came on and the cars roared off. Serge Libens in #161 took the lead second time round from the favourite, Barrere, both at the wheel of Austins, one in the #161 Healey 3000 Mk II and the other in the #25 Cooper S. The English are redoubtable! In third place was another Mini Cooper S #21 in the hands of Simon Nobili: a trip back in time to the glorious era of rallying in the 1950s. As the race entered its final quarter-of-an-hour Libens in #161 found himself in second place after the obligatory pit stop. Christophe Beaudon in his #43 TVR Grantura Mk III took advantage of this stop to go into the lead. But it didn’t last long as Race Control announced that he hadn’t respected the obligatory pit stop time and hit with him a 3-lap penalty. Victory went to Libens in#161.
Classic Endurance Racing
As soon as the race got under way Franck Morel in #131 took the lead followed by Frederic Bouvy in the #55 Chevrolet Monza and the #2 Cheetah G601 with Beat Eggiman at the wheel. Barely five minutes after the start of the race Philippe Scemama returned to his pit in his #600 T600 Lola which was suffering from rear suspension problems. Nonetheless, it rejoined pretty quickly. Nicolas Ciamin didn’t have the same luck as his Porsche 911 Carrera was making an odd noise. In fact, #79 had already run into technical glitches the previous day. His mechanics discovered that the problem was due to the exhaust. Reminder: The rally driver who had cut his teeth in circuit racing with, don’t forget, a victory on the Paul-Armagnac layout, had to retire. Then the pit stop window opened. When it closed there were no changes in the top 3 although the Chevrolet Monza (#55) was being regularly overtaken before getting back in front in the Escargot double right-hander thanks to its 700 plus bhp. But as the laps ticked off the driver lost places in the classification and found himself lying sixth overall. Morel in his #131 TOJ SC206 was never troubled in first place while second went to the #1 Cheetah G601 and third to Frédéric Da Rocha in his #1 Lola T298