Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or 2021

4-6 June 2021
Circuit Dijon-Prenois, France

It was high time for drivers, clubs and fans to head back to the track! The Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or marked the start of the series by Peter Auto. Yet again the meeting attracted a quality field with 230 cars entered for the races, and as for the collectors belonging to the makes’ clubs they arrived en masse with over 560 cars entered for the weekend. It felt really great to be able tao gather together again and share our passion! 

The Greatest’s Trophy

It was just after 9:30 when the cars in the The Greatest’s Trophy grid set off for the first race of the meeting in pouring rain. Leading the pack was the #68 Bizzarrini 5300 GT driven by Dirk and Leon Ebeling followed by Vincent Gaye’s Ferrari 275 GTB/C, #7. The #45 Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ in the hands of Carlo Vögele started in sixth place on the grid and made a superb comeback up through the field: With fewer than two minutes racing completed he shot past the #44 Ferrari 250 GT SWB/C and slotted into third place. Of course, Vögele was aiming for the topmost step of the podium, but this was without counting on the tenacity of Gaye in his #7 Ferrari 275 GTB/C who started from pole. But at almost half-distance Gaye made a mistake and spun, which cost him 12 seconds. This error handed the lead to the #68 Bizzarrini 5300 GT, which dominated the race from then on. With 11 minutes to go to the chequered flag Gaye was in fourth place having almost made up for his driving mistake – but surprise, surprise, he committed another faux pas and lost 14 seconds! When the chequered flag fell victory went to Dirk and Leon Ebling in their #68 Bizzarrini after an excellent performance. Sunday’s race gave Vincent Gaye and his #7 Ferrari 275 GTB/C the opportunity to take his revenge on the previous day’s setback. He led this grid, but was under constant pressure from Christian Bouriez in the #46 Bizzarrini 5300 GT who was never more than a few seconds behind Gaye in #7. The pit stop strategy went against the Ferrari and let the #46 Bizzarrini take the lead. But for how long? Only two seconds separated the two men. Vincent Gaye in#7 again got it all wrong in the Villeroy double right-hander, which effectively ended the battle that lasted for more than 35 minutes, and handed victory to Bouriez in the #46 Bizzarrini.   

Sixties’ Endurance

The second day of the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or ended with the Sixties’ Endurance race. The track marshals waved the green flag unleashing the cars for a 120-minute sprint led by Guillaume Mahé in his #49 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé who set the pace followed by Christophe Van Riet in the #16 Shelby Cobra 289 and Ralf Kelleners in another Shelby Cobra 289, # 369. Just as Van Riet was closing the gap to Mahé race control announced a Full Course Yellow because of an off by the #181 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe driven by Vincent Neurrisse and Bertrand Rouchaud. The pause lasted just a few minutes and Van Riet in #16 jumped Mahé in #43 on the restart to take the lead. But not for long as the #43 Cobra Daytona Coupe wasn’t giving up and got back in front pretty quickly. The two drivers went at it hammer and tongs. The slightest driving error could cost them dear. A quarter way though the race rain began to fall again and Van Riet was caught out by the change in grip and left the track dropping him back to fourth. Henri Moser in #31 took to the wet conditions like a duck to water and snatched the lead hotly pursued by Maxime Guenat in #51. But with just under a minute to go to the opening of the pit stop window the leader came in losing his first place in the process. The reason? A fuel feed problem due to a pipe that was torn off, which obliged Moser in #31 to stop. This mechanical glitch handed the lead to the #51 Cobra driven by Maxime Guenat. As the pit stops ended the drivers had swapped seats. In the Equipe Europe camp it was almost like a game of musical chairs as Guillaume Mahé got behind the wheel of the leading #51 Cobra while his father Yvan Mahé climbed into #49. After 1h 26m racing Damien Kohler, who had taken over from Van Riet in #16, was only 27 seconds behind the leading Shelby Cobra, #51. The chequered flag fell and it would be no exaggeration to say that it was an enthralling race! The battle for the top places never let up and the laurels went to the Equipe Europe which, for the first time, had three cars on the podium!

Classic Endurance Racing 2

The fog was lifting on the Dijon-Prenois circuit as the cars in the Classic Endurance Racing II grid lined up for the start. Would Yves Scemama on pole in the #52 TOJ SC304 repeat his 2020 October victory? Answer in 60 minutes. In CER II, a flying start was given and the TOJ SC304 romped away to put it mildly! But Philippe Scemama in the #600 Lola T600 fought back and the two brothers were locked in battle out on the track. Not far behind was Maxime Guenat also in a Lola, #50, who posed a real threat and after two laps the #50 T600 had clawed its way up into second place. His aim was clear, to knock Yves Scemama, winner of this race at the last two meetings (Estoril Classics 2020 – Dix Mille Tours 2020) off his pedestal. Scemama in #52 had to watch his lines as the #50 Lola T600 was glued to his gearbox with only 0.461 seconds separating the two cars. On lap 14, the outcome was decided in the Villeroy double right-hander as Maxime Guenat in his Lola sliced past the #52 TOJ SC304 and the leadership changed hands. It was all over as the race entered its final quarter-of-an-hour. Guenat was in front and continued to pull away from the #52 TOJ.  His clean, precise driving style helped him to emerge victorious.

Fifties’ Legends

Then it was time for the Fifties’ Legends grid, the latest in the series by Peter Auto, to take to the track. On the front row were Eugène Deleplanque in his #7 TVR Grantura Mk III and Romain Guerardelle in the #34 MG B who had battled for first place in qualifying the previous day. The TVR shot away and quickly opened up a comfortable lead. The MG B wasn’t all that far back, but glued to its gearbox was David Barrere in his Mini Cooper S (#25) who had started in sixth place. Other cars were less fortunate, in particular the #23 Ferrari 250 Mille Miglia which ground to a halt after just one lap with white smoke pouring from the bonnet, certainly because of a blown cylinder head gasket. In the race itself, Barrere in #25 was now in second place in front of Guerardelle’s MG B, which was close behind. The field came into corner number four, the La Bretelle left-hander, and the MG B and Philippe Lecardonnel in his #98 Mini Cooper S collided but without damage although it dropped Guerardelle down the timesheets. While his car didn’t show any tell-tale scars his lap times suffered and he was now back in sixth place. In the meantime, Deleplanque in his TVR Grantura Mk III continued to lead the dance with 46 seconds in hand over the other competitors. And just when Barrere in his Mini Cooper S was about to cross the finishing line disaster struck. His car stopped under the Avia footbridge! He was only a few metres from the chequered flag. Thus, Louis Zurstrassen in his #39 Elva Mk V inherited the second step of the podium.

Group C Racing

Christophe d’Ansembourg in his #17 Jaguar XJR 14 led the field away at the start of the Group C Racing event. It marked the return of these cars to the Dijon-Prenois circuit on which they hadn’t raced for four years. The Jaguar XJR 14 held on to its position and behind it the cars on the second row, Erwin France in the #27 Nissan R90 CK and Tony Sinclair’s #85 Spice, passed and repassed each other. They gave no quarter. Suddenly the situation was turned on its head when the #17 Jaguar XJR 14 stopped because of a transmission problem. Pierre-Alain France in the #27 Nissan R90 inherited the lead. The second race of the day saw the return of the Jaguar XJR 14 which, thanks to the efficiency of the mechanics, was back on the grid after having a universal joint repaired. The duel with the Nissan could begin again. But with barely a lap covered Christophe d’Ansembourg stopped again in the La Bretelle left-hander ending what was a difficult weekend for the driver and his car. Battle now raged between the #90 Porsche 962 C, the #85 Spice SE90 and the #27 Nissan R90 CK. Tony Sinclair in #85 was close behind Lars Erik Nielsen in#90 and they were separated by only a few tenths-of-a-second.  Twenty-third time round race control announced a contact between the two cars. The #90 Porsche 962C slowed but continued its race while the #8 Spice was immobilised. The #27 Nissan took up the running giving the France family a great double!

Heritage Touring Cup

As always the Heritage Touring Cup provided an eventful race. The two Ford Capri RS 3000s driven by Christophe Van Riet in #72 and Maxime Guenat in #50 went straight into the lead. They were followed by the BMW CSLs with Guillaume Mahé in #49 in third place. There was a fierce scrap going on between the two Ford Capris, #72 and #50, with heavy braking and places swapped almost nonstop between the two protagonists whose cars occasionally escaped their control because of late braking! In the 40th minute Mahé in #49 gradually opened up a gap over the other BMW CSLs. Only five-tenths-of-a-second separated the two leaders. Suddenly the safety car was deployed in front of the front-runners after the #26 Ford Escort RS went off and ended up in the gravel trap. With 11 minutes to go to the flag the race restarted and ended in a sprint, a kind of shoot-out, in fact. Van Riet in #72 tried to go round the outside of his rival at the end of the pit straight, but without success. But he didn’t back off and took the lead in the second section of the circuit. Then with only five minutes to go to the chequered flag his gearbox broke and he stopped on the trackside. This gifted victory to Maxime Guénat followed by Christian Traber’s #25 BMW 3.0 CSL and Guillaume Mahé’s #49 Ford Capri RS 3100. It began to rain on the finishing line at the end of the event.

Classic Endurance Racing 1

The two Lola T70s, #7 and #70, took the lead in the CER II race followed by Martin O’Connell’s #8 Chevron. The eagerly-awaited #5 Ferrari 312P of Remo Lipps and Mr John of B’s Matra MS650 #69, made a late appearance on the track. At the same moment Marc Devis in the #11 McLaren M8C made a mistake without even completing his first lap and slipped down the order. On Lap 10 there was a slight coming-together between the #97 Chevron B19 in the hands of Emmanuel Brigand and Armand Mille’s #35 Lola T212, but it didn’t change their positions. Much ado about nothing! With around 30 minutes of the race remaining the gap between the leader Seiler in the #7 Lola T70 MkIII B and Mille’s Lola T212 was around six seconds. Tension was at its height. After dominating the race the #7 T70 suddenly dropped down the classification and Seiler was forced to retire to the delight of Pierre-Alain France, also Lola T70 mounted (#70) who took the lead in the race. After the end of the pit stops Emmanuel Brigand in the #97 Chevron B19 now led the dance. But with less than 10 minutes to go Pierre-Alain France who set the fastest lap on several occasions managed to find an opening and overtook the Chevron B19 to take first place.  managed to find an opening and overtook the Chevron B19 to take first place.  But he wasn’t out of the woods yet as #97 was only two seconds behind. At 17:16, Pierre-Alain France took the chequered flag having managed to fight off Brigand, bravo!! And concerning the latecomers, with 15 minutes to go to the flag the Ferrari 312P suffered a puncture that dropped it to the bottom of the timesheets, while Mr John of B achieved the feat of fighting his way up to fifth place: congratulations to him too!

2.0L Cup

The last event on the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or programme was the one for the 2.0L Cup grid , but as required by decision of the Prefecture the race was shortened by 10 minutes. The cars set off for  90 minutes and right from the green light Damien Kohler in #16 and Xavier Dayraut in #37 were joined in combat giving each other no quarter when it came to overtaking as neither wanted to cede first place. It was a ding-dong scrap. As the two leaders #16 and #37 reeled off the laps a gap opened up between them and the rest of the field that grew to more than 20 seconds. At half distance the Pit Window opened. There were fewer than three seconds between Kohler (#16) in the lead and Dayraut (#37). With only 30 minutes to go Marc de Siebenthal was still in first place after getting behind the wheel of the #16 Porsche. But Elite driver Xavier Dayraut in #37 had other ideas and snatched the lead of the race, which he held till the chequered flag. 

Thus, the curtain rang down on the Dijon-Prenois circuit. Everybody’s face wore a smile – even under their mask!  Great battles out on the track and great moments shared during the laps for the clubs. From a sporting point of view for all the English competitors who were unable to make it to the event because of the health restrictions between the two countries, the organisers have decided to take into account only the best four results of the season instead of five. The worst result is a joker that won’t be counted. Fair-play is the order of the day in the series by Peter Auto!

Next rendezvous on 3 – 4 July on the Bugatti circuit for the Historic Racing by Peter Auto.

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