Tag Archives: Andy Wolfe

Crowds Drawn to Zandvoort Historic GP

Slotting nicely into the UK’s August bank holiday weekend, the 4th running of the Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix was selected as our annual European circuit adventure for 2015.  Uniquely situated within the sand dunes north of the town, Circuit Park Zandvoort has a very different feel to other circuits I have visited.  With few places out of bounds,  the prospect of classic F1 machinery, great weather and a very reasonable entry fee (€40 for the weekend) it is little surprise that record crowds of over 52,000 had been attracted.

The infamous Dutch circuit has not hosted a Grand Prix since 1985 and is unlikely to in the near future given the strict criteria.  However, pleasingly, we found a circuit built in a traditional manner, blessed with excellent viewing from the spectator bankings and without the (now standard) computer game style tarmac run off areas!  Exceeding the track limits at Zandvoort was rewarded with a trip across the gravel!

The main draw from our point of view was the 4 Masters series events headlined by 2 FIA Historic Formula One races and the ear piercingly good FIA Historic Sports Car championship which boasted a mega 41 car entry for the classic 60’s and 70’s endurance racing machines.

SATURDAY

Having witnessed a great race at Donington earlier in the season, the Pre 66 Touring car field was a little light on numbers.  It only requires two cars to make a race though and out front Leo Voyazides in his huge Ford Falcon had managed to pull out a small lead over the pole sitting Alfa Giulia Sprint GTA of Alexander Furiani.

Voyazides_Pre66TC

However the tables turned once ex Audi man, Frank Stippler, was aboard the little Italian racer.  Hadfield, a very quick driver himself, could do little about 4 consecutive sub 2.06 lap times from the German and Stippler was soon on terms and passed the Falcon, going on to record race victory by just over 3 seconds.

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Hadfield and Voyazides would manage one place better later in the day however, recording victory in the 90 minute Gentleman Drivers race by a convincing 56 seconds.  In a field packed with Cobras, E Types, Elans and Porsches, Voyazides, in his Shelby Daytona Cobra, found himself leading a three way battle for top spot.  Whilst Voyazides had maintained the lead throughout his stint, Gans and Hart, in AC versions of the Cobra, changed position on more than one occasion, with the three leading cars sitting line astern as they headed for the mid race pitstops.

F1_Glamour

First in was the #76 Cobra of David Hart, handing over to ex Dutch F1 driver, Geido Van der Garde (pictured).  The Dutch duo’s victory challenge was soon to be over however as they had made the change prior to the opening of the pit window, and as a result were delivered a late stop and go penalty.  By this time Hadfield had taken over the lead Shelby Cobra, and with a much later stop, Nigel Greensall, in the glorious silver E-Type Jaguar had snook into second.

ShelbyCobra

While Hadfield was able to cruise to victory, behind the battle was far from over.  Andy Wolfe, taking over from Michael Gans in the #94 Cobra, was unfortunately not able to match the pace of his team mate and in fact, the two quickest cars on the circuit, were the rapid Dutch Cobra’s of Van der Garde and Tom Coronel.  Emerging in fourth following his drive through penalty, 5 sub 2.02 laps allowed the the #76 Cobra to grab the final step of the podium but not without a far from clean tussle with Wolfe which left both cars showing the scars of battle.  Third was the Limit of Van der Garde’s charge though as a consistent drive by Greensall allowed himself and Julian Thomas to split the American muscle cars and claim an excellent second.

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Further back,  Coronel was lighting up the track in the second DHG Cobra; the long time WTCC driver’s charge landing he and Hans Hugenholz fourth position overall by the time the chequered flag was waved, setting fastest lap and passing the similar machines of Wolfe and Andrew Haddon in the process!  This had been 90 minutes of top drawer historic racing and a great way to round out the track action for the day.

SUNDAY

A good nights sleep was required after a long day at the track and a wander through Zandvoort town itself to take in the parade.  There is however nothing quite like the sound of 40 glorious Sports Cars from yesteryear to reinvigorate the senses on a Sunday morning!

SportscarPaddock

And with photography now a bit of a problem (my trusty 70-200 deciding to separate itself from its mountings) we took in what turned out to be a brilliant race from the spectator area overlooking the pit complex.

Long time historic racer, John Minshaw, had brought his very rapid British GT team mate with him to Zandvoort, and Phil Keen duly put Minshaw’s Lola T70 on pole position with a stunning 1:44:063; a whole 3 seconds quicker than anyone else!

It was Minshaw himself however who took the start of the race, opening up a small advantage before David Hart in a similar T70, closely followed by the nimble Lola T290 of Michael Gans began to reel in the Englishman.  On lap 7 however Hart’s challenge was over; a collision with Minshaw while challenging for the lead causing the Dutchman to retire his T70 with a damaged door and bent steering.

It was Gans who then took up the fight, passing Minshaw on the twisty sections but struggling to keep the raw power of the 5 litre Chevy V8 engined Lola behind on the straights.  And while Gans was blessed with clear air once Minshaw pitted, by the time the T290 made it’s pitstop the lead was gone; some fantastic lap times by the recently installed Phil Keen firmly planting the #36 Lola at the top of the timing sheets as the race headed for the closing stages.

Meanwhile, Simon Hadfield had climbed aboard the white and blue Lola T70 shared with Leo Voyazides and was continuing to progress through the field; qualifying issues having caused the duo to start from the very back of the grid.  Although Hadfield was soon passed both the T70 of Jason Wright and the T290 of Gans, Keen proved just too far in front for even the vastly experienced Hadfield to set about catching, leaving Keen and Minshaw to eventually claim a 19 second victory.

With just a few minutes remaining it appeared Gans had been cruelly robbed of a fantastic podium by a charging Gary Pearson in the #23 Lola T70.

Pearson

However the race was brought to a premature end; Michael Lyons in his Osella the cause of the red flag having become beached in the middle of the track after the loss of a rear wheel.  And on count back luck was on the side of Gans; the T290 pilot rewarded with the final step of the podium to go with his Marko class victory.

Had the race not been red-flagged, Gans may well have struggled to hold onto the Marko Class victory as well as the overall podium.  Nick Padmore had been absolutely flying in his Lola T212 during the second half of the race but in the end had to settle for fifth and second in class as a result of the halt.  And remarkably, despite being the cause of the red flag, the Osella of Lyons and Manfredo Rossi di Montelera was still classified 6th overall and 3rd in class!

In fact it had been looking like a disastrous weekend for Michael Lyons, having lead much of Saturday’s F1 race before encountering braking issues that would demote the young Essex man to fourth!  However, Lyons was rewarded for his continued efforts with a commanding overall victory in the second Historic Formula One race of the weekend.  Starting from fourth, two great overtakes after a good start promoted the Hesketh pilot into the lead of the race within the first couple of laps and from then on the road to victory was clear.  Rob Hall, in his Ligier, had managed to pass race one winner Loic Deman at the start but could not keep Lyons at bay for long.

Belgian driver, Loic Deman, may well have challenged Hall but dropped back to fifth by the end of the race with what appeared to be gearbox problems.

Deman_F1

This allowed Andy Wolfe in his Tyrrell 011 to claim a second podium of the weekend and Nick Padmore to take his Surtees to another Stewart class victory with a fantastic fourth position overall.

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In between all of the above, onlookers were treated to races from the HGPCA for both pre 66 (pictured below) and pre 61 machinery, Historic Formula 2, Monoposto and Formula Junior, together with action from the fantastic Dutch Historic Touring Car and GT series.  Unbelievably large and varied grids in the latter two events making for some great racing.

Pre66GP

All in all it had been a great weekend in the Dutch sand dunes, with Zandvoort becoming another classic European circuit visit to tick from our list.  The only real downside from my point of view was the elongated demonstration runs on both days.  Whilst it was nice to see the 1999 Le Mans winning BMW and a couple of 90’s F1 cars, 20 minutes instead of well over an hour of track time would have been suffice.  However I guess the organisers were left with little choice when the Group C race had to be unfortunately cancelled following a strange lack of entrants.

And whilst the lack of car parking at the circuit may have seemed like an issue, nothing beats a trek along the sea front before a day at the circuit!  A cracking hotel choice in the outskirts of Haarlem (De Zoete Inval) and less than an hour of delays at Calais on the way back made August bank Holiday weekend 2015 one to remember.

GALLERY
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Sun Shines on Epic Masters Four Hours

Billed as the perfect antidote to the British Grand Prix, the Donington Masters Festival, headlined by the Masters Four Hours, met all expectations as Roger Wills and James Littlejohn claimed a hard fought victory in their stunning Ford GT40.

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The Independence day four hour entry list fittingly included 7 Ford GT40s, the American brand’s answer to Ferrari’s mid-twentieth century Le Mans dominance.  However only 5 managed to make the start, as high temperatures in excess of 25 degrees played a part in both the Bryant’s machine and that of David Cuff and BTCC legend, Steve Soper, failing to take the green flag.

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And 5 soon became 3 before the first hour had concluded as both the Richard Meins / Steve Farthing and Craig Davies / John Young GT40s were forced into retirement; the latter parking up on the inside of Swantz curve after their GT40 emptied itself of fluid on the run down to the Old Hairpin.  Conversely, the remaining 3 up front were running well, with the #40 of Tony Wood and the Silver Fern liveried machine of Roger Wills dicing for the lead while pole sitter, Jason Wright, held onto third.

As the race entered the second hour however it was New Zealander Roger Wills who had slipped into the lead before making his first of 2 required pitstops during the first safety car period.  Meanwhile, Wood, who had not lost touch with the #5 machine, chose to stay out and re-take the lead of the race

In fact it was 1 hour and 45 minutes into the event before Wood brought the #40 GT40 into pit lane to hand over to Martin Stretton, bringing to an end a monster stint for the Scotsman which had seen him build up an almost 2 lap lead over the rest of the field.  Upwards of 40 degrees was being reported in the cockpit, making Wood’s efforts even more impressive!

But just as things started to look rosy for the white and red Ford, Stretton was back in the pits with oil pressure problems, undoing much of Wood’s hard work and leaving the lead battle between the now much improved green #46 machine of Michael Gans and the new pilot of #5, James Littlejohn.

Gans was quick but Littlejohn had the edge, the 27 year old Warwick man putting in a great drive over the next 15 laps to halve Gans’ lead to 19 seconds before a second safety car was deployed on lap 75.  And with both cars taking the opportunity to make their mandatory second stop, it was Andy Wolfe, now aboard Jason Wright’s #46, who got the better of the safety car timings to gain almost a lap on Roger Wills who had climbed back aboard the #5.

The second half of the race would feature 2 further safety car periods, making it crucial that Wills did not lose a lap to Wolfe.  And whilst Stretton had held the lead until pitting for the third time on lap 91, his lap lead on the rest of the field, whilst nursing a broken exhaust and misfire, was not enough to keep him and Wood in contention; thus leaving a straight fight to finish between Wills and ace historic car preparer, Andy Wolfe.

Having managed to stay on the same lap as his rival, Wills took advantage of the third safety car to sit right behind Wolfe at the restart, the bit now firmly between his teeth as he took the lead of the race on lap 91.  The favour was returned less than ten laps later however following the return to green after a fourth safety car intervention.  This race was well and truly in the balance with just 30 minutes remaining.

FinalChallenge_4Hours

Once in the lead, Wolfe was not able to break the tow, and you just sensed that Wills had something extra in the bag.   As if to prove onlookers right, the vastly experienced historic racer made the decisive overtake on lap 106; Wills then following this up with two consecutive sub 1:45 lap times while Wolfe lost vital seconds with a spin at the Old Hairpin.  As quick as Wolfe had been during the race there was no way back from here, allowing the Wills / Littlejohn piloted GT40 to cruise onto the top step of the podium.

Whilst the powerful GTP class Fords filled the podium positions, Phil Keen and Andrew Haddon brought the glorious AC Cobra home in 4th position overall to claim the GTB class honours.  Having been troubled early on by the E-Type of Marcus Graf Von Oeynhausen-Sierstorpff, the Cobra crew spent the second half of the race in a close battle with the Lotus Elan of David Tomiln and Richard Meaden.

GTBWinners_4Hours

In the end the Cobra had the necessary grunt to get the better of the very well driven Elan in the final hour of the race, while fifth place and top spot in class GTA was just reward for a stunning drive by Tomlin and Meaden.  In fact the final results mask the story of GTA which featured a great battle with the TVR of the Sean and Michael McInerney.  While Tomlin and Meaden showed greater pace as the race went on, it was the TVR who had the upper hand following the second round of pitstops.  However just 3 laps later an unscheduled third stop for the father and son crew effectively ended their challenge for class honours; 6th overall however represented a more than respectable result.

GTAWinners_4Hours

The number #13 Mustang in the touring car class seemed to have class victory in the bag with 1 hour to go; Rupert Cleverly, Simon Garrad and Charles Allison holding a three lap lead over the similar machine of Nicholas Ruddell, Robert Crofton and Nigel Batchelor.  However, disaster struck on lap 90 as the #13 car stopped on track on the run up to Goddards.  Having been helped back to the pits and then fixing the apparent electrical fault with little time loss they appeared back on track for class victory.  Luck was not on their side however as they were back in the pits for good just 10 laps later, gifting class victory to Ruddell, Crofton and Batchelor.

TCAWinners_$hours

With only 15 of the 29 starters taking the chequered flag, this had been a proper test of endurance.  The heat added an extra element for the crews to battle against which made winning the race even more rewarding for Wills and Littlejohn.  I really hope that this event makes a return in 2016 as it would be a great tragedy if the Masters 4 Hours of Donington turned out to be a one off!

Podium_4Hours

MASTERS PRE 66 TOURING CARS

Few motor races are as entertaining as the Pre 66 touring cars where Amercian Muscle in the form of Ford’s Falcon and Mustang are pitched against the smaller engined, yet more nimble, European Mini and Cortina.  In particular, the speed carried through the corners by John Cooper’s finest often defies belief, making them a true match for their more powerful state-side rivals in certain conditions.

TouringCar_start

A dry race-day however gave a clear advantage to the aforementioned muscle but it was Henry Mann, son of racing legend Alan, who managed to get the jump on the front row starting Mercury Cyclone of Roger Wills and the pole sitting Falcon of Rob Hall.  In fact, once into the lead, the Mustang driver never looked back as he went on to record a convincing victory of over 50 seconds.

Mann_TouringCars

The battle behind was far from clear cut however, with 4 hour race winner, Wills, having to fight off the Ford Falcon of Rob Hall and whole host of Minis, Cortinas and Mustangs.  Wills and Hall had been Mann’s closest challengers until the mid-race pit calls, however slow stops for both cars dropped them behind the rapid Minis of Jonathan Lewis and Nick Swift.

By lap 27, Wills and Hall were back in second and third but Wills was clearly struggling to keep the pace; Ben Hall, who had taken over from his father, slipping into second just two laps later.  The podium positions were far from over however as the fast charging number #27 Mustang in the hands of Mike Whittaker was lighting up the track after gearbox problems in qualifying consigned them to the back of the grid.  By lap 30 the Mustang was passed both Minis and into 4th position with just one lap to go.  Could Wills keep the Mustang at bay? …

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WhittakerMustang_TouringCars

In fact the New Zealander almost managed it but fell just short with a spin at the Melbourne hairpin, allowing Whittaker to claim an unlikely podium spot.  Wills did manage to recover in time to claim fourth however, just in front of the very rapid Minis of Nick Swift and Jonathan Lewis.

Mini_TouringCars

FIA MASTERS HISTORIC SPORTS CAR CHAMPIONSHIP

What is there not to like about a full field of 60’s and 70′ Le Mans racers headed up by no fewer than 6 mighty Lola T70s I ask?  An era of endurance racing that I dearly wish I could have witnessed in period.

In a re-match of the ‘1000km’ event earlier in the year, Simon Hadfield and Leo Voyazides managed to get the better of arch rivals Chris Ward and Paul Gibson to claim pole by 0.274 seconds.  Having ended the May day bank holiday weekend event in the Craner Curves wall following a brush with Gibson, Voyazides will have been delighted to start the 1 hour race from P1.

Hadfield_Sportscar

The leading Lola crews had however decided to split their stronger drivers with Chris Ward managing to build a healthy lead of almost 25 seconds before pitting to allow car owner, Paul Gibson, to take the wheel.  Voyazides meanwhile had done well to stay out of trouble and maintain second place from the fast starting Lola T210 of Martin Stretton, giving the incredibly quick Simon Hadfield every chance of hunting down the #99 Broadley machine.

SportscarStart

In fact Hadfield’s job was made substantially easier by a much quicker pit stop, leaving a gap of just 10 seconds for the preparation maestro to chase down.  Lapping consistently in the 1:35’s and 1:36’s from then on in the win was never in doubt; Hadfield passing Gibson on lap 22 and going on to take victory by over 48 seconds.

Hadfield2_sportscar

Gibon meanwhile appeared to have enough in hand to cruise to second place.  However, having despatched with the Lola T290 of Michael Gans early on in the stint, the Lola T70’s of Andy Wolfe and James Littlejohn set off in hot pursuit of the second place man, setting times which were 2 to 3 seconds a lap quicker than Gibson.

With only a handful of minutes remaining, the seemingly unbridgeable gap had be closed but Gibson appeared to have done just enough.  That is until he spun at Goddard’s on the very last lap allowing the fast charging Andy Wolfe, co-driven by Jason Wright to claim second while James Littlejohn and Daniel Gibson took a well deserved third.  The spin did not cost Gibson too much in the end however as his Broadley Lola was found to be in breach of the regulations, suffering a 45 second penalty as a result.

The penalty for Gibson did however promote the Marko class winning Lola T290 of Michael Gans into fourth position overall, which represented a great drive having beaten several more powerful machines.

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Elsewhere, the Bonnier class victory was claimed by the Chevron B8 crew of Graham Wilson and Mark Hales, while Mark Bates put on a crowd pleasing performance at the wheel of his Porsche 911 to secure top spot in the Pescarolo class.

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I am not sure there is a better track in the UK to showcase the magnificent historic machines of the Masters series.  Having been matched by glorious July weather, a better weekend of Motorsport action I could not have had.  British GP? No thanks, Zandvoort in late August here I come!

All images © Paul Commons (Paul Commons Motorsport Photography)