Only in its third year, the Dix Mille Tours race meeting at the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track in the South of France has become a set fixture on the calendar. Organised by Peter Auto, the event combines proprietary races like the Trofeo Nastro Rosso and Classic Endurance Racing with additional series, which consisted this year of the Group C Racing Series and the FIA Historic Formula 1 Championship. New for this year was the 'Nineties' Red' open only to Ferrari F40s and Ferrari 333 SPs. Further highlights included the two-hour Sixties Endurance race, which ran into the sunset and concluded Saturday's action. In addition to the races, the event also offers plenty of room both in the paddock and on the track to club members to show and exercise their cars during the lunch-breaks.
Our photographers ventured to France's lovely Mediterranean coast to catch the last breath of Summer and all the action on track, resulting in this grid-by-grid, 250-shot gallery
Trofeo Nastro Rosso
To some extant replacing the now defunct Ferrari Historic Challenge, the Trofeo Nastro Rosso is open to all
Italian sports and GT cars up to 1966. This has opened the door for cars like the Bizzarrini 5300 GT to join the Ferraris and Maseratis on track in the two 45-minute races. Stars of the relatively small field were Carlos Monteverde's glorious Ferrari 250 LM and a highly original Maserati 300S brought by Carlo Vogele. This particular car was driven to victory in the Nurburgring 1000 km by Sir Stirling Moss back in 1956.
In qualifying Monteverde's bright yellow 250 LM proved fastest of all but he was beaten by the raw power of Michael Erlich's Bizzarrini at the start of the first race. Erlich took off into the distance early on but the Brazilian managed to catch and pass the big V8-engined machine in the closing stages. The second race looked like a repeat of the first but this time Erlich managed his brakes and tyres a little better, enabling him to stay ahead of the howling 250 LM.
Historic Formula 1
Officially sanctioned by the FIA and serving as the support event at the British Grand Prix earlier in the year, the Historic Formula 1 race looked set to be one of the draws of the weekend. Unfortunately the provisional entry list featured just 11 cars and eventually only six racers took to the track. Of these, the Brabham BT49 piloted by Joaquin Folch was not only the most interesting but also the fastest by quite a margin. Like almost every other Brabham built and raced under his reign, this car is still owned by Bernie Ecclestone. He has however, along with one other BT49 chassis, offered it on loan to compete in the Historic Formula 1 Championship for the last seven years. This has not been without success and Folch entered the weekend leading the championship by quite a margin. He made no mistakes on the high speed track, which for this grid featured a chicane in the long straight, and won the opening race. With the championship in the bag, the Spaniard did not even start in the second 12-lap race, leaving the victory to Richard Eyre with his Williams FW08. Despite the very small field, we were treated to some proper racing early on in the first race with Terry Sayles, Michel Baudoin and Philippe Bonny dicing for third in their respective Osella, Hesketh and Trojan.
What prompted the plan to create the Nineties' Red race was the 25th anniversary of the Ferrari F40; the last road car developed in Maranello in the great Enzo Ferrari's lifetime. Unfortunately, the entry consisted solely of (modified) road cars and did not include one of the Michelotto developed LM, GT or GTE variants. To spice up the field, Patrick Peter also invited the fabulous Ferrari 333 SP. Powered by a 4-litre version of the five-valve Formula 1 V12, these sports racers were immensely successful but are now often forgotten. No one who experienced the 333 SP in person, will however forget them. The howl of the twelve-cylinder is without equal and even at circuits as large as Spa Francorchamps, could be heard all around the track. At Paul Ricard the long Mistral straight provided the ideal place for the 333 SPs to perform their symphony. Six examples were present for the Nineties' Red, which was run as a regularity event rather a real race. The reason for this was that many of the cars had not been run in anger for many years and would have required additional work to bring safety equipment like the fuel tanks up to specs for a real race. We did speak to one entrant, who did not care much about the classification and just wanted to have fun. Gilbert Lestrade in his F40 did have a proper go and managed to stay remarkably close to his reference time set in qualifying and accordingly he won both 30-minute races.
There was certainly no lack of entries for the Sixties Endurance race, which was open to sports cars of up to 1963 and GT cars built before 1966. The packed grid was a colourful mix of Cobras, Porsche 911s and Jaguar E-Types, complemented by rarer machinery like a Lister Knobbly Jaguar, Morgan SLR and a Lotus 19. The latter was originally fielded by John Mecom with a Buick V8 for the Augie Pabst and Walt Hansgen. Recently restored to its Mecom livery, it gradually got up to speed during the weekend and even grabbed the lead of the race during the first hour. Sadly, mechanical problems dropped it down the order. Moving very much in the opposite direction was Jean-Marc Merlin in his Shelby Cobra. He missed qualifying a day earlier and as a result had to start at the very back of the grid. Wasting no time, he was up to second by lap 12 and eventually grabbed the lead 14 laps later. Joining him on the all-Cobra podium were Dominique Guenat and Yvan Mahe in second and Philipp and Heiner Oettli in third. In the great endurance racing tradition there was also an Index of Performance, won by Juan-Pablo and Santiago Orjuela in their Porsche 356.
Rivalling the Ferrari 333 SP for impressive soundtrack was the Sauber-Mercedes C11 entered by Gareth Evans and Bob Berridge in the Group C race. Whereas the Ferrari's V12 produced a finely tuned howl, the Mercedes-Benz twin-turbo V8 literally thundered down the Mistral straight with a menacing growl. With only Steve Tandy and Joe Osborne coming close in their Nissan R90CK, the 'Silver Arrow' was not only the loudest but also the quickest car in the field, claiming pole with an average speed of close to 200 km/h. The two qualifying sessions were not without incident as in the first Michel Ghio lost the door of his ADA and in the second Richard Eyre unfortunately blew the engine of his Jaguar XJR-16. Interrupted briefly by a safety car period, Evans built up a healthy lead in the first half of the one-hour race over the bright yellow Nissan. Unfortunately the roaring Sauber-Mercedes acted up, forcing Berrigde to retire in the closing stages. This handed the victory to Tandy and Osborne, with Pierre-Alain France second and a lap down in his Porsche 962C. Third and first in the C2 class was for Marc Donovan and his Spice.
Classic Endurance Racing 1
For this weekend the Classic Endurance Racing field was split in two grids, which brought in some star entries that would have been also runs in the combined field. Among them was the Porsche 917K of Carlos Monteverde, driven during the race by Gary Pearson and the Ferrari 512 M shared by Steven Read and David Franklin. Along with the Lola T70 driven by Bernard Thuner, these five-litre engined machines were the quickest in the field. Other interesting machines included two Alfa Romeo 33/TT/3s, a Lola T70 that was used in the movie Le Mans and one of only three Huron 4As ever built.
Making full use of the powerful flat 12 engine in the back of 'his' Porsche, Pearson immediately grabbed the lead ahead of Thuner. A few laps into the race, three separate incidents prompted the deployment of the safety car. Pearson used the opportunity to make the mandatory stop and Thuner followed suit. Unfortunately, they stopped before the pit window had opened and were penalised after the race. While Pearson was flagged as the winner, the actual victors were Read and Franklin in the Ferrari 512 ahead of Sandy Watson and Martin O'Connell in a Chevron and Marc Hevia in his McLaren M1B.
Classic Endurance Racing 2
Sports cars and GT racers of a slightly more modern vintage were found in the second Classic Endurance Racing field. Grabbing the limelight once again was Carlos Monteverde with his recently acquired Porsche 936, again shared with Gary Pearson. Unfortunately, the tight corners on the track had a destructing effect on the differential of the 1977 Le Mans winner, which sidelined the Porsche before the race. Another entry of interest was Paul Knapfield's Cosworth DFV engined March 76S. It was only recently restored and the 'snorkel' was actually not quite ready yet. Knapfield was nevertheless very quick but his race was thwarted in the opening lap after a coming together with Carlos Barbot in a Lola T280 and Martin O'Connell in a Chevron B36 while fighting for the lead. Sadly the race ended for both Knapfield and Barbot after just a few corners. O'Connell also retired later on with suspension failure. Their problems cleared the way for an-all Lola podium with Patrice Lafargue in his T296 beating Dominique Guenat in his T286 and Michel Quiniou in an earlier T280.
Even though not all fields were as well stacked, the third Dix Mille Tours was once again a fabulous event. The sight and sound of a Ferrari 333 SP or a Sauber-Mercedes C11 speeding down the Mistral straight alone was enough to make the visit worthwhile. Already warming us up for next year, Patrick Peter announced a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the BPR Global GT Series, he originally co-found with Jurgen Barth and Stephane Ratel. This will be marked by a regularity race for evocative machinery like the McLaren F1 GTR, the Ferrari F40 LM and GTE, a choice of Porsches and various Venturis. For much more in this year's Dix Mille Tours, we would like to invite you to take your time and explore our action-packed 250-shot gallery