A classic circuit
Laid out in the hills on the southern edge of the city of Imola during the early 1950s, the Autodromo Internationale Dino & Enzo Ferrari
remains very much a classic circuit. Thanks to its high speed corners and undulations, one of the track's creators, Enzo Ferrari, once likened it to a mini-Nurburgring. Accordingly, it forms an ideal backdrop for a historic race meeting like the Imola Classic, organised by Peter Auto Racing for the second year in 2013. The two-day meeting featured familiar 'Peter' grids like the Sixties' Endurance and Classic Endurance Racing (CER), complemented by the Italian Challenge Formule Storiche series for small-displacement single seaters from the 1960s. With Europe still buckling under an unusually long and temperamental winter, the entrants and spectators were treated to two dry and mostly sunny days. Although any hope of spring finally arriving was quickly washed away by the rain that followed soon after the checkered flag fell for the final time on Sunday evening.
Our photographers ventured to Imola for the very first time and have returned with this action-packed, 210-shot gallery
, which includes pictures from every session.
Trofeo Nastro Rosso
Established some years ago as an alternative for the defunct Ferrari/Maserati Challenge, the Trofeo Nastro Rosso recently struggled to attract a full grid. To address this situation, Patrick Peter opened the field up to cars with an Italian link. As a result, the two 45-minute races at Imola also included a Cooper T49 Maserati and a pair of Porsche 356 GTL Abarths. Additional Ferraris and Bizzarrinis also made an appearance to create a two-dozen strong field. Topping the charts in qualifying were Olivier de Siebenthal and Dominique Wanty in an Iso A3/C ahead of David Hart and Hans Hugenholtz in the latter's Ferrari 250 GT Drogo Coupe. In the first race, Hugenholtz had the best start while De Siebenthal dropped a few spots down the order. The Swiss racer quickly made up the ground lost but failed to get by his Dutch rival as the brakes on the big Iso faded. Third was for Pierre de Thoissy in a Bizzarrini 5300 GT America. Sadly, the Iso A3/C failed to make the start of the second race, which proved a walk in the park for Hart. He was followed home at a considerable distance by De Thoissy and Arnold Meier in his Ferrari 275 GTB/C.
Challenge Formule Storiche
Entirely new for was the Challenge Formule Storiche for Formula Junior and Formula 3 cars of the 1960s. The Italy-based series attracts run-of-the-mill Brabhams, Coopers, Lotuses but also local oddities like a Branca or a Wainer. The former featured a rather rudimentary monocoque chassis but this nevertheless did not prevent the suitably named driver Bruno Ferrari to rank among the fastest drivers. Also very quick was Alessandro Ripamonti in his Wainer, which boasts a rather striking 'shark-nose'. Quickest of all, however, was Swiss racer Louis Maulini, who clinched pole and won both 30-minute races with his Merlyn Mk10. One of just ten built in 1967, this Formula 3 racer was raced with only moderate success in period. In race 1, Maulini was joined on the podium by Manfredo Rossi di Montelera with his Lotus 22 and Vincent Rivet, driving a Brabham BT28. Round two saw Roland Fischer on the second step of the rostrum following a spirited drive in his Tecno, while the aforementioned Bruno Ferrari clinched third with the unusual Branca.
Longest of all races of the weekend was the two-hour, two-driver Sixties' Endurance race. During qualifying, the sharp end of the 36-car field was dominated by AC Shelby Cobras, which filled five of the top six places. David Hart and Hans Hugenholtz were fastest of all, while the Olivier de Siebenthal and Dominique Wanty entered Iso A3/C was the odd one out in fifth. Hart started the race in the pole-sitter and immediately grabbed the lead. In the opening stages of the race he was challenged by his team mate Alexander van der Lof in a sister Cobra but after briefly surrendering the lead, Hart pulled away. Although quick in qualifying, the Cobras did not proof particularly reliable as three of the five cars were forced to retire. The pair that did survive were first and second with Hart and Hugenholtz winning with a lap to spare over Dominique Guenat. Third overall were Jean-Francois Bentz and Francis Trichet in a Jaguar E-Type. Other cars of note in the race was a very rare, ex-works Porsche 904/6 and a rarer still Morgan SLR.
Classic Endurance Racing 1
Launched back in 2004, the Classic Endurance Racing or CER series forms the heart of the Peter Auto Racing portfolio. For the weekend, the colourful grid was split in two races with the cut-off for prototypes at around 1972 and for GT cars at 1975. Among the many exciting machines in the CER 1 field was Franco Meiners' spectacular Ferrari 512 S fitted with the 'Coda Lunga' or Long Tail bodywork for the first time in many years. The striking machine also proved very quick with Meiners beaten only during qualifying by Bernhard Thuner in his Lola T70 Mk3. In the opening laps of the one-hour race, they were nose to tail with Thuner leading and closely followed by Yvan Mahe in Richard Mille's Lola T70 Mk3B. Meiners already told us before the race that his Ferrari was not quite ready yet and sadly, the glorious V12-engined sports car lasted only ten laps. In a class of their own, Thuner and Mahe went on to lap the entire field, eventually finishing just three seconds apart. A distant third was Stephane Gutzwiller in his Mazda-engined Chevron B16. The GT class was also very closely disputed with Didier Denat in his Porsche 911 Carrera RSR eventually beating his rivals in similar machines by just three and five seconds respectively.
Classic Endurance Racing 2
Packed with big-winged prototype and fire-breathing GT racers, the CER 2 had the fastest and most spectacular field of the weekend. Many of the entrants were familiar faces/cars with Fabio Valle's Lancia Beta Monte Carlo Turbo the most interesting exception. Powered by a diminutive 1.4 litre turbocharged four cylinder engine, it could keep up with the much larger engined Porsche 935s in period and also during the one-hour race at Imola. Valle eventually placed second in the GT class and fifth overall, beaten only by Christian Traber with his Porsche 935 L1. The pair of GT cars finished so high up the order due to numerous problems with the quicker prototype runners. For pole-man Patrice Lafargue the race ended in the first corner when one of his rear wheels came off. He was lucky to finish in the gravel and not in the wall. Early leaders Paul Knapfield and Kevin Wilkins were also forced to retire when respectively the rear wing failed on Knapfield's March and an oil-pressure issue prompted Wilkins to park his TOJ as a precaution. This left the victory for Michel Quiniou in his Lola T280 with Yves Scemema in a Sauber C5 second and Frederic da Rocha nursing his misfiring Lola T298 home in third.
Squeezed into just two days, the event proved packed with action from 9 am to well passed 6 pm on both Saturday and Sunday. Thanks to the great weather (relatively speaking) and the exciting grids, the second edition of Imola Classic was a great success. We also greatly enjoyed exploring this classic circuit and are particularly proud of our 210-shot gallery
, which includes the odd flying cars, off-track excursions, flames and lovely scenic back-drops.