Under absolutely scorching conditions, Peter Auto staged the 51st annual Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or at the Circuit Dijon-Prenois. Best known for the legendary battle between Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve back in 1979, the undulating track is ideally suited to historic racing as it has retained the look and feel of a classic circuit while also offering sufficient run-off areas to ensure small mistakes do not have catastrophic consequences. Originally created as a support event for the French Grand Prix in 1964, the modern-day Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or naturally featured single seater classes, which complemented the familiar Peter Auto groups of sports racers and touring cars. Once again clubs were invited to showcase their cars and were also offered the opportunity to take to the track during the lunch-breaks. Over 800 cars were displayed in the club areas over the weekend, while the paddock also provided a comprehensive shopping area.
Focusing on the action on the track and braving the record-breaking temperatures, our photographers explored every corner of the Circuit Dijon Prenois. The result is this action-packed, 270-shot gallery
Three groups of single seater racers were out on track during the 2015 Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or; two for Grand Prix and Formula Libre cars and one for late 1960s Formula 3 machinery. The earliest cars were found in the Pre-61 grid, which consisted of front-engined Grand Prix cars, ranging from a mighty 1934 Maserati 6C 34 to the unique Lister Monzanapolis. Fastest of all was Julian Bronson in the spare Scarab F1 car, which he had meticulously rebuilt to full running order after it had been displayed in the Grand Prix Collection at Donington for many years. Now fully sorted, Bronson drove the four-cylinder engined machine to victory in both races. The later, Pre-1966 group also saw the same winner in both 20-minute races; Peter Horsman in his Lotus 18/21. He did make it hard for himself in the second race as he had a poor start but quickly clawed back up the field. The Formula 3 Nations Cup was slightly less predictable, especially because the second race featured chaos on the start-line, delaying or even taking out several of the front runners. As a result, race 1 was won by pole-man Thierry Gallo in his striking Tecno, while the second race saw Christoph Widmer take the victory after starting fourth in his Brabham.
Just like at Spa a fortnight earlier, the Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or featured two touring car groups, which both had a one-hour race with a mandatory pit-stop. Although also including Minis, the earliest of the two groups, for under two-litre machinery, saw a three-way battle between Cortinas, Alfa Romeo GTAs and BMW 1800 TiSAs. Starting on the front row were Cortina shared by Richard Meaden and Grant Tromans and the BMW of Richard Shaw and Jackie Oliver. Meaden managed to open a small gap during the early stages but was forced to retire with a mechanical failure. This handed the lead to Shaw and Oliver and they scored an impressive victory ahead of a Cortina and Alfa.
The Historic Touring Car (HTC) race for slightly later machines saw the return to the track of France's 'Mr Escort' Claude Boissey after a hefty accident some three years ago. Sharing with Eric Sechaud, the 71-year old had clinched pole position, even though he still had trouble walking. Early in the race, he was challenged by the mighty yet fragile twin-cam Ford Capri of David Ferrer and Mr. John of B. but, as always, it was forced to retire. Late in the race, Sechaud had to fight off Christophe van Riet in the Escort he shared with Raphael de Borman, and did so valiantly. Third was for the BMW 3.0 CSL driven by Ronald and Jean-Claude Basso.
Trofeo Nastro Rosso
Many the most valuable cars out on track during the weekend were found in the Trofeo Nastro Rosso for Italian built and/or engined machines. To protect the priceless cars from the scorching temperatures, both races were shortened from 45 to 35 minutes. Making his Trofeo Nastro Rosso debut, Michael O'Shea grabbed pole position for both races in his unique Maserati V8-engined Cooper T61. Second was regular Vincent Gaye in his beautifully prepared 275 GTB/C. In the first race, O'Shea, in his roaring Cooper, had little trouble fighting up the always quick Belgian. Gaye did have a great start in race two and managed to squeeze by O'Shea going into the first corner by taking an unconventionally wide line. The brave attempt did saw the two cars briefly come together but both managed to continue. Making the most of his power advantage, O'Shea did manage to regain the lead on the following lap to take his second win of the weekend. Third position at both occasions was for Josef Rettenmaier in his Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage. Slightly earlier A6GCS/53s won the drum-brake class in each of the two heats; in the first the example driven by Lukas Huni, while his compatriot Carlo Vogele took the win in the second.
By far the biggest field of the weekend was found in the two-hour Sixties' Endurance race. With the exception of the pole-sitting Jaguar E-Type of Martin O'Connell and Sandy Watson, and the diminutive Lotus Elan shared by Grant Tromans and Richard Meaden, Cobras dominated at the sharp end of the field. Early problems for the quickest of the E-Types meant that the Elan was the only one left to rival the Cobras for most of the race. Having had to start from the back of the field after sustaining a penalty in qualifying, the Cobra shared by Dutchmen Hans Hugenholtz and David Hart was the star of the race. By the time Hart took over, Hugenholtz had climbed back up the field from 62nd to 7th. Hart continued the charge and looked set to challenge the leading Cobra, shared by Pierre-Alain and Erwin France before the end of the race. Unfortunately, Hart's left front wheel came off with less than 20 minutes to go, ending the impressive run early. Many of the other Cobras were also delayed but the France's example survived to take a hard-fought victory. Second was for the 2015 Tour Auto winning E-Type of Jean-Pierre Lajournade and Vincent Aubrey, while Tromans and Meaden placed third in their grey Elan.
Classic Endurance Racing 1
Among the most evocative groups in action during the 51st Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or was undoubtedly the Classic Endurance Racing 1 grid. Among the entries were a colourful line-up of Lolas and Chevrons but also rare machinery like a Ferrari 512 S and an Alfa Romeo Tipo 33. Unfortunately, a gearbox issue ended the charge of the 512 S during the opening session. Not surprisingly, the fastest of all during the two qualifying sessions was the Chevron B19 shared by Martin O'Connell and Andrew Kirkaldy. A freshly restored sister car, driven by Philip Bruehwiler filled the other slot on the front row. Kirkaldy immediately grabbed the lead and looked set to cruise to victory until he ran wide over some oil and dislodged the B19's nose in the gravel trap. With the nose stuck under the front wheels, his race was over. Bruehwiler had also already retired, leaving the Ligier JS3 that had qualified seventh and was shared by Mr. John of B. and Guillaume Collinot to inherit the lead. Second was for Serge Kriknoff in his 1971 European Championship winning Lola T212, while third was for the one year older T210 driven by David Tomlin. The GT class was dominated by Porsche 911s with Michel Lecourt's RSR 3.0 the highest placed of all.
Classic Endurance Racing 2
Rounding off the event on Sunday afternoon was the one-hour race for the Classic Endurance Racing 2 group. As in the earlier iteration, the CER2 field boasted a fine complement of Lolas and Chevrons, also spiced by a rare machine from Italy; the Lancia Beta Montecarlo brought by David Ferrer. Although it ran well in qualifying, the freshly restored machine was unfortunately not able to take part in the race. This started with the Lola T298s of Patrice Lafargue and Frederic da Rocha on the first row. They both had a horrible start and they exited the first corner at the back of the lead group, which was headed by Tony Sinclair in his two-litre engined Lola T292. Using the surplus in power of his three-litre DFV engine to his advantage, Dominique Guenat managed to motor past Sinclair after a few laps. Later in the race, a recovering Lafargue also managed to find his way past Sinclair to place second, less than three seconds behind Guenat. The final podium position was a just reward for Sinclair stellar start. The GT2 class was won by Manfredo Rossi di Montelera, who finished sixth overall in his Porsche 935 K3.
Close to 15,000 spectators braved the tropical conditions (the first day was the hottest in the area in 50 years!) to attend this year's Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or. They were treated to a fine racing spectacle with the closely disputed Sixties' Endurance and CER2 races as absolute highlights. All this and much, much more can be found in our class-by-class 270-shot gallery