Bathing at the Cote d'Azur
One of the reasons Peter Auto stages its final major event at the Circuit Paul Ricard on the Mediterranean coast is the mild climate, even at the beginning of October. This year's sixth annual Dix Mille Tours proved to be the exception to the rule as on Friday and Saturday the track did not bath in sunshine but suffered from torrential downpours. This had a surprisingly limited effect on the participants willingness to take to the track in their precious machines. The vast run-off areas do make the track particularly suited to explore the limits in the less than perfect conditions. A carbon-copy of the 2014 line-up, the program included all of Peter Auto's familiar grids, including the two Classic Endurance Racing fields and the Trofeo Nastro Rosso. Additional fields were the U2TC for under two-litre Touring Cars and the Group C series, which has certainly also been taken over by Peter Auto.
Our photographers endured the trying conditions throughout the weekend with this particularly spectacular 310-shot gallery
as the result.
First out on the track were the cars for the two-hour Sixties' Endurance Racing race. Thanks to the ample space available on the relatively long track, the field comprised of over 80 entries. Among the rarer cars on the grid were a pair of Porsche 904s, both of which were campaigned in period by S.M.A.R.T. (Stirling Moss Auto Racing Team). While free practice was run on a thoroughly soaked track, qualifying later in the day was staged on a quickly drying surface. Fastest of all in these treacherous conditions was young French GP2 racer Norman Nato, in Clive Joy's recently acquired Shelby Mustang. He pipped three Cobras and a very well driven Lotus Eleven to pole. Heavy rain and thunder were expected at the 5 pm start on Saturday afternoon, and, for once, the weather predictions were spot on. The race did start, be it behind the safety car. After a couple of laps, the decision was made to let the field but as fate would have had it the heavens then really opened and the race was red flagged due to standing water. Even though it did dry out, the race was not re-started due to incoming fog. Nato and Joy were declared the winners, having completed just five laps.
Under 2-Litre Touring Cars
Always very competitive is the one-hour U2TC race that kicked off the action on Sunday morning. As with the Sixties' Endurance practice and qualifying, there were no completely dry sessions for the two-litre touring cars, so the race did not have an entirely representative grid. Dion Kremer in his Lotus Cortina clearly did feel right at home in the trying conditions and set the fastest time ahead of Richard Shaw in a BMW 1800 TiSA and the Cortinas of David Tomlin and Grant Tromans, who both shared with rapid scribe Richard Meaden. Kremer did manage to grab an early lead but was quickly passed by Shaw and Meaden, who had started the race in Tromans' Cortina. The latter quickly built up a comfortable lead in his ever spectacular fashion before handing to Tromans at around the halfway mark. Shaw, not sharing with his regular co-driver Jackie Oliver, did manage to claw back some of the deficit but eventually finished second. Third was more hotly disputed as Dion Kremer and Gary Pearson literally finished nose to tail in their Cortinas with Kremer clinching the final podium position.
Heritage Touring Cup
Of a slightly more modern vintage were the Touring Cars competing in the HTC. The cars ranged from mid-1960s Mustangs straight through to a Group A Rover and Volvo. Owing to the more lenient regulations of the 1970s, the fastest cars of all were the pair of twin-cam Ford Capris. Starting on pole was the Capri entered by JD Classics and shared by Andrew Smith and Steve Soper. He beat the single-cam Capri of Steve Dance by a whopping five seconds and the third fastest car, a Rover shared by Tim Summers and Richard Meaden as a further second back. In the race, Soper quickly grabbed the lead only to retire after just three laps with gearbox issues. This opened the way for a race-long battle between Dance's Capri and the other twin-cam Capri of David Ferrer and Mr John of B. The French entry had the upper hand for most of the hour but Dance managed to slip by at the very last minute to claim the outright victory. A distant third was the Alpina BMW 3.0 CSL shared by Pierre-Alain Thibault and Eric Mestdagh, who did manage to set the fastest lap of the race.
Trofeo Nastro Rosso
For most of the other fields, Peter Auto rarely struggles to get capacity grids but the particulars of the Trofeo Nastro Rosso means it usually boasts the smallest entry of the weekend. With over 30 cars entered, this was certainly not the case at this year's Dix Mille Tours. The quality of the field was also without equal as it included a pair of Ferrari 250 LMs, the unique Ferrari 250 GT SWB Breadvan, a Ferrari 330 GTOs, three Alfa Romeo TZs and a very rare mid-engined Maserati Tipo 63 Birdcage. Braving the adverse conditions on Saturday afternoon, Carlos Monteverde came out on top in the first race with his very well driven 250 LM. The bright yellow machine was comfortably faster than Vincent Gaye in a 275 GTB/C and Niklas Halusa in his father's Breadvan. A backache unfortunately prevented Monteverde from starting race two and Halusa was forced to retire early on. This opened the way for Gaye to clinch victory ahead of Jean Brandenburg and Raphael Favaro in a Bizzarrini and Clive Joy in his ex-Maranello Concessionaires Ferrari 250 LM.
Following the cancellation of the planned Group C race at Zandvoort due to a lack of entrants a month earlier, the Dix Mille Tours drew a field of 17 cars. The colourful mix included a wide range of machines varying from no fewer than three Lancia LC2s to the much more recent Jaguar XJR-14. It was also interesting to see a pair of Jaguar XJR-16s both of which were brought by Richard Eyre. In addition to his regular racing car he had the second chassis on hand, which spent most of its life as the stillborn XJR-17. The wet conditions also affected the two qualifying sessions but in damp conditions, Christophe d'Ansembourg proved fastest of all in his exotic Jaguar XJR-14. For various, mechanical reasons, neither of the Nissans entered made it to starting grid and the race itself also saw more than its share of casualties. Successive leaders Richard Eyre, Christophe d'Ansembourg and Tommy Dreelan in his Kremer Porsche 962 CK6 all had to retire. Free from this apparent curse was Steve Tandy in his thundering GTP Spice, who just managed to hold of Michael Lyons in his Gebhardt. Third was Philippe Brunn in his family's freshly restored Spice-Tiga.
Classic Endurance Racing 1
Arguably the most evocative grid of all was for the Classic Endurance Racing 1 event, which ended the event on Sunday afternoon. The large field included a Ferrari 512 M, three Alfa Romeo Tipo 33s, a host of Porsches, including a 917/10 and a colourful mix of Lolas. The fight for pole was between the Lola T70 shared by Grant Tromans and Richard Meaden and the howling 512 M of Steven Read and Giovanni Lavaggi. In the end Meaden managed to set the fastest time a mere 1/1000 of a second ahead of Lavaggi. On the opening lap of the race the Italian ace did get ahead of Meaden and they were nose to tail until the pitstops. Quicker than Read, Tromans managed to get ahead and would go on to score his team's second victory of the day. He finished well ahead of David Ferrer in a slightly earlier T70 and Mr John of B. in the unique Ligier JS3. Read and Lavaggi did take top honours in the Legends of Endurance class. Michel Lecourt and Raymond Narac placed 14th overall in the former's Porsche 911 RSR, which was enough to capture the GT class win.
Classic Endurance Racing 2
With its long straights, the Circuit Paul Ricard proved most suited to the three-litre engined prototypes in the CER2 field. All of these, and there were more than ever before, were powered by the F1-sourced Cosworth DFV engine. In qualifying, it was Paul Knapfield's March, shared with Jamie-Campbell Walter, which set the fastest time of all, and by quite a margin. Second was for the DFV engined Lola of Dominique Guenat, while Philippe Scemama was third in a similarly engined but slightly earlier Lola. Guenat quickly grabbed the lead from Knapfield but was soon harried by Franco Meiners, who had fought his way up the field in his very quick Lola T280. Unfortunately gearshift issues saw Meiners forced to end his charge as a he lost a lap in the pits. A very consistent run saw Patrice Lafargue climb up the order from 12th all the way up to ultimately finish second in his two-litre Lola. Philippe Brun was third in one of the three TOJs in the field. Mr John of B. made the most of his flat-12's power by clinching the GT class win, well ahead of the similar machine entered by Christian Bouriez.
Thanks in part to the weather, the 2015 Dix Mille Tours will not quickly be forgotten. However, while we suffered some inconvenience from the conditions, nearby Cannes was hit by even more turbulent weather, which saw several people loose their lives. Despite the uncharacteristic weather conditions, the event did attract around 10,000 spectators most of whom visited on Sunday when the sun was back out. We did not miss a session and the results of our, at times soaked, efforts can be found in this action-packed 310-shot gallery