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2016 Zolder Masters Festival
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Zolder re-discovered
Historic racing returned to the Circuit Zolder in Belgium this weekend with the first visit of the popular Masters Historic Racing series. A past host of several Belgian Grands Prix, the slightly undulating and challenging track has recently been re-branded 'World on Wheels' as it also houses a BMX trail and hosted the World Cyclocross Championship earlier this year. Making up the bulk of the two-day program were the four Masters Historic Racing series, which include the FIA Historic Formula One and Historic Sports Car championships. Particularly the former was highly anticipated as top level single seater racers had not visited the track in many years. In addition to the Masters series, there were also two Belgian series on the schedule; one for historic cars and the other a 125-minute Belcar race for contemporary machinery.
We ventured to Circuit Zolder for the first time since 2009, which has resulted in this class-by-class, 170-shot gallery.

Belgian championships
First out on track on Saturday were the cars for the Belcar Endurace Championship, which had a two-hour race planned on Sunday afternoon. The revived series, which has the Zolder 24 Hours later in the year as the blue ribband event, features a colourful field of GTs and prototypes. To keep the playing field level, the prototypes are limited to a set lap time in the race, which was about three seconds slower than their ultimate pace. The race was nevertheless won by Sam DeJohnge and Luc DeCock in their Norma, despite receiving a drive-through penalty for dipping under the set lap time twice. Whereas the Belcar series offers enthusiasts relatively easy access to contemporary racing, the Belgian Historic Championship (BHC) does much the same for historic racing. Run under FIA regulations, the BHC is open to anything from Lotus Elans to a Ford Sierra Cosworth RS and even a Lancia Delta Integrale. Three 30-minute races were held over the weekend and each was won outright by Patrick Michiels in his Porsche 911 (964) Cup car.

Masters Pre-1966 Touring Cars
Always providing a great spectacle is the Pre-1966 Touring Cars race, which sees mighty Ford Falcons pitched against diminutive Minis and Lotus Cortinas. Pre-race favourite was the formidable pairing of Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield in the former's Ford Falcon. They duly qualified the beast of a machine on pole position often executing beautiful slides out of the corners. During the opening stages of the one-hour race, Voyazides was chased hard by Andy Wolfe in the Cortina he shared with owner Michael Gans. At the end of the race, however, Hadfield held a 32-second lead in the Falcon over Gans. Third was for the Cortina shared by Mark Martin and Andrew Haddon. The most entertaining fight was between three of the Minis in the field, which included the Jonathan Lewis entered example, which was finished in the classic Hesketh colours. He drew the shortest straw as he suffered a puncture in the closing stages of the race. This left Masters supremo Ron Maydon to dice it out with Rene de Vries. It was ultimately settled in the former's favour by just two tenths. Making his very impressive historic racing debut was 16-year old Oliver Hart (son of ace racer David), who shared a Cortina with the highly experienced Hans Hugenholtz. Sadly a strong race was not awarded as the newly acquired Cortina hit trouble late in the race.

Gentlemen Drivers
The protagonists of the Pre-1966 Touring Cars race also starred in the 90-minute Gentlemen Drivers event for 1960s GT cars. For this race Voyazides and Hadfield qualified a Shelby Cobra Daytona replica on pole, while Gans and Wolfe followed closely in a regular Cobra. Also featured at the sharp end were Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen in the former's Jaguar E-Type and the Cobra of David Hart and Hans Hugenholtz. Voyazides started the race and was challenged early on by Gans but after a few laps, they had both been passed by Hart and Minshaw. More time was lost when Voyazides nudged the back of Gans' Cobra. Sadly, the Minshaw E-Type proved as fragile as it was fast and it was among the first retirements. The bright red Cobra Daytona was the first to pit for a driver change but as it turned out Voyazides had come in seven seconds before the pit window opened. This was later penalised with a 15-second stop-go penalty and provided Hadfield with an impossible task. Meanwhile, Wolfe had managed to pass Hugenholtz for the lead. A spirited drive from Hadfield saw him eventually clinch second from Hugenholtz after an eventful race.

FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars
This time sharing a Lola T70 Mk3B, Voyazides and Hadfield also started the Historic Sports Cars race on pole. They lead a fleet of T70s, which also included the example driven solo by David Hart and the continuation car piloted by Minshaw and Keen. Michael Gans could have been the odd one out among the top qualifiers with his two-litre Lola T290 but he had hit trouble early in qualifying and could not start the race. Minshaw grabbed an early lead in his beautifully finished example and behind him Voyazides, Hart and Chris Breighton tried to keep up. Hart was the first to drop out with boiling brakes and Voyazides followed him into the pits just a few laps later. His Lola suffered from fuel pick-up problems and could not continue. This paved the way for an easy victory for the Lola of Minshaw and Keen. They were followed home by the similar examples of Breighton, Mike Donovan and Jason Wright. Best of the rest was the Lola T210 shared by Nick Pink and Scott Mansell after a very spirited drive by the latter during the second half the race. The first non-Lola was Jonathan Loader, who finished fifth in his Chevron B19.

FIA Masters Historic Formula One
The headliner of the weekend was undoubtedly the FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship, which featured two 25-minute races for F1 cars from the 1970s and early 1980s. This era was dominated, certainly in numbers, by the Cosworth DFV, so it was not surprising that the two Alfa Romeos entered by Thomas Steinke were the only cars not powered by the ubiquitous V8. Sadly both cars suffered from technical issues, so it was a DFV only field that lined up for the two races. Other rarities in the field included a Japanese Maki entered by Marc Devis and Pierre-Alain France's Ligier JS11. It was, however, local hero Loic Deman who proved fastest of all in his Candy liveried Tyrrell 010 and he would go on to win both the Saturday and Sunday races. In race one, his closest rival was Michael Lyons in the earlier Hesketh 308E, while in the second race Gregory Thornton offered a real challenge with his Lotus 91 on fresh tyres until he retired after running wide in the first corner. This opened up the way for Belgian Christophe d'Ansembourg to snatch second in his Williams FW07C.

Final thoughts
In addition to the action packed schedule, the around 10,000 spectators that flocked to Circuit Zolder were also treated to beautiful weather. The return to Zolder was very enjoyable for all involved and hopefully, the event is back on the schedule next year. Many of the highlights are featured in our spectacular, 170-shot gallery.

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Report by Wouter Melissen and images by Wouter Melissen and Pieter Melissen for Ultimatecarpage.com