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2017 Dix Mille Tours
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A strong tailwind
The headline of the press release after the final Peter Auto meeting of 2017 read le vent en poupe, or a tailwind. This could be taken literally as the Sunday of the Dix Mille Tours saw a very strong Mistral wind blow down the famous long straight that is named after it. The storm arrived overnight and it was expected to be so strong that all the awnings that housed the cars were taken down and the cars themselves moved to the garages and even into the trucks for safe keeping. Fortunately, the strong winds did not affect the running on track and did also provide for clear blue skies. With remarkably strong, at times capacity grids for the season finale, the tailwind could also be taken figuratively.
Our photographers were also on hand in what were, at times, challenging conditions. We trust you are also blown away by the 290-shot gallery our hard work resulted in.

World's fastest traffic jam
When we looked at the entry list for Saturday's Sixties' Endurance race, it featured a capacity 83 cars and a further six reserves. Eventually a staggering 82 entries qualified to start the two-hour race into the night. With so many cars on track this was a frantic two hours for all involved but there were surprisingly few accidents in what effectively the world's fastest traffic jam. Fast is certainly the best word to describe Christophe van Riet as he managed to get a relatively clean lap in qualifying and beat the nearest rival in the Shelby Cobra he shared with Christian Dumolin by a staggering 2.5 seconds. In the second, and only traffic-free lap of the race, Van Riet went slightly faster still. The early pace, together with a well timed pit stop helped lay the foundation for a deserved victory. Behind Dumolin, second across the line was Alain Ruede in his sparkling 427 Cobra. Although finishing only fourteenth in his Cobra, Andrew Beverley was crowned champion, pipping his friend Ben Gill in another Cobra.

Touring titans
Over the years, the regulations for international touring car racing have ranged from tight, demanding near production identical racers, to very lenient, allowing for massive modifications. It is from one of the latter periods that the two cars date that qualified first and second for the Heritage Touring Cup; a Ford Capri and BMW 3.0 CSL both fitted with purpose-built four-valve heads and wild bodykits. Strictly speaking, both cars were evocations as the originals are rarer than hen's teeth and most of them are safely stored away in factory collections. Fastest of all was Dickie Meaden in the Capri he shared with Gerard Lopez, while Christian Traber was second in his freshly built 'upright engine' CSL. Meaden grabbed the early lead but Traber managed to keep the howling Capri into sight with a less conspicuous drive. After Lopez took over, Traber pressed on and eventually managed to get ahead before the Capri was forced to retire with a damaged chin spoiler. David Tomlin was second in an Escort while Steve Dance placed his Capri third. A hard-fought Group A victory was scored by Maxime Guenat in his BMW 635 CSI after a close battle early on with Andrew Beverley and his mighty Volvo 240 Turbo.

Classic endurance racers
Almost rivalling the Sixties' for grid size was the first of the Classic Endurance Racing fields. A hefty 58 cars from one of the sport's finest eras were entered. These included a pair of Alfa Romeo 33s, two Ferrari 512s but also lesser known machinery like an early Chevron B6 and the turbine-engined Howmet TX. Dickie Meaden also grabbed pole for this one, sharing a Lola T70 with Lopez. These large engined machines dominated at the head of the grid but making the most of the chicane used for CER1 for the first time this year, it was Mark Piercy in his diminutive Lola T212, who claimed victory in the end after starting fifth. Victory in the GT class was for a DeTomaso Pantera shared by owner Detlef von der Lieck and Ralph Kelleners, who beat Claude Nahum in his Ford GT40 by just six seconds after an hours racing.
For the CER2 race, the long Mistral straight was used and accordingly the three-litre prototypes dominated with the first five cars in qualifying all boasting Cosworth DFV engines. Grabbing pole was Stuart Hall in Roald Goethe's glorious Mirage GR7. Hall also lead the way from the start on the cement dust covered track but quickly dropped down the order with a flat tyre. Yves Scemama emerged in the lead during the second half of the race but a gearbox failure prompted him to park his DFV-powered TOJ. Eventually it was Marc Devis in a similarly engined TOJ that grabbed victory despite having to make an additional stop to activate the fuel reserve. The GT2 class was won by the fire-belching Porsche 935 K3 of Urs Beck and Patrick Simon.

Group C
Headlined by a pair of Sauber-Mercedes C11s, the Group C grid featured no fewer than 20 cars, which was quite an improvement from the the dozen that turned up at the Hungaroring just a few weeks earlier. Although the cars or even the drivers are usually the stars, we were quite taken aback by the presence of none other than Reinhold Joest in the paddock. Although 80 years old, the legendary entrant entrant flew to the track himself in his jet and immediately returned to his old ways by helping out with an old Team Joest Porsche 962C. New to the series, this car had been in a private collection for many years after having raced only during the 1990 season. At the head of the field, it was business as usual with the Sauber-Mercedes of Kriton Lendoudis and Rui Aguas dominating qualifying. It is a real shame no spectators are allowed along the long straight as there is little that match the awe-inspiring thunder produced by the C11's twin-turbo V8 at full speed. In the first of two 45-minute races, Aguas built up a comfortable lead for Lendoudis to finish off. In the second race, the Greek drove to victory solo, making up the ground he lost in the opening stages during the second half with a determined drive.

Final thoughts
Under what must have been the final really warm rays of sunlight of this year, and despite of the weather, the 2017 Dix Mille Tours was a very enjoyable event. The Paul Ricard track will host the French Grand Prix next year and hopefully that will bring along more facilities for visitors to enjoy the spectacle that is on offer during this great event. We were allowed at every corner, and the result is this 290-shot gallery that is set to blow you away like the Mistral wind!

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