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2018 Espiritu de Montjuic
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A fresh start
Peter Auto kicked off their 2018 season with the Espiritu de Montjuic at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. This marked the return to the Spanish track for the first time since the Le Mans Series visited back in 2009. At that time, the single Classic Endurance Racing (CER) grid was one of the support series. A lot has changed in the last decade and for many years now as the two CER grids now form the headliners of the dedicated event. For the 2018 Espiritu de Montjuic no fewer than 212 historic racing cars lined up spread over seven grids. These ranged from early 1950s sports racers like the Aston Martin DB2 and Maserati 300S to the thundering Sauber-Mercedes C11 and howling Peugeot 905 Group C cars. A subtle change for the new year was the renaming of the Trofeo Nastro Rosso to the Greatest's Trophy, which did feature a similar grid as last years.
The choice of Barcelona was not a random one as the best possible weather was sought for early April. Unfortunately, nothing is quite as unpredictable as the weather and the constantly changing conditions provided the competitors with a real challenge.
Also searching for the first rays of sunshine of the season, our photographers were on hand for the Espiritu de Montjuic and their combined efforts have resulted in this action-packed 250-shot gallery.

Sixties' Endurance
As always during a Peter Auto weekend, the action on Saturday concluded with the two-hour Sixties' Endurance race. For the final time, the grid included Porsche 911s, which will have a dedicated race from the Spa Classic in May. That will not change much at the sharp end of the field as the car to have continues to be the Shelby Cobra. Among the fleet of roaring V8-engined machines entered for the Barcelona round were two genuine 'Le Mans' specification cars, which were fitted from new with the slippery hard-top roof that has been adapted by all Cobras these days to optimise the performance. As was expected, six Cobras lined up on the first three rows of the grid with Belgian Christophe van Riet just pipping Ben Gill and father and son Pierre and Erwin France. Van Riet grabbed the lead at the start of the race and despite several safety car interruptions held on to the lead through to the end. In a carbon copy of the qualifying results, Gill placed second and the Frances were third. The first non-Cobra across the line was was the Portuguese pairing of Carlos M. Cruz and Miguel Amaral in their heavily smoking Jaguar E-Type.

Heritage Touring Cup
Quite the possibly the most colourful grid was that of the Heritage Touring Cup or HTC, which included a pink Ford Mustang and a Ford Capri RS3100 in psychedelic colours. New to the grid, the latter was a GAA engined example driven by Maxime Guenat. The young Swiss racer made the most of the howling, 24-valve V6 engine and promptly qualified the new addition to the Guenat stable on pole. The similar car of Dickie Meaden and Gérard Lopez started the race in third. Held under the worst conditions of the weekend, the HTC race, like all of the races on Sunday, was started behind the safety car. Guenat managed to hold on to the lead despite the treacherous conditions. In what was a particularly difficult race to follow, due to several safety car periods, Christophe van Riet emerged in the lead after the mandatory pit-stop. Several places behind him, Meaden started a charge in the Capri started by car owner Lopez. In the final minutes of the race he managed to charge by Van Riet on the straight to claim victory. Hot on his heels, Steve Dance also made the most of his Capri's horsepower advantage to clinch second from Van Riet in the dying minutes of the race.

Group C
The Group C period is one of the most revered of all sports car eras and at Barcelona we were once again reminded why with a strong grid of cars. Specialists Moto Historics doubled as TWR Jaguar for the weekend as the British squad fielded a pair of Jaguar XJR-8s for their customers. Their French counterparts Equipe Europe look set to become the modern equivalent of Jean Todt's Peugeot Sport as it plans to field as many as three of the glorious Peugeot 905s this year. At Barcelona they brought the first car that was ready following a complete rebuild. Owner/driver Dominique Guenat told us during these conditions he was now able to unlock around 60% of the potential of the fast but delicate car. Nevertheless, this brought him to seventh on the grid. However, there was no match from anybody in the 21-car strong field for the Sauber-Mercedes C11 shared by Kriton Lendoudis and Rui Aguas. Like the modern day Mercedes-AMG F1 cars, the mighty C11 has a party mode that is seemingly constantly available and before going into the first corner of race one the lead was already over 100 metres. While the 'Silver Arrow' won race two comfortably, a rare issue with the engine saw the C11 drop down the order towards the end of race one. This handed the victory to the Porsche 962C shared by Raymond Narac and Michel Lecourt.

Classic Endurance Racing
The oldest of the Peter Auto groups is the Classic Endurance Racing (CER) and as always both the CER races featured bumper grids. Among the outstanding machines that lined up in the CER1 were a pair of Porsche 917s with the Day-Glo, STP liveried Can-Am Spyder virtually impossible to miss. In the CER2 field, we were particularly taken by Xavier Micheron's wild Lola T600. Built and raced in 1981 as an interim GTP car before the new Group C regulations came into effect, it is the only ground-effect sports racer eligible for the CER.
During qualifying for CER1, Dickie Meaden was again in top form and he placed the Lola T70 Mk3b on pole positions. Wily old fox Emanuele Pirro showed he had lost little of his race speed and qualified Gianluca Ratazzi's glorious Alfa Romeo 33/3 in second place. With Lopez starting the T70 in what was again a wet race, Pirro made the most of the nimble but smaller engined Alfa Romeo and grabbed the lead early on. After the pit-stops, Meaden quickly set things straight and clinched victory ahead of the Frances in their T70. Third was for Franco Meiners in the two-litre Chevron B16, which clearly felt right at home during the difficult conditions.
The event was concluded with the CER2 race, which again was started behind the safety car. Poleman Yves Scemama in the first of no fewer that four TOJs grabbed the early but he was forced to retire with brake issues. This allowed quick youngster Paul Lafargue to grab victory in his two-litre Lola T298, beating Marc Devis in his three-litre TOJ by a small margin due to the final of several safety car interventions. Maxime Guenat made up for missing the HTC podium by winning the GT class in his 1977 specification Porsche 935.

Final thoughts
For a season opener, the bumper fields of the Espiritu de Montjuic were very impressive with 212 cars representing a 45% increase over last year's Jarama Classic. The one exception was the Euro Formula 2, which, now in its second year, still only managed to attract seven cars. Unfortunately, the weather played a major role at Barcelona as the seemingly trigger happy officials brought out the red flag, a full course yellow or a safety car for even the smallest of incidents. As can be seen in our 250-shot gallery, this did not dampen the spirits one bit. Onwards and upwards now to next month's Spa Classic, which promises capacity grids for most races and no doubt exceptional weather.

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