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2020 Dix Mille Tours
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Back in action
Originally scheduled to be held in April of this year, the 2020 edition of the Dix Mille Tours du Castellet was one of many events had to be postponed due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the event was not cancelled altogether like many other events due to be held this year. New dates were found, at the end of July. This meant that it was the very first major historic racing meeting on the schedule on the European continent. For obvious reasons, it was not yet business as usual as face masks were mandatory and public was not allowed into the paddock. All that was quickly forgotten once the cars hit the track on Friday morning. Judging from the number of entries across the ten grids, we were not the only ones eager to get back in action.
Fully protected, we were fortunate to also be invited along by organiser Peter Auto, and spent our time at the Paul Ricard track well. The result of our efforts is this class-by-class 210-shot gallery.

Racing into the sunset
At Peter Auto events, the action on Saturday is traditionally concluded with a race into the sunset for the Sixties' Endurance grid. With the Dix Mille Tours now held in the middle of summer, the two-hour race was not scheduled to start until eight in the evening. The extra room freed up in the schedule was used for a new Fifties' Endurance field and a pair of races for 1960s Formula Junior and F3 racers.
Delays in the schedule meant that the actual race did not start until close to 21:00, which was effectively at sunset. Starting from pole position were father and son, David and Olivier Hart in their Bizzarrini. Sadly a brake cylinder failure meant their race was done after just seven laps. Leading much of the first half of the race was Yvan Mahe in his beautifully prepared Shelby Cobra that he shared with Jean-Marc Merlin. Eventually coming through to win was another Cobra, the example shared by Urs Beck and pro racer Patrick Simon.

Touring Titans
The odd one out among the Peter Auto grids is the Heritage Touring Cup or HTC. Whereas the seven other groups focus on their respective era of sports car racing's post-War history, the HTC is dedicated to production-based touring cars from the late 1960s through to the early 1980s. This is a relatively long period and covers a wide range of machinery. As a result, the HTC race at the Dix Mille Tours this year included anything from a Mini Cooper S and BMW 635 CSi to an AMC Javelin.
Despite the diversity on the grid, what the HTC ultimately boils down to, is a period correct BMW vs Ford battle. More precisely, it was a single Ford against a flock of BMW 3.0 CSLs this weekend. Despite being notoriously unreliable, it was the four-cam Ford Capri of Christophe van Riet that overcame the two 24-valve BMW 3.0 CSLs of Christian Traber and Michael Erlich to claim the overall win. In the Group A class, it was an all BMW 635 CSi affair with Franz Wunderlich beating Armand Mille.

Classic Endurance Racing
The beating heart of these race weekends is formed by the two Classic Endurance Racing grids. The period covered by the CER fields is 1966 through to 1981, which for many represents the golden era of endurance racing. In the earlier CER1 field, many eyes were on the long-tail Porsche 917. Finished in Martini 'hippy' colours, it was entrusted to 80-year ex-Porsche works driver GĂ©rard Larrousse. While he did several remarkably quick laps in practice, it was decided that it was not sensible for him and the owner to race in the scorching conditions. The race itself saw an impressive recovery drive from pole-sitter David Hart after he had made a mistake in the opening lap. By the time he handed the car over to compatriot Nicky Pastorelli, the T70 Mk3B was already almost back in the lead. Pastorelli wasted little time to grab the lead and ultimately the victory.
Held during what certainly felt like the hottest hour of the weekend, the CER2 race proved particularly testing for men and machines. Having no such issues were Equipe Europe team-mates Yves Scemama and Maxime Guenat in their TOJ and Lola respectively. The DFV-powered machines performed flawlessly in the race that saw over half the entries retire. Scemama had crossed the finish line first but a 33-second penalty saw him just drop back behind Guenat in the final result for what was still a one-two victory.

Modern Marvels
The next period, 1982 through to 1994, was covered by the Group C Racing grid. Achingly quick, these machines are also complicated and expensive to run, which was reflected in the number of cars on the grid. What the field lacked in numbers, it certainly made up in quality with exotic machinery like a Jaguar XJR-14 and Peugeot 905 featuring at the sharp end. As was so often the case in period, it was a Porsche 962C that won both races. In the first 45-minute race, it was the pairing of Ivan Vercoutere and Ralf Kelleners that took top honours in their Le Mans liveried car. Race two saw the two drivers trade places with Michel Lecourt and Raymond Narac, who had finished second with their Trust sponsored 962C in the opening race.
Thanks to the Endurance Racing Legends series, the cut-off date for historic racing has now been extended to 2010. With 40 cars entered, it was the biggest field for this grid outside of the 2018 Le Mans Classic. Porsche 911 variants made up the bulk of this number but there were some truly spectacular recent sports racers entered, including the Bentley Speed 8 of Shaun Lynn that won both races, a Prodrive-built Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello and a pair of front-engined Panoz Esperante GTR1s.

Worth the wait
It had been nine months since we had last seen a historic racing car drive in anger. The 2020 Dix Mille Tours certainly ensured we quickly forgot all about the past couple of months. Despite the changed dates and the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, a staggering 360 cars were brought out to race. Hopefully, the public can be once again be allowed in at the next edition but in the meantime, our 210-shot gallery should keep you busy for quite a few minutes.

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