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2024 Mugello Classic
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Spring was in the air at Mugello during the first weekend of April. The undulating circuit surrounded by the flowing Tuscan hills formed the perfect back-drop for the 2024 season opener for the Peter Auto organised series. It was the third year in succession that the Mugello Classic was the curtain raiser for historic motorsport in Europe. There were some fundamental changes as the race grids were reshuffled with two fields merged and a new one created. The Fifties Legends and the Greatest's Trophy were combined to become the Gentlemen Challenge. This opened a spot on the schedule for a Pre '66 Touring Car race dubbed the Classic Touring Challenge. Among the highlights of the grids carried over was the Endurance Racing Legends for recent GTs and prototypes, which had a capacity field with no fewer than eight reserves on the list.
We were at the track but had little time to enjoy the spring weather as we spent the entire weekend to capture all the action with this class-by-class 200-shot gallery as the result.

New grids
A shake up in the grids saw the creation of the Classic Touring Challenge (CTC), which makes the return of the Pre '66 Touring cars to the Peter Auto weekends. In its previous incarnation, the race was reserved to under two-litre cars only but the CTC also welcomed larger engined machinery like Ford Falcons and Mustangs in addition to the smaller BMWs, Cortinas, Minis and GTAs. Immediately putting down a marker were the Banks brothers Max and Andrew in their well-honed Alfa Romeo GTA. Starting on pole position, they won the one-hour race with a hefty margin over a pair of Cortinas.
The Gentlemen Trophy is a merger of the popular Fifties Legends and Greatests' Trophy, which both already catered to what was effectively the same category of cars. Ran over two 45-minute heats, the first Gentlemen Trophy had a strong field of 34 cars that ranged from a flock of Listers, Porsche 904s, Ferrari 250 GT SWBs to a very rare Bertone Spider bodied Aston Martin DB2/4. Pole position for the two races was for Serge Kriknoff in his diminutive Lotus Eleven. In the two races, however, the more powerful Cooper Jaguar shared by Fred Wakeman and Patrick Blakeney-Edwards and the Lister Chevrolet of Luc-Pierre Verrquin had the upper hand respectively.

Sixties' Endurance
Still very much a set fixture is the Sixties' Endurance race, traditionally scheduled for the late afternoon, early evening on Friday. Usually a Cobra fest, things looked a little different in qualifying at Mugello. In the first three spots there were actually two Jaguar E-Types with Jonathan Mitchell snatching pole position and James Thorpe lining up in third. They sandwiched Erwin France with his Shelby Daytona on the grid. Also qualifying within a second off pole position was the Lotus 15 shared by Michael Birch and Luke Stevens.
In the race, France took an early lead despite feeling quite unwell before the start. He managed to fend off the strong competition during the opening stages and only as his strength faded after the mandatory pit-stop did he have to give the lead. The young Frenchman persevered and finished an impressive fifth. Following the pit-stops and several safety car periods, a most unlikely car emerged in the lead with the Birch and Stevens Lotus. Freshly rebuilt and fitted with a 2.5-litre engine, it proved to be the weapon of choice at Mugello, scoring a well deserved victory. Snatching up second just before the finish line in this competitive field was the Cobra shared by Urs Beck and Patrick Simon.

Classic Endurance Racing
The two Classic Endurance Racing grids have formed an integral part of the Peter Auto race meets since the start. For the CER1 race a stunning 52 cars qualified. Pole position was for the Ferrari 512 M of David and Olivier Hart. Sadly a mechanical issue prevented the V12-engined machine to take part. The Harts also suffered heartbreak in the first of two Group C races with their Peugeot but it all came good in the second, which they won with a big margin. As in the Sixties' Endurance race, the CER1 had a lengthy safety car period. Starting third on the grid, Armand Mille kept his head cool and scored a victory with his Lola T70 Mk3b. Later on Sunday, he had to settle for second in the Heritage Touring Cup when his Ford Capri was beaten by the BMW 3.0 CSL shared by Michael Kammermann and Sebastian Glaser.
In CER2, the fight for victory is usually between three-litre engined prototype. At Mugello, there were only two with Kyle Tilley in his Chevron beating Yves Scemama in his TOJ to pole position. Tilley quickly took into the distance during the race but suffered brake issues as a result with the pedal going to the floor at the end of the long straight. Having run a more conservative race, Scemama jumped at the opportunity and grabbed victory in the Warsteiner liveried prototype. Brakes cooled, topped and bled, Tilley did manage to recover, set the fastest lap and finish fourth overall.

Endurance Racing Legends
One of the most spectacular grids of the weekend was certainly for the Endurance Racing Legends. Open to sports prototypes and GT racers of the 1990s and early 2000s, the capacity field competed in two 40-minute races. With three Maserati MC12s, a unique and never raced Bentley Speed 8 prototype, a Lotus Elise GT1 and an Audi R8 on the grid impressive both in size and quality.
Reunited with 'his' Pescarolo Courage C60 was Emanuel Collard. The Frenchman has not lost any of his speed and with what seemed without any fuzz outpaced the rest of the field in the car that had finished second overall at Le Mans in 2006 with none other than SĂ©bastien Loeb behind the wheel. Starting from pole position for the two races, he won both, beating David and Oliver Hart, and Gregor Fisken in the first and Mike Newton and Xavier Micheron in the second. The hotly disputed GT1B category saw Philip Kadoorie fend off the trio of MC12s in his Aston Martin DBR9 on both occasions.
Such is the popularity of the ERL grid that for the upcoming Spa Classic, the field will be split with separate races for the GT2 cars.

Final thoughts
Running virtually non-stop, the action at Mugello came to a close with the 90-minute 2.0L Cup race for Porsche 911s. A fitting finale, the hotly disputed victory went to Lukas Bucher and David Vanzijlbergen. It was the end of a great weekend of racing, further helped by the lovely spring weather. All this and much more is captured in our exclusive 200-shot gallery. Next up is the Spa Classic, which should attract even bigger and better grids, and some truly spectacular night races.

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