Cars: 2013 Annual Dix Mille Tours, Showcase Of Classic Racers

The annual meeting is the traditional season finale for the Peter Auto Racing events. (Photo: Wouter/Pieter Melissen for Ultimatecarpage.com)

Introduction
Now in its fourth year, the annual Dix Mille Tours (Ten Thousand Laps) meeting at the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track has quickly become the traditional season finale for the Peter Auto Racing events. All of the major race classes organised by event host Patrick Peter were on track again this year, including the Sixties’ Endurance, Trofeo Nastro Rosso and two Classis Endurance Racing groups.

They were complemented in 2013 by the Mini & Cup, Group C and a revival of the BPR Championship organised by Peter along with Stephane Ratel and Jurgen Barth between 1994 and 1996. As a result, the 2013 Dix Mille Tours saw sports racing from the early 1950s through to the 1990s take to the high speed track on the French Mediterranean coast. In addition to the races, the track was also opened to clubs during the lunch-breaks, while in the paddock various specialist vendors welcomed competitors and spectators alike.

Our photographers braved the variable conditions, which included howling Mistral winds and brief rain showers to capture all races from every possible angle. The result is this 300-shot gallery packed with glowing discs, flames and locked wheels.

Sixties’ Endurance
The Sixties Endurance race boasted the biggest grid of the weekend with well over 60 cars lining up for the two-hour enduro towards the end of Saturday afternoon. The grid was open to Sports and GT racers built up to 1963 with some exception. As a result, the field was a colourful mix with a host of Shelby Cobras joined by more unusual machinery that ranged from a pair of Listers, a Kellison, a rare Morgan SLR and two of the three Lotus Elan 26Rs originally fitted with a coupe body by Shapecraft. To preserve the engines, the Sixties’ Endurance race used a chicane to cut the long Mistral straight in half. The race also featured a mandatory pit-stop to allow for refuelling and the optional driver and/or tyre changes.

Cobras dominated qualifying, filling the first seven places with the pack of Ford-engined machines headed by Jean-Marc Merlin. In the race, the Frenchman immediately managed to build up a healthy lead, which he managed to retain despite driving ferocious Cobra solo. As most of the other Cobras fell by the wayside, the examples driven by Simon Hadfield and Leo Voyazides, and by Gary Pearson and Carlos Monteverde finished second and third respectively.

Mini Classic & Touring Cup
One of the ‘guest’ races this weekend was the Mini Classic & Touring Cup, which predominantly featured Minis, supplemented by their touring car rivals; the Lotus Cortina and the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA. The 2013 Dix Mille Tours featured two 25-minute races for this group, run on a shortened version of the Paul Ricard Track. Some of the cars were entered by a single driver while others featured two, competing in one of the races each.

The quickest and, thanks to an open exhaust and bright yellow finish, also the loudest car of the field was the Lotus Cortina fielded by Rolland d’Abel de Libran. Having qualified on pole for both races, he led from start to finish twice, executing some beautiful slides with his Cortina. The only one able in d’Abel de Libran’s wake was Swiss driver Michael Erlich who placed second twice in his Alfa Romeo GTA. Behind this pair, the final podium position was much more closely disputed by a flock of whining Mini Coopers and another GTA and Cortina. In Race 1, it was Laurent Majou in his Austin Cooper S, who eventually placed third while Damien Kohler claimed the final step on the podium in his Cortina in the second race.

Trofeo Nastro Rosso
Created in 2010, to effectively replace the Ferrari and Maserati Historic Challenge, the Trofeo Nastro Rosso had struggled to attract representative fields in the last few years. That has, fortunately, changed this season and for the 2013 Dix Mille Tours no fewer than 30 historic Italian racing cars of the 1950s and 1960s lined up. Among them were no fewer than three examples of the much sought after Maserati 300S, including the 1956 Nürburgring 1000 km winning chassis and the car that sold for world record price at auction earlier this year. More valuable still and also quicker was Carlos Monteverde’s Ferrari 250 LM. He started both 45-minute races on pole in the what was the only mid-engined car on the grid.

Like the Sixties’ Endurance event, the Trofeo Nastro Rosso races used the chicane on the Mistral straight. Not surprisingly, Monteverde managed to convert his pole positions into victory in both, driving the prized 250 LM with beautiful restraint. In Race 1 Carlo Vogele placed second with his Maserati 300S, while Marc Devis was third in his four-cylinder engined Maserati 250S. The Belgian was third again in race two but this time he had to fight a whole lot harder for it after a spin on the opening lap. Second this time was for David Franklin in Dennis Singleton’s Ferrari 275 GTB.

BPR Revival
Using their surname’s initials the for the name, the BPR Championship was established by Barth, Peter and Ratel late in 1993 by combining the Porsche Cup, Ferrari Challenge and Venturi Trophy series. The BPR boasted some superb racing between supercars from the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Bugatti and Porsche. The series was short lived and superseded in 1997 by the FIA GT Championship, which still exists today under the guidance of Ratel. Although the actual championship did not start until 1994, the first BPR race was held in the fall of 1993 at Paul Ricard.

The 20th anniversary of that opening race was celebrated at this year’s Dix Mile Tours in the form of three demonstration sessions. Patrick Peter opted for this rather than a real race, so the cars did not have to comply with the stringent needs of actual competition and more could enter. This proved a successful formula as no fewer than three McLaren F1 GTRs, a Porsche 911 GT1 and a choice of Venturis took the track, joined, of course, by a variety of Porsche 911s. Among the rarer machines on the grid was a Morgan +8. Sadly not quite ready yet to drive was a Lotus Esprit GT1, although we do understand its restoration could be ready in time for an appearance at next year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Group C
Although organised by different people, the Group C Racing Series is a perfect complement to the Peter Auto Racing fields. In addition to the regular entrants, the grid at the Dix Mille Tours also featured some more unusual machines like an Alba and the Sthemo, which we now know is based on a TOJ sports car and not on a Chevron as is often stated. Even more exciting was the debut of Christophe d’Ansembourg’s recently acquired Peugeot 905. The Belgian drove the very rare car with great verve but was not (yet) able to challenge the quickest turbo-charged rivals.

Fastest of these, as always, was the roaring Sauber Mercedes C11 driven by Gareth Evans and Bob Berridge. The only driver/car combination able to stay anyway near the British pairing was Katsu Kubota in his Nissan R90CK. Unfortunately, one of his body panels came partly undone in the opening laps of the one-hour race prompting an unscheduled pit stop. With lightning regularly lighting up the skies, this made for an unchallenged victory for Evans and Berridge. A lap down, second was for Pierre-Alain and Erwin France in a Porsche 962C, while Mike Donovan finished third in his C2 Spice.

Classic Endurance Racing 1
Created by Patrick Peter back in 2004, the Classic Endurance Racing (CER) series has now entered its tenth season. For the Dix Mille Tours, the grid was split into two groups to allow for more entries. Arguably the most exciting field was of the earlier CER1 for  of up to 1971 and GTs of up to 1974. Rivals of old like the Ferrari 512 S, Porsche 917 K and the Lola T70 were all found on the sharp end of the field. Fastest of all in qualifying was the T70 driven by Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield.

On the opening lap, however, it was Bob Earl in Peter Read’s recently restored Ferrari 512 S that grabbed the lead. Before the one-hour race, the mechanics had set the engine a little leaner, which certainly paid off. Following the mandatory pit-stop, it was Simon Hadfield, who emerged in the lead. David Ferrer claimed an impressive second with his T70 after starting from the back of the field due to mechanical problems in qualifying. Third was for Pierre-Alain France in another T70. Michel Lecourt and Raymond Narac meanwhile claimed the GT class victory with the former’s Porsche 911 Carrera RSR.

Classic Endurance Racing 2
The second Classic Endurance Racing grid featured sports cars and GT racers of up to 1982, which is when the Group C class was introduced. Although not the quickest cars in the field, it was very impressive to see no fewer than five Ferrari 512 BBLMs line up against a similar number of Porsche 935s and BMW M1s in the GT class. In qualifying the very powerful Porsches proved quickest but in a race of attrition, it was Mr John of B. who emerged as the GT class winner, followed by two of the Porsches.

For the prototypes, it was also very much a race of attrition; two of the quickest cars, both Cosworth DFV V8-engined Lolas, were not even able to start the race due to mechanical issues. Early leader Carlos Barbot in his similarly engined Lola T280 also hit trouble and was forced to retire early after losing fifth gear. Eventually, it was the sole surviving DFV equipped Lola, the T286 of Dominique Guenat to take top honours. He was followed by the four-cylinder BMW powered and flame-spitting Lola of Frederic da Rocha and the turbocharged Porsche 908/4 of Jean Guikas.

Final thoughts
By design, the Paul Ricard track in its most recent incarnation is not very suited to host spectators and the weather was also not particularly inviting, so it says a lot that around 10,000 spectators did show up for the 2013 Dix Mille Tours. They were certainly not disappointed as a head-to-head of a Ferrari 512 and Porsche 917 or the experience of the Sauber Mercedes C11 thunder down the Mistral straight alone would have made the visit worthwhile. For those of you, who have missed or those who want to relive the event, please explore our all-encompassing 300-shot gallery.