Almost 40 years ago, the then relatively new Dijon-Prenois circuit was made instantly famous by the epic battle during the French Grand Prix between Rene Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve. Since then very little has changed to the challenging, undulating circuit, which makes it the ideal venue for the Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or; Europe's oldest historic car meeting. Under the umbrella of the Peter Auto organization for the last couple of years, the event offers a mix of single seater and sports car races with cars from the early thirties through to early 2000s hitting the track. While Gilles Villeneuve is sadly no longer with us, his adversary, Rene Arnoux is still very much alive and actually took to the track during this year's Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or, sharing a BMW M1 and an AC Shelby Cobra with its owner.
We were also on hand for the 53rd annual Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or and have captured all the highlights in this action-packed 270-shot gallery.
Traditionally, the longest and most populated race of a Peter Auto weekend is that of the Sixties' Endurance for late 1950s through to mid 1960s sports racers and GT cars. The two-hour race early in the evening on Saturday has a mandatory pit stop, allowing for a second driver to take over but some entrants also opt to drive alone. The latter was no mean feat in the hot conditions the race was run under this year. While a wide variety of machinery was part of the nearly 60-car field, a Shelby Cobra was once again clearly the car to have with the father and son David and Olivier Hart piloted example clinching pole. David Hart started the two-hour race and grabbed the lead immediately and once his son Olivier took over the lead only increased further and eventually they finished a lap ahead of second placed Philipp Oettli in his Cobra. The first non-Cobra across the line was another father-and-son effort with the eighth placed Jaguar E-Type shared Yvan and Guillaume Mahe. The fight in the two-liter class was more diverse with John Emberson and Bill Wykeham eventually taking the win in the rare Morgan +4 SLR after a fight with the rarer still Elva GT160 and a flock of Porsche 911s.
Kicking off the action first thing on Sunday morning was the one-hour race for the Heritage Touring Cup. The front row was filled with a pair of Fords; the quad-cam Capri shared by new owner Gerard Lopez and Dickie Meaden and the rumbling Pinepac Mustang of David Huxley and Nigel Greensall. The latter took a commanding lead while an early spin prompted a race-long chase for Lopez and subsequently Meaden. Behind them a colorful mix of David, Goliath and a flying brick ensued between Ben Gill in his Ford Escort, Adrian Brady in his ex-works BMW 3.0 CSL and Andrew Beverley in his Volvo 240 Turbo. While engine issues and tire problems dropped Gill and Beverley down the order, Brady was right there to inherit the lead when the Huxley and Greensall Mustang expired. By that time Meaden was right up his tail and sadly prompted Brady to make a mistake. He did recover to finish third behind the Capri of Lopez and Meaden, and the Capri RS 2600 of Steve Dance.
Classic Endurance Racing
Certainly boasting the most evocative field of the event was the one-hour race for Classic Endurance Racing 1. Among the absolute stars was a Porsche 917 K in Martini livery and a turbine engined Howmet TX. At the very sharp end of the field the small and agile Chevron B19s proved fastest of all with Philipp Bruehwiler scoring his third win in three races, ahead of Maurizio Bianco in a sister car. Behind them the fight for third was another David vs Goliath showdown between the Lola T210 shared by Mark Piercy and Martin Stretton, and Claudio Roddaro who masterfully piloted the priceless Porsche 917. In the dying seconds ace historic racer Stretton did manage to secure third. He later explained how much he had enjoyed the mighty 917 blasting by on the long the straight. The GT class was won by French pairing Raymond Narac and Michel Lecourt in the latter's Porsche 911 Carrera RSR 3.0.
Track action concluded on Sunday afternoon with the second Classic Endurance Racing event. This race was won by Marc Devis, who had already impressed at Spa by charging up to field with his TOJ SC303 from the back to second and now did one better. Placing third overall and first in the GT class was the Porsche 935 driven by Le Mans winner Jurgen Barth and Pierre-Alain Thibaut.
In keeping with the Grand Prix element of the event were four grids for single seaters, including Peter Auto's own Formula 2 series and races for front and rear engined Grand Prix cars. Martin O'Connell won both F2 races in his Chevron, while Julian Bronson impressed with his Scarab in the front-engined Grand Prix races. Other crowd favorites included Group C, which sadly featured a relatively small field, which did include a mighty Sauber-Mercedes and a rare Toyota and Nissan. Victories in the two races were scored respectively by Narac and Lecourt in a Porsche 962C and the Sauber-Mercedes C11 of Kriton Lendoudis and Rui Aguas.
In addition to the races, the event also featured high speed demonstration runs for 1990s and 2000s GT and sports cars under the Global Endurance Legends moniker. The colorful field consisted of a choice of Vipers and Venturis, while spectators were also treated to a Saleen S7R and a former Chrysler works fielded Dallara SP1. By far the most unusual machine in action was the unique 'Canniball' that was based on an Oldsmobile Cutlass Trans-Am car and raced as an open prototype at Daytona in 1995, 1996 and 1998 and also at Sebring in 1996.
Over the weekend, around 15,000 spectators attended the 2017 Grand Prix de l'Age d'Or. They were treated to virtually non-stop action for three days. Although not all fields were up to capacity, there were great cars in each, providing a great show. All of the highlights and much more can be found in our exclusive 270-shot gallery.