Pau is a historic hillside village in the Pyrénées region of south-west France. The street circuit has hosted a Grand Prix event almost continuously since it was first held in 1933. The circuit itself has changed, but only a small section at the Palais de Beaumont. On the winners list from the past you’ll see a couple of Australians, with Jack Brabham winning in 1960 & more recently, Ryan Briscoe, 2003 in a Dallara Opel Formula 3 car.
The meeting was far different from the previous weekend’s Donington Historic Festival, mainly with more French and European in general cars entered, and most in the town speaking little other than French. The scribe can say it’s the first time he has got lost more than once leaving the same place (ever), and finally after walking around for so long, then looking across the street to see the hotel! Found out that you’re meant to turn right out of the hotel, not left! The walk to the circuit then became 10 minutes.
The media centre was non-existent at Pau, but a lanyard and arm-band were given for access to both the pit area & trackside. Although areas for photo taking trackside were quite minimal for two reasons; that the track in many places is wall to wall, and areas of low wall the only spots to take photos in front of the wire and crowd. Unfortunately, though photographers were barred from much of the accessible areas during the weekend, which made it even more difficult to photo. You will notice this when reviewing the galleries that there are some galleries that were taken literally on the track, and others from distant points.
The Historic Grand Prix Cars Association (HGPCA) brought with them two grids to Pau to contest both the “Trophee de Pau” for F1 cars and the “Trophee Argnintin” for GP cars. Two very exciting grids. The HGPCA set up comes with a Pantec truck, which is used for the duel purpose of car transportation and the nerve-centre for their hospitality arrangements. A large two sided marquee is erected off the truck, and at lunch they will serve about 200 guests. Quite a gourmet lunch too, thanks to the generousity of their Competition Secretary, Marcue Pye for allowing me to partake.
The scribe found two Australians competing in three cars. West Australian, John Davies was making his international event debut in his recently acquired Cooper T45. Davies had his first race meeting in this car at the 2013 Phillip Island Classic in March, then (after minor convincing from fellow T45 owner Scotty Taylor) chose to ship the car to the UK & has scheduled eight events for the season. Unfortunately, the narrow circuit ended his weekend early in qualifying when he hit the wall (admitting that it was completely his fault). The team at Hi-Tech who are looking after his travels will no doubt have the car ready in time for the Masters Grand Prix at Brands Hatch on 26-27 May.
With Scotty Taylor recovering from a hip replacement operation weeks before Pau, his two entered cars (Lotus 18 F1 & Cooper T53) were left in the UK & Sid Hoole (preparer) chose to enter his Cooper 66 – V8 1.5Lt Coventry-Climax powered (absolutely awesome sound, particularly with no sound dampers), so the Thallon camp were the second Australian.
Don has brought over two cars this season, his Cooper T53 F1 and the MRC FJ.. He has previously travelled with the Formula Junior, but this is the first time in the Cooper, and he was quite pleased to be in a grid of several like-minded cars. Don and Janette took the two cars, transporter (van) and trailer in a 40ft container, which arrived in the UK where they picked all up & took to their digs for the next 6 months, a house in the French region of Normandy. We guess part of the reason for taking two cars this year was following Don’s lack of luck at Pau in 2012 where he managed just 3 laps. He managed to finish all races this year, in both cars, with top 6 finishes in the Formula Junior races and top 10 in the Trophee Argintin races. Although it wasn’t all that easy with gearbox problems plaguing his Cooper T53, slipping out of 3rd & 4th. A pit fix not providing a permanent fix, so he was content with some sightseeing while racing! An illness didn’t help either.
The Trophee de Pau was a hard-fought affair across the weekend’s two races, with Cooper the dominant force, and in the first race provided spectators at the final S corner (not viewable from the pits, nor commentary) the most spectacular crash of the weekend. With Mr. John O.F.B breaking hard to avoid an oil spill (just occurred) the UK’s Andrew Beaumont went over the top of the Lola Mk4 in his Classic Team Lotus prepared No. 4 Lotus 24 and did much damaged (refer to the photo gallery for this event). Both drivers were fine.
At the pointy end of the field, it was Cooper dominated with Rod Jolly putting on his usual show of driving brilliance sliding the Cooper T45/51 around every corner, every lap. He seems to line the car up well before the corner and turn in with a purpose slid of the rear wheels. Magic stuff, particularly when one is centimetres behind a 1 metre high one-layer Armco fence taking photos! Felt quite safe though.
All categories get four chances at the circuit across the weekend, firstly with a ‘free practice’ session, then qualifying & two 25 minute races. In essence, quite a lot of track time, and for the spectator some exciting long races. The hardest part is adapting your ears to the French commentary!
Peter Horsman upstaged the Coopers in qualifying, taking pole position in his Lotus 1/218 from William Nuttall (Cooper T53, son of long time racer Ian) and Jolly. Thallon qualified 7th & Davies 18th, but was out due to his aforementioned collision.
Horsman had race one from Jolly, with Nuttall making an error and finishing fourth. Sid Hoole was the mover, passing Thallon (suffering from the gearbox issue) and tok fifth, Thallon relegated to 8th.
The final race for the Trophee de Pau for 2013 was quite exciting to watch from the exit of the hairpin the first four places were tightly contested, but it was Horsman who made it two wins for the weekend, although the real battle initially was between the three Coopers occupying the next three places, which finished in that of Jolly & Jonathan Hughes (Cooper T53) battling to the end with Jolly taking second place with a few laps to go. Miles Griffiths finished fourth in his Cooper T51 ahead of Hoole & Thallon.
Trophee Argintin was the other grid promoted by the HGPCA and continued to roll out some of the greatest cars of the pre-war and post-war Grand Prix era. Julian Bronson made life look easy in the well balanced, very quick Scarab Offenhauser, dominant all weekend, first in free practice, qualifying & both races.
The field included German Rainer Ott’s Maserati 4CLT/48 (unfortunately the victim of heavy impact with the wall early on), a Ferrari 625 driven by Alex Boswell of the UK, and Nigel Bachelor displayed the Penrite Oil logo in the engine bay of the Keift GP. A sheered wishbone put an early end to Bachelor’s weekend, which resulted in other damage. Three Cooper-Bristol, two Cooper T45, a T41, Gordini & Frazer NashNurburg were there too, but the main contenders for the lead (should something go amiss for Bronson) were Tony Smith & Paddins Dowling.
Smith put the P3 Alfa away after Donington the week before and brought out another very historic car from his stable, the Ferrari 246 Dino. In Phil Hill’s hands this car was the last front-engined Formula One car to win a World Championship GP, the 1960 Italian GP. Dowling sending over the pre-war ERA R10B, and not losing too much ground to the more modern and developed post-war cars ahead.
The first race was a disaster for Smith (who qualified second) with the Ferrari overheating on the start line after issues with another entrant correctly making their grid position. So Smith started from pit lane, and had to fight his way through the field. Very exciting to watch as Smith was not hanging about, skating the Ferrari through corners like it was on the edge. He finished third, but would’ve had Dowling if for another two laps. The second race changed though, and by lap two Smith had passed Dowling, but could not get close to Bronson. Smith was also nursing a dicky clutch at that point, chief engineer George advising me it is a 6 ½ task to change the clutch in this car. Dowling finished third ahead of the post-war cars of Hoole (Cooper T41) and the Boswell Ferrari.
FIA Laurani Trophy for Formula Junior Cars
The Trophee Junior races, as did the Formula Ford grid, put on some close fought wheel-to-wheel racing, and for the Junior cars they had a Championship race Sunday afternoon for the FIA Lurani Series. Jonathon Hughes took victory in his Brabham BT6, after 16 laps, some 11.2 seconds ahead of second placed Lotus 22 of Scotland’s John Fyda. And the Suisse Phillip Buhofer, third in his Lola Mk5A.
Thallon finished 6th in the MRC 22 with Lionel Aryes watching over from above, having succumb to a battle with cancer in the week of the preceding the meeting.
Well worth the visit, but not an easy meeting for a spectator. Plenty of walking – steps, steep inclines, etc, but there are some small grandstands dotted around for resting the feet. Much better to be in the position to take a car & enter the meeting – see more of the track. Even with the media credentials it was hard to get to various places that other meetings would happily give you access to.
Many thanks though to the organisers from Peter Auto, particularly Audrey and the other ladies in the media area, and special thanks must go to Stella and Marcus from the HGPCA for their kind hospitality.
Article by: Charles Rogers/Historic Racing Australia