FIA Lurani Trophy Round 3; Monza Coppa Intereuropa; 18th – 19th June

Thirty-eight racers assembled in North Italy for the 63rd Coppa Intereuropa Storica for Round 3 of this year’s FIA Lurani Trophy at Monza, and the 2nd of the Diamond Jubilee World Tour European Sector 1 events.

On to ‘free’ practice, the high price (very high price) put off quite a number as such only 17 drivers ventured out on the track, and this was quickly reduced with both Marc Amez-Droz in the BT6 Brabham and Roger Woodbridge in the pretty Volpini into the pit lane on lap 3. Roger had a major misfire, first thought to be electrical but was more terminal with cam gear failure. Noel Woodford was the next in with clutch problems. In general everyone who had taken to the track had enjoyed themselves.

Qualifying saw 36 out on the track, unsurprisingly Roger was now spectating and Noel had the Gemini Mk3A in many pieces spannering away and ran out of time. Again some of our band of racers had a few problems, Richard Bishop-Miller in the Autosport lost the clutch pedal after a couple of laps and Eric Justesen, when asked how qualifying had gone replied “Bad…potential head gasket”. Colin Nursey had a misfire in the ex-works Lotus 18 and the activity in the garages suggested a few others had problems. Philipp Buhofer claimed pole with a 2:11.199 followed by Manfredo Rossi Di Montelera and Bruno Ferrari with a 2:12.412 and 2:12.880 respectively. The first fifteen cars were from the E1 class with a sole D2 as Bruno Weibel sneaked in a 2:16.3 to take 11th. The first of the front engine cars was Chris Drake, down in 17th with a 2:20.3 followed by Eric Justesen in the U2 MK 2 in 27th and Tony Olissoff in 29th in the 1 litre Elfin Mk1, with a 2:29.6 and a 2:32.7.

There was only a short gap until race 1, which had an impact on those who had suffered problems and as the cars headed out to grid up a number were still wielding the spanners, and a couple had resorted to having a bottle of beer and resigned to watching. On top of Noel who was still fighting with the car and Roger, we had lost Pierre Guichard, Peter Knoefel, Tommaso Gelmini, Marc Amez-Droz and Paolo Marzatico. Eric had changed the head gasket in less than an hour so we were down to 31 of which 30 led out, with Richard in the Autosport having no clutch electing to start from the pit lane.

The lights went out and the Juniors surged forward for the first lap. Dicing and shuffling in and around the first chicane Variante del Rettifilo, Richard Smeeton Wainer 63, clipped another car damaging the nose and partway around the following Curva Grande the front bodywork threw itself all over the track. This was a little bit worrying for the late arrivals who found the vigorously waved yellow flags and the strewn parts all over the track but couldn’t find the car. By the end of the first lap Philipp had capitalised on pole pulling out a one and a half second lead over Bruno and over two seconds on John Fyda who had both jumped Manfredo at the start. It was close racing between these cars for the first few laps until John left the fray and the race settled down with Andrew Beaumont catching this group. At the flag Manfredo took first followed by Philipp and Bruno Ferrari.

Elsewhere in the field Steve Futter had an excellent race but was worried by the banging from the back of the car which turned out to be yet another ring gear. Mike Gregory was happy he had no problems but lacked revs on the straight and it was the De Tomaso Isis’ first time back in Italy since 1959! Iain Rowley’s comments on his start will remain in Italy but he had a great race chasing Bruno Weibel and was over a second quicker than his practice. Mark Pangborn commented on how many cars had spun including himself, so all in all an exciting race one. Joao Paulo Campos Costa seemed happy with “Very fast, very good, very poor qualifying”.

Post-race for some the spannering continued, for others a beer was more appropriate and some being greedy partook in both.

Saturday evening saw an organised meal for some, the Italian BBQ for others and for Noel yet more spannering – 7 laps in free practice had resulted in many many hours of work for him.

Sunday morning started bright and early, the silence of the circuit only broken by bird song and Noel still at it with his spanners. The Autosport was not to run as the shattered clutch cover was beyond bodging so Richard joined the list of Noel’s helpers but at least they had all morning to enjoy themselves getting covered in oil whilst playing with the New Zealand Gemini Mk3A. Others were also trying to sort Saturday’s problems but by the time of race two we were down to 28 starters. Having finally put his spanners down Noel was to be one of them.

So the 28 remaining cars headed out to the grid just for Tony Olissoff to come straight back into the pits and on only 3 cylinders. A mad rush ensued trying to sort the Elfin Mk1 and he made it to the end of the pit lane just as the field streamed past at the start and was out straight on to the tail and -on to racing. Philipp in the Lola Mk5A dropped a place from pole by the end of the first lap but regained it on the second and was not beaten, taking the win. Manfredo in the Lotus 22 was chased hard by Mark Pangborn but took second, though Mark was rightly proud to take third in his self-prepared Lotus 20B. Bruno Weibel and Iain Rowley continued their close racing as Iain later described:

“Had the most fantastic race with the current FJ champion Bruno Weibel at Monza. We swopped places time after time. Lapping back markers was very interesting as we fought nose to tail. This was the last lap. We were side by side going past the start line. I out braked Bruno as I was driving a disc brake car and he is on drums, so off we go to the second chicane and Bruno leaves his braking so late he goes past me but misses apex and I duck up inside and go ahead. I’m looking in my mirror and thought “yes” got some space now. Through first Lesmo all good, second Lesmo perfect, on to Asscari and I’m quick and steady but there is the pesky Swiss driver again up alongside me. We go to the Parabolica side by side brake at 100 board and Bruno goes wide. I duck up inside and get on the power. He covers my line and I move to outside as I’ve got the run coming out of the corner. It’s a race to the line but Bruno is ahead by 4/100 of a second. Brilliant just brilliant.”

In twelfth was the Gemini Mk 3A a fine reward for all of Noel’s perseverance. At tail end were the two Italian Lotus of Gigi Baulino and Andrea Guarino though neither of which had sounded very happy whilst circulating.So twenty-five cars made it to the chequered flag and it was all over bar the packing up and the journeys home.

by Richard Bishop-Miller