FIA Lurani Trophy Round 4, 44th Oldtimer GP; 12th – 14th August 2016

Certainly the first Historic race meeting that has run continuously to this day: the Brits head to Hotel Hüllen in Barweiler for the traditional welcome from Anke and her brother, and sister-in-law, Ralph and Karla Friedrichs, with Monika behind the bar – but changes now: the bar /restaurant has been ‘upgraded’ and the iconic photos are relegated to the garage walls. Changes at the track too, now, the whole complex is Russian owned and no ‘Marathon’ on the Nordschliefe this year. The organizers (jointly CSHRN, Badischer MSC, Graf Dönhoffand AVD) could not afford the price, instead there being couple of 2 hour slots available commercially for Oldtimer and Supercars to circulate.  Change also at CSHRN, with a new President, Ralf Lamberty, in fact, a former 1000cc F3 Tecno owner, and Gunther Schramm, also President of the FIA HMSC Compliance sub-committee taking over the role of link organiser for CSHRN from Joos Tollenaar, who has severed all connection with racing, his lovely Lola Mk 3 with full history in Period and Historics, shortly to be sold to Pat Barford.

The weather turned wet as we headed through France on Wednesday and turned wet again for the afternoon testing on Thursday. Newcomer Oliver Hartmann, run by Mec Auto, managed 10 laps in his Lotus 20-J-888, first time out in his hands, but unfortunately the new Renault gearbox broke its CWP (later found to be a foundry error).  Philipp Buhofer (Lola 5A), Mark Pangborn (Lotus 20B) and Colin Nursey (Lotus 18) were also out on track.  For the rest it was just scrutineering and paperwork, the cars as usual in their dedicated tents behind the garages, and in the evening, for CHRSN members and guests, the traditional Italian party including the Steges, Weinbachs, and Anke Lamberty.

Friday practice was now dry, all were ready except Hartmann, and Dr Peter Laier (Lotus 20/22), who had been unavoidably detained on business in Scotland and had the Stewards’ special dispensation to start on Saturday.  Practice was close at the front, with Andrew Hibberd (Lotus 22) just snatching pole from Manfredo Rossi (Lotus 22) and Greg Thornton (Lotus 20/22) and Buhofer not far behind. Then it was Pangborn and Stuart Roach (Alexis Mk4). Spectacular time in 7th was Ivo Goeckmann in the Class D Jolus.

The young Halusa brothers were going well and enthusiastically, Niklas making his debut in the ex-John Fyda, Leo Geoghegan Lotus 22.  Unfortunately, there was a mix up in the entry they submitted with father Martin listed in the Lotus 20/22 instead of Lukas, leading to Lukas being excluded from the meeting, not before Niklas had gone off at the chicane, causing a red flag, though by the time the field had come round, he was back in track – but the red flag caused a succession of subsequent problems.  Heinz Stege (Elva 100) and Gerald Ludwig (Brabham BT6) taking an extra lap on track to the fury of the Clerk of the Course, so no more practice for them and they were to start the races with Peter Laier (he only for R1) from the pitlane.  For the rest, qualifying was resumed after all cars had been extracted after being erroneously herded into Parc Fermée after the Red Flag

Dietrich Merkel, after 20 years in FJ and 500’s beforehand, had brought the familiar light green Lola Mk2, ex-Jeremy Bouckley, Norman Hillwood, and Jurg Tobler, BRJ 11 to the track, and it was a very sad day as he handed over to new owner Michael Hibberd, but expressed delight that it was going to a good new home.  Michael was delighted with the car, and his 2m 14.5 being less than 3 secs behind the accomplished Chris Drake in his Terrier.  Tony Steele was also present with Ann and family, having sold his Lola Mk 2, and now looking for a Lotus 18 to race instead.  Philippe Bonny as lone F3 1000 guest is also planning a true FJ replacement for 2017. [Later acquiring the late Michel Rechede’s Brabham BT2].

Other Nurburgring debutants included Ian Phillips in the ex- Rauschen, ex- John Monson BMC Mk 2, Richard Bishop-Miller in the Autosport Mk 1, Keith Roach taking a good look at the Triumph engine with thoughts of completing a Condor straight flush with the S1! And Nick Taylor and Fiona, straight from the Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix, and a double victory there after Jonathon Hughes’ Lola hit the wall hard in R1, leaving the Hi Tec team with a lot of hard work to ready the car for the Goodwood Revival a month later.

Friday night and many of FJ decamped to the “Paddock” Restaurant in Nurburg, joined by Roger Woodbridge, racing only his Jaguar XK with Iain Rowley, while the Volpini engine is rebuilt and the Ausper T4 completes its gearbox change.  HSCC’s Grahame White was there for the Jaguar Challenge, but we did not see him all weekend

Race 1 on Saturday – a terrific race between Manfredo Rossi (Lotus 22), Greg Thornton (Lotus 20/22) and Andrew Hibberd (Lotus 22) with less than a second between Rossi and Greg at the flag, after Andrew was dramatically sidelined with a flat battery.  Philipp Buhofer just keep ahead of the next group, with Mark Pangborn nibbling at the tail of the other orange Alexis! Both Gerald Ludwig and Peter Laier worked their way up from their pit lane starts to 14th and 20th respectively, but Heinz Stege was not so fortunate, a broken crank after only one lap, with Goodwood looming, repairs will no doubt be made!  Bruno Weibel (Lotus 20) comfortably led the drum brakes, with Iain Rowley two places behind in Ian Robinson’s disc braked Lola MK V.  Drake was still in a front engined class of his own, but he now has Michael Hibberd to contend with, lapping only a second slower in the ex-Merkel car.  Ian Phillips in 23rd was still enjoying his first Lurani: Duncan thought he had a place gift, but Colin Nursey’s fuel surge in his 18 was only temporary, and he recovered to charge back ahead! High attrition with 10 retirements, others including Johannes Kistler with broken crank, Lars-Goran Sjoberg again, the bearings run terminally, MA-B, who lost power and Nick Taylor, with electrical gremlins, and Ivo Gockmann in the Jolus who spun three times ( twice on oil with no flags out ! ), and eventually broke his gearbox, and was pushed off the track at Hatzenbach.

Race 2 on Sunday – Manfredo again led from the start, but this time with Mark Pangborn shooting through to 2nd ahead of Greg, Buhofer, Roach’s Alexis and Andrew Hibberd slow away from the other front row slot. Lap 3, and Greg had displaced Mark, and Andrew had recovered to 5th.  By lap 7, Andrew was now 2nd and that is how it stayed to the flag, but only 0.2s behind Rossi with Greg out after 7 laps when the bolts going through the drive shaft/ rotaflex coupling failed, and Buhofer third on the road, just ahead of Stuart, but relegated to 10th with a 25s penalty from the Stewards for passing under a yellow.  Ivo, with gearbox repaired overnight, was a remarkable sixth .Salodini pitted but continued. Michael Hibberd felt a little unhappy about the engine and stopped to avoid any damage to his new toy, Mark Pangborn was eliminated with bent steering after an unfortunate coming together with Philipp Buhofer – not his best day at the office!  Both Gerald Ludwig and Peter Laier worked their way well up from their pit lane starts. Richard Bishop-Miller stopped with a severely broken drop box, while M A-B had found Ford engine problems in the Britannia, so had been a non-starter. Towards the end, Erik Justesen spun the U2 on his own oil at the last corner, stopping on the apex, and as a result, the race finished under a safety car, but during this period, Peter Laier did a self-imposed “drive through” as he explains “Yes you are right, I had a drive through the pits. It was a little bit awkward but when the safety car came out I was asked to overtake the safety car and then was running on my own for some 2 laps or so. After some time, seeing nobody else than myself on the track, I thought that maybe the race was terminated so I looked in the pits for my “friends”. After finding out that nobody was there I understood that racing was still on, so I continued :-)))).”

So overall aggregate victory to Rossi, but a second place for Alexis at the scene of its 1965 Eifelrennen victory and Buhofer still third, despite his penalty.