COPENHAGEN HISTORIC GRAND PRIX; 4th-6th August 2023
The Copenhagen Historic Grand Prix was held on its traditionl date – the first weekend of August—on the street circuit at Bellahöj in western Copenhagen. This year there were 17 entries, well up from last year, although two dropped out before the race weekend, leaving eight drivers from the UK, three from Sweden, two from Denmark and one each from Norway and Finland.
Some of the UK participants travelled via Harwich-Hoek van Holland overnight and some via Calais: on board Stena Line were the Rabagliatis, Chisholms with the white Gemini 3A, engine rebuilt by Sam Wilson, Taylors with the Elva 100 and full Team GENK-P with their long motorhome and trailer, which really must be quite a handful on German no overtaking roads, but that is if you do obey the rules and (unlike the late David Stevenson) don’t get caught!! Calais bound were Iain and Stewart Rowley, now with two car trailer containing the Alexis and Stephen Bulling’s Elva 300, for Iain to drive, and the Longdon and Ferris motorcades, with Robin this time in the Mk 5A. We would have had Peter Anstiss in Lotus 20/22, but Peter’s back had given way in the preparing period, so Peter wisely called off the trip, rather than risk a setback and leaving Jan to repatriate motorhome and Lotus. Late arrival was Vern Williamson‘s Class D Lynx 115 brought along by two of his friends, Steve and Chris Gibson, from the Darlington and District Motor Club, more usually found at Croft Circuit.
Scandanavia-wise, the entry was headed by organiser, Jac Nellemann in the Volpini, but sadly that was still without gearbox, but his familiar Alfa Dana was there with Danish hot-shoe, Johan Schwartz thoroughly enjoying his maiden run; also from Denmark was Lars Jensen in the ex-David Grant Elva 100, poor Lars suffering permanent long covid damage, but that has not stopped him also acquiring the ex-Syd van der Vyver Cooper- Alfa Romeo T43 F2-22-57 direct from South Africa and a F3 T83 screamer F3-1-66. Also entered was Alan Bach-Sörensen with the Saxon-DKW, but he withdrew pre-race just as at the Karlskoga race in June. Petter Huse came from Norway with wife Elisabeth and the Focus IV: Lars-Göran Sjöberg had the Swebe- Cooper (although the T59 was tucked up in the trailer as a spare, but primarily intended for the Oldtimer GP the following weekend). Also from Sweden were Ulf Pettersson in Lola Mk3 BRJ33 and Christer Larsson (with wife Ann) in his T52 Cooper. Christer’s daughter and grandson were also there and ‘Grandad’ was making encouraging noises for the future about the MRS-Saab. Finally from Finland was the Lotus 20/22 inspired Elhoo with Reijo af Heurlin, a car last seen at Copenhagen in 2013.
As ever, the social part is important at the CHGP, so for the FJ participants the event started off on Thursday night with a champagne reception (with tasty snacks) hosted by the CHGP supremo, Jac Nellemann.
The social element continued on Friday with a parade into the city centre and a reception at the Copenagen Town Hall before it was time for a free practice session in nice weather, contrary to the heavy showers of Thursday. The two white cars (the Elhoo of Rejo af Heurlin and the Gemini of Sir John Chisholm) were immediately in trouble, the Elhoo with an engine that just stopped and the Gemini with a loose clutch slave cylinder. Ulf Pettersson (Lola Mk 3) and Christer Larsson (Cooper T52) both had gear selection problems. For the rest nothing dramatic happened with Petter Huse (Focus Mk IV), Robin Longdon (Lola Mk 5), Nick Taylor (Elva 100) and Keith Pickering (Britannia) being the fastest.
The schedule for Saturday comprised qualifying for the first race before lunch time and then the race in the afternoon. As usual in Copenhagen that first race was just to decide the grid positions for Sunday’s all deciding final. The weather had changed to overcast, but no rain was expected until Sunday.
Fastest qualifier was Robin Longdon with 1’18.4” followed by Taylor, Pickering, Huse, Chisholm and Rowley, this group of six covered by a little over four seconds. Then there was a gap of another four seconds down to the next group of Sjöberg, Schwartz, Ferris and Jansen covered by only two seconds. The remaining grid was headed by Williamson, who was followed by Rabagliati, Larsson, Pettersson and finally af Heuriin, who only managed to crawl around for one lap. Petter Huse had suffered a loose rear wheel bearing, just as at Karlskoga, despite having made and installed new parts. Chisholm had a loose oil union and for Pettersson, Larsson and af Heurlin, their problems from Friday’s practice session continued. On top of his gearbox problems, Larsson was selected for a noise test and did not pass. An extra addition to the silencer solved the problem. Finally, Lars Jansen was moved back four places on he grid after having run over one of the floppy corner markers at one of the chicanes.
The start of race 1 was delayed because of crashes in earlier races. The impression is that this happens almost every year; it seems that the organisers never manage to include enough time in the time table for clearing the track. Once let out on the track, more delays followed; the first start was abandoned for yet another formation lap to allow for the recovery of af Heurlin’s Elhoo, which once more stopped on the track before being able to reach the grid. When the starting sequence began for the second start effort, Pickering signalled that he was in trouble, so the red lights remained lit, but that did not stop the others from roaring off as if it was a proper start. The safety car intervened and after following it for two more laps, the field was once more lined up on the grid in their correct positions (there had been some overtaking in between…) but without Pickering, who had fried his clutch. Also missing were af Heurlin and Pettersson, who could not find any gears (or more specifcally, he found the reverse when he should have found third…).
Finally the race got underway, reduced by the number of laps spent behind the safety car, with Longdon taking the lead ahead of Huse. They changed positions once, but Longdon retook the lead and kept it. Chisholm held third place ahead of Taylor. Sjöberg had made a good start, and was ahead of Rowley during part of the first lap, but then a misfire caused him to drop back to retire after six laps, not because of the misfire but becaue the clutch pedal refused to move (later diagnosed as being caused by a broken engine mount allowing the engine to drop down on one side). On the eighth lap, Chisholm took the turn into the bus stop chicane too tightly and hit the concrete wall head on causing a red flag. He was taken to hospital with injuries to his back, face and feet.
The race was not restarted so the results were declared on count-back to the lap before the red flag giving Longdon the win a little over a second ahead of Huse and then Chisholm (!) in third with Taylor in fourth and fastest front-engined car. Then followed Rowley, Ferris, Schwartz and Jansen all on the same lap as the winner; next one lap down were Williamson, Rabagliati and Larsson, Larsson with a bent nose after having hit one of the styrofoam corner markers. Sjöberg was also classified in 12th and last position. Fastest lap was credited to Longdon with 1’17.314”.
The weather forecast for Sunday said there was a risk of rain about the time when the FJ race should start. Had the start been on time, the rain might have been avoided, but that was not to be. Delays in preceding races meant that the FJ race set off more than 1.5 hours late and by then there was a light drizzle making the track very slippery. Non-starters were Chisholm, af Heurlin having given up on trying to complete more than one lap, and Sjöberg who, when having made a temporary engine mount, heard unpleasent noices from the Renault gearbox. Pettersson made yet another effort, but something was seriously wrong inside the Lola’s transmission. The rear-wheels locked on the formation lap causing an extra formation lap for the rest of the starters while the Lola was towed back to the pits with locked rear wheels.
Longdon took the lead off the grid but was passed by Taylor in the Elva before the second corner for a lead that he would keep until the chequered flag. Taylor and Huse seemed to pull away from Longdon, but he caught up with Huse once again and managed to pass only to brake too late into the corner after the start/finishing straight where he had to take an extra turn to get back on the racing line. This allowed Huse back into second but some 5-6 seconds behind Taylor. The race finished with Nick Taylor having his first race win in seven years, his previous one also being at Copenhagen. Then followed, at long intervals, Huse and Longdon ahead of Rowley and Pickering (up from last on the grid), Ferris, Schwartz, Rabagliati, Jansen, Williamson and Larsson. Huse made fastest lap with 1’29.525”, but was not able to keep up with Taylor’s front-engined Elva.
As so often before, the social part of the weekend ended with a five-course dinner hosted by Jac Nellemann in the famous elevator (= the VIP dining room) at the Östergro roof-top restaurant. The weather this time, with rain pouring down and a strong and gusty wind, did not allow for the welcoming drink to be had outside, so instead it was shifted to nearby motorcycle club – The Dead Cat Motorcycle Club. As far as we could see, they neither belonged to Hell’s Angels, nor Bandidos but proved to be nice veteran motorcycle enthusiasts.
By Lars-Goran Sjoberg (with DCPR)