Dijon l’Age D’or; 2nd – 4th June

2023 Lurani Trophy Round 2

Dijon is a magnificent circuit, one of the true favourites, and when the sun shines all day, each day, it heralds a beautiful weekend for Formula Junior.  It was a relatively calm day for setting up on Thursday, with no testing taking place at the circuit, but the shelters were going up quickly for shade from the hot sun.

Free practice was on Friday morning, a mixed session with HGPCA, and, as intended, a good chance to learn/relearn the lines of the circuit and scrub in new tyres. It looked pretty crowded out there, but all were well behaved, the only issue was for Gianluigi Candiani (Branca) who pulled up with a broken drive shaft bolt, which could not be fixed before qualifying, so this pushed him back behind the reserves for the grids.

Qualifying on Friday afternoon could not have been closer, with a magnificent field of 39 cars setting their times for the 35-car capacity grid plus reserves. Horatio Fitz-Simon and Clive Richards, both in ex Tommy Reid Lotus 22s, were almost inseparable. Clive, on his first visit to Dijon for 17 years, set the two fastest laps, while Horatio, with only simulator experience of the circuit, set the fastest sector times in all three sectors, just not combined on the same lap! A couple of rows back, there were 8 cars from 5th to 12th on a 1’34” lap time, with Lukas Buhofer, at only his second ever race weekend, leading that pack. 

Post qualifying, we enjoyed a splendid Mojito party hosted in the FJ paddock for all the FJ drivers, ladies and teams by Daniele Salodini, Flora, Tony and friends, a wonderful opportunity for Lurani newcomers and seasoned participants alike to socialise.

Race one on Saturday morning promised to be a fantastic show, with the full field plus reserves (less James Hagan who was out with engine failure) lined up expectant in the assembly area under blue skies.

As briefed, the 4 remaining reserves remained behind the lights at the end of the pit lane as the grid circulated out on to track to the start-line.  Confusion then followed as in place of the usual physical flag to indicate the green flag lap, the start line lights went from red to green, and unfortunately some thought this was race go.  Red flags were then turned on at all the boards around the circuit, and the cars came back to the grid for a second green flag lap, this time, with physical flags at the start post and marshal posts around the circuit.  After a smoother second attempt, the cars were back on the grid, for the real race start, lights out, and it was Horatio ahead of Clive. 

What followed however, was that, in error, the pit lane lights went green too and the 4 reserves were ushered out onto track in pursuit of the main pack.  Although spotted immediately in race control, it took a full lap to get the black flags out on those cars, and a charging Michael Gans (Stanguellini) from reserve 1 position, had meanwhile completed the first lap and approaching Stuart Tizzard (Cooper T56) at turn 7/8, mounted his rear right wheel and launched himself airborne. He came to rest upright with miraculously just three broken ribs and a broken hand, and Stuart was thankfully unharmed, albeit shaken, and able to continue the race.

The race was red flagged at this point, re-gridded in the pit lane using the end of lap 1 finishing positions, without reserves, and a safety car restart got underway with Horatio maintaining the upper hand over Clive for a 15-minute sprint to the chequered flag.  Behind them, past Lurani Champion Roberto Tonetti (Brabham BT6) just managed to hold off Philipp Buhofer (Lotus 27) for third, his son Lukas unfortunately having dropped out after 5 laps with suspected carburation issues.  The battle of the race though was for sixth, with a mere second covering Mowle (Lotus 20/22), Ferrari (Branca), Smeeton (Wainer), Baker and Guichard (Lynx) at the line. Guichard also took the drum braked Class D win after Roach (Alexis Mk 3) clipped Bullock (Wren) going in to turn 5, leading to Marty retiring with a bent steering arm and trackrod but Stuart and father Keith, with Andrew Hibberd were all hands on deck to have him ready to race again on Sunday.

But for a last minute withdrawal by John Chisholm with engine concerns for the Gemini Mk 3A, Race 2 was another full grid, with all reserves getting a start following a few mechanical retirements, and, by contrast to Saturday’s hiccups, was a dream FJ race from start to finish. Horatio and Clive at the front could not have been closer, although Horatio just held on up the hill in the long drag to the finish by less than one second.

Oil from Philipp Buhofer’s 27 caused several spins, including Pierre Tonetti (De Tomaso) on two consecutive laps, and Chip Fudge, over again from Oklahoma, in the ex-Morton Lightning Envoyette. Chip finally pitting, after his two escapades.

Robert Tonetti completed the podium again, unchallenged this time after Buhofer withdrew, but as the weekend progressed, Danny Baker from San Francisco was getting the hang of how the Europeans race in his CTL run 27, coming home 5th in both the race and on aggregate, behind teammate Lee Mowle, in his 20/22, who almost left it too late to retake Danny before the line, having slowed a little to enjoy a dice.

An equally exciting battle gripped the later rear-engined Drum braked Class D, with Stuart Roach, Perth’s own past Lurani winner Marty Bullock in the Australian Wren and Denmark’s Pierre Guichard separated by just four seconds in R2, but Pierre just ran out winner on aggregate.

A hugely magnanimous gesture from Erik Justesen saw Richard Bishop-Miller take Erik’s ex Arthur Mallock U2 to clear victory in Class B in both races (while the Autosport is under repair), with Giampaolo Benedini’s iconic OSCA triumphant in Class A ahead of Erik himself in the ex-Franco Beolchi Apache Mk 1, which Richard had collected for him after a refit by Dan Setford.

Clinton McCarthy, Lotus 18 mounted in both Lurani and HGPCA races, was a worthy Class C winner from Stuart Tizzard in the ex-Len May Cooper T56 BMC, after Christian Lange in the ex-Ian Raby Envoy broke a drive shaft in Race one. Carlo Maria del Conte (Wainer) was overjoyed with his third spot, especially as on the road he had beaten Duncan’s Alexis by less than a second on overall aggregate.
Medals were presented to all the Class podium places, and Chip Fudge kindly donated a bottle of wine to each of the Class winners, at the usual jolly prizegiving.

Two months break now, before the Lurani contestants regroup at the Nürburgring, for the 50th running of the Oldtimer GP in August.

By Louise Pringle


Photos by Eric Sawyer