Oldtimer GP; 11th – 13th August 2023

Lurani Trophy Round 3 – 50th Oldtimer GP ; Nurburgring; 11th – 13th August

A full grid was in the offing for the third round of the 2023 Lurani Trophy, but August is a busy continental holiday month, and several regulars preferred the Southern European sun to the storm ridden Northern Europe. Others had mechanical issues, Adrian Russell (gearbox), Clinton McCarthy, (GP Lotus 18 gearbox), and others more personal problems, but it was still a good 34 car grid that assembly in a comfortably large tent.

Formula Junior make a good presence, situated opposite Marcus Biehl’s German Open Series, which included Pietro Tenconi (Ralt F3, owner of the family OSCA and Stanguellini), Valerio Leone, occasional FJ participant in his Elva 200, and new owner Ingo Fabek, who has just purchased the ex-Andreas Defuhr Lotus 22-J-36, the original Costin car, later raced in US in FF guise. Ingo’s son Fabio was making his racing debut in a Lotus 61, also ex Defuhr, and performed most impressively: he plans to be out in the 22 next year.

In our own tent, Dr Peter Laier arrived with the ex-Chris Chilcott Brabham BT2, for its first outing in his ownership; Erik Justesen, with son Johan riding shogun, was back again in the Apache, while Richard Bishop-Miller, hours of labour behind him, and a very original chassis so ably restored by Robin Longdon’s fabrication works, was back on the grid with the Triumph engined Autosport.

Parked up with the other Chrome Cars was Marco Werner’s Lotus 22, first time out for 2 years, but not a happy weekend, hampered by a fuel cell problem. Teammate, Felix Haas, cheerful as always, promises a return in 2024 with the BT6, once the FIA Papers finally emerge from the DMSB. Not so good news, however, about Heiko Ostmann’s Foglietti, which once masqueraded in the Donington Collection, and raced, as a Stanguellini restoration, and may well be for sale: a really fascinating project with a stack of period photos to aid restoration.

Thursday testing saw several FJ’s out on track briefly! As a lack of marshals and red flags (due to non FJ cars in the mixed session), produced very little value for money. Amongst those on track were Rudi Friedrichs, having his first serious FJ outing, in the ex-Marc Buhofer Lola 5A, together with Philipp Buhofer and Richard Wilson (27’s), Richard commenting how he really enjoyed the FJ, reminded me what fun it is, Mark Shaw (briefly in the BT6, combining one session with both his Lotus 21 Climax and his Scarab!): Clive Richards (22) and the Hibberds, Andrew in the green 22, ex-Team Lotus Anderson/Arundell car, and Michael in the Class D, 20.

All cars were ready for qualifying, and recorded times. Casualties were Lars-Goran Sjoberg who was in after 4 laps with gearbox trouble, and Peter Laier on the same lap, after his engine hit trouble, and deposited some oil which caught out Philipp Buhofer’s 27 into the barriers, between an Autosport and Alexis sandwich, both the latter unscathed.

Up front, Horatio was still 8/10th of a second ahead of Clive Richards, both in their ex-Tommy Reid Lotus 22’s, but a very on form Andrew Hibberd, was close enough behind to herald an exciting race ahead, with Mark Shaw, BT6 on the pace behind. In the hotly contested Class D, Stuart Roach’s Alexis Mk 3 was just 3/10’s ahead of Marty Bullock’s Wren, an orange and yellow contest in the offing, till Stuart came into the pits on the last lap, with only 3 wheels!!, a drive shaft having broken: a few hours later, the missing spare was located on the shelves at Ower, and a hugely generous gesture by Harry of Setfords friend saw the part on the road, on the ferry and by 3 am, in situ at Barweiler!!, fitted in an hour Saturday morning, and it was ready for Race 1.

Meanwhile Peter Laier and family, despite his troubles, hosted another excellent drinks party after qualifying, and it was so nice to see sleeping FJ owner/drivers Peter and Suzanne Knoefel (Emeryson), Gerald Ludwig (Brabham BT6), Claus and Heinke Myhr (ex-Kurt Ahrens Cooper T56), Tobias Aichelle (Melkus and Mitter), Dr Dietrich Merkel (ex-Lola and Britannia) Mark Rufer (Elva 100) and Stefan and Gabi Weinbach (Ex Elva 100) around the FJ paddock all weekend.

Horatio may have won but it was a truly exciting race 1, and all credit to Andrew, splitting the two red 22’s in a Red/Green 22 sandwich only 1.6s apart. Philipp Buhofer’s team led by Andy Willis at Hall and Hall, and his faithful H, had brought the 27 back to pristine condition, but just could not keep pace with the three leaders. Mark Shaw (BT6) and Lee Mowle (20/22) fought hard for the next places, Stuart Roach leading Class D comfortably, just behind. The unfortunate Marco Werner pitted in the green flag lap, having managed only one fast lap, and was forced to call it a day. Iain Rowley, driving Stephen Bulling’s ex USA Elva 300/005 suffered gearbox failure, but certainly attracted a lot of admirers in the tent: one can’t help thinking what Elva could have done with this car properly developed in 1961 and thereafter. Sadly, all the time and hard work by Richard Bishop-Miller and Karen to get the Autosport to the Ring came to nought, the clutch exploding, shattering the gearbox casing. Petter Huse suffered further wheel bearing problem and parked up together with the OSCA of Giampaolo Benedini which had a broken crank. Norwegian and Italian not being remotely compatible, it was sufficient to suggest to Giampaolo that it would be a good idea to turn off the ignition.

Whilst Saturday’s race was late, it was Sunday mid-day for Race 2, following the small, yet even more depleted Race 2 for the F2 cars. This time the front contest sadly evaporated, with Horatio well ahead, Andrew indulging in a spin at the chicane and Clive Richards water pipe coming adrift on lap 2, luckily without spraying him with boiling fluid. Marty spun away his Wren and Class D chances into the gravel on lap 3, and Lee Mowle missed out on a better finish with a pre-race pit stop to attend to a misfire, but thereafter ran fast and well up to 11th place. Stuart Roach’s Alexis again comfortably headed Class D, but an early encounter for the nose with Lukas Buhofer’s BT6 did little to help the airflow. Amongst the front engined cars, Floris-Jan Hekker’s Rayberg ran clear, well ahead of Erik Justesen’s Apache, with Duncan nibbling at his tail in a three-way dice, with the Deep Sanderson DS 104 (ex-Duncan!) of Chris Wilks, with only 2nd and 4th gear.  Keith Pickering (Britannia) had an untroubled victory after a good race in Class C.

A change of procedure this year saw the Class prizes on aggregate also presented on the main podium after the Race 2 winners, and awards in Class E down to 6th Richard Smeeton (Wainer) and Lee Mowle, by then almost on the plane to America to deliver his son to university. All drivers past and present gathered on the podium to mark the 50th Anniversary Oldtimer before farewells after a successful weekend.