Season finale in historic setting
The 2016 season finale of the Peter Auto events was staged at the historic Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola. This proved the perfect venue as changing of the seasons draped the already very scenic park, that lines the undulating track, in beautiful fall colours. These were emphasised by the beautiful weather the participants were treated to during the three-day Imola Classic. With the exception of Group C, all of the familiar Peter Auto grids were present, this time complemented by the U2TC series for under two-litre Touring Cars. Although the fields were not as large as at previous meetings, there were gems on each grid that included a Ferrari 312 PB, a longtail Porsche 908 and ex-works Alfa Romeo GTA.
Our photographers ventured to Italy for the final race weekend of the season. The result is this colourful and action-packed 220-shot gallery
Fifties and sixties sports cars
Running into dawn on Saturday afternoon was the two-hour Sixties' Endurance race for sports cars and GT racers of the late 1950s and early 1960s. During qualifying, the Shelby Cobra stronghold was broken by German pro racer Michael Funke in Georg Nolte's Bizzarrini. He pipped all the Cobras with a blisteringly quick lap. Nolte started the race from pole but quickly dropped down the order with Christophe van Riet grabbing an early lead ahead of David Hart in a pair of Cobras. After the driver changes, David's son Olivier managed to take the lead from Christian Dumolin and they crossed the finish line in that order, ahead of Andrew Beverley in another Cobra. Following complaints from rivals, the three fastest Cobras were carefully checked by the scrutineers and were all found not to be compliant with the regulations and were scratched from the results. This handed the win to Ben Gill in another Cobra.
Racers of a similar vintage but with an Italian connection also competed in the Trofeo Nastro Rosso. Both 35-minute races were won by Lukas Halusa in the unique Ferrari 250 GT Breadvan.
A particularly popular part of the Peter Auto weekends is the Heritage Touring Cup (HTC) for a wide variety of touring cars from the late 1960s through to the early 1980s. The one-hour race boasts evocative machines like BMW 3.0 CSLs and 635 CSIs, Ford Escorts and Capris but also rare racers like a Volvo 240 Turbo. The race was particularly messy with several Capri racers, including pole man Steve Dance, suffering from punctures and early leader Dominik Roschmann stopping early after a warning light popped up in his BMW 3.0 CSLs. He could continue and crossed the line in first but he made his stop outside of the designated pit-stop window so received a one-lap penalty. This promoted Christophe van Riet and Raphael de Borman to first place in their Ford Escort 1600 RS after a close fight with Patrick Bourguignon and Claude Boissy in a similar Escort. Third was for a later Escort shared by David Tomlin and Richard Meaden.
Slightly earlier Touring Cars featured in the two 40-minute U2TC races. Alexander Furiani started the first race on pole with his works Alfa Romeo GTA ahead of Steve Soper in a Lotus Cortina. The points on the ex-BMW works driver's Cortina failed early in the race, leaving Furiani to claim a comfortable win. In race two, Soper had to start from the back and with a particularly spirited drive managed to rise up the order all the way to second behind repeat winner Furiani.
Classic Endurance Racing
Headlining this year's Imola Classic were the two one-hour Classic Endurance Racing (CER) races. First up on Sunday morning was CER 1 for sports prototypes and GT racers of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Among the star cars was the Ferrari 512 M shared by owner Steven Read and former F1 racer Giovanni Lavaggi. The latter showed just why these V12-engined machines are so revered by qualifying it on the front row. He might have gone faster in qualifying had his final attempt not been thwarted by a red flag. Lavaggi's best lap ultimately was four tenths off the pole time set by the quicksilver Richard Meaden in Grant Tromans' Lola T70 Mk3B. In the race Meaden took the lead and then saw Lavaggi drop out of contention after he had to avoid a spinning Porsche 911. Despite missing second gear from very early on in the race, Meaden won the race comfortably, beating Philipp Bruehwiler and Martin O'Connell both in Chevron B19s. The GT1 class was won by Detlef von der Lieck and Ralf Kelleners in a DeTomaso Pantera.
The final race of the weekend and the season as the CER 2 race for 1970s sports prototypes and GT cars. Another Ferrari from Steven Read's stable, the 312 PB, starred in this one, again with Lavaggi sharing the driving duties. Also very impressive were the fire breathing Porsche 934 and 935s that made up the bulk of the GT2 field, which also featured a pair of Lancia Beta Montecarlos. During qualifying, however, fastest of all was Martin O'Connell in the unique Cosworth DFV engined Chevron B23, ahead of the similarly engined TOJ and Lola of Yves Scemama and Dominique Guenat respectively. O'Connell grabbed the early lead but Lavaggi in the 312 PB was making up ground until a wheel bearing failure forced him to park the Ferrari in the pits. The Chevron's lead was challenged, as Scemama in the TOJ actually managed to get ahead. Unfortunately, the TOJ developed a mechanical gremlin allowing O'Connell to get ahead once more. He underlined his dominance by setting the fastest lap by well over a second on lap 28 of 30. The race also featured a particular unusual incident with two Porsche 935 K3s colliding during a safety car period for an unrelated issue. This saw Christian Traber in his 935 move up to first in GT2 and sixth overall.
With a spectacular backdrop and the sounds of the engines reverberating through the trees, the 2016 Imola Classic stimulated all the senses. It was unfortunate that only relatively few spectators visited the event even though much of the action on the track could be watched from public roads. The participants certainly enjoyed the event and were all very positive about the challenging track. The sights captured in this 220-shot gallery
and sounds of the Imola Classic will certainly carry us through the winter break.