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2017 Hungaroring Classic
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Pastures new and green
For the penultimate event of the 2017 season the French Peter Auto organisation turned to pastures new for the inaugural Hungaroring Classic. This was the very first international historic motorsport event held in the territory that was once behind the iron curtain and on the very track that hosted the regions first Formula 1 race, back in 1986. Despite the first signs of fall, the pastures also proved very green as the undulating track, located just east of the lovely city of Budapest, is surrounded by trees. The event certainly did not get by unnoticed as there were signs all over the city announcing the meeting and the races were broadcast live on the Hungarian M4 Sport channel and on screen in the city. This level of exposure is unheard of for even Peter Auto's blue ribband event, the Le Mans Classic.
Certainly not keen to miss out on what from the outset promised to be a historic meeting, we ventured east and have returned with this very scenic 230-shot gallery.

Racing into the sunset
Spread over three days, the racing program consisted solely of Peter Auto's own grids, so towards the end of the afternoon on Saturday, the two-hour Sixties' Endurance race was scheduled. With very few straights and many challenging corners, the drivers, particularly those racing solo, certainly had their work cut with 120 minutes of racing. Over thirty cars took to the track in what was the weekend's largest grid. Starting on pole was the AC Shelby Cobra, fitted more recently with an exact copy of the streamlined Daytona Coupe body, shared by owner Claude Nahum and former Le Mans racer Bernard Thuner. At the start, Ben Gill, in another Cobra grabbed the lead but Thuner quickly got into the groove and retook the first position. Unfortunately, the car developed an intermittent gearbox issue that caused it to stick into third gear. The only solution was to come to a full stop and shut the engine off, before the gearbox could be returned to neutral. Gill's Cobra had also slowed in the second half of the race, which allowed Andrew Beverley take the lead after a well judged and paced run in his Cobra. Gill did manage to hold onto second ahead of two other Cobras. The first non-Cobra was the Lotus Elan shared by Grant Tromans and Richard Meaden, which finished fifth and first in class.

Tin-top titans
Among the most spectacular grids of the Peter Auto events is the Heritage Touring Cup for tin-top touring cars of the 1970s and 1980s. Based on machinery that were familiar road cars, be it mostly in Western Europe, the cars resonate with the public. Not originally intended as racing cars, these touring cars also offered a big spectacle on the track, regularly lifting wheels through the tight corners and jumping over the big curb-stones. Best suited to the tight track and fastest of all in qualifying were a pair of Escorts. Taking the lead early on was the example shared by Sean and Daniel Brown. After 20 minutes their charge suddenly ended when the Escort's front left wheel broke just after the pit entry. This prompted a safety car and after the mandatory pit stop an exciting battle between Steve Dance in a Capri and Dominik Roschmann in a BMW 3.0 CSL ensued. Eventually the battle was settled in favour of the latter, while Christophe van Riet in another Capri placed third overall. Seventh and first in the Group A class was Andrew Beverley in his Volvo 240 Turbo, more commonly referred to simply as 'The Flying Brick'.

Sports cars galore
The longest running grid at these events is the Classic Endurance Racing (CER 1), which was split into two one-hour races many years ago. The earliest cars took to the track in the CER 1 race on Sunday morning. Lining up on pole, but running in the invitation class, was Martin O'Connell in Sandy Watson's freshly restored Chevron B19. That the track best suited the nimble machines was illustrated by a further three B19s starring in the next six places. O'Connell was not challenged in the race and in the opening stages second was for Emanuele Pirro, who excelled in Gianluca Rattazzi's howling Alfa Romeo Tipo 33. Eventually Philipp Bruehwiler in his B19 crossed the line in second and was the de facto winner of the race. The winning car in the GT1 category was the DeTomaso Pantera piloted by owner Detlef von der Lieck and Ralf Kelleners.
In the CER 2 race, Martin O'Connell again started from pole, this time with a Chevron B26 that was very much eligible for the silverware. At the start, he was beaten to the first corner by the more powerful three-litre cars that started behind but despite the limited overtaking opportunities, he quickly returned the two-litre car to the front of the field. He eventually beat his closest rival by 12 seconds to claim his second victory of the day and this time he could mount the top step of the podium. The GT2 honours went to Christian Traber in his fire-belching BMW M1 Procar.

Final thoughts
At the end of the three days on the Hungaroring, there was nothing but praise for the inaugural Hungaroring Classic, which had attracted over 20,000 spectators. They were treated to 150 racing cars, which a large portion of the crowd probably had never seen in the flesh, let alone at full pelt on a racing rack. Additionally, the paddock boasted around 700 collector cars brought by the various clubs, which included numerous models from the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche but also less familiar cars for us like Volgas and Ladas. What was somewhat disappointing was the turn-out in fields like Group C; apparently some of the regular entrants felt the trip to Budapest to be too far. It was, however, very much their loss as the entrants that did make the effort were all full of praise of the event and also of the very kind and inquisitive crowd that really made the most of this unique opportunity. So did we, as can be seen in this 230-shot gallery of our first ever but hopefully not last visit to the Hungaroring.

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Report by Wouter Melissen and images by Wouter Melissen and Pieter Melissen for Ultimatecarpage.com