Imola Classic

Stormy Sunday

Marco Zanello Reports on the last meeting of the Peter Auto season

Sunday night on my way home from the Imola Classic, last Peter Auto event of the 2018 season, and thinking about what happened on the circuit, reminded me of a quote from St Francis of Assisi that goes, “A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows”. Contrary to what readers will have seen in the papers about the storms that pounded Italy over the last weekend of October and, to be fair, contaminated the Sunday of the event, my thoughts turned rather to the racing and the ambiance of the meeting. Peter Auto’s recipe continues to be a winning one and the circuit of Imola is one that the drivers love to drive on but, due to the Italian audience’s indifference and the lateness in the season, the meeting was a little low key in comparison to some of the other meetings.

Franco Meiners drove the socks off the beautiful fibreglass-bodied Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ, harrassing much more powerful cars

So I’m going to tell you that the Imola Classic was not the best event of the year, the entry lists were poorer than in events like the Dix Mille Tours and the track infrastructure still has a long way to go. But with all this shadow, it would take just one ray of sun to make the Imola Classic a great event. That ray of sun was the spirit with which a lot of the drivers, mostly collectors, got out on track on Sunday in the challenging meteorological conditions and gave their best, some reaching heights impossible for them in the dry. A few went from agony to ecstasy. Without denigrating the achievements of all the winners of the day, those who thoroughly deserve our attention are Martin Stretton, driver of undoubted quality, three time winner of Historic Monaco, Franco Meiners, who demonstrated his great skill over the weekend, and Michael Lyons, now devoted to historic motorsport but a driver for whom, some years ago we tipped for a brilliant racing career.

Steve Tandy leads the Group C cars away in his Spice SE90C

The first offered driving lessons during two wet Formula 2 races, a category that will be dropped from the Peter Auto programme for next season due to lack of entries. Maybe the best lesson was during race 1 when, starting three laps late due to a technical issue, the March 712 driver began a furious recovery that allowed him to unlap himself once and gain a further 40 seconds on the winner of the race, David Tomlin - in only eight laps. The dominance continued in race 2, ending with a victory ahead of an on-form Nick Pink at the wheel of a Lola T360 and Tomlin in the beautiful Rondel Motul M1.

Franco Meiners, facing less dramatic weather conditions, was able to animate two races that otherwise might have had little to offer. Most notably in Sunday morning’s race 2 of The Greatest’s Trophy, at the wheel of a beautiful fibreglass-bodied Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ (one of only three built), when he was able to harass the more powerful Porsche 904/6 driven by Alain and Carlo Vögele for twelve laps, also taking fastest lap. A result put in to perspective by the result of Saturday’s dry race when, although still punching above its weight, the best the little Alfa could do was finish a fairly distant fourth behind winner Afschin Fatemi (Porsche 904), the Vögeles and the Bizzarrini 5300 GT driven by Christian Bouriez, first GT car in the rankings.

In the afternoon Meiners confirmed his prowess in the conditions, this time at the wheel of his Lancia Beta Montecarlo in the CER 2 race, fighting with the more agile prototypes to take third place after starting from ninth on the grid. Yves Scemama was supreme in his usual Toj SC304, claiming a pole to flag victory despite a bad vibration in the car in the last half of the race.

Finally Michael Lyons, who having failed to obtain a good result in Saturday’s dry Group C Race in the beautiful and fragile Gebhardt C91, became a fish in the water on Sunday, taking the lead after the mandatory pit stop and winning with a gap of over 30secs at the flag, an outstanding victory ahead of Saturday’s winner Steve Tandy in his Spice SE90C, and Pierre Alain and Erwin France in a Nissan R90Ck.

Pirro on a charge in the T33 at Acque Minerale

Less perturbed by the bad whether, the CER1 race started under a few rays of Sunday sun and saw the pole-sitting Lola T70 MkIII B of Gerard Lopez/Richard Meaden eliminated almost immediately with mechanical troubles, which opened the way for a duel between the lithe Chevron B19 of Maurizio Bianco and the heavier Lola T70 MkIII’s of Christophe Van Riet and Martin O’Connell/Marc Devis, who finished in that order with only slim margins between the three.

Hardly affected by the wet weather, the Heritage Touring Cup saw the defeat of strong man Christian Traber and his BMW 3.0 CLS after a string of victories this season. The architect of his demise was Steve Dance at the wheel of a Ford Capri 3100 RS, who exploited Traber’s poor start to the full, gaining ten seconds on the Swiss in the first few laps and setting himself up for victory.

Christian Traber’s BMW winning streak came to an end at Imola

The only category totally untouched by rain was the Sixties’ Endurance, raced as usual on Saturday evening. Winner Christophe Van Riet (AC Cobra) had to fight hard with the unlucky Bizzarrini 5300 GT of Georg Nolte and Michael Funke, the pair having led the race for over 30 of the 54 laps.

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