Hungaroring Classic 2019
Jon Bunston Reports from the fourth round of the 2019 Peter Auto Championships
Photos John Bunston
Just 20km from Budapest and in the sleepy countryside around Mogyoród, lies the 70,000 capacity Hungaroring, home to the first Formula One Grand Prix to take place behind the Iron Curtain. Construction work on the circuit started on 1 October 1985 and was completed for the first race held on 24 March 1986, less time than any other Formula One track.
Fast forward 33 years and the biennial Hungaroring Classic event was the precursor for the Hungarian F1 GP, as the Budapest circuit pulsated to the rhythm of historic cars on the weekend of 12-14 July when the Peter Auto Series arrived in town.
After its first staging in 2017, this year’s event proved again to be very popular, with 45,000 spectators, 179 participants, 170 cars entered and 780 vehicles from local club members, who flocked to the track to admire the cars racing in the seven regular Peter Auto grids. It was pleasing to note that despite the greater travel commitment required from the entrants, the entry numbers, whilst down on other Peter Auto events, were up on 2017, a point not lost on the promoter, circuit, or spectators.
With a mostly Hungarian flavour, the car clubs included Trabants, Wartburgs and DKWs made in East Germany and of course the traditional Ladas from Russia, providing a unique display not seen at other circuits. With music, vintage clothing and Bunny Girls, the paddock had a real carnival atmosphere.
The 4.38km Hungaroring circuit is a tortuously twisty roller-coaster with 14 corners following in quick succession, making the layout slow, narrow and bumpy. So, for many unfamiliar with the circuit, their driving skills would be tested across the nine races …and that was without the weather. The forecasts were for heavy downpours, with sunshine and for once they were right, making qualifying a mixed bag. However, when the sun shone, it was glorious.
Group C Racing
The cost of travel and clashes with other events were cited as reasons for the low turnout of Group C cars. However, this did not dampen the enthusiasm of the Hungarian spectators, who rarely have the opportunity to see these cars and the viewpoints were packed during both qualifying and racing.
With the two XJR8’s of Shaun Lynn and Richard Meins, the Nissan R90CK of Pierre-Alain France and the oh so quick Spice SE89C of Mike Wrigley, it was an exciting race.
Raymond Narac qualifying in extreme conditions in Michel Lecourt’s Porsche 962
Pierre-Alain France in the Nissan got the jump on poleman Michel Lecourt’s Porsche 962 and kept the lead until he was overtaken by the Spice SE89C of Mike Wrigley on lap five. Despite setting fasted lap Allard Kalff retired the Spice SE92 he shared with Michiel Campagne and mechanical difficulties also saw France’s Nissan drop down to seventh. Raymond Narac, having taken over the Lecourt Porsche at the pitstop, continued to hunt down Wrigley to finish a remarkable 0.686secs behind at the end.
The Lecourt Porsche was not on the grid for the second race and it was Allard Kalff in the Denon liveried Spice that set the pace, with France’s repaired Nissan and Wrigley in tow. With the gap down to 0.4secs France took the lead on Lap nine but after the pit stop and driver changes it was Campagne back in lead. By lap 21 Erwin France, who had taken over from Pierre-Alain was back in front and it looked like the top positions were finally settled. However, Wrigley was on a charge, overtaking Campagne on the penultimate lap before getting right up behind the Nissan in the final corners, the race ending with a 0.292sec gap at finish…… Who said Group C isn’t exciting racing?
For the one-hour Classic Endurance 1 race, the 33-strong grid contained a great selection of cars including 12 Porsches, eight Chevrons and 11 Lolas. Missing were some of the GT40s, probably not the best choice for this circuit. The immaculately turned out Porsche 917 of Claudio Roddaro and the Porsche 908 of Peter Vögele were favourites with the paddock crowds, the former finding the track to its liking and coming through the field from tenth place to take the Victory.
A smaller than usual grid assembled for the dry CER 2 qualifying session, with Swiss driver Maxime Guenat taking pole in his Lola 286 by 2.86secs over countrymen Yves Scemama in a Lola T600 and Philippe Scemama in the TOJ SC304. Beat Eggimann in the very quick Cheetah G601 was up next, followed by Christophe Van Riet (TOJ SC204) and the BMW M1s of Peter Muelder and Guenther Schindler. The fantastically turned out Lancia Beta Montecarlo Turbo of Franco Meiners was back in 10th.
Except for a missed gear at the start Guenat built a solid lead over the one-hour race and finished 40secs ahead of nearest rival Yves Scemama. As Philippe Scemama became more familiar with his car, the T600 started to show how quick it could be, pulling out a 10sec lead over the very fast Eggimann, who was never a threat and retained fourth spot.
2.0 litre Cup
A pleasing 25 entries in the Porsche 2L Cup 90-minute race reflected desire for drivers to experience the Hungaroring at its best. Despite the very wet conditions during free practice on Friday, Saturday’s qualifying was dry and sunny, and this was reflected in the top three positions being taken by the ‘elite’ category drivers.
Simon Evans on pole had a healthy 3sec lead over Andrew Smith by lap six, building to 8.6 secs by the time the pit stop window opened. Co-driver James Littlejohn could only hold the lead until lap 21 of 38, when he was passed by Oliver Bryant, in for Smith, and Harvey Stanley in Richard Cook’s car. Then Stanley pulled past Bryant too, but after several laps at the front was re-passed, and at the very end, he lost third to Mark Sumpter, who had fallen back to fourth and was on a comeback charge to finish 7.5secs behind Bryant.
With more penalties than an England match, 7 cars were affected as a result of pit stop infringements and track limits.
Heritage Touring Cup
This series produces some wonderfully prepared cars and once again it was going to be a battle between the BMW 3.0 CSLs of Michael Erlich and Christian Traber and the Capris of Yves Vögele, Guillaume and Yvan Mahé, and Guenther Schindler. The twisty, undulating track would be a bit of a leveller and after qualifying everyone in the top 10 fancied their chances.
The fierce battle for second place in the Heritage Touring Cup race ended in favour of Christian Traber in the BMW when both Capris struck trouble
The Mahé Capri 3100RS led out of the first corner, followed by the Capris of Yves Scemama and Schindler, with Erlich’s BMW on its bumpers. It took only another two laps before the Swiss driver hit the front and dominated the rest of the race.
An extremely wet qualifying evened out the lap times in the qualifying session for the Sixties’ Endurance two-hour race, but the front was always going to be dominated by the Shelby Cobras, with the top five grid positions taken up with them.
It was great to see good variety in the Sixities’ Endurance 90-minute race
It was great to see good variety on the Index of Performance podium, topped by Rory and Roderick Jack, driving an Alfa Romeo Sprint GTA, with Sébastien Berchon in second in his Austin Healey 100/4 and Régis Masson/Simon Nobili in third in a Sunbeam Alpine.
Results were affected by 7 cars receiving 10 penalties mainly around track limits.
For a fuller report and results see our September 2019 issue.