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Down the Mistral Straight

Masters Historic Racing returned to the GP Historique this year, after last year opting to go to Hockenheim instead.   It was very much a gamble in a season that includes the Monaco GP Historique just weeks later, but it paid off handsomely as dozens of Masters Racing Legends competitors decided that, contrary to saving their cars for Monaco, Paul Ricard, with its endless run-off areas, would be the ideal testing ground for a competitive shakedown ahead of the Big One.  The result was 40 entrants filling the entry list going into the weekend, which would certainly have interested officials of the Guinness Book of Records, had they been invited.  In the end, 38 and 36 F1 cars respectively took part in Saturday’s and Sunday’s races, a feat never accomplished in historic racing, let alone in the actual FIA F1 World Championship.

Mike Cantillon storming off from pole in his Williams FW07C to win Saturday’s race  Photo Carlo Senten

The single-seater theme of the event was carried through into a pair of high-speed parades for assorted under and above 2-litre machinery as well as an AGS-hosted regularity run for ‘90s F1 cars and the presence of a long list of former F1 stars that included Alain Prost, René Arnoux, Gerhard Berger, Jacky Ickx, Philippe Alliot and Paul Ricard’s own President, Jean Alesi.  What’s more, Victor Jabouille, the son of 1979 French GP winner Jean-Pierre Jabouille, would make his historic Formula One debut driving a Fittipaldi F8 in the pair of Masters races.  The youngster finished a competent eighth overall in Sunday’s race. 

More single seaters took part in the F2 and F3 Interseries races, the result of an agreement between HVM and the HSCC that combined British and continental grids into one single European calendar for competitors from both sides of the Channel.  The F3 entry proved to be extremely decent, with some 23 cars, but the number of F2 cars was disappointing, with just 12 cars qualifying, given the nature and reason of the agreement.  Across both grids, just seven cars crossed the Channel from Britain.

A Day to Remember

Saturday 20 April was marked by an unforgettable moment, during which a religious silence descended in the stands of Le Castellet.  Alain Prost put on his gloves and helmet and slipped into the seat of the very first Formula 1 car of his career, the McLaren M29 he drove in 1980.  The four-time champion started the F1 car and took it for a few laps of the track, giving the delighted French crowds the opportunity to remember the unique career of the most successful French driver in F1.  He was then joined on track by other Formula 1 legends and their famous mounts:  Jacky Ickx in his 1972 Ferrari 312B2, Jean Alesi in his 1994 Ferrari 412T and René Arnoux at the wheel of his 1979 Renault RS10.  The latter even offered an extra nod to history by rubbing shoulders with Gilles Villeneuve’s former Ferrari T4 driven by its owner.

Just like Alain Prost, who was invited by their friend Jean Alesi to take part in the event, Gerhard Berger thrilled the crowd when he took the wheel of the McLaren MP4/6 that helped Ayrton Senna win his third world title in 1991, paying tribute to his former team-mate who passed away 30 years ago.  His memory was also celebrated over the weekend through an exhibition entirely dedicated to the Brazilian driver.

Photo Morgan Mathurin


Last year’s multiple race winner Steve Brooks continued his winning ways in Masters Endurance Legends for recent sports cars by notching up another pair of victories, but it was all but plain sailing for the British Peugeot 90X driver, while the Grand Prix de France Historique ended its Saturday programme with what has become a tradition at HVM race meetings, the 200km contest for GTs and prototypes from the ‘70s through to the ‘90s.  The enduro saw Jean Alesi take the spoils as part of a star-studded line-up that also included Jean-Pierre Richelmi and Philippe Gache.  The trio’s Porsche 934 Turbo prevailed over the solo effort of initial frontrunner Fabio Spirgi in a more recent 964 Turbo and the 993 of Laurent Sabatier after an hour and a half and 36 laps.  Christophe Laberty and Sébastien Mathieu finished in fourth place in their TVR Tuscan Challenge to take the pre-1991 class and Thierry Yvaren took the Sport 2000 class in a Lola. 

Read the full report in our June 2024 issue.  Available in hard copy of digital edition…

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