A very popular event with teams and competitors, the Historic Grand Prix at Zandvoort gained yet more strength in its 2023 edition on 16-18 June as it was blessed by three days of hot summer weather, a capacity crowd of well over 25,000, and heaps of frantic racing supplied by Masters, the HGPCA, HSCC F2, two generations of Formula 3 and a pair of local GT and touring car championships. Mattijs Diepraam reports…
A majority of the spectators was drawn to Zandvoort by the promise of not two but three Masters Racing Legends races for Formula One cars from the 1966-’85, 3-litre era. The attraction wasn’t lost on Europe’s historic Formula One community either, as Masters received a massive 29 entries for the event – certainly a post-COVID record.
Of course, every bit of great news has its downsides and, fired on by the concept of being part of a glorious 29-car race, several Masters Racing Legends competitors proved a bit too eager, leading to a string of safety-car periods and red flags that cut the actual racing short to some ten minutes in each of what should have been 20-minute races – and took some decision-making by the stewards, who twice reset the race clock during some of the forced breaks. The packed grandstands loved every minute of it, though, and while it lasted the racing was absolutely spectacular. On Friday, the first seven were within three seconds of each other with a couple of laps to go, in a race won by Michael Lyons in the Lotus 92 who headed teammate and pre-‘78 class winner Nick Padmore in the Lotus 77 and Mike Cantillon in the Williams FW07C. Matt Wrigley’s Penske PC3 stormed through to fourth after a troublesome qualifying session to take second in the ‘78 class.
Having claimed fifth on Friday, the next two days were all about Ken Tyrrell taking his first two wins in historic Formula One, the legendary team boss’ namesake having come a long way in his two years in the sport. On Saturday’s reversed grid for Friday’s first nine, the 54-year-old American charged through to win from Wrigley, and those two were the repeat stars on Sunday, as the Penske driver snatched his second class win in two days. A shock overall win in a pre-‘78 car looked to be on the cards when Wrigley boldly overtook Tyrrell for the lead, but a missed gear change allowed Tyrrell to repass and take his second win on the trot. On the final lap, Wrigley was almost pipped by Padmore as they warred over class honours, but the former held on by 0.115s.
Adding to the 75-year anniversary celebrations of the Zandvoort circuit, the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association lined up 31 cars for their pair of pre-‘66 Grand Prix car races. As ever, Will Nuthall’s Cooper T53 was a strong favourite for the double, especially since his closest rival Michel Kuiper had blown his engine at Dijon the previous weekend and was forced to contend with a replacement unit that had to be bedded in gently. Taking it easy in qualifying, he still took second behind Nuthall, albeit three seconds off the youngster’s pace, but in the race the Dutchman couldn’t believe his luck when the Cooper gave up around mid-distance. As a result, Kuiper scored his debut victory in the series while fending off Mark Shaw’s Lotus 21 and Andy Willis in the Lotus 24 after a late safety car. Unsurprisingly, the winner was overjoyed to finally do it in front of his home crowd. On Sunday, however, Nuthall reasserted his dominance by storming up from last on the grid to catch and pass Kuiper.
John Spiers twice proved to be the runaway victor among the front-engined runners, his Maserati 250F on both occasions keeping a gaggle of rear-engined machines between himself and nearest rival Ian Nuthall in the Cooper-Bristol Mk2.
If the 3-litre Formula One boys needed an additional Sunday morning driver briefing to cool their heads, that was certainly necessary for the HSCC F2 competitors, as Saturday’s race turned into a bonanza of yellows, safety cars and stoppages in which Andrew Smith’s March 782 continued to rule from the front unperturbed.
Returning to Zandvoort after a six-year absence, the 1000cc F3 field delighted the crowd with a combined field of British and French-based racers forming a full grid of screamers. Similarly, back after a pause of several years, the earlier 500cc cars honoured the local Zandvoort museum’s exhibition ‘Half-Litre Heroes’ that christened the Zandvoort track 75 years ago. The exhibition’s star was the recently restored Dutch-built Larkens which was wheeled out for Edmond Doodeman to race on both days.
Races for Sports, GT and touring cars completed the full programme. Read all about it in our August 2023 issue. Now available in digital format….
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