Support race - Classic Endurance Racing
The series of great sports car raging from 1966 to 1979, known as CER, shared their race meeting with the Le Mans Series this year for the first time after sadly missing the Spa 1000 km two months ago. As usually the race attracted about 40 cars. So of them well known to the CER fans but there were several welcome new appearances. Apart from several long-tile Lolas, either in the two-litre or three-litre version, it was mainly Group 5 Lancia Beta Montecarlo and a Rondeau M379C, a car originally designed in 1979, winning Le Mans in 1980 overall and showing his itself in its 1981 incarnation, which not only finished 2nd ad 3rd in the Le Mans 24 Hour race that year but also was also making occasional appearances in the Group C World Endurance Championship until 1988 when it finished the Le Mans race, though not classified.
Rondeau driven here by Patrick Henry, one of three quick three-litres led early in the race before losing its pace, when it was slightly drizzling. At the end of the race Henry was flagged sixth, the last one finisher in the lead lap. Another quick three-litre prototype was Dominique Guenat in his Lola T286 DFV from 1977. Similarly as the Rondeau, he overtook the very quick Sauber C5, driven by Philippe Scemama, who was the only two-litre car to qualify among the three 3-litres but both Lola and Rondeau were quicker on the main straight. However Scemama made a mistake very early in the race and recovered after entire field passed him by and thus lost any chance of winning. After a great run he finished fourth overall, the only non-Lola car among the top 5.
We have not mentioned yet the last of the three-litres. It was well known Michel Quiniou in his older but very well driven Lola T280 DFV. He was by more than seconds quicker than the nearest competition in qualifying but for some reason unknown to us he did not make it to the grid and missed the race. His usually opponent, Luco in his very nice looking Porsche 936, was not entered at all this time.
Apart of those mentioned there were no less than four very quick long-tile Lola T298's with 2-litre engines. One of the big 5-litre Group 4 Sports Cars from the 1966-1969 period, a Lola T70 Mk III Coupe driven by Bernard Thuner, was also able to keep the pace with all those quick mentioned cars. The rest of this class was formed by another T70s and a couple of Ford GT40s but none of these but the Thuner's Lola was ever able to keep a pace with the more modern prototypes from the 1970s, at least at the CER races we witnesses personally. Unfortunately, Thuner was one of the very early visitors of the pit lane. Despite reappearing later on the track again, he did not make it to the finish.
Another decently quick car also suffered troubles early in the race. It was a Porsche 935, which driven by Föveny and Roitma even manage to qualify ahead one of the very fast Lola T298's was easily fastest among the GT category cars. By CER standards also the 1976-79 Group 5 cars are classified as GT, rather than prototypes. Another two Group 5 cars qualified ahead of the best true GT car, and it was the Lancia Beta Montecarlo, which had a nice race showing until turned to the pits and retiring, and one of the two remaining Porsche 935's. The Lancia was driven by Fabio and Alain Valle, while the Porsche by Paul Singer.
But in the race, the GT category was traditionally dominated by two of many starting BMW M1's. One of true GT Porsche Carreras, the one entered by Brunn Racing had surprisingly out-qualified the BMW M1 armada in practice but was also among those that retired very early, in fact after only two laps. The only trouble-less running Porsche 935, the slowest one of the 3 in the race, completed the GT podium. Another Group 5 car running as a GT was a two-litre BMW 320, originally a factory car from 1977, was nowhere near the top of the class at all. Speaking about the GT category within the CER standards it is strange that Ford GT40 was classified as a GT car while the Lola T70 Mk.3 GT from the same period and category (Group 4/1966-1969) is considered as a true prototype. Maybe, the speed of cars running in CER, or an overall design of the two cars, led to this decision. But the fact is that both car were equal concurrents at their hey-day and the Ford was actually much successful after winning the Le Mans race twice and the World Manufacturers' title in 1968, while Lola won only Daytona 24H in 1969 and apart from that only low-level or national races.
Generally speaking, the CER race was great as usually and we hope to see it at Le Mans Series, or even World Endurance Championship meeting in the future again. This time it was a bit too much dominated by Lolas, which held some top 5 positions at some stages of the race, but generally the field is very varied and the cars very well looking.