Motor Racing, H:O Scale Slot Cars, Classic Cars, the building of my slot car circuit

Les courses automobiles francaises et voitures classiques

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

2014 Course de Côte de Mont Dore

Although I have been to a number of hill climbs over the years, I had never been to a Mountain Hill Climb until this month.  I chose Mont Dore to be my initiation.  It is a course of just over 5 kilometres and has 43 corners and thus is quite a challenge for the drivers, particularly in changeable weather conditions.   The first Course de Côtes de Mont Dore was in 1961 and during the sixties it was won by some famous F1 drivers.  Maurice Trintignant won with his F1 BRM in 1964 and then Jean-Pierre Beltoise won five time in succession between 1966 and 1970, the last of these victories in his F1 Matra Simca MS69.   1970 was the first year that Mont Dore was included in the European Hillclimb Championship, something that it continued to be honoured with through to 2013.

David Meillon in his Norma M20 FC climbs up the spectacular course
In 2014 the FIA decided to limit the European Championship to just 12 rounds with only one round per each country and thus Mont Dore was relegated to just French Championship status but it still remains something special.   The Auvergne is a beautiful region and the setting in Mont Dore and Chambon sur Lac is amazing.  Like all mountain regions the weather can be rather wet and windy and the 2014 event was no exception to this.   On the Sunday morning that we were there the weather was OK but the winds and cold track conditions plus the threat of rain during the later runs meant that many drivers were trying too hard and the excursions were numerous leading to a rather stop go event.
One of the drivers gets very crossed up towards the top of the course but saves the car from hitting the barriers

I found it difficult to to justice to this beautiful location with my photos, but here are some to give you a flavour of the event.  It was the usual French mixture of F3 versus the prototypes with some saloons and GT cars thrown in for good measure.  To help make my day there were some historic racing cars as well including a Chrysler Hemicuda which perhaps recalls French pop star Johnny Halliday driving his Ford Mustang here in the seventies
Jean Debaude  hustles his Chrysler Hemicuda up the course
Thierry Berger in his Norma M20 with Lac Chambon in the background
Being a CG fan, I was pleased to see Marc Poix in his CG RB1 Barquette attack the course
Plenty of room to get a good view
but remember to bring your own chair
If you are wondering why so many people are not very close to the track it is because it was a bit of a quagmire and the fence was electrified!  

Michel Gue in his Martini Mk30, a F3 car from about 24 years ago
We spent all of our time at the top part of the course to really appreciate the mountain scenery.
A car crosses the finish line near the Col de la Croix Saint-Hubert
Luc Stockli in one of a number of Alpine Renault A110s.  This was an 1800 SC.

No surprise that the overall winner was Nicolas Schatz in his Norma M20 FC
Serge Thomas had a less successful day and had an off in his Norma - see the damage in this picture
The cows enjoyed a good day's sport at Mont Dore but obviously expected rain
Patricia Nogret in her Jema 630 - never seen one of those before!
and this one is a Grac MT145 driven by Jean-Yves Doree.  Never seen one of these either!
Its a French hillclimb so there must be a BRC 05!   This was driven by Michel Gontier
Another prototype roars into view.  I think it is Martine Hubert in yet another Norma.
A rather purposeful looking single seater
Another F3 car, perhaps a Dallara
Didier Chaumont in his Tatuus FR 2000
Anthony Gueudry in his Dallara F394 really attacking the apex and being brave with the armco

Benoit Bouche in his Reynard 991
Bernard Boilaive in his Renault R8 Gordini competing in the VHC category
Patrick Bourguignon driving his old Ford Escort RS2000 rather fast
Pierre Cursoux in his Proto Marcadir makes his run up the mountain

The VHCs line up to go back down the hill for another run
Jane didn't particularly enjoy her day in the cold and wind but recovered quickly after a Chocolat Chaud to photo bomb my picture

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

La 7ème Traversée de Paris Estivale

La Traversée de Paris is a big thing in the French Classic Car calendar with over 600 cars turning up and driving past Paris's famous landmarks between the Chateau of Vincennes and the observatory at Meudon.  If you weren't in Paris last Sunday, this is a sample of what you missed and represents my 20 favourites.
1926 Bugatti T35B with the National Assembly building in the background
We started off in the Place de la Concorde as you can see a number of iconic Paris sights from here.
A cute little BMW Isetta bubble car enters the Place de la Concorde complete with picnic box on the back
My favourite Ferrari of the day was this sixties 365 GT 2+2 seen here parked in the Place de la Concorde

The Eiffel Tower provides a nice backdrop to this Sunbeam Alpine
Alpine Renault A310 looking for a parking place
Lovely open top Citroen DS19
Lotus Elite with matching 2CV
Open topped Karmann Ghia
Unusual Cadillac with spare wheel each side
Anyone know what this unusual open top blue sports car is?
It was beginning to get crowded so we moved on the the Bois de Boulogne.  The Bois de Boulogne has a lot of motor racing history having hosted the first pre-war motor race meeting in 1945 and it continued to hold races up until 1951.  Winners included Jean-Pierre Wimille, Guiseppe Farina and Raymond Sommer.   After driving down the Avenue Hoche and before entering the Bois de Boulogne on Sunday, the cars all passed the memorial to Jean-Pierre Wimille on the outside of the roundabout at Porte Dauphine.  It lists out all his major victories including three in the Bois de Boulogne driving Bugatti, Alfa Romeo and Simca.  He might have been the first World Champion had he not been killed in 1949 in a race in Argentina.
The memorial to Jean-Pierre Wimille at Porte Dauphine

Very sporty looking Djet in the Bois de Boulogne
Un vrai vieux tacot (a true old jalopy)

A beautiful French sports car, a Facellia
Another one I need help in identifying!

Driving along with the doors open to cool the Lamborghini
Another sixties Djet - I love these early mid-engined cars

Is this a twenties Citroen B2?
A great variety of vehicles and many of the drivers and passengers dressed up
A beautiful Corvette and I love the hats!
Unfortunately not all the cars, and sadly not this beautiful Thunderbird, made it to Meudon under their own steam  

Saturday, 2 August 2014

1966 Le Mans FORD GT40 MkII Slot Car Racing in H:O scale

Many people avoid H:O or 1:64th scale slot car racing because the cars aren't accurate enough for them.   However, there are always exceptions to every rule, and these Mega G AFX slot car representations of the Ford GT Mark II are certainly amongst them.  They look like the real thing and are painted and decalled to represent significant real cars.  For those of us old enough to remember motor racing in the sixties they are a must have!   If you are lucky you can pick them up new for about US$30 each.
Five Ford GT40 MkIIs line up on the grid
The first Ford GT40s appeared at the Le Mans test days in April 1964 and first raced in the Nurburgring 1,000kms at the end of May where theyproved competitive with the Ferraris but retired.  Three cars were then entered for the Le Mans 24 hours where Ford was obsessed with beating Ferrari having failed to buy them.  Remember that Ferrari were almost unbeatable at Le Mans at this time having won in 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1963. Again, although competitive all three cars retired.  Thus work began on improving the original Ford GT40 and also work started in early 1965 on the MkII.  The MII had a 7 litre engine compared to the 4.7 litre engine of the original Ford GT40.   It also had a different nose, distinctive intakes for the engine and was considerably beefed up everywhere.

1965 proved a more successful year than 1964 with Ford winning the Daytona Continental 2,000Kms and finishing second to Chaparral at Sebring.   However all six cars failed to finish Le Mans.   Thus more modifications were made to the MkII for the 1966 season.

1966 at last saw Ford achieve its objective with a dominant win at Le Mans.  However, the icing on the cake was that they scored 1,2,3 victories at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans!   This gave them the Manufacturers championship as well.
Slot Car re-construction of the 1966 Le Mans finish (yes, I know the 3rd car isn't right and I didn't simulate the rain!)

The finish to the 1966 Le Mans was staged by Ford so that they could have a great photo of all their 3 cars finishing at the same time.  Unfortunately this robbed Ken Miles and Denny Hulme of the victory they deserved in the No1 car.  If it hadn't been for this, Ken Miles would have won the triple Crown of Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans in one year.  Sadly, it was not to be and in August 1966 Ken Miles died in a race at Riverside.  Incidentally, although he lived in California from the early fifties and was a mainstay of Carroll Shelby's American team, Ken was born in England.
Le Mans start, anyone?

There were only 13 Ford GT40 MkIIs built in real life and today one of these would cost you a small fortune.  A slot car is a more reasonable option.  Many are available in all scales and there are many available in H:O scale or of course why not paint the one you want.   The five you see here are:

Light Blue No 1 - The second placed car in the 1966 Le Mans 24 hours driven by Ken Miles and Denny Hulme.  This car, entered by Shelby American, was leading until the staged finish.
The Miles/Hulme car from above

Black No 2 - The All Blacks winner of the 1966 Le Mans 24 hours driven by the New Zealanders Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon.  Again this was entered by Shelby American.
All Black winner of the 1966 Le Mans 24 hours

Red No 3 - This was the 3rd Shelby American car at the 1966 Le Mans and was driven by the Americans Dan Gurney and Jerry Grant.  Dan Gurney was both the fastest qualifier and took fastest lap in the race with this car.  However, it eventually retired.
Pretend you are Dan Gurney in the No3 car

Gold No 4 - This was the lead Holman and Moody entered car and was driven by Paul Hawkins and Mark Donohue.  Unfortunately, although fast, it retired after 12 laps.
Mark Donohoe's No 4 car

Dark Blue No 6 - This was another Holman and Moody entered car.  Driven by Lucien Bianchi and Mario Andretti, it retired after 97 laps.
Mario Andretti's car roars down the long straight

The Number 4 and 6 cars have clear bodies and clever cardboard inserts to show more detail.  I use these for racing whilst the other 3 remain on the shelf and for photo shoots.

See who wins on your track.  McLaren or Miles?