On the first October weekend the Paul Ricard circuit resounded to the music of historic cars. It was a real treat for the crowd of almost 12 000 spectators who flocked to the track in sunny weather to reopen a chapter or two in the history of the motor car.
The Dix Mille Tours has been on the Peter Auto calendar of events since 2010. It is an eagerly-awaited rendezvous by the entrants because of the quality of the infrastructures of the Paul Ricard circuit, and especially because of the technical challenge posed by its layout. The wide run-off areas that border the track give the drivers, whether experienced or not, the opportunity to go pedal to the metal at the wheel of cars that are of great historic value. “The circuit is safe; the natural surroundings are beautiful and the setting is unique,” as Carlos Tavares, the CEO of the PSA Group, entered in a Lola T70 summed up on Saturday. “I raced on the Paul Ricard track thirty years ago in Supertouring. After a long break I’m delighted to come back here on a regular basis. The two days excitement of the Dix Mille Tours is a striking contrast to the frenzy of the two days for professionals at the Paris Motor Show!”
Alongside the passionately enthusiastic gentlemen drivers was a handful of professionals whose skills added excitement to the eight races making up the weekend’s programme. Guys like Martin O’Connell, a heroic double winner in CER 1 and CER 2 today, Sunday; Jürgen Barth (victorious in the 1977 Le Mans 24 Hours, Eric Hélary (first in the 1993 Le Mans 24 Hours) and Nicolas Minassian who is still racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). “I really get great pleasure driving two cars as different as the 1965 Lotus Elan and the 1989 Group C Aston Martin,” said the delighted Frenchman from Marseille just before going out for his stint on Saturday evening in the Sixties’ Endurance race. “It’s back to basics in terms of driving as you have to use the heel and toe technique, double declutch, etc. These are pleasures we no longer enjoy in modern racers.”
In addition to the racing cars, more than 500 collectors’ cars from all eras and of all kinds – sports cars and luxury vehicles – made the event a real open-air museum. In fact the weather, which turned out fine on Sunday, had a few surprises in store for the drivers on Saturday morning when some rain fell. This added spice to practice and the early races with some spins and a few tank slappers! Inside the circuit spectators were free to stroll around the paddocks, an increasingly rare privilege today.
While the Dix Mille Tours was the final rendezvous of the season for Group C Racing, the other four Peter Auto grids will take part in Imola Classic in three weeks time.