2015 Historic Grand Prix Zandvoort

In a quest to experience fresh tracks (and because he needed a holiday), Tim Brown finds himself in the seaside resort of Zandvoort, Netherlands, for some classic motorsport action.

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Zandvoort was opened in 1948, and from the late fifties to 1985, the Grote Prijs van Nederland was a staple of the Formula 1 calendar (only missing out in 1972). The layout was changed around a decade later to re-route the track away from a residential area, but far from being neutered, the circuit – since then renamed to Circuit Park Zandvoort – has a great flow to it and a varied mix of corners. By modern standards it’s relatively narrow, and really quite undulating as it climbs over or dips down between the sand dunes, the camber constantly changing, reminiscent of my home track Brands Hatch. While the ‘rollercoaster’ character of the black stuff might be broadly familiar, the backdrop of sand and seagulls is a complete, er, sea change.

Although it’s been three decades since the F1 party came to town, in recent years Zandvoort has played host to several major series, currently including the DTM and the Blancpain Sprint series. This weekend would let the crowds relive those old F1 days though, and see classic Grand Prix cars reunited with the track (alongside old timer GT, touring and monoposto classes) at the ‘Historic Grand Prix Zandvoort’. Some choice examples of which included…

Ligier JS11/15 1980

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The #69 Ligier JS11/15 of 1980 was the first car to catch my eye. The clean design of the nose, without spoiler, somehow made the car look more purposeful and the swooping slab of a barge board either side was another unusual feature. The latter gives a clue as to the design of the former, as the JS11 is from the ground effect era. Hence why a front wing was unnecessary: the car had so much downforce at high speed that it kept breaking suspension and wheel components. It still brought home plenty of silverware to the Ligier team though, culminating in second place in the 1980 Constructors’ Championship. The Bleu de France Gitanes livery just oozes Gallic charm!

Porsche 904 GTS

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The standout car in the ‘Gentlemen Drivers’ race, the Porsche 904. I hadn’t seen a 904 (or anything, really!) in such a striking shade, the pale green metallic paint looking almost gold in the strong sunshine. Language barriers prevented me from finding out much more about the car, other than the colour ( ‘Light Borneo Green’) was used by Sir Stirling Moss’ SMART team in the mid-sixties (Moss founded SMART – Stirling Moss Automobile Racing Team – in 1963 after retiring as a driver, and entered a variety of cars in several categories during the sixties). SMART successfully campaigned a 904 GTS in 1964, but this must be an homage to that car as according to the entry list it’s a 1966 example.

Studebaker Commander

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Another unmissable entry was this 1953 Studebaker Commander, partly thanks to its vibrant Corona sponsored livery, but also because it’s a 1953 Studebaker Commander. A large American Coupe probably isn’t the ideal starting point to take on younger, nimbler 2002s and Escorts, but this particular example had racing pedigree having competed in Mexico’s La Carrera Panamericana road race.

Brabham BT-52

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This 1983 F1 car was brought to Zandvoort by BMW Group Classic as part of a demonstration of significant racing cars manufactured or (as in this case) powered by the Bavarian marque. Although it wasn’t running during the track demos, it drew a huge amount of interest from the crowd. Arriving just a few years after the Ligier JS11/15 ground effect car, the BT-52 looks remarkably different, thanks to the banning of ground-effect aerodynamics. F1 design guru Gordon Murray realised that without ground-effect, the floorpan just created drag so he cut away as much of it as possible, resulting in the distinctive ‘dart’ shaped footprint (which was further enhanced but the pointed nose-cone). Most of the time, such radical departures from the norm unfortunately flop, but the BT-52 was one of the most competitive on the grid, winning the 1983 Driver’s World Championship in the hands of Nelson Piquet.

De-Tomaso Pantera (plus GMC Motorhome)

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I didn’t get to see this Pantera racing, but the sight of it parked up with this ‘70s GMC Motorhome, complete with retro stripes and ‘Racing Team Holland’ roundel, was definitely worth capturing. Top marks to entrant Pieter Boel for fully immersing himself into the event!

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Categories: Race


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