Dix Mille Tours du Castellet 2019
Dix Mille Tours du Castellet 2019
The annual Dix Mille Tours du Castellet (10,000 laps) is one of the most famous race meetings on the calendar of French organizer, Peter Auto. This series of events is routinely scheduled as the season finale due to the impressive quality of the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France. The French motorsport track was built in 1969 and is known as one of the safest race tracks in the world. Its dauntingly long Mistral straight and challenging corners are combined with massive run-off areas, which are color-coded for different levels of grip, with the red striped sections more abrasive than the blue. The variations in grip limit the risks for both the drivers themselves and their expensive machinery. The Dix Mille Tours was held from October 19-20 and indeed underlined its reputation with several grids at capacity.
Most famous of all was the Sixties’ Endurance field for the 1950s and early 1960s GT and sports cars. Even though the grid was capped at a startling 83 vehicles, it was so oversubscribed that one entrant did not make the reserve list despite signing up six months in advance.
In addition to a large number of cars on the grids, further challenges were added to the two-hour race, including a slippery surface and a start time coinciding with sunset. These challenges provided some genuinely spectacular racing with glowing discs and fire-spitting exhausts lighting up the Paul Ricard evening. The competitive race was won by the ex-Carreras Columbia AC Shelby Cobra shared by DK Engineering’s James Cottingham and Harvey Stanley.
The Sixties’ Endurance field featured the oldest cars of the event while the two Global Endurance Racing grids featured virtually brand new cars. Some of these cars were thought to be too complicated to ever run in historical events when they were new. Chief among these was the Peugeot 908 from 2011, which was fielded by the French Equipe Europe team for its owner. A Peugeot sports engineer was needed to help successfully run the car and its sophisticated turbo-diesel V8 engine. Another magnificent sight in this race was a pair of Panoz Esperante GTR-1s raced by a father and son combination. Developed in the late 1990s, these are among the last front-engined sports prototypes to be raced successfully. Victory in the two races went to the Saleen S7R of Florent Moulin and the Ferrari 333 SP with Raymond Narac at the wheel, respectively.
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With the current value of historic racing cars, it is no surprise that building continuation or tribute cars has become a booming business. Some of these are officially sanctioned by major manufacturers, while there are also owners who run facsimiles of the hugely expensive cars they own. For obvious reasons, the first category of cars is easier to track, and two of these machines competed in the Greatest’s Trophy. Driven by Aston Martin’s chief designer, Marek Reichmann, was the prototype of the DB4 GT Zagato currently under construction (with only 19 in production), which has been sold to customers together with a brand new DBS Zagato. Another Zagato continuation model in action was a Porsche 356 A, fitted with a Zagato speedster bodywork. We understand one of these was built in the period but was later destroyed. Having discovered the drawings of this car, Zagato recently set out to create a run of these tribute cars both in speedster and coupe forms.
Perhaps one of the most exciting cars in action this weekend was the Porsche 917 entered in the Classic Endurance Racing 1 (CER1) event by Porsche specialist Willy Kauhsen for Dutchmen Nicky Pastorelli and David Hart. Kauhsen himself was a period 917 racer, and he reportedly acquired the wreck of the car that had been fatally crashed on the opening lap of the 1969 Le Mans by English privateer racer, John Woolfe. The extent of the damage was such that a straightforward restoration was out of the question. That was, until a few years ago when some of Woolfe’s surviving relatives enquired about the car and asked Kauhsen if he could rebuild it in honor of John Woolfe. In consultation with Porsche, Kauhsen decided to start this project using a brand new chassis frame. The new frame featured the rare 1969 long-tail bodywork. The car was finally ready in 2018 when it was entered in the Le Mans Classic. It was a matter of history repeating as the car crashed once more. Chassis ‘917-005’ was repaired once again and was fielded for the two Dutch drivers in the livery used by Porsche for the 1969 Spa 1000km race. Sadly, a broken exhaust ended the charge early.
One of the other highlights of the weekend was seeing John Burton back behind the wheel of the very Chevron B23 he had raced triumphantly for the factory team back in 1973. He was thrilled to be out in this particular car again, but he did say that he found the Paul Ricard track challenging to get acquainted with due to all the run-off areas with their blue and red lines looking practically identical. Unfortunately, he could not take part in the race as the car got damaged in the opening stint with the owner behind the wheel.
The CER2 race itself certainly did not disappoint. Eventually, we saw a pair of Equipe Europe’s racing members run TOJs and take a one-two victory with Yves Scemama narrowly beating youngster Maxime Guenat. The third position was for the Gulf Mirage GR7 of the ROFGO Collection, shared here by Roald Goethe and Stuart Hall.
With a record-breaking 350+ cars entered for the weekend, spread over seven different race groups, the 10th annual Dix Mille Tours certainly lived up to its reputation. Fortunately, the changing weather conditions did not deter the drivers from going, which provided for some truly spectacular scenes. In a drastic change to the schedule, the 2020 Dix Mille Tours will be held on the first weekend of April and as such, will function as the season opener. It will be interesting to see if the next event will have the same appeal as in previous years.
Wouter Melissen created Ultimatecarpage.com while still in high school. Turning his passion into his day job, he has since continued to edit the online magazine, covering major events around the world. Additionally, he has provided articles for a wide variety of publications like Racecar Engineering and Automobile Magazine while also photographing races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans for teams and drivers.