The Historic Grand Prix of Zandvoort celebrates its first lustrum this year. As relative newcomer the organization proves time after time they know how to put together an attractive program and, even more important, a spectacular starting grid. Reason enough for CineCars to ship reporters Robbert Moree and Martin Philippo of to Hollands fasted seaside town for their view on a weekend of historic racing in the dunes.
When I drive into Zandvoort at the break of dawn this Saturday morning the sun is already out. At the entrance large posters of racing legends of yesteryear. Brabham, Fangio, Hill and many others that once won a Grand Prix at Zandvoort. We’re in for some history, no doubt about that.
This early in the day the informal paddocks always have that special attraction. Couples and mates, driving their campervans to visit all the races. Many come from The Netherlands and the surrounding countries, some travelled a bit further. Like Brabham came from Australia to race in Europe, three Australian gentlemen shipped their vehicles over to Europe, bought themselves an RV and make their tour of the circuits. Having lots of fun of course. Like the American fellow a bit further down the lane, who has his Lotus ready for racing here in Europe all the time.
Porsche and BMW are putting out heavily. Porsche bringing a beautifully decorated area, where stunning Porsches are the star in technical ‘tableau vivants’. Former racing hero Gijs van Lennep poses as Porsche ambassador and dishes out autographs to his many fans. BMW celebrates its hundredth anniversary this year and takes and advance on its big celebration in Munich by showing of a wide spread of racing cars. Even Dutch chief of design at BMW, Adrian van Hooydonk, takes part in the races.
The Formula 1 cars are loud, fast and an enormous attraction to the fans. Next it’s the touring cars, giving each other an equally hard time. An MGB rolls over and gets heavily deformed. The driver seems to leave the track unharmed. This is racing to the limit, here at the Historic Grand Prix, no doubt about it. In the paddock I meet Martin and Jaap, racing a Ford Falcon in the Dutch Historic Touring Car Championship. Prejudiced I suggest the man behind the wheel is the racing driver, whilst the other one must be the technical genius. I couldn’t be more wrong. These gentlemen share their hobby to the max, one of them preferring to drive on dry circuits, whilst the other one loves his tarmac wet and slippery. Good for them the weather forecast for tomorrow says rain.
‘Shouldn’t you take any ear protection’, my wife asks, when we are ready to leave for Zandvoort. Of course we don’t, we don’t want to miss out on anything of that magnificent sound. Just when we enter the circuit park, the FIA Masters Historic Sports Cars are doing their laps. The roaring of these engines just keeps the heart of the true car enthousiast going. An elderly gentlemen shouts ‘they don’t make ’em like this anymore’ and I couldn’t agree more. The sensation of historic racing is so different compared to more modern classes. A quick round through the pit lane drowns you in the smell of Castrol, you’ll hear the rattle of air being sucked into carburetors and you’ll feel the earth trembling when a Cobra warms up its engine. Let is be windy, never mind the rain, we are enjoying ourselves!
In the end the rain isn’t that bad. A single shower wets the tarmac, but that doesn’t bother the cars. Maybe the demo of museum Porsches shows some reluctant driving. Not all that unexpected, when you think of the value of these cars.
The group of participants that stole my heart isn’t about big bucks at all. Amidst all the imposing racers a number of small vehicles, at their best looking like a crossover between a kart and a cigar. They are the 500cc Formula 3 cars, coming mainly from the UK and some from Sweden.These 500cc class was put together shortly after the Second World War to keep racing affordable. A 500cc engine from a Norton motorbike, a simple tube structure and some aluminium sheeting, that’s about all they are. The drivers racing these have no fear of death when they round the track. The word safety doesn’t apply to these things, their crumple zone starting at the drivers feet. They aren’t really that fast, compared to more modern Formula 3 cars, but they are sensational. You can see the drivers working, hanging aside their machines to keep momentum in the corners. This is veritable racing, where you can feel every little bump in the road. The audience can hear every single stroke of the one cilinder engines, sound muffling is completely wasted on these little engines.
Thus there is something to enjoy for everyone at Circuit Park Zandvoort. From little cigars to astronomically priced Porsches and BMW’s. The show is still going strong when we silently head for home. Once in the car we notice an annoying beep in our ears. Maybe, just maybe we should have brought some ear protection…
Text and pictures: Robbert Moree and Martin Philippo
Translation: Marc GF Zaan