Grand Prix de Pau 27th May 2007

Things started so well for the 500 Owners Association trip to South-western France for the Grand Prix Historique de Pau. A fantastic turnout and brilliant sunshine for the journey down with most arriving on the Thursday to settle in the paddock early. Friday was also relaxed, the minor formality of signing, on followed by some education of the scrutineers, again in sunshine. Most tried to walk, cycle or drive the course to get a feel of how a street circuit might be, those unfamiliar with tight turns, white lines and solid looking Armco could only wonder what it would actually be like. By the afternoon, the skies had turned grey and it began to rain. Little did we know that we had seen the last real sun until well after most had returned home!

Saturday morning saw several casualties in the form of the tangle masses of metal and fabric formally know as our awnings. Fortunately, several late night volunteers moved most of the cars to the relative security of the more sturdy marques, kindly installed for the touring cars due to race a week later. We did our best to entertain ourselves throughout the day, the 500 practice not being until late, but the constant stoppages and largely inappropriate dress made spectating a rather fruitless experience.

Come the hour, cometh more rain than ever. After an inordinate wait in the pit lane, with engines and drivers steadily oiling up, we were finally released onto the circuit. Most took things very steadily indeed, the conditions being truly awful. Remarkably, there were no serious shunts but everyone reported a series of spins or straight on moments, the marshals at the Virage du Lycee becoming quite used to pushing cars back to have another go!

Stars, or should we say bravest, were Roy Hunt in his Martin, Simon Frost in a borrowed Cooper and Mark Woodhouse in his Martin, Mark having the advantage of having already done a couple of sessions in his Formula Junior to get accustomed to the extreme conditions. Conversations afterwards largely consisted of lurid descriptions of each driver's moments, where they had lost the back end and, more often, where they had simply gone straight on.

A typical paddock scene....

We repaired to our respective accommodation to dry out and, there being no formal entertainment, a team went on to a local restaurant organised by the Chairman to finally get some liquid on the inside.

Race day actually started quite brightly, with the occasional hint of sunshine but the forecast was more rain and the clouds certainly darkened as the morning went on. Most cars were in good shape, Gordon Russell changed his engine overnight and Neil Hodges also resorted to an engine change during the morning. For the rest, it was a case of cleaning off the much from the previous day and polishing, rather pointlessly as things turned out. An hour or so before the start, the drizzle started and by the time to form up, it was lashing down.

Mike goes for a detour at the exit of Pont Oscar. Roy Hunt leads the group.

 

And Nigel Ashman at Pont Oscar.

They weren't alone, we just happened to catch their moments!

Once again, the forming up took an inordinate amount of time and caused a couple or retirements from oiled plugs. For the rest, it was out onto the circuit behind the pace car, we should have know we were in trouble when Roy spun while exiting the first corner! Fortunately for Roy, the pace was slow enough for him to turn around and regain his position. To everyone's surprise, we managed the start without trouble and even the first turn where visibility and grip were both negligible. Simon Frost grabbed the lead and steadily built up the gap as others had their moments. Behind was Roy Hunt, Mike Fowler, Nigel Ashman, Mark Woodhouse and Neil Hodges in a close group and Martin Sheppard a short way behind. First significant victim was Mike Fowler who spun out of third place exiting Virage de Gare. After a long wait for the field to pass, he headed for the pits. Neil took Mark at Lycee for fifth but the man on the move was John Turner. John's Cooper had started from the sixth row after magneto problems in qualifying but was already up to ninth and rapidly catching the group ahead. Next to spin was Nigel Ashman who lost the back end exiting turn 2. After a three point turn, with his hands he rejoined and eventually finished eight. Mark Woodhouse was now back in his stride and took his place back from Neil at Lycee and would later take Roy for second. John Turner continued his progress until a straight on moment at Pont Oscar and a brief brush with the barriers lost him time and he was back to fourth.

Brian Joliffe through Pont Oscar.

David Woodhouse chases Richard Utley.

At about this time someone, who fortunately remains nameless, deposited a significant amount of oil all around the track and things became a little surreal. What little grip there had been simply disappeared and cars began spinning at little more than walking pace. The most significant victim was Mark Palmer who lost his ex Murray Rainey Cooper on the finish straight and made a mess of the front against the barriers. For the rest it was now a case of survival. Virage du Lycee, the tight right hander at the top of the hill,  became the strangest of experiences, the unfavourable camber on the entry had caused problems all weekend, now with oil down, cars simply refused to turn in. The solution adopted by most was to wait for the car to come almost to a standstill and use the throttle to spin the back end round!

After 8 laps, the organisers took pity on us and the red flags signalled to end of our torment. A rather bedraggled collection of drivers and pushes rushed to the podium for a spirited rendition of "God Save the Queen". Our congratulations to Simon on his well deserved victory and to Mark and Roy for fine performances.

Classified Finishers

Pos Name Car Time Laps Best Fastest Lap: Simon Frost 2:15.471

Norton Trophy Winners:

1st Mark Woodhouse, 2nd Roy Hunt, 3rd Martin Sheppard

JAP Trophy Winners:

1st Simon Frost, 2nd John Turner, 3rd Neil Hodges

DNF: Mark Palmer, Yvon Gisclar, Mike Fowler

DNS: Gordon Russell, James Holland, Hakan Sandberg, Patrick Morin

 

 

Our thanks to the organisers, especially Shirley Monro, Nigel Challis and Duncan Rabagliati.

 

Championship Positions

1 Simon Frost Cooper Mk IX 19:47 8 2:15.47
2 Mark Woodhouse Martin 20:01 8 2:18.77
3 Roy Hunt Martin 20:22 8 2:20.07
4 John Turner Cooper Mk IX 20:37 8 2:15.79
5 Neil Hodges Cooper Mk VIII 20:37 8 2:22.44
6 Martin Sheppard Cooper Mk VI 20:45 8 2:24.22
7 Brian Joliffe Cooper Mk IX 20:59 8 2:23.82
8 Nigel Ashman Cooper Mk VI 21:25 8 2:22.17
9 David Woodhouse Cooper Mk IX 21:38 8 2:29.34
10 John Jones Cousy 21:39 8 2:30.16
11 Richard Utley JBS 21:49 8 2:28.79
12 Nigel Challis Cooper Mk VIII 22:17 8 2:33.51
13 Duncan Rabagliati Comet 22:19 8 2:32.80
14 Roy Wright Dastle 22:22 8 2:33.57
15 Shirley Monro Cooper Mk IV 22:22 8 2:33.69
16 Humphrey Collis JLR 20:15 7 2:38.96
17 Graham Murdoch FMS 20:22 7 2:38.52
18 Bill Needham Cooper Mk IV 20:33 7 2:42.82

One that sums it up really, poor Yvon Gisclar's demise at the exit of Pont Oscar.

In the evening, after some drying out, we came together again for a most enjoyable dinner kindly organised by Shirley Monro. On reflection the weather meant that the weekend may not have turned out as most of us anticipated but it can be considered as a great success for the club. A fantastic grid including twenty two cars from England is a substantial achievement and demonstrates how strong the 500 movement now is. To get eighteen cars to the finish in such treacherous conditions is nothing short of unbelievable. A tremendous well done to everyone.

Nigel Challis and Roy Wright at Pont Oscar.

The Martin of Mark Woodhouse.

God Save Us from this rain!

And finally warm and dry.

 

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