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    Jeroen de Laat
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    2017 Racing Nirvana. Classic racing doesn’t get much better than at the #Oldtimer-Grand-Prix at the ‘Ring. The Oldtimer Grand Prix should be visited at least once in your lifetime as seeing so many period racing cars in action in one place is a wonderful experience Words and photography: Jeroen de Laat / #2017-Oldtimer-Grand-Prix / #2017 / #BMW

    We travelled to the ’Ring to attend the Oldtimer Grand Prix, the annual classic racing party by Germany’s largest automobile owners’ association: the Automobilclub von Deutschland (AvD). Trying not to miss a single minute of the action we made sure to arrive at the track early Friday morning but, as it turned out, it was a quiet morning mainly filled with drinking coffee as dense fog made it irresponsible to allow our racing heritage onto the track. It gave us the time to do a thorough paddock walk and catch up with some of the teams, although everyone was glad when the green lights eventually came on by the end of the morning. Eager to make up for lost time and get some hot laps down for a good grid position for the weekend’s races it was quite busy in the pit lane for the rest of the day.

    The oldest race cars in action are pre-World War II and in the Vintage Sport Cars Trophy we saw a wide variety of history pass by – from small MGs to huge Bentleys and a score of BMW’s 328. These lightweight cars from the late 1930s sounded wonderful with their in-line sixes and they’re reliable and fast. German driver Ulrich Sauer, the only person to participate in all 44 editions of the OGP, proved just as rapid as ever, clinching the overall title for the weekend in his ivory white 328. In the 1960s Touring Car and GT Trophy we saw several 2002s in action and even a remarkably original-looking 1800Ti. Two Escorts RSs were pretty much unbeatable this weekend but after battling a Lotus Elan for several laps Christopher Stahl finished fourth overall in his black-on-yellow GS Tuning 2002.

    The DRM class, with its impressive line-up of Porsche 935s, Ford Capris, and multiple BMWs, is where went to watch the ‘fireworks’. It was nice to see the ex-Dieter Quester and Albrecht Krebs #BMW-E9 CSL in action again, and several M1s (in a variety of contemporary ProCar series liveries) were spitting their characteristic exhaust flames. We bumped into the former ex-Formula One driver Jochen Mass, although he wasn’t behind the wheel of the Warsteiner #BMW-M1 with his name on it, as he was working for Mercedes Benz for the weekend. The #BMW-E26 M1s were fastest in their class, taking the top three spots, but for the overall ranking they had to give way to a flame thrower from Stuttgart: the Beck-Thibault Porsche 935.

    In the C class this 935 was competing in we also saw some BMW success as well. Right behind Beck- Thibault and the Hübner 934/5, the third spot was taken by Frenchman Charles Veillard in an #BMW-E21-Group-5 320i. The small four-cylinder M12 Formula 2 engine still does well and the low weight and excellent weight distribution clearly make up for any lack of power. We also made a brief excursion to the car parks to enjoy many BMW club cars that had established their spots in the sunshine. From Barockangel, via a sheer endless stream of ‘02s up to the i8, just about every BMW model you care to mention was well represented.

    The president of AvD, Ludwig Fürst zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg, informed us he was delighted to see the success of adding the cars and classes from the 1980s to the event. This year we could see Formula 3 in action, including Ayrton Senna’s first F3 car, as well as a wonderful demo of the Group B rally cannons. This class is nicknamed ‘the slowly sideways class’ and many drivers did their best to put that into action and provide proper entertainment, even though it is not an actual race. And how often do you get the chance to see a Ford RS 200, a Metro 6R4, or an Audi Quattro S1 in action?

    But, of course, we were primarily here for the BMW action and this is where the new German Tourenwagen Revival class entered the stage. This class not only allows in the DRM cars from the late 1970s but also more recent cars from the DTM and STW years. To be eligible for most historic racing classes in Germany cars have to be somewhere between 30 to 40 years old and that’s a shame. Why should we have to wait for such a long time to see the success cars of yesteryear in action again? Thus we were extremely pleased to see the legends of the 1980s and early 1990s in action in the new class, and we even saw several cars from the DRM class move over, which made for an impressive starting field. It included a bunch of M1s as well as hordes of E30 M3s in liveries we remembered from the times when Johnny Cecotto and Steve Soper used to be behind the wheel. We were delighted to count 12 cars from Munich in the field of 29. We witnessed several wonderful battles and in the end Friedhelm Tang clinched the top spot of the podium in his E30 M3. Jürg Dürig has been a long-time owner and driver of a #BMW-635CSi-Group-A car and ended third in this extremely original car, which was an impressive achievement considering the strength of the field (which included many other legends such as the Mercedes-Benz 190 DTM, TWR Jaguar XJS, Sierra Cosworth, Porsche 944 and Volvo 850 TR estate).

    The event was great fun for over 50,000 classic car enthusiasts. It saw 500 race cars from seven decades in action in 20 different races. For anyone with a passing interest in classic racing this event really is automotive nirvana. See you there for the 45th running of the event in 2017!
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    Classics at La Sarthe The biennial gathering for the #2016-Le-Mans-Classic always attracts some stunning BMWs. If you’re keen on classic racing you really should take a trip down memory lane at the biennial Le Mans Classic Words: Jeroen de Laat. Photography: De Laat Foto / #Le-Mans-Classic

    Once a year the streets of #Le-Mans and surrounding villages combine together to create one of the longest and most demanding race circuits in the world. Although the shape and length of the track has been modified several times over the past century, the Circuit de la Sarthe has been hosting a 24-hour motor race here since 1923. The track’s basis is formed by the pit straight and some other parts of the short permanent Bugatti circuit, including the legendary Esses chicane and the iconic Dunlop Bridge. But the larger part consists of roads that are open to the public for the rest of the year, making a total length of 13.6km in its current shape. The fact that 85 percent of the lap is spent at full throttle makes it a fast track that is extremely demanding for man and machine. This is part of the appeal for teams, drivers and spectators alike, and one of the reasons why this amazing circuit is almost celebrating its 100th anniversary.

    With the ever-increasing number of spectators, as well as the extensive safety measures required to turn roads into a race track, the event requires a lot of preparation. And that is what caused French classic event organiser Patrick Peter to have a brainwave approximately a decade ago. Why not benefit from all these efforts and have a classic race on this temporary track as well? The operator of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO), liked the idea and Le Mans Classic was born.

    The event has a 24-hour format, although realistically we cannot expect the legendary and often priceless racers of yesteryear to compete for 24 hours, so the past century of motoring is divided into six eras making six classes, so cars can compete with their contemporary rivals. Each grid performs several one-hour stints over a period of 24 hours, so in total there is 24 hours of continuous and varied action.

    The 2016 Le Mans Classic was the eighth running of this classic event. Taking place every other year it is blessed with a booming public interest that resembles the original 24-hour race. And just like that event, there were a series of support events to get the public warmed up. These included: close to 40 Group C cars racing, including 20 of Porsche’s legendary 962; the Jaguar Classic Series, which saw 19 times 24-Heures participant Andy Wallace win at the wheel of the D-Type which won the race in 1955 (driven by Mike Hawthorn and Ivor Bueb); and Little Big Mans, where the kids do their own race in miniature versions of the actual Le Mans cars, complete with a running Le Mans start and driven by real petrol engines. There’s also a great car auction, while the exceptionally sunny and warm weather completed this year’s package.

    It was no wonder then that a record 123,000 spectators flocked to the circuit to see 550 cars, 1000 drivers (among them ten former Le Mans winners) and 8500 club cars on display. The event saw a celebration of BMW’s centenary in the form of popular club sessions, which allowed club members the rare opportunity of doing a few laps on the official circuit, and BMW demos, which featured BMW M cars ranging from the earliest cars up to the most recent models. We were very happy to get a few passenger laps to experience the track in its full glory!

    In BMW’s exhibition we found several special cars including: the legendary #BMW-328-Touring-Le-Mans ; a 507 Roadster; the 1977 Roy Lichtenstein E21 320i Art Car (that participated in the 1977 Le Mans race); and the V12 LMR that took the overall victory in 1999.

    Need more? How about the prestigious Concours Le Mans Heritage Club for cars that actually raced at Le Mans awarding the McLaren F1 GTR with a best in class award for the 1983-2016 period? And all this was on offer even before the racing began in earnest!

    On the Saturday afternoon Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, main sponsor Richard Mille (main partner of Le Mans Classic with EFG), and Pharrell Williams opened the event under the supervision of FIA president Jean Todt. The event started off with the oldest cars in ‘Plateau One’. A Swiss gentleman we have seen racing BMWs many times before, Christian Traber (who is well-known behind the steering wheel of a 2002 and an #BMW-M1-E26 / #BMW-E26 ), was now racing against BMW.

    Together with the American former SCCA driver, Spencer Trenery, they steered their 1939 Talbot Lago to first position overall, with another Talbot right behind them, relegating the BMW 328s to third and fourth places; the French équipe Bally/Leseur took third with the German 328 team Otten and Horbach not far behind. In total nine 328s took part. It was amazing to see so many of these cars on track at one time, and it gave us a real feeling for what club racing must have been like in the late 1930s.

    Apart from the BMW engines in several prototype cars from the 1960s and 1970s, especially the #M10 and #M12 four-cylinder, we saw a #BMW-2002 in action. The Group 2 2002Ti of Renavand and Bonny completed the event without issue and even though there was no fighting the mighty Lola T70s and the M12-powered Chevrons, they duo stood their ground in their own class.

    More BMW action was to be had when the ‘Plateau Six’ cars entered the arena. Two wonderful #BMW-E9 3.0 CSL Coupés caught our eye. Adrian Brady had a disappointing event when he ran into issues with his CSL during qualifying. Even though the mechanics thought it was only a head gasket failure they didn’t want to take any risks with the rare #BMW-M49 engine and parked the car up for the rest of the event. The second #BMW-3.0-CSL-E9 driven by Werginz/Janits/Andree/Huber failed after just two laps into race two. We spoke to Andree afterwards and learned that a broken con rod bolt unfortunately ruined their event. It was a pity after seeing so many CSLs being successful run at other events.

    In grid number six we saw some flame-spitting Lola prototypes, although when it came to BMWs spitting flames, the M1 immediately comes to mind. Christian Traber was fastest of his class with his M1 but two other M1s also completed the event without any issues.

    Every edition of Le Mans Classic is bigger and better than the previous one, and this eighth running of the event was no exception. It was a wonderful experience. The only down side is that we now need to wait two years for the next one. We recommend that you make a note in your diary to keep some days free in July 2018!

    Lovely #BMW-507 and V12 LMR were exhibited in the BMW pavilion; this year’s event was opened by Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, Richard Mille, Pharrell Williams and Jean Todt.

    Mixed grids add to the glamour of the Le Mans Classic.

    Right: BMW-engined Lola caught in wonderful flame-spitting action.

    Above: Superb #BMW-2002-Ti-Group-2 car of Renavand and Bonny went very well in ‘Plateau 5’ but couldn’t hope to keep up with the Lolas, Porsches and Ferraris in its class. Below and Left: #BMW owners had the rare chance to drive the full Le Mans circuit in their road-going cars during the event.

    Even though they never won the event the #BMW-M1 is always linked with Le Mans – they competed here for eight consecutive years from 1979 to 1986 – and Christian Traber’s example (above, seen leading a Ferrari 512 BB LM) was as quick as ever being the fastest M1 in its class. Below: The Latham and Baud M1 looking great with driving lights fitted.

    Above: Little Big Mans sees children competing in scaled down replicas complete with the traditional Le Mans running start! Left: Stunning (full-size) #BMW-328 pulling away from the start.

    The Roy Lichtenstein #BMW-E21 / #BMW-320i-Art-Car that took part in the 1977 Le Mans race looked as fantastic as ever – what a machine!

    Sadly both the CSLs entered this year suffered engine troubles but we know they’ll be back to fight another day.
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    An Alpine Adventure Five E21 3 Series take to the Alps for an epic tour. We follow a group of #BMW enthusiasts as they celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 3 Series by going on an epic Alpine tour in five examples of the original Three, the E21. Words: Jeroen de Laat. Photography: De Laat Foto. #BMW-E21-Alpina / #BMW-E21 / #Alpina / #BMW-Alpina /

    Besides journals such as this magazine there are many online communities and forums that have helped enthusiasts find cars, perform maintenance and organise meetings. And this is exactly what happened with the community for BMW’s first 3 Series, the E21, and over the years this has led to meetings all across the globe. In some cases it was the start of close friendships, like with this bunch of E21 aficionados from Holland and Belgium, and they have been sharing their passion for classic BMWs for many years now. And they wanted to celebrate the 3 Series’s 40th anniversary milestone in style.

    BMW introduced this successor to the ‘02 series in Munich in July #1975 / #2015 , so in an ideal world they would have made a pilgrimage to Munich combined with a couple of days driving in the Austrian Alps and northern Italian Dolomites. Unfortunately with #BMW-Classic in Munich somewhere in between construction and removal it wasn’t too keen on having an official celebration so as an alternative they decided to do the wonderful scenic Route des Grandes Alpes in the French Alps which follows a trail of legendary passes from north to south, roughly from Lake Geneva to Nice.

    As soon as the plan was launched several enthusiasts committed to this trip and started planning. Most mountain passes are free from winter snow around mid-May and usually the road authorities aim on having all passes open to the public by the beginning of June. That sounded like a good start date and the group then found out that the weekend after there was a classic racing event taking place at the former F1 track, Dijon-Prenois. On top of that the French E21 community was planning a little ’quarante ans’ celebration there as well. This was meant to be…

    In the end five E21s signed up for the tour: Gerrit and Peter in a silver #Hartge-323i-RS ; Arnold with his father Durk in a grey Alpina B6 2.8; and Sven and Gerwin in a black modified Alpina equipped with a 3.0-litre engine from a later B11 7 Series. The group was completed with two 323i Baur Convertibles, one of which had undergone a 2.7-litre #M20 stroker conversion. Quite some variety, then, and all cars had been used in sporty events like mountain trips or track days before. They’re all still purely street cars, though, without extreme modifications such as rollcages, but the cars were all upgraded from 13- to 15- inch wheels and all have uprated brakes and suspension. The E21 3 Series was renowned for its handling, even on 13-inch wheels and standard suspension, but that was back in the 1970s; today its handling is considered outright dangerous (although we prefer the term ‘entertaining’).

    Preparations started in earnest weeks before the tour. Routes were figured out and contingency plans drawn up covering any possible issues that could crop up. Some of the passes on the route are so high that they can easily be struck by significant snowfall even this late in the season, so alternatives are useful to have.

    In addition, lists of useful tools and spare parts were made and the bits allocated to each of the five cars – coolant, spanners, a fuel pump, water hoses, ignition parts and, of course, the top three essentials for any emergency kit: duct tape, WD40 and cable ties! After arranging some long-range walkie-talkies for all cars (these are both useful and great fun), window stickers, hotel reservations and providing the routes in sat nav format, it was time to set off.

    Day One

    This could best be described as the ‘getting there’ day and was used to travel to France from Holland and Belgium as some of the group were 1000km from the Alps starting point. After stopping in Luxemburg to fuel up with its low-priced fuel it was on to a simple roadside hotel not far from Geneva. The weather was great already: sunny and warm, not a chance of rain and fortunately the weather remained the same during the entire trip!

    Day Two

    It was a brief drive to get to the south side of Lake Geneva – the official starting point of the D902 (aka the Route des Grandes Alpes) where the road becomes different immediately. There’s less commercial traffic, great views and lovely roads. Now the Alps trip had officially started and the first official pass was soon encountered: the Col de la Colombière. The group saw the occasional waterfall, traversed the Aravis and Roselend passes, and enjoyed stunning views and demanding roads. Tired but satisfied, the team crashed at the Bourg Saint Maurice hotel for a well deserved cold one. Inside the hotel it looked like the clock had stopped ticking in the 1970s and good food and spectacular mountain views completed a special moment.

    Stunning scenery, perfect weather and five wonderful classics… what more could you want?

    Left: The views up in the mountains were stunning Below: Our group of happy ‘E21-ers’

    Day Three

    After hearing from a local that the planned Col d’Iseran was not yet driveable, the team settled for the Col de la Madeleine for the start of the day. What felt like a second class pass turned out to be one of the best of this trip with spectacular views including Mont Blanc. On top of the high Galibier pass a group photo had to be taken. The rough vegetation of the Izoard pass took the E21 train to a lovely hotel perched on the hills surrounding Risoul.

    Day Four

    After the usual check of fluid levels and tyre pressures the team set off for a detour off the official tourist route to drive the Col de la Lombarde in Italy and then the Bonnette back in France.

    Day Five

    Friday started early as it looked like it would be an exceptionally warm day and a lot of distance needed to be covered to get to Dijon. All went well and in Dijon there was a welcome committee comprising Olivier from the French ‘Atelier E21’, a representative from Peter Auto (the organisers of the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or), and the deputy mayor of Dijon!

    Their arrival coincided with the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or and it was also where the French E21 community was celebrating 40 years of the 3 Series. The hospitable French BMW enthusiasts had arranged plenty of food and drink and an evening BBQ so the tired Alpinists got to enjoy the classic races and club meets all in an amazing setting.

    So how did the cars cope? Considering that the cars’s small boots were filled with luggage, tools and parts and the cars themselves faced high temperatures and demanding mountain roads, they all did a great job. There were some occasions where brake or coolant temperatures were on the high side, but they kept going and going. Well, until an enforced stop for some roadworks where the Hartge stalled and wouldn’t start again that is!

    After some checks and attempts to get the #Hartge going didn’t work it was time for a brainstorm session. The group agreed that a vapour lock inside the fuel pump was the most likely culprit, especially on the Hartge where one of its larger-than-standard exhausts was fitted close to the fuel pump, which is located underneath the car. And indeed, after spraying some water onto the pump it came back to life!

    The same issue occurred on two other cars later that week and each time a bottle of water fixed it immediately. Gerrit wasn’t happy with this situation with his Hartge, though, so he got some metal from a local car parts store, fabricated a heat shield for the pump and this sorted the issue. But really, if that’s all that hampers you during a week of pushing cars hard under demanding conditions, then there’s nothing really to complain about. So don’t worry, don’t take your classic BMW out and go for some pure driving fun. It won’t let you down.

    Right: Gerrit fabricates a heat shield for the Hartge’s fuel pump. ‏ — at Upper Austrian Prealps, 4591 Molln, Austria
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    Jeroen de Laat
    Jeroen de Laat joined the group BMW E21 3-series Club
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