Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or Is A Motorsports Gathering For All
Story and photography by Gaëtan Brunetti
The Peter Auto calendar is made up of seven classic car events, all based in Europe. Located near Dijon, in the french countryside, the Circuit de Dijon-Prenois is a great place to host one of those; built in 1972, this track has kept its heritage in focus with events like this one, and in doing so has remained an anchor in the France’s classic car culture. It’s therefore no surprise that events held here like the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or attract the top of the automotive heap.
For the 53th edition of this celebration of racing’s “golden age,” no less than 10 historic racing grids were registered to run the course: Classic Endurance Racing 1 & 2, which were the biggest ones with an average of 40 entrants consisting of endurance racing legends; the Trofeo Nastro Rosso dedicated to Italian cars of the 50s and 60s; Sixties Endurance; Heritage Touring Cup; Group C Racing (probably the most impressive category in my opinion); Euro F2 Classic; and of course what is for many the highlight of this weekend, the Historic Grand Prix Cars Association (HGPCA), comprised of pre-’61 front-engined and pre-’66 rear-engined Grand Prix cars. This year, a brand new category participated as well: the FIA Lurani Trophy, a Formula Junior grid, in honor of what Giovanni Lurani created in the late-‘50s, and mainly made up of small-capacity front-engined cars (Stanguellinis, Elvas, etc.) and rear-engined Lotuses and Lolas.
Though everyone is welcome, the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or is firstly an important meeting for classic car enthusiasts. Throughout this three-day-long event, collectors and vintage fans of many varied brand loyalties come together inside the track enclosure. Walking through the venue, one may see a few modern sports and supercars, but it’s mainly the classics that draw the crowds, and rightfully so! Beyond the array of machines from all over the world, what makes this gathering even more special is the diversity of nationalities represented in the crowds. During this weekend, the Dijon-Prenois racetrack turns into a great forum of gearheads gathered together by the same passion, the same appreciation. During the long weekend we all share this convivial moment in time in a retro atmosphere that is hard to beat. Many car clubs were present too, and the growth from last year to this one is proof of the Grand Prix’s popularity, and of the interest in these types of cars in general. It is comforting to know that even as these cars continue to age, their attraction only grows—the support and interest in classic automotive racing and design has not lost through the generations.
Getting back to the specific event though this edition was very sunny and warm, providing some ideal conditions for racing and viewing alike. What is really good about this type of meeting (and the weather draw the crowds to come in the first place!) is that it allows us to meet new friends that share our passions. People come to this kind of place to spend time admiring the machines of course, but also to discover new ways of looking at things, learn more from those around us, or just remember the past alongside those who were old enough to be there or young enough to wish they were. Some even come with their whole families to introduce the younger pilots to the cars of yesteryear. Never to early, right?
And while the paddock was a melting pot of people and vehicles, the on-track action was just as interesting. For instance, in the Trofeo Nastro Rosso group’s first race, the battle between a 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB/C and a 1965 Ferrari 250 LM was absolutely crazy, especially considering how rare and irreplaceable these cars are today (though at these prices, there is no such thing as “totaling” something like a 250). Both drivers were playing with the limits of their machines, leaving no opening to his respective opponent; pedal to the (very valuable) metal! Seeing these two Italian superstars duking it out was really thrilling; the entire race was led by these two expert drivers, who rode a notch above the other drivers in their heat, playing cat and mouse with their magnificent Ferraris. In the end, the 275 GTB/C won this glorious duel.
Jumping ahead a few decades, the recent inclusion of Global Endurance Racing at Peter Auto events is something not to be missed either. Bringing together the famous Porsche GT1 from the late ‘90s, to the more recent Porsche 996 Cup or Ferrari 360 GTC from the early 21st century, the field is full of icons, though sadly, these competition cars are only present for demonstration purposes; no true race is organized within this category, just parades of 30 minutes during the weekend of each event. It is really nice to be able to see this era of racing on the track, even though it distorts the classic theme a bit to the modern side of things. It’s an odd thing though; what happens to racing cars before they are considered true classics? There is a dormant period where they must just sit, parked away in the back of race shops around the world. I for one, am glad to see these cars from the ‘90s and ‘00s being shown to the world once again—certainly, cars such as the Saleen S7-R are a treat for the crowd, both visually and audibly, but these are not really old enough in my opinion to be part of this kind of meeting.
For the other categories, the test and qualifying sessions were conducted without issue, and many were taking it a bit easy on the track, as it is still important for the drivers to preserve their cars before the Sunday race. In the late afternoon, the Classic Endurance Racing lineup was launched with no fewer than 65 cars at the starting line! Eager to be at the heart of the action, I went to the starting grid to feel all the excitement that this kind of mix provides, made up largely of mythical cars such as the Jaguar E-Type and the AC Cobra. It’s fabulous to be able to live in the modern age and still experience these cars, to be able to hear and even feel a dozen Cobras start their engines is undoubtedly one of the best memories I will keep of this incredible weekend, for many years to come.