Reliving Multiple Golden Ages Of Sports Car Competition In The Land Of Mustard
Photography by Jayson Fong
Although best known to most for its expertise in the production of mustard more than anything else, the city of Dijon in the Burgundy region of France is also home to the Dijon-Prenois, certainly one of Europe’s most free flowing and organic racing circuits.
Despite being relatively “young” with a history that goes back to 1972, motorsport and the Dijon area have been linked to each other since 1927 when the Burgundy 6 Hours was held over a quickly laid out 18-kilometer road course just outside of the city. Almost 100 years later and now with a permanent venue, motorsport is still loved in the region and at last weekend’s Grand Prix de L’age D’or (the Golden Age), there was no better way to celebrate this passion than with a gathering of some of the best historic race cars in the world.
Now an annual event arranged by European historic racing organizers Peter Auto, the famous circuit that has held the French Grand Prix on four occasions and the Swiss Grand Prix once in 1974, was the battleground for over 300 vintage race cars of a wide variety last weekend.
Featuring shapes made up of the classic and romanticized lines of Jaguar E-types to the brutish flares of Porsche 935s, BMW 3.0CSLs, and the aerodynamic bodies of more modern cars like the 333SP Ferrari and Dodge Viper, Dijon-Prenois gave spectators a chance to see some of the most popular cars of the last few decades of motorsport on a fast-paced and technical course that pushed their abilities—no parade laps here.
With its dramatic elevation changes and long sweeping off-camber corners, the circuit demanded concentration from drivers throughout the weekend and offered those of us on the other side of the barriers some intense moments of viewing whenever the slicks’ grip lapsed.
Drawing as much attention in the paddock as they did on the track, the cars of the Classic Endurance Racing grids were without much doubt the headliners of the event, and they saw action across the classes. In CER 1, the stunning Tergal-liveried Ferrari 512M that was famously given a parking fine in London in 2016 went head to head with the open cockpit Chevron B19 FVC. Meanwhile, further down the field a pack of Porsche 911 RSRs hunted straggling prototypes together. Gaining on their prey, their wide stance was a formidable sight even from trackside, let alone what they must have looked like in the rearview mirror.
However the weekend wasn’t all just about the big power cars, flame-spitting silhouettes, and BMW M1s—just as entertaining as that lot were the cars from the new one-make 2.0L Porsche cup which I recently featured at the Spa Classic. Equipped with skinny tires and lots of rear-biased weight to swing around, over 30 short-wheelbase 911s cascaded through the iconic “S” des Sabelieres kink before making their way downhill at Gauche de la Bretelle (“left of the ramp”). Battling among themselves and the track’s undulating topology, Porsches sent sideways and sardined together made for some very exciting viewing.
It’s been a while since I last visited a circuit (this was only my second time here), but this weekend at Dijon-Prenois for the Grand Prix de L’age D’or reminded me of that incredible feeling of exploration once again. That feeling of fresh awe as you make your way around an unfamiliar circuit stocked with beautiful natural and mechanical scenery. With a stellar lineup of historic cars and intensive battles happening between them all over the track and not just in a few corners, my reintroduction to the characterful French circuit was quite memorable. Now I can’t wait to come back to Dijon, which is without a doubt home to fantastic mustard and an equally fantastic race track.