The First Hungaroring Classic Brought Iconic Race Cars To Central Europe
Photography by Máté Boér
For the first time in its history, the Hungaroring hosted a weekend of classic endurance racing. It’s no stranger to racing though, and the circuit has been home to Formula One for the past 31 years (and is signed on for the next eight seasons). Back in 1986 the tight and technical circuit was the first F1 event behind the Iron Curain, and now, adding to the rich history made at the track is the Hungaroring Classic, an event in the 2017 calendar of Peter Auto’s Classic Endurance Racing Series (which includes the Le Mans Classic, the Spa Classic, and the Tour Auto Optic 2000). This event marks the first time the series has been in central Europe.
The Hungaroring has had vintage action in the past in the form of the Austrian Histo Cup, but my fellow Petrolisti had been waiting a long time for such a top-quality series to come here, and looking back on the event just completed, I think the track lived up to the honor bestowed on it. The cars in attendance were staggeringly good, and I remember making audible sounds when I saw the entry list posted before the weekend. Seeing the likes of the Alfa Romeo T33 and the Ferrari “Breadvan,” I was more than excited to witness such cars as these in motion. In the case of the Breadvan, that’s a car that sees pretty extensive racing in relative terms, and I think if you have a car like that there is almost a social obligation to show it to everyone in its natural habitat, clipping apexes on race tracks!
With weeks to go before the event, it was unbelievable to think that I’d be welcoming such cars as the Maserati Tipo 61 Birdcage, the Shelby Cobra, and the Ford GT40, not to mention other vintage racing icons like the Lola T70 and Mercedes-Benz C11. The chance to see these great machines in competition with their rivals from the period once more was a noteworthy experience, and though it may not be the same as when it happened the first time, we do have the advantage over the past of seeing all kinds of racing in a single day; sort of like a Greatest Hits of historic motorsport.
For these three days of competition, the Hungaroring welcomed 150 participants and their race cars, which ranged predominantly from the 1950s through the 1980s. Though any chance to see vintage competition is one worth taking, endurance racing is especially intriguing, as the owners of these cars are not afraid to subject them to hard combat, where body checks aren’t uncommon. The weekend delivered on the promise of dramatic battle, and the early 911s gave a good show of tail happiness, while right on their tail the Mk 1 Escorts presented the proper thee-wheeled cornering technique. And after just a handful of laps from the Sixties Endurance grid, anyone could have identified the Shelby Daytona’s V8 long before catching sight of the car it belonged to. In the Trofeo Nastro Rosso division of the race weekend, a collection of pre-’66 sports and GTs made in Italy presented a race consisting of rolling sculptures making some loud noises of their own. The 1953 Berton-designed Aston Martin DB2/4 along with a Porsche 718-60 RSK Spyder took up the gauntlet against the Italians, but couldn’t compete with the pace set by the Birdcage and Breadvan, the latter of which showed off some thrilling maneuvers in the fighter spots of the course.
Peter Auto’s Classic Endurance Racing series is particularly special because of the direct access it offers, and there was no exception in Hungary, with the paddock and pit lane both opened up for the spectators. This is the closest many of us will ever get to such legendary machinery, and with crowds numbering 20,000 coming to the Hungaroring over the weekend, it’s proof that there are plenty of people eager for the chance to witness these cars up close and on the track. The people themselves also added to the automotive side of the weekend, bringing with them over 700 classic cars to the parking lot, where ex-USSR Moskviches shared space with Iso Grifos.
While the participants in the season make their next stop at Le Castellet for the last race of the year, we in Hungary will smile at the recent memories made here, and hope that the series will visit us again next year too.