As anyone who read our last message will know, Friday night was “a bit of a late one” but both crews were raring to go for the final day of the 2016 Modena Cento Ore which started in the sunny Plazza Marconi in the up market seaside town of Forte Dei Marme. After the dramas of Friday, from two podium positions, to both cars almost retiring, to ace engineers Darren and Sam working long into the night to fix the broken Jaguar and ensure the GT40 would not suffer a recurrence of the carburetor problems which hampered Richard on Friday. This really is a roller coaster ride.
It was a brisk 50km drive to the start of the first stage through beautiful Italian countryside, the only hazards were the hundreds of weekend cyclists slowly grinding their way up the narrow roads towards the mountains. Saturday would comprise of three special stages and with no race tracks Richard was looking to consolidate his solid second position whilst Chris had nothing to lose having dropped down to 33rd position overnight on account of missing two stages the previous day. At this point it looked like the penalty Richard had been given had been removed so he started the day second on the road. Chris and Keith now starting half an hour later, behind another E-type driven by a 74 year old Englishman and his young Italian navigator Luigi, and just in front of previous Le Mans winner Jurgen Barth. They were able to meet new peopel and make new friends. The back of Jurgen’s Jaguar was now 2 foot shorter as the previous day his service crew following in a hire car had rear ended him at some traffic lights. The driver was his girl friend. Luigi the navigator was very helpful throughout the day but whilst standing in Modena at the end of the day Chris noticed he had the name “Alex” embroidered on his overalls and asked him why. Luigi replied “it’s my name” to which Chris said “But you’re Luigi”, “no” was Alex’s reply, a big embarrassment for Chris but a perfect stitch up by Keith.
The first special stage of the day yet again showed that the GT40 is much better suited to the race tracks than the narrow Italian hill climbs, as the GT40 coughed and spluttered up the hills in times not representative of the cars ability. Chris and Keith meanwhile were performing a double act which was the racing equivalent of Laurel and Hardy, Morecombe and Wise and Torvill and Dean all rolled into one. With nothing to lose and without intercoms due to a wiring fault, they flew through the stage, Keith using hand signals to guide Chris along the narrow roads to record fastest time. They were an incredible 27 seconds quicker than the GT40 and 18 seconds quicker than special stage experts Freeman/Ellis in their Cobra. The second stage of the day saw a better performance from the GT40 although still 6 seconds down on Chris who was 2 tenths of a second quicker than the Cobra which over 7 km of undulating bumpy Italian roads is unbelievably close.
On to the lunch halt and the end of the event was clearly in sight with just one stage to go, The GT40 was running second with the Cobra just behind, which made a glorious sounding convoy passing through the majestic Italian countryside en route to the final 12km special stage and the subsequent run to the finish in Modena. Knowing that the final and longest of the week stage through the mountains was the last time the crews would be able to enjoy these glorious cars in anger on this event meant that the tense atmosphere before the stage was tinged with a slight melancholic air. Once again Chris and Keith were on fire and flew through the stage cementing their the position as the dominant crew on the final day of the event, on today’s three stages they were 1st of the pre 1965 cars and 6th overall mixing it with the much faster and newer Porsche RSRs. Richard and Tim had a far better run and were 3 seconds faster than the Cobra immediately behind them. That meant the competitive element of the event was now over with just the final 60km to go to the finish in the central Piazza in Modena.
Whilst we knew the pro Jaguar had won the event overall, there was uncertainty over the results of other podium finishes. As we prepared to go to the final dinner in the Enzo Ferrari museum, it became clear that the penalty for the GT40 had been reinstated or a new one incurred and so a certain podium finish evaporated in a sea of confusion. The inconsistency and lack of information regarding penalties all seemed very Italian and rather tainted the final evening but was also an opportunity to reflect on a truly remarkable four days.
All of us have now completed a couple of events together and over the last four years our nemesis on the special stages has been Mark Freeman in the AC Cobra, particularly in France where he previously blitzed the GT40 and Jaguar, with Mike Ellis at his side this was a combo that has massive experience including a win a couple of years ago on this event while the rest of us were rookies. They had rapidly established themselves as the Dastardly and Muttly of the Modena Cento Ore but now the AC Cobra had some serious competition and the fact there were only tenths of a second splitting the cars on many stages proving that this event was the coming of age for the fearless foursome (whose combined age for cars and drivers is well over 300 years old).
This was another brilliant event. To have both cars running so competitively and with Richard dominant on the racetracks and Chris and Keith easily the best suited combination in the special stages proved that our optimism at the start of the week in Rimini was well founded. Tim had never seen a set of pace notes before Tuesday afternoon but by Thursday he had been part of the crew that had won a special stage so perhaps a career as a co driver beckons in case he need to find alternative employment anytime soon. The body blows felt on Friday with the prop shaft on the Jag and engine problems with the GT40 which always seem to greet us on events like these, were dealt with not just efficiently and effectively by Sam and Darren but also with a passion that showed we were all very much working as a team and supporting each other.
Of course it’s disappointing that we didn’t come away with any silverware (although Dorothy and Gerry in the TR3 did finish on the podium and 2nd in class) considering that on almost every stage and certainly in every race one of the two cars was in the top three. It was certainly one of the closest contests that we have participated in doing events of this type and while it certainly causes some stress on a few occasions it greatly added to the enjoyment.
Getting two cars to the finish in Modena was a huge achievement and both cars were very much stars of the show as we traversed northern Italy from coast to coast. This is a superb event and we would all love to come back again. Our sincere thanks to Darren and Sam from Wren Classic Sports Car Workshop Restoration Sales Maintenance and Race Car Preparation (Wren Sport is a division of Wren Classic Sports Car Workshop Restoration Sales Maintenance and Race Car Preparation) who did a great job in keeping the show on the road and were a pleasure to work with. We followed them around Italy in a van with two “mooning” wrens on the rear doors which at least made our support crew stand out from the crowds. We also have to of course thank Richard who once again kindly enabled some of his mates to live their dreams by letting us all play with his beautiful toys. This is our final message as we now disperse back to reality. With all the highs and lows of the past few days it’s been great having you along for this epic journey.
PS: These reports are completed at the end of a long day, Tim dictates, Chris types and Keith and Richard add snippets and attach photos, it’s another team effort. However, Friday’s report was sent without passing through quality control. Chris woke up at 4am slumped over his laptop and then just pressed “send” before falling back into a deep sleep, hence the terrible spelling and grammar. Today’s report is late as we ran out of time over copious amounts of Chianti last night….
The late great Mohamed Ali took plenty of punches during his career and today saw the fearsome foursome of Chris, Keith, Richard, and Tim roll with the punches. After two days of trouble free racing across Italy they were starting to feel invincible. How wrong could they be as everything started to untangle. Breaking news last night saw the GT40 attract a 10 minute penalty. Richard retired to bed in the belief he’d been robed of a certain podium position. By morning he was back in a firm 2nd place with the time penalties dropped, it was an administrative error. The day started with a race at the fabulous Mugello circuit. Overall Pro driver Jag was top of the leader board with the GT40 second, Freeman Cobra third and the famous CUT7 Jaguar fourth. Richard following on from his earlier win and second place confirmed his status as Italian track god with another win in very wet and slippery conditions. Chris lost 15 seconds on his overnight position to the seventh place Porsche 911. After that a character building day ensued for all.three.
First to depart was the GT40 and a small navigational error required a super human performance to get to the special stage on time, he made it just, although it probably took years off Tim’s life. The stage itself was unsuitable for the GT40 and that was reflected in most of the advantage gained in the Mugello race being eroded. Chris and Keith meanwhile, seeing Mark Freeman delayed on leaving the lunch halt with a suspected broken fuel pump and Richard likely incurring penalties for at late arrival at the special stage where thinking they were edging up to second overall.
A stunning performance on the stage only 2 tenths behind the class leading pro jag suddenly put them in the pound seats as far as an overall result was concerned. The next special stage followed sufficiently afterward that Richard and Tim didn’t even take off their crash helmets and hence arrived in an even more sweaty and distressed state than usual. The second stage was equally unsuited to the GT40 wand despite heroics at the wheel further time was lost. For Chris and Keith things only got worse from the euphoria of feeling that second place was now easily in their grasp and only victory was one place away. dreams were shattered when the prop shaft exploded and surely this was the end of the event for this dynamic combination in historic motor sport. Freeman having lost his certain podium position to the E type only minutes before, on seeing the car then stranded on the next special stage commented: “what the lord giveth, the lord taketh away”.
Suddenly text messages regarding successful stage times were replaced with how to get a recovery truck to take us home. Richard and Tim meanwhile set about completing the final stage of the day but clouds of smoke from the back of the GT40 were proving ominous. The car was now running on 6 out of 8 cylinders and with a massive power deficit further time was dropped. Limping into the road section they finally made it to their service crew who set about the problem. The problem was with the carburetor, the “float” having sprung a leak and “sunk”. Huge time was lost resulting in time penalties when the crews finally made it into Forte dei Marmi on the west coat of Italy.
So far so bad bit now was the time of the unsung heroes of the Modena Cento Ore to spring into action. Ace Wren sport engineers Darren and Sam and set about major surgery on both cars With Chris and Keith’s Jaguar arriving by trailer and whilst the overall result probably precludes victory, we are still in the race before we roll into Modena hopefully on Saturday afternoon. Despite their fuel pump problem Freeman and Ellis are still very much in the event, but another unsung hero is Dorothy Freeman and her mate Gerry in her red Triumph TR3 in the regularity section of the event. Having never been out of the podium position of the ladies section of their class .
It is now way past bed time on the eve of the final day hence the brevity of this message. we will be back with a full update of the ups and downs and a reflection of the week we have spent in Italy on Saturday evening.
Day two of the 2016 Modena Cents Ore dawned with heavy rain in the coastal resort of Rimini. First duty of the day was to navigate the short coastal run to Circuit Misano. With the track still very wet as the cars went out to practice it was a slow start learning the racing lines through rain and oil spread over the track by one of the competitors. Richard was 4th, Chris was 5th on the grid and as the lights went out the Freeman Cobra shot off the line from 3rd position, the E type also getting the jump on the slow starting GT40. By the first corner Richard was fighting his way back, down the inside of the E type and into third behind the Cobra. Half way around the first lap under intense pressure from the GT40 Freeman in the Cobra slid very sideways on the fastest corner, looking like a pro from the film “Tokyo Drift”. Richard following closely had to take avoiding action across the tarmac runoff at about 150mph. Somehow they both managed to keep their cars under control. Two corners later Freeman surrendered second place to the GT40 which ended up coming home 18 seconds ahead of the Cobra but losing valuable seconds to the winning pro driven Jaguar. With Chris in the E-type having a steady and uneventful race in tricky conditions into 7th place, conscious of the trip into the gravel on the Tour Auto last year and the huge penalty points incurred….
Then followed a 100 km road section via San Marino, to the first Special Stage (SS) of the day. This was a fast and flowing stage perfect for the GT40 and allowed our racing legends to come to the fore. The final results of SS 1 saw Richard victorious with a time of 4.27, 2 seconds faster than the leading Jaguar, with the Freeman Cobra 7 seconds adrift and just 2 tenths of a second quicker than Chris.
On the way to the lunch break Tim performed his traditional navigational error resulting in a slight detour and being late for lunch which was held in a Franciscan Monestary built on the top of a Tuscan hill some 500 years ago.. Onwards to the second and stage of the day. Richard and Chris were clearly brimming with confidence and despite some rain and a very greasy and slippery road, the final stage of the day required the superhuman skills these two pilots are internationally known for. Even though Tim lost himself on the pace notes, Richard was again victorious, with a time 3.5 seconds faster than the Cobra with the E type of Chris and Keith just 7 tenths of a second slower. The leading jaguar was a further 18.5 seconds behind. Richard is now just 51 seconds behind the pro team leaders.
With the competitive mileage of the day completed the cars headed towards Florence for servicing and then into central Florence for a gala dinner in the Palazzo Vecchio, once home to the influential family Medici. Tim who is well know for his ability to recall every grand prix winner over the past 50 years also wowed us with his knowledge of Michelangelo and Caravaggio the great Italian maestros of the 16th century.
Today showed how close and competitive this event is. We are only half way through, it’s like midnight at the Le Mans 24 hour race, the early hard work has been done but with countless challenges and hurdles still ahead. The crews are on such exceptional form it is now imperative to ensure no mistakes are made and lady luck does not desert us.
Breaking news: The day’s results show the GT40 has a 10 minute time penalty. We are not sure what this is for, so will be protesting in the morning.
Seven am on Wednesday and the crews competing in the Modena Cento Ore left the Grand Hotel Rimini for the 100 km dash to the famous Imola circuit named after Enzo and Dino Ferrairi. Tim managed his early morning navigational error although unlike last year this didn’t require him getting out to push the car. For Chris and Keith the journey to Imola was silky smooth. However there was more drama for the GT40 crew when they reached the end of the auto strada and the toll booth. Richard had a bright idea to save time, by jumping out of the car and payed the toll on foot. However the car had not triggered the beam to register arrival and with an impatient queue of drivers behind Richard decided to push the car a few extra yards forward to trigger the beam and initiate payment. Richard pushed. Sitting in the car, Tim diligently noticed the car rolling forward and wishing to avert catastrophe released his seat belts, leapt into the drivers side foot well and contorted like Harry Houdini pushed the brake pedal. The car stopped. Richard pushed harder, and harder. Eventually they sorted themselves out and proceeded through the toll to the track.
Once both crews arrived at this legendary track, Imola, and after a few practice laps, the cars formed up in number order, E-type 6th, GT40 18th… RIchard complained that they must have made a mistake, they hadn’t, all the E-types were together at the front of the grid. An eventful first lap saw Chris bumped by an out of control Lotus Elan and then had the remaining race in the company of the Cobras. Richard scythed through the field to third by the end of the first lap and then built up an unassailable lead by the end over the E types, the Cobras and one Lotus Elan. The end of race saw Richard in first and Chris in 6th. A solid start to the day.
Leaving Imola it was then straight into the serious business of the Special Stages. The four stages today were more suitable to the nimble cars, Lotus and Porsche. But Chris and navigating legend Keith set a solid tone to the day finishing 10th on stage one. Richard with pace note virgin Tim, a car that didn’t want to get going out of the slow corners and Richard stopping half way through thinking he’d reached the end of the stage still finished 5th. After one race and one special stage: GT40 1st overall and E-type 6th.
Three more special stages followed. Special Stage number two: Chris 11th, Richard 14th, Overall: Richard 3rd, Chris 7th. Special stage three: Chris 2nd, Richard 7th, Special stage 4: Chris 6th, Richard 7th. The last stage being very wet and slippery (We didn’t think it would be raining in Italy in June). After an arduous run back to Rimini over very narrow broken up roads we both finished the day with cars intact and at the sharp end of the grid. The overall final results of the day show Mark Freeman 2nd. But just 8 seconds behind are Richard and Tim in the GT40 and 4th Chris and Keith snapping at their heels a further 23 seconds down. Ahead and in 1st lies last year’s winner and BRDC member Philip Walker in an E- type.
To complete a relatively trouble free first day was a real result, and to find both the GT40 and the historic CUT 7 E-Type both at the sharp end on their Modena Cento Ore debut is a great achievement. It’s only one day into a four day marathon and there will be plenty more action starting tomorrow at the Misano race track and the subsequent special stages before the crews arrive in Florence on Thursday evening for dinner in the incredible 1299 built Pallazo Vecchio. Hopefully today’s luck will hold and both crews will make further progress up the leader board tomorrow. But for tonight a drink in the Max Mara boutique in Rimini was the reward for a long day in the car, prosecco and a designer dress was all on offer, so we went next door for a beer….
The eve of the 2016 Modena Cento Ore has seen cars and crew assemble in the Adriatic resort of Rimini. Whilst Tim had a fairly uneventful flight from HK via Milan, Richard, Keith and Chris drove overland from UK via Monza and over the fabled St Gothard Pass. Pounding across Europe in an Aston DB5 and Ferrari 355 is the stuff of dreams and replicated the iconic scene from the Bond movie Goldeneye with Bond racing Xenia Onatopp over the Alps. The journey was for the most part uneventful. However Keith’s 355 was making a curious knocking noise subsequently identified as a failed wheel bearing. Modena is probably the best place for this to happen and the car is now back at Ferrari being sorted out. We hope that’s the only mechanical failure on this trip.
Following scrutineering and a fabulous dinner at the Grand Hotel it’s an early start from Rimini to the Imola circuit where the first race starts at 9am. With the GT 40 running without silencers and an earlier sound check to ensure Richard and Tim can hear each other over the intercom while the engine is running, suggests that firing up the car at 7am on Wednesday will provide a wake up call to the whole of the Adriatic coast.
It’s an incredibly strong field this year drawn from 18 countries, but provided the E-type can stay out of the gravel and the GT40 can hold together unlike the first day of the Tour Auto in France last year, a hoped for steady run will bring positive news tomorrow evening when returning to Rimini for a cocktail evening hosted by Max Mara.
The 2016 edition of the Modena Cento Ore sees ace historic racing drivers Richard Meins and Chris Lillingston-Price reunited with co-drivers Tim Huxley and Keith Morris for an intense four day contest in northern Italy. The Modena Cento Ore is one of Europe‘s leading historic motor sport events, with a field of close to one hundred machines competing over four days.
Starting on 8th June on the Adriatic coast in Rimini, long a favourite of the British package tourist, the first day involves a race at the legendary Imola circuit, former home of the San Marino Grand Prix, before a series of special stages see the crews return to Rimini for the overnight halt. Day two takes in the Misano circuit on the Adriatic coast before an overnight stop in Florence, whilst the third and fourth days compirse further special stages on the undulating, flowing Italian roads and a race at another iconic circuit, Mugello, Ferrari’s Formula One test track and home to the Italian motorcycle Grand Prix, with the finish on Saturday evening in Modena, home to the legend that is Ferrari.
Once again, veteran racer, cyclist and Macau legend Richard and ace navigator Tim will be aboard the red Ford GT40 with Chris and Keith in the stunning lightweight E-Type Jaguar. For both these famous cars, the Modena Cento Ore oozes symbolism and history. Just eight days after the event finishes in Modena on June 11th, it will be the fiftieth anniversary of the GT40’s maiden win in the Le Mans 24 hour race in France. History recalls that the GT40 was conceived by Henry Ford II after his negotiation with iL Commendatore Enzo Ferrari to take a majority stake in the eponymous sports car manufacturer were called off at the the final moment when Ferrari would not agree to concede control of his beloved racing team. Henry got mad and vowed to hit Ferrari where it hurt-on the race track, and thus the GT40 was born with the express intention of beating Ferrari at Le Mans. After a couple of years of notable failures-when Ferrari continued their winning ways- the GT40 started an unprecedented run of victories in 1966. It would be a fitting way to kick off the fiftieth anniverasry celebrations with a GT40 rolling into Modena on Saturday night.
Enzo Ferrari described the E Type Jaguar as ‘the most beautiful car ever made’ when it was launched in 1960. Former motorcycle racer Chris and 1983 Safari Rally challenger Keith will be ensuring that this British icon gets plenty of exposure in the supposed home of European style. After a promising run on the Tour Auto last year, Keith, a competitive cyclist when his busy work schedule allows, and Chris have an excellent chance of victory, provided Chris doesn’t visit the first gravel trap as he did in France last year and they will also hope to be avoiding the near asphyxiation they suffered from a broken exhaust.
Before the start, Tim is displaying the realism that befits his role as a beleaguered ship owner when it comes to assessing the GT40’s chances: “A solid, reliable, trouble free run is all I ask for. I have spent around fifteen days in this car over the past few years and I think there were only three when we didn’t have some sort of problem.” The car has been totally rebuilt, hopefully clearing the brake problems which saw it retire from the lead at the Goodwood Members Meeting in March, as a result of which Richard is adopting a much more bullish and optimistic stance, as befits a shipbroker and someone who has perhaps read too much Winston Churchill and Boris Johnston: “You ask what is our aim ? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terrors, victory however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, there is nothing.”
Taking those words to heart, Keith has already decided to play it safe and settle for second: “In view of the stated aims of our illustrious leader, we will aim for second place and become the Buzz Aldrins of the Cento Ore!”
The event starts on Wednesday 8th June and amongst the host of ultra competitive crews are former winners and Macau Grand Prix legends Mark Freeman and Mike Ellis in their potent AC Cobra, whilst plenty of other Porsches, Ferraris, Jaguars and Aston Martins will be looking to ensure that the lone GT40 on the entry list has plenty of competition.
Both cars will again be looked after by Sam and Darren, the team from Wren Sport, (Wren Sport is a division of Wren Classic Sports Car Restoration Maintenance, and Race Car Preparation). Without the additional assistance on this event of Dave “Rambo” Ramsbotham and Steve “Cool” Farthing, the team look forward to a service crew who are not just aiming to be at the lunch stop first and will therefore also have time to look after the cars on this grueling event.
The eve of the 2015 Tour Auto involves one day of scrutineering in the splendor of the Grand Palais, Paris. This involves technical checks on all competing cars, crew and equipment. Cars number 205 and 206 the GT 40 and E-type Jaguar, to be crewed by the dynamic duos of Richard Meins, Tim Huxley and Chris Lillingston-Price, Keith Morris were subjected to forensic style scrutiny by French officials.
Inevitably problems were found which took most of the day to rectify. Small issues like size of the labels indicating cut off switches, arrows to towing points, serial numbers on identity papers and the correct number of fire extinguishers we should be carrying all took the entire day to resolve. Only in France could we be kept busy all day but achieve absolutely nothing. This was a tough day. With patience running low and tempers fraying, after huge assistance from Keith’s wife Laura, the translator and diplomat, and Steve and the team, everything is now in order and set for tomorrow’s early morning start (5.30am) heading to Magny Cours for our first race and further south to Vichy. Tomorrow the bureaucracy ends and the competition begins.
The last supper before the start was held at the legendry steakhouse in the seventh Arrondissement, Le Relais L’Entrecote, and unusually for this crew the red wine consumption was kept strictly to the minimum (although a swift night cap on the way back the hotel could not be resisted).
With the formalities behind us the competition can start, but with an arduous road ahead and such a highly competitive field this is going to be a challenging week. At least the sun is shining.