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Dramatic end decides the winner of the “3 Heures de Pau”

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

  • Japan's Kubota made history in Pre-66 race

  • Portuguese duo repeat Pre-77 race win

  • “3 Heures de Pau" decided in the last lap

The Iberian Historic Endurance was again in the spotlight of emotion at the Pau Classic Grand Prix, where the most prestigious classics competition in Southern Europe had the honour of reviving the "3 Heures de Pau”, a race that took place on the Circuit de Pau-Ville in 1958.

If Saturday saw two thrilling races, Sunday saw the Historic Endurance field repeat the feat, with two races with several reasons for interest, overtaking and uncertainty until the last moment.

Pre’ 66: Kubota Emerges Victorious in Thrilling Finish

The second race of the weekend for cars built up to 1961 in the Gentleman Driver Spirit class (or GDS, for Touring cars up to 1965 up to 2000cc, MGB and Porsche 911 SWB) and according to the H-1965 and H-GTP&SC Pre-1966 classes regulations, was dramatic even before it started. The winner of Saturday's race, Florent Cazalot, did not take part in the race, due to problems in his Lotus Seven.

Taking advantage of the absence of the race favourite, just like on Saturday, Damien Kohler led the first laps of the 45-minute race, but always closely followed by Katsu Kubota's Lotus Elan 26R and the Rey family's Crossle 7S, two cars more effective than the more powerful AC Cobra when the overtaking to the slower cars started. In fact, these three cars swapped positions several times during the early part of the race. On lap 5, the French duo's Crossle 7S overtook the Japanese driver's Lotus to put pressure on the flashy American car. A longer pit stop by the pair in the Northern Ireland-built car allowed the Lotus to climb back into second, while Kohler, who chose to be the first to stop, gained some advantage.

With the race nearing its conclusion, the top three positions looked set. However, a 'coup de theatre' occurred with nine minutes to go when Kohler's AC Cobra came to a stop near Casino. Kubota, a devoted Lotus aficionado, took the lead to take his first Historic Endurance win and victory in the H-1965 class. This was also the first ever win for an Asian driver in Historic Endurance series. Stéphane Rey and Mathias Rey were runners-up, winning among the H-GTP&SC, while Greg Carini's Ford Anglia, a "guest" car, finished third.

Victory in the GDS-1965 class ended in the hands of father and son duo Piero dal Maso and Guilhermo Dal Maso, who were fourth to take the chequered flag. The Portuguese duo of the Porsche 911 SWB from Garagem João Gomes had a fierce duel with the Mini Cooper S of Adrien Harang, who delighted the audience with his exuberant driving, until it plummeted in the classification after the pit stop. With favourite Luís Sousa Ribeiro, winner of the GDS-1965 class on Saturday and of the Index of Performance this weekend, struggling with problems in his Ford Cortina Lotus, the class podium was completed by Dominque Jouvin (Mini Cooper) and Dominique Raffin (Ford Cortina Lotus).

Also on the podium in the H-1965s were Raphaël Personnaz and Julien Personnaz in the Marcos 1800 GT, as well as Jonny Horsfield and Alex Jupe in the Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti. On a good day for the cars of the marque founded by Colin Chapman, Patrick Dayen/Pascal de Brito, in their Lotus Eleven, and Xavier Rascagneres/Jérôme Peyrat, in the upright Lotus 23B, took to the podium in the H-GTP&SC class. Pierre Macchi took his Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale, the car he usually uses to compete in the Tour Auto, to victory again in the H-1961 class.

Pre’ 77: Meireles and Nina triumph once again

Mário Meireles and Vasco Nina repeated Saturday's "pole-to-win" display and not even an unwanted "Safety-Car" compromised an expected race victory in the H-1976 class. However, the AMA Racing-entered Garagem Aurora-run Porsche 911 2.8 RS duo knew they could do it again but, at the same time, were in no position to put their foot down as they needed to amass as many laps as possible if they were to win the 3 Heures de Pau. However, a Safety-Car period at the end of the race almost ruined all his efforts.

After the DNF in the first race, Domingos Sousa Coutinho and Nuno Breda didn't have much to lose, and the BMW 2800 CS duo made a "remontée" from the bottom of the grid to the second place, but with ten minutes to the end, the German car stopped on track, culminating an inglorious weekend to the Portuguese duo from RP Motorsport, bringing the "Safety-Car" to the track.

The red and blue striped white Porsche 911 2.8 RS of the Portuguese duo saw its advantage reduced to zero in the last laps. However, a final sprint at the same level allowed the duo Meireles/Nina to savor the victory once again. The French pair Mathieu Izidi and Rémi Guillot, in Porsche 911 2.7 RS, had another smooth race and was the second to finish the race, a position that earned them second place in the H-1976 class, which had the Englishman Paul Daniels, in Porsche 911 2.8 RSR, climbing once again to the podium in third place.

Discreet but effective, Vincent Jimenez, in his Porsche 911 2.5 ST, was third across the finish line, once again winning the H-1971 class, where he was accompanied on the podium ceremony by Spain's Carlos Rivera, in his BMW 2002 Tii, and France's Frédéric Clot/Félix Bernard, in their Triumph Spitfire.

Fourth over the finish line, Franck Biraben had a comfortable victory in his Porsche 911 among the GDS-1965, whose battle for second place was decided at the end of the race. A second separated the VW Polo of Jacques Tillos/François Tillos from the Fiat 128 SF of Stéphane Codet/Jérôme Gouvet.

"3 Hours of Pau": Uncertainty until the end

The winner of the "3 Hours of Pau" was determined by the sum of the four Historic Endurance races held this weekend in the 20th edition of the Pau Classic Grand Prix. Florent Cazalot started in a privileged position as he had entered in both categories. However, the Frenchman had a stroke of bad luck, as both his Lotus Seven and the Ford Escort he shared with his father in the Pre-77 category were unable to take part in the races on Sunday.

Mário Meireles and Vasco Nina had completed two more laps than the leading Pre-66 competitors on Saturday (26 laps compared to 24) and seemed to unexpectedly have this trophy in their hands. However, the morning race for the Pre-66 category had no interruptions, and Katsu Kubota completed 27 laps, which at least forced the Portuguese duo, who had their race field more or less under control, to race at the same pace as on Saturday. Ten minutes before the end of the Pre-77 race, the presence of the Safety Car almost jeopardized all the work done up to that point. However, the duo from the Porto team pushed hard in the final two laps, which was enough to secure this symbolic victory.

Mission accomplished in France

For Race Ready, the promoter of Historic Endurance, this visit to the city of the Atlantic Pyrenees was crowned with enormous success.

"We provided the large audience that attended these days in Pau with four exciting races that were a fitting tribute to the '3 Hours of Pau'. It is worth noting that we have already had six races this season and there hasn't been a single contact between drivers during the races, which demonstrates the preservation of the spirit of the '3 C's - No Crashing, No Cheating, No Complaining - in Historic Endurance and the respect among our drivers. In three weeks, we will return to the Jarama Classic, an event that will be another great celebration of motorsport," said Diogo Ferrão, CEO of Race Ready.


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