For the past fifteen years, this area of France has held a special event: ‘Sport et Collection – 500 Ferrari contre le cancer’ (Sport and Collection – 500 Ferraris against cancer).
The celebration is the brainchild of Jean-Pierre Doury, a French lawyer with a huge passion for Italian cars. The main aim of the event is to raise money for the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Poitiers and, in fifteen years, it has collected the considerable sum of €1.5 million.
The Val du Vienne circuit is technically demanding and few drivers can claim to know it well so the four free practice sessions were welcomed by the drivers as it gave them the chance to study the layout close up.
In the qualifying stint for Group A, reserved to cars with drum brakes, Maserati dominated. Pole went to Stefan Schollwoeck’s 1932 Maserati 4CM with Gigi Baulino’s 250F next up, followed by the 200SI piloted by Massimo Sordi.
Over in Group B and its cars fitted with disc brakes, it was Darius Ahrabian and his Ferrari F40 Competizione to come out on top. Behind him came Olivier Cazalieres and his Ferrari 512 S with Paul Knapfield’s 512 BB LM clocking third.
Late on Saturday afternoon the drivers came back onto the track for the weekend’s opening race and it did not take long for the things to warm up. On lap one, two favoured drivers, Paul Knapfield and Darius Ahrabian, clipped each other and crashed out, opening the door for Mister John of B and his Ferrari 512 BB LM to go on and win. Second spot went to the Ferrari F40 Competizione driven by Christian Chavy with Pierangelo Masselli taking third on the podium in his 308 GTB.
Group A saw the fantastic Stefan Schollwoeck dominate in his Maserati 4CM as he came home fourth overall. He easily beat Gigi Baulino’s 250F into second and Nicolas Zapata’s Ferrari 625 TR into third. Schollwoeck’s effort is all the more impressive considering the cars he left trailing, among them the Ferrari 512 BB LM with Nicolas Comar at the wheel, the 308 GTB driven by Larry Kinch and François Degand’s Ferrari 365 GTB4.
“Being here was great”, commented Schollwoeck after bagging his win. “I am not really a fan of rolling starts like today’s as cars that are quicker in a straight line manage to overtake me; they then hold me up in the mixed sections of the circuit. Luckily, I am in tune with my Maserati and this means that I can make things up in the curves. This is a very tough track for all the drivers and it cannot be described as being one of the easiest around but this is precisely why I find it so amazing”. Gigi Baulino agreed with Schollwoeck and added: “It is a truly enjoyable circuit; technically demanding with lots of curves that ‘close up’ on the way out. It is not an easy track to drive but it is a special one. I had to be careful with the F40s and 512 BB LMs out there as they were much faster than my Maserati in the straights. Still, I kept up with them through the curves. What can be said about Stefan? Well, all I saw was his two rear wheels as he took each and every curve with a stylish power slide. A master at work!”
There was not let up as Schollwoeck also scooped race 2 on Sunday, again shoving Gigi Baulino and Nicolas Zapata into the runner up places. We tracked his race from the timekeeper’s station at the top of the control tower, a spot from which you have a view of most of the circuit. At the halfway stage, even those holding a stopwatch began to sit up and take notice of Schollwoeck’s times and controlled slides. It was a superb show of driving. Massimo Sordi, fourth in a Maserati 200SI, and Julia de Baldanza, the leading female driver, also raced brilliantly.
Mister John of B’s Ferrari 512 BB LM again topped Group B. In second were two F40 Competiziones, driven by Darius Ahrabian and Christian Chevy, respectively. The next round of the Shell Ferrari Historic Challenge will take place at Brno, in the Czech Republic, on the weekend of 6 September.