It’s a celebrated new highlight at the AvD Oldtimer Grand Prix: the demo rounds of the Formula One legends from the 70s to the 90s not only meet with true enthusiasm among fans. That comes as no surprise because these beautiful cars take the audience on a historic tour of Grand Prix racing. Plus, a number of the drivers in the cockpits have well-known names, above all, Jacky Ickx (BEL) sitting in his 1972 Formula One winning car, a Ferrari 312 B3. René Arnoux – with seven Formula One victories under his belt, trailing Ickx in the statistics of racing’s top category by just one triumph – numbers among the uncontested stars as well and drives the same model as Ickx. Three-time Le Mans winner Marco Werner in a Lotus 77 and ex-DTM driver Harald Becker in a March 701 add a touch of colour, whilst ex-Formula One driver Giovanni Lavaggi (ITA) sits in a Ferrari 312 F1/69 in proper style.
The special round of the Formula One cars at the AvD Oldtimer Grand Prix meets with favourable response by the drivers as well – in spite of being held in special conditions. “It’s great being able to race again after the corona stop,” says René Arnoux. “I’m at the AvD Oldtimer Grand Prix for the first time. It’s nice walking through the paddock and seeing all the different cars here.” Asked whether a garage or museum might not be a better place for the precious Grand Prix cars, Ickx says no, they belong on track. “However, it does take courage to keep these cars in good condition and to field them again today,” comments the Belgian. “Any damage is complex and costly because parts are no longer available.” Marco Werner also feels that “it’s good that racing finally started again a few weeks ago. So many important events were cancelled – including the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo.”
The cars – and especially the drivers – that are meeting here are indeed very special and, obviously, competing here brings back memories to them as well. René Arnoux, for instance, climbed into the cockpit of a very special Mercedes 190 in 1984: “I associate the ‘Race of Champions’ in May 1984 with the Nürburgring Grand Prix circuit which the facility was opened with after completion of the new construction project. That was during my time as a Ferrari works driver. I’m very happy about coming back here.” And something that sank in in 1984 isn’t easily forgotten: “My first impression of sitting in a Formula One car is that you need to relearn the track configuration,” relates Arnoux. “That’s why I was initially holding back a bit on the first laps in order to develop a feel for the track and the car. Apart from that, I had a lot of fun in the car – the Ferrari is really pleasant to drive.”
Others have huge fun as well. For instance, Marco Werner who adds a Lotus 77 to the field. “It was prepared in 1976 and driven by Ronnie Petersen in the first Grand Prix in 1977,” says Werner. “But Peterson had a falling out with the team, so that other drivers took over this car. My car was the first ground-effects model from Lotus and the basis for the team’s successful comeback.” The Ferrari 312 driven by Giovanni Lavaggi at the Nürburgring is nearly a decade older. That doesn’t diminish the pleasure, as the Italian reveals: “I just love any racing car. Obviously, handling and performance are totally different to my Formula One days in the mid-90s. Even so, it’s huge fun.” Arguably, the congenial Sicilian’s sentiments are similar to those of many other drivers this weekend: “I saw these cars as a little boy – at a time when I was only able to dream of becoming a professional racing driver. That’s why sitting in such a racing car is very special for me.”