Le Castellet: Classic F1 kicked off the season with the successes of Willimas and Hesketh

Text and photo: Roman Klemm

The first two Formula 1 Masters races took place last weekend in front of 30,000 enthusiastic spectators as part of the Grand Prix de France Historique. On Saturday, the Irishman Mike Cantillon (Williams-Ford FW07C) prevailed, on Sunday the British Oliver Webb surprisingly triumphed in a Hesketh-Ford 308.

An incredible 40 drivers submitted their application for the first event of the classic F1 season 2024 for Le Castellet, of which 36 actually took part in training. It will be spectacular if at least half of them come to Brno in 2 months...
First qualifying saw Mike Cantillon in his Williams FW07C (ex-Reutemann, 1982) ahead of Ken Tyrrell (Tyrrell 011, 1982), recent British F3000 hopeful Oliver Webb (Hesketh 308B, 1974), son and father D'Ansembourg (Brabham BT49 , 1982 and Williams FW07C, 1981) and three other Tyrrells in the hands of specialists Martin Stretton, Matthew Wrigley and Jamie Constable.
“The cars from the pre-1978 era are very fast here and I was worried that Webb's Hesketh would threaten me in the first lap. But I managed to stay in the lead and then lap after lap I built my lead," summed up lucky winner Cantllion after 13 laps of the race. Oli Webb, a pro who started here a few years ago in F3000 and is a huge asset to classic F1, was probably a bit surprised himself by the competitiveness of his car after James Hunt and finished "only" 7th: "At the end of the race I preferred to save the car." Piquet's 1982 Brabham finished second in the hands of another rookie, the young Belgian Werner d'Ansembourg: "It was a catch. I've never fought lap by lap with rivals with a car like that. It's fascinating - I'm absolutely delighted!' He was mainly challenged by Ken Tyrrell, who finished just under 2 seconds behind him after a long fight.
The fans in attendance were particularly excited by another pro and the country's former formula failure, Soheil Ayari. The Frenchman started from the tail of the field in his Ligier JS21 (ex-Jarier, 1983) after problems in qualifying, but managed to finish in the top 10.

The result of Saturday's Grand Prix de France Historique Formula 1:
1. Mike Cantillon, Williams FW07C
2. Werner d'Ansembourg, Brabham BT49
3. Ken Tyrrell, Tyrrell 011
4. Christophe d'Ansembourg, Williams FW07
5. Jamie Constable, Tyrrell 011
6. Steve Hartley, McLaren MP4/1
7. Oliver Webb, Hesketh 308B
8. Simon Fish, Arrows A4
9. Martin Stretton, Tyrrell 012
10. Soheil Ayari, Ligier JS21

After entertaining the audience with a demonstration drive performed by superstars Jacky Ickx, René Arnoux and Gerhard Berger, among others, the weekend culminated with the second Formula 1 race.
Cantillon's prediction was to be fulfilled: this time Webb's Hesketh played a bigger role and the action at the top of the race was even more intense than on Saturday. The first lap was led by Ayari Gitanes-Ligier, then Webb worked his way forward for 8 laps in the sensational construction of the unforgettable Dr. Postlethwaite. Cantillon then warmed up for just one lap in first place before Oli Webb took the reins again for the final 3 laps of Mr. Paul Ricard's course and took the win by just one second over the chasing Martin Stretton (Tyrrell 011)! This time only the fastest lap of the race remained for Cantillon, who dropped out 3 laps before the end. Another relative newcomer to classic F1 is also worth mentioning: Victor Jabouille, son of the great Renault-Turbo-F1 pilot, Jean-Pierre, finished in 8th place in a Fittipaldi F8.

The Grand Prix Historique de France demonstrated that the real Formula 1 still exists and can present a worthwhile and varied sport. The championship will now take on other classic tracks in Brands Hatch and Zandvoort before visiting Brno in mid-June. We can't help but look forward to this motoring highlight of the year on the Moravian track!

The result of Sunday's Grand Prix de France Historique Formula 1:
1. Oliver Webb, Hesketh 308B
2. Martin Stretton, Tyrrell 012
3. Christophe d'Ansembourg, Williams FW07
4. Ken Tyrrell, Tyrrell 011
5. Jamie Constable, Tyrrell 011
6. Simon Fish, Arrows A4
7. Soheil Ayari, Ligier JS21
8. Victor Jabouille, Fittipaldi F8
9. Mister John of B, Ligier JS11
10. Guilleaume Roman, Ensign MN175

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