Report and photos by Dirk de Jager
The Belgian Racing Legends exhibition is currently held at Autoworld located in Jubel Park in the centre of Brussels, Belgium. The exposition, focused on the Belgian gentlemen drivers and their cars, will continue until 15 January 2012.
One of the key features with setting up Belgian Racing Legends was to honor the late Jacques Swaters and his exploits under the Ecurie Nationale Belge banner and afterwards with his own racing team Ecurie Francorchamps.Swaters passed away on December 10th 2010 at the age of 84.
Looking further in the Belgian racing history it is impossible not to mention Monsieur Le Mans: Jacky Ickx. Ickx is of course best known for his six Le Mans victories spanning three decades (1969, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1981 and 1982) in a period when racing was much more dangerous, cars less reliable and often a higher degree of competitive opponents.
During the gala reception opening Belgian Racing Legends no less than 32 of the featured drivers were present. Amongst them Jacky Ickx, Thierry Boutsen, Eric van de Poele, Bertrand Gachot, Marc Goossens, Grégoire de Mevius, Marc Duez, Yvette Fontaine, Nicole Sol, the brothers Jean and Armond Blaton, Christine Beckers and many more, even some of the younger drivers such as Nico Verdonck and Bert Longin.
As to the stars of the Belgian Racing Legends that will remain present for those five weeks there are an impressive 46 iconic cars on display ranging from sports cars to GT cars and Formula One to rally cars. The entire spectrum of racing has been included in the show. For the layout of the expo something new has been tried. In the middle of the hall a starting grid has been “recreated” filled with sports cars and on one side and old style pit garages to house the Formula One cars. Across from the pit you can find the grandstand where you can find the information screens about the Belgian drivers and cars.
Before the first line up there’s a separate seating corner dedicated to Ickx where his 1984 Paris Dakar Porsche 959 has been placed. At the back wall there are more rally cars and GT cars, while under the grandstand there’s a tunnel that has all of the Ecurie Francorchamps cars on display in scale models, mostly 1/43. This impressive “line-up” shows how many races with top cars this small private team actually attended.
The first car on the Belgian Racing Legends “starting grid” is the 1949 Veritas RS that was driven by Charles de Tornaco and Jacques Swaters. The best represented marque at the show is naturally Ferrari since that was Ecurie Francorchamps choice of weapons with Swaters being the first importer in the world of the famous prancing horse. His personal Ferrari 166MM, that was delivered new to head of Fiat Gianni Agnelli and later raced by Olivier Gendebien, is located on a rotating platform. A further nine Italian masterpieces are lined up including a 500TRC that welcomes you at the entrance before you walk up to the first floor of the exhibition. Further in the list you will find a 250 GT SWB and a 250 GTO both in their silver livery with yellow banner over the hood. They are followed with a 250 GT LB ‘TDF’, 250 LM, 250 GT Drogo (formerly an SWB) to a 275 GTB/4 and a 365 GTB/4 Competitzione. The last one is the recreation of the Ferrari 165 F1 Sharknose, in its yellow livery as to the only time it raced in this color in 1961 by Olivier Gendebien at Spa Francorchamps.
As to the more pure Le Mans cars two were very noticeable as both are in the iconic Gulf livery and both where driven by Jacky Ickx, a Ford GT40 and a Gulf Mirage, although the GT40 is a replica to honor his first and most famous victory at the Sarthe circuit. Next to them the Toyota GT1 from Boutsen and van de Poele’s Bentley EXP Speed 8. For the rest two Porsche’s 962’s and the 1991 Le Mans winner: the Mazda 787B with Belgian born Bertrand Gachot.
From the earlier years there is also a Porsche 935 K3, a Rondeau Inaltera, Aston Martin DB3S and a Jaguar D-Type. The Formula One paddock is a bit more limited in cars present yet Belgium has had more than two dozen drivers in this elite class of racing. Here we find, and in my mind the most beautiful GP car, the Talbot-Lago T26C that was driven by André Pilette and Roger Laurent. It’s followed by the Cooper Bristol T23, as a similar car that was driven by Swaters himself. In the next bay there is the aforementioned Sharknose. Then there’s a 1976 Lola T430 from Teddy Pilette, son of André and a 1979 Ligier F1 that was also driven by Ickx. The F1 cars finish with a 1988 Benetton T188 (Boutsen), a 1992 Venturi Lamborghini LC92 from Gachot and an Apal Formula Vé.
The back wall starts with a well-known BMW model, the 3.0 CSL or the Batmobile followed with a BMW 1800TI, Mazda RX7, a Mini that has to be present, followed by an Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA 1600 and an Audi V8 Quattro Procar.
As for the rally cars, here are some of the more famous and well-known models present with an Audi Quattro that launched Audi and the four wheel drive system onto the racing scene, Ford Escort, Porsche 911 SC RS and a Ford Cortina Lotus. A bit tucked away is a black Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing in its period Mille Miglia livery and belonging to the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
Overlooking the “starting line” from the grandstand shows how much effort has been put into Belgian Racing Legends and the quality of cars that are on display makes this one of the better indoor shows to visit during the cold winter period. The cars will remain in Brussels until the middle of January 2012 before they head back towards their respective owners.
For more information on the Belgian Racing Legends, visit www.belgian-racing-legends.be.
Belgian Racing Legends 2011 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
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[Source: Dirk de Jager]