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Bruessels, 12 December, 2011

The Belgian Racing Legends exhibition is running at the Autoworld Museum at the Cinquantenaire in Brussels, for five weeks, closing on Sunday 15 January 2012. As the name implies, it is a celebration of, and dedicated to, the Belgian men and women racing drivers who brought fame to themselves and their country in the post war years, through their exploits in many fields of motorsport. The adventure started in 1947, when a wealthy young Belgian, Johnny Claes, attended the ACF Grand Prix in Lyon, France, and decided to become a racing driver. He bought a Talbot Lago and went racing! The following year he was followed into motorsport by another Belgian, Jacques Swaters, who by the early fifties would become the official Ferrari importer for Belgium. He made his racing debut driving a pre-war MG, in the 24 Hour Race at Spa-Francorchamps, co-driven by another famous name in Belgian motor racing history, Paul Frere, the 1960 Le Mans 24 Hour winner, co-driven by fellow Belgian Olivier Gendebien, who was a four time winner of this prestigious event. These post-war gentleman drivers were the birth of a Begian racing heritage, which has evolved over the years, as the sport has become more professional and commercial.

The display areas are mainly on the rear mezzanine level of the main hall of Autoworld, and feature around forty of the cars that they piloted in national and international events over the years, ranging from a “humble” Formula Vee single seater, to F1 cars through the years. The display entry is through a large open face crash helmet mural, decorated with the black, red and yellow colours of the national flag, with a small display of cars to the left of it as a taste of what to expect, and a Porsche 956 and Ferrari 500 TRC either side of the main entry portal. Upon climbing the staircase to the mezzanine one finds a “grid” of cars in front of you, stretching left and right in an eclectic blaze of colours, with more than a few finished in the national racing colour of yellow. Beyond the main grid are the spectator terraces, incorporating a podium, as one would expect to find at a racetrack, which can be climbed and sat upon, from where you look back across the grid to the pit lane, incorporating garages housing further cars for your delectation. Behind the terraces there is a darkened gallery containing showcases dedicated to the most famous Belgian racing team of all time, Jacques Swaters’ Ecurie Francorchamps, which evolved out of Ecurie National Belge, and entered predominantly Ferraris in international races between 1952 and 1979. This gallery area also features screens showing rare race footage, including colour film from the 1961 Belgian Grand Prix, where Ecurie Francorchamps were loaned a Ferrari 156 F1 car by the factory, for Olivier Gendebien to drive, naturally repainted in the national racing yellow, where he finished 4th behind the three works entries.

It is not until you go through the profusely illustrated programme that you recall just how many well known racing drivers have hailed from Belgium over the past six decades, and also what their achievements have been. Without doubt, everybody knows the name of ex-F1 driver and six time Le Mans 24 Hour Race winner, Jacky Ickx, but his daughter, Vanina, is one fast young lady, and has her own successful international racing career. Apart from those already mentioned, there are drivers who made their name, in no particular order, in F1 and/or sports cars, like Willy Mairesse, Lucien Bianchi, the Blaton brothers Armand and Jean (“Blary” & “Beurlys”), father and son Andre and Teddy Pilette, Pierre Dieudonne, Thierry Boutsen, Bertrand Gachot, Claude Bougoignie, Didier Theys and Eric van de Poele, to name but a few. Apart from the circuit racers, there are well known rally drivers like Marc Duez, Patrick Snijers Bruno Thiry and Freddy Loix, and let’s not forget the two wheel brigade with Didier de Radigues.

The variety of cars that they drove is equally interesting, and the display provides a broad spectrum of the various models, spanning from a 1949 Veritas RS, through a Talbot Lago T26C of the type raced by Andre Pilette, a Jaguar D-Type, a number of race and rally Porsches, a fine array of Ferraris including the painstakingly recreated 156 “Sharknose” F1 from 1961, other F1 cars like the Venturi Lamborghini LC92 and the Benetton T188, to a 1999 Toyota GT1 car driven by Thierry Boutsen, and a Bentley Speed 8 driven to 4th place at Le Mans in 2002, with Eric van de Poele in the driving team.

If you are in the Brussels region, this exhibition is certainly worth a visit, and the entry fee is included within the general museum entry fee of 9 Euros.

Ferrari Models on Display
Autoworld Automobile Museum
Esplanade Parc du Cinquantenaire 11
1000 Brussels

Model Colour Chassis #
156 “Sharknose” Rec’ Yellow “0002”
166 MM Barchetta Touring Blue Met’-Green Met’ 0064M
500 TRC Yellow-Black 0682MDTR
250 GT PF Coupe rebodied as "Apal" LWB Berlinetta Silver 1303GT
250 GT SWB Berlinetta Silver-Yellow Band 2069GT
250 GT SWB Berlinetta Drogo Dark Red 2445GT
250 GTO Silver-Yellow Band 4153GT
250 LM Yellow 6303
275 GTB White 07651
365 GTB/4C Yellow 15373

Museum Location
Museum Opening Times

Monday – Friday from 10.00 to 17.00
Saturday & Sunday from 10.00 to 18.00
Closed 25 December 2011, but open 01 January 2012.
Museum Admission Fees
Adults ....................................... 9 Euros
Groups of 15+ Adults .................. 7 Euros (per person)
Students/Seniors (60+)/Disabled .. 6 Euros
Children 6 – 12 Years .................. 4.50 Euros
School Groups ............................ 3 Euros (per child)
Children under 6 Free
Further Information can be obtained from

Keith Bluemel