By Csaba Kiss
Situated in the picturesque French countryside, about 30 miles from Paris, the Equipe Europe garage is specialized in the restoration, preparation, service and development of historic racing cars. The shop is located in the medieval buildings behind the village’s 15th century church, but the historic atmosphere is provided just as well by the almost 70 historic cars present – with some real rarities among them.
Whereas in the service hall the mechanics work with a Lola, a Ford GT40, a Bizzarini and a McLaren M8, the yard and the warehouses are offering place for a big variety of vehicles, from Aston Martin to Singer, from Riley to Delahaye, or from Bugatti to Facel-Vega. That’s because even if the main specialty of the workshop is the sports prototypes of the 60-70’s (like Lola, Chevron, Matra, Porsche and Lotus), Yvan Mahé and his team usually work with competition cars from other periods as well, or in some cases they restore even classic road cars, too.
Yvan Mahé started to compete on the historic racing circuit around 25 years ago, and his dream has always been to start with vehicles restored and prepared by him. He used to beat more powerful GT-cars even with his MG Midget, but the world of historic racing took note of him in 1990, when he rolled out to the circuit with a Lola T70 – restored from ground by him, with the help of an ex-Gulf team mechanic. The quality of his work convinced the other pilots and car owners to trust him with their assets, and soon he was driving from race to race with his truck modified into a rolling workshop.
However, besides the preparations for the competitions, Mahé wanted to establish a solid headquarter too, which he found ten years ago in the fabulous Ozouer Le Voulgis. Around 200 years ago, one of the obsolete buildings sheltered Jacques-Louis David, the highly influential neoclassical French painter – and maybe that’s the legacy which Equipe Europe is carrying on. Anyway, most of their faithful clients consider their work as a real artistic manifestation.
Equipe Europe has six permanent employees, but if necessary, as many as 20 people can work at the shop at the same time. The 2011 racing season saw them prepare almost 30 vehicles for the Classic Endurance Race (CER) competition season and the prestigious Tour Auto event.
Due to Yvan Mahé’s strong demand, the restoration of a car can run even for two years, so some of the vehicles now in the warehouses could very well wait there until next year. But even in this situation, their owners are calm and relaxed, knowing that sooner or later they will be in the possession of a masterpiece with Yvan Mahé’s valorous signature. The workshop is not hired just by collectors or racers – Peugeot factory for example entrusted them with a 905 Evo1 race car, which in 1991 won the Suzuka competition in the World Sportscar Championship. Under a tarp we also discovered the 1988 Peugeot Oxia concept car, which will be transformed for its new owner in a road sports car for everyday use.
And the rarities just don’t stop here. During our visit, in the yard of the workshop we recognized a Delahaye Grand Prix 145, moreover, it was the one which in 1937 has won the main prize of 1 million French francs from the French Government for setting a new speed record. And what to say about Yvan Mahé’s own racecar, with which he now competes in the CER-series? The Porsche 935 “Moby Dick” (chassis JR001) was built on a Porsche chassis in 1981 by private team Joest Racing, and it competed in Germany, and later in North America too.
For more information about Equipe Europe, visit www.equipeeurope.com.
Equipe Europe – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
[Source: Csaba Kiss]