Rewinding the hands of time and finding yourself in Monaco, on the circuit laid out on the normal streets of the Principality, “a mountain track with a city around it”, as Graham Hill liked to call it, passing from “pre-war” single-seater racers to front-engined examples from the 1950s in a single day. Then enjoying the Le Mans Sports Cars, not entirely at ease on the twisty and narrow streets of the circuit all the way up to the battles between different Formula 1 Groupings from later eras driven in turn by champions of the calibre of Alesi and Arnoux, as in the case of famous Ferrari 312 B3, is like being in another world.
Jean Alesi as he used to be with his front wheel raised over the curb at the "Old Station" hairpin in Niki Lauda's Ferrari 312 B3. He was shunted and eliminated towards the end of the race while he was in the lead
Cancelled last year, the Grand Prix Historique returned in 2021 with a cheering public in the stands, albeit a diminished one. The spectacle of the races, fought without too much respect for the precious jewels on the track in this almost surreal world where everything speaks of the past, was however surpassed by those “suspended” moments that preceded the start. Seeing those jewels silently lined up on the starting grid, each one pristine and identical to how it was back then, was an unforgettable sight to behold. Then, the green flag dropped, the engines ignited, and they were “off!”. It’s almost as if in an instant, the cars of an entire museum shot off into the distance, returning to their original vitality.
The condition this Maserati A6GCS was reduced to demonstrates just how hard fought the races are. Luckily the driver walked away in better condition than the car
The races, some hard-fought until the chequered flag, others punctuated by the different performance of the models lined up on the grid, were brimming with emotions. Among the many winners, one driver took home no fewer than three titles in three different races: The Englishman Michael Lyons who won behind the wheel of a 1971 Surtees TS9, a 1976 McLaren M26 and a 1977 Hesket 308E. Collectors behind the wheel, or brave collectors who left the wheel of their cars to those who really know how to drive them. And it was not always the pros who win, as Arnoux and Alesi demonstrated by crashing their Ferraris, albeit not always through their own fault. But, as the British say, “that’s motor racing”.
The day began with the pre-war single-seater races which saw Amilcar, Bugatti, Maserati, Delage and other cars from a distant memory battle it out
This edition may have passed but fear not, as exceptionally the GP Historique in Monaco will also be held in 2022 because this year’s race was meant to recover the one that was cancelled in 2020. Worth noting on your calendar next spring for a holiday on the French Riviera filled with the odour of castor oil. To whet your appetites, enjoy this video of the 2021 edition.
Slick tyres, 3,000cc engine, 1976 Lotus 77 and 1973 McLaren M23 at loggerheads just like in the good old days
Le Mans cars on the roads of the Principality missed the long straights of the French race but hardly held back. A Lister at the start leading a Maserati A6GCS, an Aston Martin DB3S and a Jaguar C-Type
The chance to take a walk in the paddock, where cars are visible and often, as in the case of this Maserati, disassembled, is just as exciting as the spectacle of the races
This beautiful 1939 Talbot-Lago in an unusual white livery dominated the pre-war race and kept its numerous opponents in check
Katarina Kyvalova, always very determined during the races with her Cooper-Jaguar T33 precedes the 1952 A6GCS with bodywork that was very different from the usual one seen on this model
The Ferrari 312 B3 number 28 had a bad day: happy to have been entrusted to a champion like René Arnoux it immediately regretted the decision after ending up against the wall at the “Tabac” curve during the qualifying session. Even unhappier than the car, was the owner