This month’s staging of the 6th Grand Prix Historique at Monaco coincided with a personal anniversary. I promise not to bore you with too many details, but it marked 40 years since I first visited the Principality to attend a Grand Prix. Unusually for a Grand Prix venue, the circuit has changed little over that time. Admittedly, there has been the addition of the Rascasse and Swimming Pool complexes but the majority of the lap remains as it was in 1968, when I watched Graham Hill take victory in his Gold Leaf Lotus 49.
In fact, with those two exceptions, the circuit has changed little in its 79-year history and that’s what makes it such a special and unique place to stage a historic motorsport meeting. Watch a Bugatti rush through Casino Square and you’re transported back to the very first Monaco Grand Prix in 1929, when William Grover (Williams) won in a similar car; or look at a Maserati 250F blasting through Tabac corner just as Fangio did on his way to win in 1957. Your nostalgia doesn’t have to stop at the cars as, again this year, two-times Monaco Grand Prix winner Sir Stirling Moss was in attendance, driving a 1950 Frazer Nash Le Mans Replica in the sports car race.
This year’s entry and racing complemented the classic venue, with full grids of historic cars, many with a rich history – and names such as Nuvolari, Chiron, Gurney, Beltoise and Regazzoni came tripping off the commentator’s tongue. Yet today’s competitors were in no way overawed by their historic machinery and provided some great racing: the dice for first place between Julian Bronson, ERA D Type, and Matt Grist, Alfa Romeo Tipo B, in the pre-1947 race for Grand Prix cars was a sight to behold. Eventually, Julian hung onto the lead to take victory in a car that he had only driven for a few practice laps before the meeting. In the pre-1953 Sports Car race, the two C-type Jaguars of Nigel Webb and David Wenman ran in tyre-smoking, nose-to-tail formation throughout the whole 10 laps, with David just squeezing past on the last lap to secure second spot by two seconds over Nigel. American Duncan Dayton proved that he has recovered from his swimming pool accident by winning in both the Pre-1961 Front-Engined GP race in a Lotus 16, and again in the Pre-1975 Formula 1 race in his Brabham BT33.
Other winners were: Formula Junior – John Monson BMC MK1; Formula 1 1975/78 – Paul Edwards Penske PC3; Pre-1966 Rear-Engined GP cars – Simon Hadfield Lotus 21; and John Ure’s Fraser Nash Le Mans Replica in the pre-1953 Sports Car event.
The organisers, the Automobile Club de Monaco, filled the lunch break void with three ‘demo’ runs, the first of which was to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the GP Moto de Monaco, thus providing spectators with the unusual sight of 15 assorted 1930/40s motorcycles tackling the circuit’s hills and hairpins. This was followed by a half-hour, ear-splitting F1 Ferrari parade, with cars ranging from Ascari’s 1952 F500 to Schumacher’s F2004. Perhaps the most mouthwatering display was put on by Audi, who engaged Jacky Ickx to pilot a pre-War Auto Union for an all-too-brief three laps, the sight and sound of this silver torpedo circulating through Monaco’s streets and leaving us all wanting more.
Word has gone round that the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique is a great event and now the grandstands are selling out, the cafés and hotels are full, and the historic motorsport scene sees Monaco in May as the place to be. I can’t understand why it’s taken so long. I could have told them 40 years ago. Mind you, half the cars racing over the weekend weren’t historic then. In fact, many of them weren’t even a twinkle in the designer’s eye. Oh dear, now I do feel old...
Story and photos by Roger Dixon - all strictly copyright. For further information please visit www.rogerdixonphotography.com
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