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The mystique of Monaco Historique

Grand Prix Monaco Historique is full of twists and thrills. James Nicholls takes us around the track at this year’s event.

The 13th edition of the Grand Prix Monaco Historique, beginning on Friday the 13th of May, was unlucky for some racing pilots but pure bliss for the spectators on a sunny Côte d’Azur.

Organised by the Automobile Club de Monaco (ACM) under the High Patronage of Their Serene Highnesses The Prince and The Princess of Monaco, some 200 cars in eight series and races took part in the Principauté.

A classic course

The Monaco course, which is still 80% the same today as when the race was first to run in 1929, truly is a field of motor racing dreams. And do not think this is a mere parade or procession of old cars touring around Monte Carlo Casino Square, the famous Fairmont hairpin bend, and Rascasse in some form of demonstration. These cars, the oldest of which was a 1925 Bugatti Type 35, are the same as the one that finished sixth in the first-ever Monaco GP. They race just as hard as when competing in that period and as competitively as any Grand Prix today.

Emotions run high, competition is fierce, and everything is on the line for palmarès, the honour of winning not being taken lightly. And for some, that competitive drive on the tight street circuit around the chic luxury villas, boutiques, and restaurants – in the second smallest sovereign state in the world with a coastline of fewer than four kilometres – can be a costly day out in these multi-million dollar valued machines.

Monaco Historique car race

Twists and turns

At the Sunday finals, there was a coming together in Series A1 when the leading 1935 ERA R4A was forced to retire after clipping the white 1935 Riley Dobbs. In Series A2, there was a red flag on the penultimate lap after a Lotus pile-up. In Series B, another Lotus under late braking crashed into the Tepco barriers.

Amongst the 1950s sports cars, a 1956 Maserati 300S, suffered extensive body damage to the rear quarter. A 1957 300S, once owned by Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame, rubbed the rail at the end of the race. The ex-Rolf Stommelen March 721, suffered a big prang coming around turn 12 in Race D, which thankfully, the shaken driver was able to step out unharmed.

70th anniversary special

In 2022 the GP Historique recognised two significant anniversaries. The 70th anniversary of that special sports car GP weekend of 1952 when Monaco held unique races: on Sunday, the Monaco GP for sports cars over two litres, and Saturday for smaller engine cars for the Prix de Monte-Carlo.

The GP winner was the aristocratic Vittorio Marzotto, whilst Tony Crook of Bristol fame came third in the 1952 Frazer Nash’ Le Mans Replica’ (Mk 2), which was running this year’s Historique.

This year also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the death of Lotus boss, Colin Chapman. No less than 35 Lotuses were out on the track paying homage. Lotus has been present in Formula One GPs every year from 1958 to 1995, taking 79 wins. Seven of those wins were in Monaco – Stirling Moss in 1960 and ’61, Graham Hill in 1968 and ’69, Jochen Rindt the following year, Ronnie Peterson in 1974 and Ayrton Senna in 1987. Overall, Lotus won six Drivers World Championship titles with Jim Clark doubling up in ’63 and ’65, Graham Hill in ’68, Rindt in 1970, Emerson Fittipaldi two years later and the last in 1977 by Mario Andretti. No wonder nearly 20% of this classic field was made up of Chapman’s incredible product.

Well done to all 675 Marshals of the ACM, whose numerous interventions allowed all drivers to race safely, if not without incident, over the weekend. And well done to the winners who each received La Coupe de S.A.S. Le Prince de Monaco for their not inconsiderable efforts on the Riviera.

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