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.
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 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”.
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.
9 minutes of emotions that summarize the races of an unforgettable weekend