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Monaco Historic GP 2018 … About 200 cars enjoyed by a staggering 40.000 visitors


03 FERRARI 312B (1970) - BARILLA Paolo (ITA)

03 FERRARI 312B (1970) - BARILLA Paolo (ITA)

Hakkinen leading the Legends Parade

Hakkinen leading the Legends Parade

 

Monaco, 11th - 13th of May, 2018

For the 11th time the world famous street course in the Principauté de Monaco became the location of one of the most prestigious race events for classic F1 cars. Few other GP in the calendar of the current and the past are holding the same mystified history since William Grover-Williams won the first edition back in 1929 on Bugatti. But what seems to be a spectacle in modern racing becomes a challenge second to none to the wealthy gentlemen drivers of the classic car racing scene. F1 cars sometimes are purely bought to compete in Monaco as few other race meetings feature a full series of F1 races ranging from the early pre-war examples of Bugatti, ERA, Maserati or Talbot-Lago to the Tyrrell, McLaren and March of the 1970s. With this focus on F1 aside a single sports car race remembering the only year in the history of Monaco when the main race of the season was held for this kind of cars rather than open wheel racing the Monaco HGP certainly is unique in the historic race season.

About 200 cars where lined up on Friday in the paddock in the harbour and the modern GP paddock to compete in 7 practice sessions, qualifying and races over the following 3 days being enjoyed by a staggering 40.000 visitors filling the grand stands especially on the two weekend days and even the strike at the French rail system and the bad weather forecast for Sunday did not keep away people from this biennial opportunity to watch breath taking racing within the narrow streets. For those driving and the numerous photographers the ever changing city also brings new challenges as the light and shadow as well as the characteristic breaking points seem to change from edition to edition and it is interesting to see how the drivers are able to adapt to this changing conditions. With a few professional drivers and many seasoned vintage car racers on one side as well as inexperienced novices on the other the field in the single classes was pretty much spread out and almost half a minute difference in lap times was nothing unusual after the practice sessions on Saturday. Furthermore the Safety Car or even Red Flag is not uncommon especially on the first practice day when unsorted cars or over challenged drivers led into the guard rails to thin out the actual race line-up before the start on Sunday as Monaco does not excuse any failure during the blast along the armcos.

No other country seems to be so enthusiastic about racing as the Britains and as Monaco is a popular destination for them anyway both the visitors and drivers came from the UK more often than not and the question was indeed how many of the British anthems one would hear on Sunday to honour the race winners. The oldest cars on track were the pre-war cars and unsurprisingly the majority of the cars are common sight at the Goodwood Revival and once again the very fast ERA were placed at the front making this a fight between three of the for the win. At the end a single Maserati could get on the podium at a race won by Paddins Dowling.

Class B for the early front engined GP cars after the war saw a strong gathering of Maserati 250 F and it was the Tec-Mec Maserati of Barry Wood that took the chequered flag in front of a duo of Lotus 16.

One of the most intensive races of the weekend was the Sports car race. With no less than 5 Maserati 300S and even more A6 GCS the field was just breath taking and although the closed wheels looked exotic that weekend the line-up was certainly worth the visit by itself. But the race was even spiced up as just with the formation lap the heaven opened its gates and brought the rain predicted for this day to give the slim tyres a very slippery track. With the cars worth millions one could see that the drivers of these gems seemed to be more cautious and the race remained without many incidents although the cars slided a lot. At the end it was pole sitter Chris Ward in the Cooper-Jaguar taking an unquestioned victory with half a minute gap to the second placed Lister.

The last two races of the day were reserved to the most powerful and newest F1 cars from 1973 to 1976 and from 1977 to 1980 with their 45 minute races. It was the older group of cars with two Ferrari 312B3 among others to drive the ideal line free of water for the later. At the beginning the spray of the open wheeled racers made it very tricky to follow the cars in the front and Le Mans winner Marco Werner in the Ferrari was playing it safe in the beginning earning ground during the second half of the race. In the front the McLaren M26 of Michael Lyons and the Ensign driven by Alessandro Caffi battled for the lead but the race was decided when Caffi spun at the chicane after the tunnel leaving Lyons the victory before climbing into the Hesketh 308E for the last race. Werner and Stuart Hall in the McLaren M23 fought for second with the better end for the British driver.

The last race of the day saw a number of marques that seems to be forgotten in today’s F1. Arrows, ATS, Shadow, Tyrrell, Hesketh or Ensign are examples of a time before the large manufacturers entered F1. The winning ATS of this race played a rather small role in F1 as it never finished better than 5th but today with the painstaking preparation of the professional race shops it is obviously an option for a race victory in the hands of a fast driver.

But not only the cars showed the rich history of F1, also a couple of selected drivers including Hakkinen, Irvine, Boutsen, Bell and Ickx reminded of the days when the cars were driven in anger rather than managing tyres and fuel in a hybrid era of “green” cars as can be seen at the same venue in two weeks for the actual GP.

Certainly nobody had to complain about the cars being too silent as the three-litre V8 and V12 made enough noise in between the street canyon or out of the tunnel. For all those who made it to Monaco despite the traffic and the rail strike this certainly was a memorable weekend that leaves pleasant anticipation for the next edition in 2020. Only a few negative comments could be heard within the paddock concerning the technical demands during the scrutineering that sometimes did not meet the intention of the restorers to keep the cars in original configuration. Especially the structure of the roll bar seemed to be an issue of dispute but at the end all the cars seemed to get the go for the weekend.

With the Mille Miglia starting this week and the Villa d´Este Concours following the next once again the May does satisfy all the different tastes of racing, rallying and showing of classic cars on the highest level possible and after our current preview galleries of the best moments in Monaco there will certainly come the time to have a closer look at all the cars at this week’s HGP in a few days.

 

Report & images ... Peter Singhof
www.ClassicCarPhotography.de