A Beautiful Reminder That Monza Is The World’s Oldest Race Track Still In Use
Photography by Rosario Liberti
The Modena Cento Ore (loosely translated to the One Hundred Hours of Modena), is a week-long driving event for classic cars that held its first edition some 18 years ago as we entered a new millennium; while the dot com bubble was just about to enter the process of eroding billions of dollars of wealth pinned on the hopes of the modern internet, the organizers of the Cento Ore were busy devising their modern take on vintage racing, for even if the cars would soon be changing hands to cover losses or to celebrate the success of short selling Enron shares, their next owners would surely be looking for ways to enjoy their new-old toys.
On the surface, the Cento Ore appears to be just another classic car rally through Europe (which, granted, is an activity with natural resistance to the words “just another”): it’s a near-weeklong romp across Italy with a pack of gorgeous sports cars climbing hills and strafing along the valleys in between during the day, drinking good wine and enjoying gourmet meals with friends in the evening, and hitting a slew of race tracks in the process. It’s a formula widely used for a reason, and if you’ve got the means to participate in one of these cross-country classic rallies you already know you’re spoiled for choice. If many of them are similar to one another though, it’s just evidence of the underlying idea being a good one.
However, for those looking for a more competitive slant to the format, this is where it’s at. Combining sprint and climb sections on closed-off streets in between visits to storied Italian circuits like Monza and Mugello, participants in the Cento Ore can decide whether they want to compete in an all-out, fastest-time-wins competition across all the rally’s stages, or if not, they can enter in the regularity group which traces the same route, but provides a more sedate experience where consistency is key rather than outright speed. A leisure cruise in comparison.
I wasn’t able to follow the course of events for the full gamut of activities and locations over the five-day experience, but I did join for the stop at Monza to see the legendary circuit (the oldest that’s still in use today) come alive with the sights of retro racing liveries and immaculate GTs, the smells of high-octane petrol and tires pushed past their limit, and the sound of purposeful motors being called on to do their jobs once again. The goings on were far from parade status in the competitive group, and without the trappings of modern life in my peripherals I could easily imagine this being in-period racing. The drivers weren’t all pros here, but there were a few mixed into the bunch, and much like how university sports are more entertaining than their more textbook-perfect professional series, watching amateur drivers wring out these old and somewhat temperamental cars was more entertaining than a line of seasoned pros hitting apexes one perfect angle after another. Here it was much scrappier, and clearly the drivers weren’t afraid to push, as evidenced by the flipped GT350 (the driver was just fine, unlike the poor ‘Stang) and the 904 missing its pants.
While it would have been nice to join along for the rest of the event, I think any day spent at Monza with a soundtrack of high-compression internal combustion is one well spent. Especially when the speakers are in the form of Daytonas, RSRs, and E-Types.