GALLERY: There’s No Place Like Monza For A Historic Rally Show
Photography by Rosario Liberti
Monza is a special place. Only a few circuits in the world inspire the same kind of reverence as one feels looking up from the bottom of these steep banks, their covering of moss and fog adding just that much more to the historical significance of this racing church. It is one of the oldest venues used in the modern motorsport calendar after all—only Indy has it beaten in this regard—and it’s seen plenty of changes in the time since. It’s a bit like Theseus’ ship in this sense: how many alterations does it take until the identity has fundamentally changed?
They stopped using the iconic high speed oval at the end of the 1960s for instance, instead developing a comparatively mundane course that keep things parallel to the ground. Despite the ho-hum chicanes though, it’s still got the scary-fast Parabolica curve, and even the most humble events held here can’t escape the added gravitas of the looming banked turns that made this name so famous. For some, being at Monza (or even just thinking about it), recalls the sight of Phil Hill trying to keep a skittering shark-nosed Ferrari 156 stuck to the wall at speed, while the grandkids of the generation that got to see that kind of thing in person probably use the word “retro” to describe the weird old oval that surrounds the “real track” where the racing happens now.
It’s a little bittersweet in that sense, but what options do we have? It would be unintelligently dangerous to send modern speed tearing around the crumbling sections of the near-vertical circuit of yesteryear, that much is obvious and not open for debate. But even if it were revamped and rebuilt to today’s standards, there’s a sound argument that doing so would only be erasing history, not adding to it. Thankfully, the annual Monza Rally Show strikes a balance. Held since 1978, albeit in a more competition-focused format, the most recent edition took place at the start of the month, so I bundled up and packed my camera for the short drive to the autodrome.
The classic rally machines only started to appear here when the class was created for them in 2013, and while it’s always entertaining to see the likes of MotoGP hero Valentino Rossi ripping around in a modern race car, I was there for the old mud-and-dirt-spec 911s, the fire-breathing 037s, the snorting Integrales going up on three wheels in the tight infield course before banging through the close-ratio ‘box on the section of high speed oval that opens up for this show. It’s not ultra-competitive, but it’s not a ho-hum regularity race either, and there were sounds of screaming rubber and backfiring exhaust throughout the course of each day. Anyway, here are a few of my favorite shots from a weekend well spent.