Here’s All The Insane Action From The Monaco Historique Grand Prix
Photography by Jayson Fong
Set against one of the most beautiful backdrops in motorsport, the Monaco street circuit is recognisable from almost every angle and for good reason—it is stunning. Steeped in history, I couldn’t help but look at some of the architecture, some just as famous as the corners they surround, and imagine race cars passing by in the golden era.
However, this was made a bit easier last weekend, as Monaco saw the return of over 230 historic cars to the famous circuit for the biennial Monaco Historique Grand Prix, giving many lucky spectators the opportunity to see a revival of motorsport spanning the years 1925-1979.
An event primarily dedicated to open wheel racing, the Monaco Historique hosted two full grids of Formula Juniors, pre-1961 F1 and F2 cars including Sir Stirling Moss’ 1956 Grand Prix-winning Maserati 250F and 1500-cc F1 Brabhams, Ferraris and Lotus race cars, bringing scenes reminiscent of the 1966 film Grand Prix.
That the drivers laid it all out, hustling, with flat-out racing all weekend is not something you may expect, especially considering the value of these cars. Racing incidents were not an uncommon occurrence over the weekend—this is one of the most harrowing street circuits in the world, after all.
Both open-wheeled formula and sports cars also took to the streets, in an impressive race displaying many levels of daring and race craft. The sight of these masterpieces on wheels fighting their way through the narrow and sometime treacherous streets, with engine notes reverberating through the city was simply glorious.
Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes was watching the Jaguar C-Type once owned by Fangio sliding into Casino Square, two large dents on either headlight showcasing its battle scars…with no hint of easing the pace. As a result, the car ended up taking the top step on the podium.
But what many people came to see was the Formula 1 cars from the late 1960s and 1970s. Split into two grids, the first was made of earlier cars to 1972. A rich palette of colours was made up of cars such as Lotus’ JPS 72, Brabham BT33s, Matra MS 120Cs and Jackie Stewart’s Tyrrell 001. Genius Formula 1 designer and aerodynamics artist Adrian Newey also made an appearance in eye catching Gold Leaf Lotus 49B.
Grid two also featured a host of famous cars and names such as early Williams F1, Surtees, Shadow, Lotus and March. For those who enjoyed the intense rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, they were in luck as three ex-Lauda Ferraris and multiple ‘James Hunt’ Heskeths and Mclarens once again went head to head.
For those who came to see their raw power, they were not disappointed, as their intensity could be physically felt as the racing cars weaved their way through the streets only feet away from the grandstands. Photographers and marshals brave enough to enter the tunnel at the same time were subjected to an amplified experience that shook the foundations of the hotel above—and I dread to think of the damage that could be done if you weren’t wearing earplugs.
Despite some of the surrounding urban landscape of Monaco changing over the years, it is great to be able to recognise the circuit as a largely unchanged element. As unforgiving as ever but with a charm and attraction that many other circuits simply do not have, watching historics climb to Casino Square on full throttle with the same buildings as historic photographs as a backdrop is a step back in time that I thought I would only be able to dream of: a good thing then that the Monaco Historique Grand Prix makes that dream a reality.
Although the official 2016 Monaco GP takes place in the same place in less than two weeks, I think I know which one I’d rather see for action…and the real sound of Formula 1.