Making A Pilgrimage To The Temple Of Speed With A Pair Of Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTVs
Story by Marco Betocchi and Luca Danilo Orsi
Photography by Luca Danilo Orsi
When I got together with some friends this summer—truly passionate collectors and drivers—to discuss the idea of creating some photoshoots and stories about iconic Alfa Romeo models, our immediate collective thought was to visit Monza, home of one of the most famous racing circuits in the world. The historic banked track and its modern iteration are located just a few miles from Milan, a city with a century of intertwined Alfa Romeo history, which is to say the destination decision came easy.
We arrived at Monza in the summertime on a hot and bright day with two examples of the much-loved Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT Veloce. One was built in 1967, incredibly preserved in its original red paint and in as perfect a condition as possible, complete with its original Italian plates, and the other is from 1966, though it is not in the same spec today, seeing as its owner, Giuseppe Lambri, has prepared it for historic competitions. Giuseppe is a very well regarded specialist mechanic with cars like this, and after seeing him on track I would say he’s not lacking any talent in the driver’s seat, either.
The cars are just one part of car enthusiasm, though, and to spend this dream day with friends made it all the more memorable. Between the location and the cars, we fed off of each other’s excitement the entire day, like joyful children arranging their toys on the proverbial carpet. But in this case, it was Monza, the original Temple of Speed.
The circuit was built by the Automobile Club of Milan in just three months in 1922, only a few years after the founding of the car company what would become known as Alfa Romeo, and to visit the circuit today one can’t help but feel a sense that pieces of time are frozen in the cracks on these famous banks. Triumph and tragedy are intertwined in the history of this more-than-fast track, and the “Temple” part of its nickname is a fitting one.
In the nearly 100 years since this monolithic track was created (it is regarded one of the first purpose-built car racing tracks), many changes and modifications have been done to keep it viable for the evolving safety requirements of motorsport, including the modern version of the road course that’s primarily used today.
But the old legend is still there, too, emanating a Tarkovsky-like spirituality through the encroaching nature. The north and south curves of the high speed banked ring that was rebuilt in the 1950s are more breathtaking than ever, especially in the forested park setting of the circuit. Their calf-achingly steep inclination makes it almost impossible to stand on, and imagining what it must have been like to take these corners at full throttle in monoposto race cars with fuel tanks on either flank… It’s kind of impossible to do that unless you’ve, well, done it.
For our distinctly safer session at this track, we started shooting on the sopraelevata curves and the old flat track as the conversations and time flew by in the background. Before our hours were up, we decided to visit the modern sections of Monza as well, home of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix. Pit lane first, and then we proceeded to Variante Ascari, our portable radios allowing us to coordinate quickly to not lose the light. Other than a few squawks, we were silent for a while, no doubt each of us allowing our imaginations to wash over as the sound of engines drowned our thoughts.
For the last part of shoot we headed to another disused part of the circuit, where it once again became difficult to believe that such an incredible piece of motorsport history could sit here, all but covered by the visual markings of abandonment. As the late afternoon sunlight was giving its best effort to stay up we were still feeling as reverent as we did on arrival, but it eventually came time to pack up the gear into the cars and head home.
Monza has a soulfulness to it like few other circuits. It has a grandeur about it that seems only to be heightened by the cracks and stains and encroaching plant life. To be in the presence of such a thing is a gift, and it’s one that we should never take for granted. For now though, we will simply get to work planning the next pilgrimage.