Proof Nobody Does Vintage Car Events Quite like the Italians
Photography by Federico Bajetti
Not too often you get to participate to an event where you see classic cars racing on a street circuit a few meters away from the sea—in Tuscany. I dare to say, only in Italy you can get three Lancia Stratos sideways in the tiniest streets imaginable, all the while shaded by tall and beautiful maritime pines. Italian Historic Cars is a relatively new event, organized every year by Camaiore Motorsport, a group of enthusiasts who love to see the mind-blowing spectacle of vintage race cars of the street. Here’s how the day unfolded.
If you have the privilege of being a motoring writer, you never mind waking up early for a long drive. After all, I can claim events like these are my office! So, I pack the few things I need to operate, like a couple of bottles of water, my recorder and a pack of San Carlo spicy chips, and I drive my way south.
First stop is to pick up Federico, the photographer, at a creepy train station in Milan, and then we take a route all the way down to the Cisa pass. I just love this drive, as you pass from the flats of the Po Valley to the stunning beauty of the Apennine Mountains. The roads there are just fantastic—even the Autostrada allows fast turns—and no matter what car you drive, the road will always put a smile on your face.
Once we pass La Spezia, we enter Tuscany and descend down to sea level. The place is not hard to find: just follow the distant roar of the cars and you’ll be there in no time.
We arrive at 10:30 am, well past the scheduled start of the event, which was at 9:00 am. Much to our surprise, no car was out on the track still. The noises we heard were just engines warming up! After all, punctuality is rarely contemplated by us Italians!
As we stroll through the closed streets we approach the first of the two paddocks: a black Alfa Romeo 8C sits peacefully next to two gorgeous looking Abarth sport coupés, an Alfa 155 GTA Superturismo and a nice array of Lancia Fulvias and Beta Montecarlos were there to greet the visitors.
The second paddock is where the “big guns” are kept: a rare Lancia Delta S4 Stradale was parked near a Lancia Delta in “Martini” livery; both were sharing their place with three(!) Stratos and a Group N Alfa 75.
One of my favorites of the event was a Lancia Delta S4 Stradale, one of the ultra rare road-going versions, and one of the few remaining in Italy. The owner told me that his car was originally owned by the factory and he has found it for sale in Reggio Emilia. He was asked to choose between a 037 and an S4, both with an equal price tag!
We turn our heads and a stunning group of three Lancia Stratos was parked under a tent. The version painted in the Alitalia colors was owned by the same family since the early eighties and it was covered with stickers from previous races it attended. It was unrestored, alive, dirty and well. To me it was the coolest of the bunch. Even better: all of the cars raced seriously.
The drivers pushed their cars: sparks came from carbon fiber diffusers hitting the tarmac, and flames spat out of the exhausts. A few were even damaged, but the attitude of the owners was laudable: “Not a big problem, we can fix that”. That’s how you treat your historic race car: drive it for good and drive it hard.
There was no fear in revving the engines up to redline: how cool is a 70-year-old man driving like hell in his race prepped Fiat Ritmo Abarth? The Stratos guys raced sideways on this street circuit, the 155 Superturismo spat flames out of the exhaust, and a guy in a modified Fiat 131 Abarth with an Alfa Romeo 155 D2 Superturismo engine was the spectator’s top pick: he slid the car at every corner, made donuts, burned a lot of rubber, and delighted everybody with upshifts so loud they seemed a machine gun.
It’s an event where you are close to the cars—really close to them. I remember clearly opening the rear door of the white ex-Nicola Larini Alfa Romeo Martini 155 touring car to let Federico install a GoPro for a quick clip. After that, we helped get the car going: a seemingly whimsical race engine that required 3 different batteries and a push start to be brought to life. No one lets you do that at Goodwood!
Everyone was there for fun and there was no real competition. But what a show! I do not remember having so much fun on a day’s work. It’s an event I strongly recommend attending if you have to chance to spend some time on Italy’s west coast in April.
Tired, happy and both smelling like burnt gasoline, Federico and I make our way home. Another day’s work has done and another great adventure has gone by—we can’t imagine an event like that anywhere else.