The 2017 Monza Historic Was A Tribute To Timelessness
Photography by Rosario Liberti
2017 marked just the second running of the Monza Historic (a Peter Auto event, which, like the rest of their vintage race days, draws an extreme caliber of cars), but there were decades of history stacked up in pit lane all the same. The cars turned the place into a sort of vehicular Mount Olympus—which car gets to be Zeus?—but the track too is a piece of all this provenance, and perhaps the best existent metaphor we have for understanding how legendary racing cars age. They don’t stay the same—times change and change everything therein—but they are still being thrust forward along with us all, not ever to be fully forgotten.
One of the oldest tracks in the world, the original circuit in Monza has been, pretty literally, cut down over the years; the cliff face-like banks that used to keep Formula cars like the Brabhams, Loti, Ferrari, and Hondas glued to the rough surface before the engineers really started to wrestle with aero packages, now stand as sentries to the past, covered in moss and missing a few chunks of concrete, but only more intimidating because of it. Visiting the old pieces of Monza, before the track was changed to keep the cars more or less parallel to the ground, one becomes an amateur automotive archaeologist climbing the slippery turns and trying to conjure the ghosts that used to barrel along them.
Autodromo Nazionale Monza still exists, still hosts modern racing events, but it’s not the same. This is obvious, but it helps to illustrate the similar trail that old racing cars go down—still appreciated in modernity, but there’s a wistful nostalgia that hangs over it, for times you were around to witness or else born too late for, it’s sort of the same feeling. It’s the longing to be back in the time period that drives every age group to yearn for the era when these cars were in their primes. So, when you combine this attitude and an insane collection of cars like the Ferrari 512 and Porsche 917 with a revered circuit like Monza, what happens?
It’s not a magic formula, it’s just that the feeling builds on itself: you’re in the present day looking at these cars at Monza, the combined history of which makes it so you feel you cannot escape the past. It’s a strange juxtaposition, the year 2017 and a race track from the ‘20s filled with the shapes and sounds of machines that date back to the ‘60s. There’s no way to fully replicate what’s already happened of course, but there’s also no denying the value of continuing the enthusiasm for as long as possible.
This value comes from multiple angles. Imagine: maybe a grandparent and grandkid attend the Monza Historic, the elder revisiting memories that’ve gestated for decades since the last time he heard a flat-twelve under load, while the younger begins forming his first impressions that he will one day look back on. The power of these cars is not preceded by “horse,” it rests in the intangible sensations that all their tangible parts somehow combine to create.
So even if the vintage race cars aren’t doing it “like they used to,” why is that cause for complaint? Just as Monza is a low-lying shadow of its former glory, it’s still being used. The cars are still running. Celebrations of the past don’t take anything away from the past, it’s all an addition. With that said, and whether you remember these icons or just know them as icons, enjoy the fact that their histories are being added to on bona fide race tracks around the world, not sitting hidden away steeping in what once was.