Featured: The Bergamo Historic Gran Prix Is Quintessential City Circuit Racing

The Bergamo Historic Gran Prix Is Quintessential City Circuit Racing

By Alex Sobran
May 31, 2017

For those that pine for the past, for a time when the cars were “real”—isn’t it funny how every generation thinks what they grew up with was the end-all be-all of purity?—it can be a frustrating existence knowing that that which you long for only moves further away from you as time continues to spread.

And so while it’s true that we can’t go back in full, it’s also the case that there’s distortion living in those memories because we’re in the now and looking at the then, and that window into a time gone by is always going to be rose-tinted. What I mean is that the present is judged with all of the objectivity that we leave out when we think about how great the past was. The good things that have happened will always seem more significant than things that are happening because they have the weight of time behind them; they wield the heft of years of selected positive memories that are continuously compounding on each other. Anything negative is jettisoned off in favor of the things that make us wistful. It’s almost impossible to compete in the present day.

However, events like the Bergamo Historic Gran Prix might be able to shift that pattern while still giving history its rosy due. Why is this event significant in this regard though? I mean, aren’t there more and more of these vintage tributes/revivals/homages/etc. occupying calendar space every year?

Aside from the regal splendor of a city constructed ages ago that will last many to come, and beyond the postcard-like representation of an Italian city with real history, the Gran Prix is special because it has just notched the 12th running of an event that honors a car race that was held for just one lone solitary island time in 1935. Featuring a smattering of Italian marques in their relative infancy, the winner of that race was none other than Tazio Nuvolari, driving none other than an Alfa Romeo P3. Pair that pair with the city’s Venetian walls and you’re left with something that’s almost a caricature of Italian history. No repute should be stolen from that 1935 race, but there is no harm in looking forward every once in a while too.

Barring hyper-aggressive emissions standards, it’s inevitable that any annual celebration of classic motorsport will eventually rack up more active years than the original race (if this doesn’t make sense, think of how many years Christians have been observing Christmas versus the amount of times Jesus was born), but so far, the Bergamo Historic Gran Prix is one of the very few members of this group. It is certainly the one most likely widen your eyes and leave your mouth in agape awe at the spectacle, for there is no replicating the sound of a Stratos’ Dino V6 ricocheting off the towering Walls of Bergamo.

Though only one car race was held on the circuit in 1935, the famous walled course hosted motorcycle events for years to come, and in keeping with this history, the Historic Gran Prix welcomes vintage metal of the two- and four-wheeled variety.

From the town square, or if you’re feeling local, the Piazza della Cittadella, serving as paddock area, to the the upper city’s stone-and-tree-lined streets playing the role of race track, the atmosphere is unmarred by garish makeshift pits and the droves of spectators aren’t relegated to pop-up seating around a track laid down far from the nearest city center. No, at the Bergamo one can indulge in the entirety of the classic European Gran Prix experience. Watching Ducatis, Ferraris, MV Agustas, Maseratis, Alfa Romeos, and others whose names end in vowels as they bark out their songs against a backdrop of medieval cobblestone is a hard act to follow, but thankfully it’s one that we needn’t recall with fondness just yet: here’s to the 2018 Bergamo Historic Gran Prix!

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Scott Morse
Scott Morse
6 years ago

Great article. The introduction was, IMHO, spot on regarding how
we view the past or, as Churchill put it “History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days” Thanks

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