Featured: The Vernasca Silver Flag Showcases The Golden Era Of Italian Autos

The Vernasca Silver Flag Showcases The Golden Era Of Italian Autos

By Jacopo Villa
June 21, 2017
11 comments

Photography by Rosario Liberti

If you pick up any automotive history book and read about GT car racing in the 1950s, you’ll find yourself dealing with a lot of hillclimb events scattered around Europe, and many of those located in the boot-shaped country. For instance, the Parma-Poggio di Berceto, the Caprino-Spiazzi, the Trento-Bondone, and among countless other fun-to-utter names, the Castell’Arquato-Vernasca, or the “Vernasca Silver Flag.” Of course, these are but some of the names of glorious competitions from the past, which, thankfully over the years, have became all historic events in celebration of their history.

Since the beginning of motorsport, these sorts of events have always been the heart and soul of racing: after all, what’s more thrilling than a closed, winding mountain road, where you have the license to drive like a maniac and be cheered on for it? There are bigger and longer and faster races out there, but there is a unique element of these tight hillclimbs that make them somehow more special.

Among them, perhaps the Vernasca Silver Flag holds the distinction of being the single best event capable of assembling a large amount of stunning machinery every year. It’s sort of like and Italian miniature-sized Goodwood Festival of Speed, where legends of the past are driven on one of the best driving roads in Italy not for time, but for style: do not be fooled by the hillclimbing nature of this great event, for the Vernasca Silver Flag is a dynamic concours d’elegance rather than a race. Quite simply, it is an event wherein each car is judged by its looks on the road. It’s a winning formula, isn’t it? Cars do not stay parked on some fancy grass lawn, but instead are given a chance to be driven properly while still being displayed.

 

The original race was held for 17 years, from 1953 to 1972, and this prestigious hillclimb was one of the most important and well-known national events in its day: in this remote region of Italy, south of Piacenza, thousands of spectators used to gather to watch the cars racing on the mountain. The present day event however was first held in 2007, and consists of three hillclimbs: two of them on Saturday, and one on Sunday, culminating with the grand finale with all the cars arriving and put on a display in Vernasca’s main square.

No fancy dresses or glamorous parties here though: just racing overalls, hands covered in grease, and a big smile on everyone’s faces. This is a true petrolhead event. Pre-war Rileys and Frazer Nashes share the ground with a squadron of Abarth 2000 and 1000 SPs, backed by some old and intriguing open-wheel Formula 3 and Formula 2 cars from the ‘60s, animate the crowd better than any comedian on earth: giant burnouts from a Shelby Cobra 427 and the screams of Giulia GTAs are what it’s all about.

Also, a selection of fine cars from the FCA collection was also participating this year, including a super-rare 1931 Fiat 525SS and the unique Lancia D25, a bespoke racing car made for Formula 1 champion Alberto Ascari in 1954.

For petrolheads, hillclimbs should be at the top of the list for ultimate driving: who doesn’t like a twisting elevated road where all you have to concern yourself with is driving to the top of your abilities? I think we need more dynamic concours d’elegance like the Vernasca Slver Flag: after all, who would prefer to stare at a silent racing car? Motoring passion is all about noise and action in addition to the style, and I am glad we’re still able to celebrate cars the proper way sometimes.

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11 Comments on "The Vernasca Silver Flag Showcases The Golden Era Of Italian Autos"

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Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

G.S., Yep, the flares threw me for a second till I recalled the estimable George Follmer who raced a 23 with a 904 4 cammer engine. It was a real beast and had cut out fender skirts with huge Cobra style flares. John Morton also tried the 2 liter Porsche motor in a 23.

Guilty as charged for ignoring the REPLY button. I’ll try to do better.

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

Thanks Jacopo, after I considered Iso I thought maybe ATS. When I read your reply naturally I was annoyed that I’d forgotten Count Volpi.
Serenissima ……………what a gorgeous name!

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
Brought to you by the same Count Volpi and shop that created the iconic 250 SWB Gt . As for the name .. a fancy word for Venice … the city of serenity .. unless of course you know all the deep dark secrets the city hides .. in which case serenity is the furthest thing from the truth … which errr .. upon reading up on it applies to the car as well . As for the motor to clarify what Jacopo was trying to say its a bespoke motor that unfortunately never saw a moment of racing glory… Read more »
Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

… here’s a not half bad article on the car if you’re wanting to know more ;

https://www.supercars.net/blog/1965-serenissima-308v-jet-competizione/

Jacopo Villa
Jacopo Villa

You’re welcome Bill, my pleasure. Ah, guess since I am back writing, I’ll also need to discuss with the ever-present Guitar Slinger!

Are you Gibson man by the way?

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

I’m stumped by the lead photo. What is car #300?
I can usually ID 60’s Italian racers but this one is eluding me. Maybe an Iso?

Jacopo Villa
Jacopo Villa

Hi Bill, the car is a Serenissima 308V Jet GT, a unique car made by Scuderia Serenissima and conceived by its Owner, Count Giovanni Volpi in the 60ies. As far as I know, only a cupè and a spider were made, seemingly both bodied by Fantuzzi. This car has its own 3.0 V8 engine, and it is not based on any other existing designs. it’s a treat seeing it every year at the Vernasca.

Bill Meyer
Bill Meyer

The yellow car is a Lotus 23 with some extra fender flares.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

… extra flares , minus its wheel spats , a perspective that makes it look wider than it is … no wonder the grump got stumped

PS; Mr Meyer .. for your edification …right next to the thumbs up/down icons … REPLY

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Madonna mia !Automotive Italiophile heaven ! But hang on … whats that usurper Porsche 904 doing in the mix ?

And OK … I’ll admit it .. you’ve ‘ Stumped the Grump ‘ . Whats that beguiling pancake low yellow spider in the last frame ?

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger

Gosh … only one thumbs down today ? Sigh … I’m so disappointed