This Beach Race Is Italy’s Take On A Hot-Rod Hangout On The Beach
Photography by Máté Boér
Motorcycles, fintails, and hot rods churn sand on a beach in a small, medieval Italian town. These aren’t the sights you’d expect when visiting Caorle at any other time of the year, but during an early September weekend this is what you’ll find at Roll’n’Flat.
There are some similar events like the Rømø Motor Festival in Denmark, Pendine Sands Hot Rod Races in the UK, and TROG in the US, but this event is separate from these because it takes place in Italy, and is organized by the people living there; the summer sun is still hot, a great percentage of the crowd wear swimsuits, and there are almost no rules in the competition. Racing action is not too intense, though, the track is very short and the sand quite deep, even if it is smoothed over by a huge tractor after every two or three runs.
There were no speed records made on this beach back in the day like there were at Pendine Sands for instance, so this modern event isn’t a revival, at least not with a specific target. In this respect, Roll’n’Flat has no historic roots; Caorle is popular for its beaches, and the majority of sightseeing is done in the old town’s Cathedral of St. Stephen and its bell tower which was built in 1048. In other words, it has history, just not with the stuff pictured here. Ernest Hemingway loved to spend time in Caorle, and the town, which is sometimes referred to as “little Venice,” was mentioned in some of his work.
Regardless of old towers, Roll’n’Flat makes the place worth a visit when the weather’s perfect in autumn because it’s foremost about having fun with cars. People play the part and get into it, but there’s no sense that anyone takes it too seriously. That’s certainly not to say that there weren’t some very nice and clearly vast-amounts-of-time-consuming custom machines out there.
Roll’n’Flat started six years ago in 2013 when a few friends had some fun on the beach with their cars and bikes, and I don’t think back then they would have believed 2018’s edition would gather more than one hundred participants to lay down umbrellas and towels at the beach. Many of them arrived from Austria and Germany in addition to the home team. The founding club, ’50 Brothers CC, is known for its members driving their hot rods to and from events held in other countries. For groups like this it’s more a chic to leave the trailer at home.
The majority of the machines were post-war US, and it seemed the majority of attention was earned by the modified Harley-Davidsons and the hot rods, the latter of which are much more special attractions in this part of Europe. Their license plates reveal their owners’ deep passions, stamped metal proof that they’ve overcome the bureaucratic challenges to make them road legal here.
Anyone could have guessed the fastest machine of the day when the cars arrived in the morning, because the red “Speed Rod” from the Austrian Hotrod Hangar played in a different league. Both in build quality and equipment—those paddle-like sand tires helped a lot to launch from the starting line. But no one complained about them, they just enjoyed watching the show.
Next year’s event is scheduled between 6th and 7th of September if you’re thinking of one last beach weekend next summer.