This Forgotten Classic-Filled Track Sits in the Middle of Budapest
Photography by Máté Boér for Petrolicious
Imagine being in the middle of a European capital city of two million. You see gates with flaking paint, enter through them, and suddently find yourself in a bustling playground of classic vehicles. It’s like you’ve entered a miniature, magical world of a snow globe, but instead of wooden lodges, reindeer, and pine trees, this “snow globe” has been designed for classic life enthusiasts. There are visitors in authentic costumes, fine classics (cars, bikes and bicycles), a banked racetrack from 1896, and instead of snowflakes there is the sound and smell of roaring engines and period-correct radio recordings.
Welcome to the Budapest Velodrom Millenáris, or as Hungarians say, a very small scale mixture of Goodwood and Brooklands Revivals.
These days, the Velodrom Millenáris is Hungary’s best Oldtimer Event, where frequently used classics and trailer queens both find their place. The event started in April 2011 with a reherseal for a tighter range of enthusiasts, and is now held regularly—one or two times per year. The place itself is rather special—not only is it Hungary’s first sports center, but it is also one of the oldest bicycle race tracks in Europe. The 412-meters-long concrete oval played important role in bicycle sport history, for example, it was the location of the 1928 World Cup, but since the late seventies it became forgotten to the wider public. Few years ago, András Noszvai, the organizer of the Hungarian classic car regularity championship, Oldtimer Supercup, got the idea to give a new meaning for the neglected race track.
The Velodrom Millenáris event is inspired by the pre-war period, when the motorsport scene was quite vivid in Hungary, but younger classics and rare youngtimers are also warmly welcome. This mixture as well as the nice costumes make the event colorful and ever-changing year after year.
The pre-war feeling reached the highest level with the post-restoration debut of a Maserati Tipo 8CM, which was in Hungarian ownership from 1937 to 2007. The monoposto was purchased from Écurie Braillard by a Hungarian countess, who raced the car for a few years before World War II. After the war ended, the car rolled out from the family’s mansion and continued to be a successful racecar with different owners and many modifications until the end of the 1950s. She regained her present form in 2009, when a Swiss collector gave back her 1937 shape, which includes a paint job in the colors of the Hungarian flag. Her life was interesting enough to fill a book with it.
The Velodrom Millenáris guarantees you an adventure—as you walk through the crowds of classics on display, others are driving around the steep corners only meters away. Here, visitors are not merely spectators, they are part of the show for the price of a movie ticket. The Velodrom often lures visitors with appropiate celebrities, like Luigi Taveri. Mr. Taveri is a Swiss former motorcycle road racer, who gained three world champion titles with a two-cylinder, 125cc Honda between 1962 and 1966. The 85-year-old legend received thunderous applause from the audience every time he rolled out on the track.
The organizer also invited a hero for the car enthusiasts to the event: Stasys Brundza made demo runs with his 1982 Group-B Lada VFTS rally car. His name is not as well-known overseas, but the Lithuanian sportsman was the Eastern Bloc’s most famous car racer, a ten-time Soviet Rally Champion and one of the inventors of the famous Lada VFTS race cars. Brundza finished sixth overall on the relentless, 716-kilometers-long 1976 Rally Acropolis with a Lada against Stratos HFs, Renault Alpines etc. Not incidentally, he owns a huge car collection, called Stasys Brundza Car and Transport Museum.
This year, the Velodrom Millenáris is going to be held on the 19th of July and I suggest that you don’t hesitate to visit, because its days are numbered. Some say the old, historic velodrome will be demolished to have a new, modern bicycle race track for the handful of Hungarian bikers, which is a competely baffled pursuit. Anyway, this year, as an extra feature, the show is going on until the last minute, lasting into the night. Just imagine all of this from above on a brightly lit track.