Brits Rule Monaco–8th Grand Prix de Monaco Historic

As seen in Classic Car magazine July ‘12 with words & paddock photographs by Lara Platman

Classic Cars Magazine 06.06.12As the 8th Grand Prix de Monaco came to a close on Sunday evening, many of the competing cars are being trailered back to their garages to be prepared ready for their next race, some however were being prepared for a long drive back to their own countries, with enthusiastic and most certainly steadfast motorists who not only drove to and from Monaco, but raced in fabulously in their series.

James wood had driven down to Monte Carlo for the last 400 miles, “I wanted to drive from the UK as with all the drivers of the historic races used to do, but testing commitments at Goodwood prevented me from really allowing the Curtis Collection Fraser Nash to go at an easy pace.

I find James looking around for wheel nuts before he eventually start to hammer on the hubs,

“You can tell I have been testing modern cars I am trying to  find the wheel nuts”

The Pre-53 Sports car race combined a stunning clash between the British marques, with the Jaguar C-Types; piloted by Nissan sports car driver Alex Buncombe starting on pole and winning and the famous car collector Carlos Monteverde moving one place to completing in 3rd position along with the Fraser Nash piloted by John Ure coming second.

The is the third outing to Monaco for the Aston Martin DB3, 2 years ago and 60 years ago in the first Monaco Grand prix, which back then was for sports cars. There were only 10 DB3’s made, 3 of which were factory team race cars. Today only this model and another exists. Martin Melling driver and owner came 14th in the series which says Dick, the race mechanic,

“is actually very respectable for this weekend.”

Not surprising really when other drivers such as BTCC champion Patrick Watts in the Allard J2 and James Wood in the Fraser Nash Le Mans Replica Mk1.

Being the first time here at the Historic, Patrick was happy to start on the grid in third position after only 2 flying laps as the J2 as the big end bearings and main journal shells needed changing. The big end bearing having fallen apart allowing the oil pressure to drop, Patrick was happy that he did not have to make the 2nd qualifying race allowing time to fix the problem.

“I found driving the Honda, Mazda and Peugeots in the BTCC series antiseptically efficient and not as much fun and as hard to drive these old cars.” Said Patrick when I found him hovering over the mechanic hoping for some good news.

Keen historic racing driver Emmanuelle Piro ex formula 1 driver, said quite favourably that he was happy to see so many young drivers and spectators; “Historic racing doesn’t have to be for historic people.”

MonacoClassic-1Endurance race winner, Alain Decadenet, said that “today’s contemporary racing is all about tyres,” and Joachin Mass continued in the same conversation,” these cars racing here in the historic you have to really feel the emotion of the car, use your feet and concentrate on the strength of what the car and the driver can do together – I am not sure I would be able to understand what goes on with the steering wheel of the modern formula 1 car of today.”

Julia Baldanza returning from an exhausting but seemingly happy race came in behind most of the pack in her 1929 Bugatti 35B, “my car has a bigger age gap than the ERA and Maserati’s, I had some heavy traffic around Rascas, but I really truly loved the race.”

In the same race (pre 1952 Voiturettes and Grand Prix cars) Michael Gans driving the 1936 ERA B finished in 3rd place after having to replace the exhaust valve and system head and rebuild it. The team mechanic said “it was a seven hour job”. Gans happy to actually having brought the car home released a sigh of relief, “The hardest part was the last three laps – actually finishing the race, I overtook Ian Landy’s ERA B from 4th place and then to maintin the pace of the race when don’t have other cars around you, to keep the speed and the proper pace is difficult – that is what can allow you to bring the car home or not.” He continued, “I had a good distance in front of me and there was no one behind me so I simply needed to maintain the proper pace.”

The first race of the overcast streets of Monaco was the pre -61 Grand prix and Formula 2 cars. Duncan Drayton in the 1958 Lotus 16 starting in 2nd position on the grid after spinning in the 7th lap finished in 19th, with bodywork intact. Julia’s Baldanza’s first race of the day was to be in a 1951 Maserati A6GCM coming one place after Drayton. A retirements from Barry Wood in the Cooper Bristol T20 mk2, who signalled to me with his hands; ‘I’m out’ and fabulously competitive driving from the two leads in a 1959 Cooper T51 Climax (Roger Wills who started on pole and won the race) and Gary Pearson (started in 4th and came in 2nd) in the 1958 BRMP25, both came into the paddocks with such energy of reliving the race describing every corner with aplomb, using the arms to mimic the steering wheels).

MonacoClassic-2Other race series included the Formula 1 with cars from 1966 – 1972 and rear engine Grand Grand pre cars 1961-1965, where Pole position on the grid Andy Middlehurst in the 1962 Lotus 21 Climax was racing against, Jason Wright in the 1964 ATS 100. Just as most of the race series, friends and colleagues race against each other. Wright finishing up 6 places and Middleton keeping his pole position to win this fabulously driven race.

Paul Drayson in the 1962 Lotus 24 “I was struggling to get gears in the qualifying race so the guys altered the ratio of the cogs” the gears were too long up the straight but finishing in 3rd position he must have found his gears after all.

The Final race amid the thoroughly wet streets of Monaco, was the Formula 1 cars from 1973 – 1978, where penthouse, Durex and Marlborough adorned the wrapping for the cars whilst Jackie Stewart, Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler drove. Today the youngest driver, Michael Lyons in the 1977 Hesketh 308E picked up a fabulous winning podium, probably his first ever Monaco win and what a place to receive it. Other drivers and cars in this race included Bobby Verdon Roe in the McLaren M26 1977 and Rob Austin in the Campari colours of Surtees TS19 – a Austin and the car will soon be appearing in Ron Howards film ‘Rush, the Niki Lauder biopic and the 1976 crash that almost claimed his life.

The Grand prix de Monaco Historic relives the golden age of the sports classic with the marshals and fire crews are gearing up for the contemporary. One of the world’s dangerest tracks with such limited fall off areas, the circuit played host to some exhilarating racing. Every two years the streets are returned to an age gone by.

As seen in Classic Car magazine July 2012 with all words & paddock photographs

by Lara Platman