Hearing the roar of the ex Maria Teresa De Filippis 1954 Maserati 250 F accelerating hard out of the Saint Devote and onto the Beau Rivage in Montecarlo is a very musical reminder of how we missed proper motor racing in the last 2 years. It’s Friday morning in Montecarlo and much to our surprise, this almost magical event has not been cancelled due to this damn Covid pandemic. As we were descending down to the circuit from Boulevard Rainier III, hearing the sound of glorious Grand Prix machines of old times is perhaps one of the greatest pleasures a petrolhead could hope for. Pure, unapologetically loud exhausts, tasty downshifts and art in motion are the simple pleasures of being a person who loves cars.
We’re among the few Journalists which have been granted the pass to witness one of the best events on Earth, the Montecarlo GP Historique. Monaco is synonymous with F1 and it’s the most iconic and well known of all the classic Grand Prix street circuits. Racing has been part of Montecarlo’s life since 1929 and the Principate has hosted 77 Grand Prix in 92 years: for every fan, Montecarlo is one of those circuits that make Formula 1, Formula 1, like Monza and Silverstone.
The 2020 edition was postponed in 2021 due to Covid and next year the MPH will be held once again: not all bad things come only to hurt, right? The event is based on 7 classes of racing cars: Pre-wars, 1952-1957 Sportscars, pre 1961 1.5 litre, 1961-1965 1.5 litre, 1966-1972 3 litre, 1973-1976 3 litre and 1977-1980 3 litre. For the unwary spectator, it’s quite a fast museum on wheels: for us petrolheads it’s one of those things that we associate to porn.
The 2021 edition saw less cars than usual, but still it was quite the show. If you took a walk into the paddock, the same dream-like feeling that sets Montecarlo apart from most events in this season, was there. Despite having a meagre offer to the 2018 event, the 2021 saw an impressive collection of cars nonetheless. The pre war cars of Class A saw an impressive array of machinery, comprehending Bugatti 35’s, Maserati 6CM and two magnificent French Grand Prix cars, a Delage 1500 and the event’s winner, the Talbot Lago T150C of Christian Traber. Class B was dedicated to the front engine cars built until 1961. In this Class Maserati was counting almost half of the cars present, with 2 250F and a 4CLT/48 and a A6GCM. Perhaps, the most eclectic car of the field is a very well known and welcome presence in the Montecarlo Historic GP scene, which is the Gordini T11/15 of Jean Jacques Bally, which features a unique paintwork of the Artist Moya. Winner of this class was Spanishman Guillermo Fierro Eleta, who also took the victory in the sports car class or C class, with his stunning Maserati 250F.
C Class is perhaps the category which represents an enigma for many enthusiasts as it’s the sportscar one: not many know that Montecarlo GP organizers abandoned F1 racing in 1952, favouring Sports Cars instead. That’s why at this 2021 GPH, Maserati 300S’s, Jaguar D Types, Aston Martin DB3S’, Frazer Nashes and so on put up a great show. Unfortunately, the event saw a major crash involving Jean Jacques Bally in his Maserati A6GCS and David Graus in his Frazer Nash Targa Florio, which left both driver uninjured.
In the D class with 1.5 litre F1 celebrated the era that saw the heyday of Lotus as a major competitor. The field of cars saw 5 Lotus of which 3 were V8-Climax powered model 24’s and the other two a model 18 and 21. For sure, this is one of the most nostalgic eras of Formula 1 racing, as these were the cigar-shaped mid-engined cars that came before the “power era” of the three litre monsters. Light, nimble and wonderfully minimalistic, these cars provided a great spectacle with the astounding victory of Mark Shaw and his ex Jim Clark Lotus 21.
The Ferraris F1’s were indeed the cars that always make a big part the show: this year, there were present 2 Ferrari 312 B3’s driven by Jean Alesi and Renè Arnoux, a 312 B2 and the famous 312 B3 “Spazzaneve”, a 312 driven by 2018 winner Alex Caffi and a 246 Dino. Besides the sea of Ford Cosworths, the other V12’s were represented by the two Matras, a MS120 and a 120C which provided quite a soundtrack with their unmistakable high-pitched sound. The remaining three races were dominated by the talented Michael Lyons who won 3 races in the 3 most recent classes with his Surtees TS9, McLaren M26 and Hesketh 308B.
Perhaps, the 2021 event will be remembered for the amazing battle that struck between Marco Werner in his Lotus 72E and Jean Alesi in the ex Niki Lauda Ferrari 312 B3, which ended in an unfortunate crash a few laps from the finish line. With Alesi who didn’t finish and Werner who was shifted back to 3rd place, the Englishman Michael Lyons won the class.
Despite this sort of racing normally seeing limited competition, it was memorable nonetheless. Proper driving, proper sounds, proper location. We just couldn’t be happier with the first true event after Covid.