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Marc Sonnery

Volume 49 Issue 11

Jun 8, 2024

The Monaco Historic Grand Prix predates the Formula One race by a couple weekends. The Ferraris that participate in the Historics come from many different eras. The sights, sounds and location should be on one's bucket list.

    The 14th edition of this jewel in the crown among worldwide vintage racing events took place in the Principality from May 10th to 12th.

    Perfect chamber of commerce weather blessed the weekend.

    Monaco’s own, and Ferrari star, Charles Leclerc,was seen visiting the paddocks Saturday morning he wasn’t the only Grand Prix VIP there. Others seen were recent Miami GP winner Lando Norris fresh from an all night party in Miami Beach to celebrate, his first GP win, his teammate Oscar Piastri....and Fernando Alonso!

    In fact half the F1 grid showed up. McLaren team manager Zak Brown did one better he was there to take part in a 1980 Williams.

    Former Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine was also present, as was Thierry Boutsen and Bruno Senna, nephew of Aytron, present for the homage paid to his late uncle and the 30th anniversary of his passing.

    He was seen with actor and driver Patrick Dempsey who tried out a Lauda Ferrrai F1 for size with none other than Jacky Ickx explaining the cockpit to him. He did not drive it though.

    You won’t see Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen take a look, even though they live respectively half-a-mile east and west of the circuit; not their thing, both preferring modern Supercars.

    In the pits I ran into Ollie Bearman, the young Brit who so brilliantly subbed for Carlos Sainz at the Saudi Grand Prix in Jeddah. Very pleasant and bright, he had just arrived from a Fiorano test in collaboration with the FIA two days before with two recent F1 cars, one fitted with experimental wheel covers to mitigate the spray that hampers visibility but he confirmed that it was useless. Good to see he spoke candidly as opposed to the corporate line. He is expected to sign with  Haas F1 for 2025.

    The time table for the Historic Grand Prix is very simple. The track is cleared of traffic at dawn and the guard rail gates closed, the marshals take position, the race director laps the course to inspect it and then declares the track open.

    After a day’s use it is returned to traffic around 7pm and the various guardrail gates open. It seems simple but there are always wrongly parked road cars to tow away to clear the track, a costly error for the owners usually happening after they partied too much the night before.

    On Friday each group has a 30 minute practice session, on Saturday a 25 minute qualifying session to determine the grid and on Sunday the races which vary in length from ten to eighteen laps depending on each group’s speed; the faster the more laps.

    There was a special touch this year; not only would winners and top three drivers receive a superbly engraved and large classical trophy, a nice sight in an age where race organizers seem to compete for the worst taste trophy award.

    There was one more for the victors though. A MHGP Legend trophy, a cute standing figurine, arms up waving, representing the star driver of its era after which each race group was baptised, from Louis Chiron to Ayrton Senna.



    What then was to be found in the paddock? The first grid, A1 was for pre-war Grand Prix cars and voiturettes, well before Ferrari history of course but amidst Maserati 4CMs, Frazer Nashes, ERAs and  Bugatti 35Bs, such as the one raced by Austrian Martin Halusa (owner of the Breadvan) it included the Alfa Romeo 8C Monza of German Fritz Burkard.

    This car was built at the beginning of 1933 for Scuderia Ferrari with a 2.6 litre engine. It was entered in the Monaco Grand Prix that year with Tazio Nuvolari at the wheel.

    The Mantuan led all the way...until he had to retire on the last lap. The car was taken by its next owner to South Africa where it continued racing. This year the Paddins Dowling (ERA) earned pole position while Burkard qualified seventh.

    Grid A2 was for front-engine Grand Prix cars built before 1961. Here amidst six Maserati 250Fs, three Lotus 16s and the American-made Scarab of Brit Mark Shaw, was the first Ferrari, 246 Dino S/N 0007 driven by well-known and fast German lady racer Claudia Hürtgen.

    It is owned by an anonymous collector. Built in 1958 it had its debut race with Phil Hill in the race of two worlds at Monza (when US Indy racers came to face off with European F1 teams) but the Californian did not finish. von Trips then came fifth in it in the Portuguese Grand Prix at Porto.

    In 1959 Dan Gurney came 2nd and 3rd in the two heats of the German GP at Avus in Berlin. This chassis’ best result though would be historic on two counts.

    In 1960 Phil Hill won his very first Grand Prix in it and it was at Monza. It was also, very significantly, the last win by a front-engine car in Formula One; the tide of history was turning.

    That car was then given a very unusual fate; it received a Testa Rossa V12, was renumbered to S/N 0788 F and sent to New Zealand for racer Pat Hoare whom Enzo Ferrari had befriended during the war.


        Automobile Club de Monaco photo


    Hoare won the New Zealand Gold Star Championship with it in 1961 and again in 1962. When the car became obsolete and proved impossible to sell, he commissioned a local workshop to turn it into...a GTO rebody! Yes, on an F1 car!

    The body was so poorly designed that esteemed historian Doug Nye famously called it GTOrrible....Hoare then baptised the car Charlotte and used it for caving and mountain climbing trips.

    Jackie Stewart tried it at the Wigram Circuit in January 1966 for a few laps. Hoare sold it to an eccentric called Logan Fow, there was a New Zealand land speed record attempt but it was botched. Eventually the car was retired.

    In 1978 it was bought (in exchange for a new 512 Boxer and some cash) by British vintage racer Neil Corner who had it shipped to the UK, restored by Crostwhaite and Gardiner to 1961 specs, i.e., still with the V12, and won countless races in it.

    The GTO body you ask? That was left in New Zealand and became...a chicken shed! In 2022 the body was cleaned up and sold online, fate unknown.

    The car meanwhile was later sold to Brit Tony Smith who eventually refitted a 1960 spec V6 and had equal success before selling it on.

    If you want to read more on Charlotte and its fascinating history read the comprehensive story in Cavallino issue #112 by yours truly, one of my all-time favourite articles.

    Here in Monaco Claudia did not disappoint qualifying on pole position! She really earned it being just  three-tenths faster than pro driver Marino Franchitti, brother of three time Indy 500 winner Dario.

    Group B again had just one Ferrari and once again it was a jewel; the 1964 1512 F1, S/N 0008 of Lawrence Auriana, raced once again by Joe Colasacco. It is one of just three 1.5 litre V12 jewels to have been built.

    It had a very short racing career. Surtees inaugurated it at the Nürburgring where he did not finish. Bandini finished fourth in it at Monza and since Surtees was unavailable for the Mexican GP having been injured in a Lola at Mosport, he was replaced by Pedro Rodriguez who finished 7th. That was it.

    It then spent years in the Chinetti collection before longtime Breadvan owner Monte Shalett from New Orleans bought it. He displayed it at Concorso on the Bayou where I met him in 2000 but confirmed to me he had no ambition to make it a runner again.

    Eventually he sold it at auction by Christie’s during Monterey 2005 where it was acquired by the Auriana collection.

    The late great Mauro Forghieri was then enlisted to supervise its restoration and the creation of a spare engine. He even attended the Monaco Historic Grand Prix a few years ago to help; how many historic racing teams can boast of having a former Scuderia team manager in their pit?! He is certainly much missed.

    The moment of glory for the team was when Joe beat one of these dastardly Lotuses, the 1512’s eternal rival, to the win by one car length in the Glover Trophy at the 2018 Goodwood Revival.

    In 2024 Joe qualified third behind a pair of two Lotus Climax but 3.8 seconds behind. As he had explained years ago the 1512 is all power with very little torque hence not at all suited to the slow corners of Monaco. The rest of the field was made up of Lolas, BRMs Coopers and one de Tomaso.

    The C grid is a bit of an anomaly but a very popular one and with good reason. For 1952 since there was a shortage of Grand Prix cars it was decided that the Grand Prix would be for sportscars.

    There were two Ferraris entered, including an old friend, the 1955 750 Monza 0510 M, which I had “met” on a memorable day in 1998 when I flew to Texas to interview Jim Hall.


        Automobile Club de Monaco photo


    In his base near Midland, the Maverick engineer/driver had all his famous Chaparrals of course but I was surprised to discover this 750 Monza in white livery with its distinctive triangular dark blue paint section on the nose, wide at the radiator opening, narrowing down to a point by the cockpit. In fact Hall liked it so much he kept it sixty one years!

    It was sold new to another Texan, Allen Guiberson of Dallas and had a great start, coming second overall in the 12 Hours of Sebring driven by Phil Hill and Carroll Shelby. A month later on April 17 Hill won at Pebble Beach.

    Sometime later that year Hall acquired it. He started 1956 with a bang scoring three wins on the trot, at the Del Monte Trophy in Pebble Beach April 22, in Dodge City a week later in the preliminary race and later that day in the main event.

    He would go on to score more good results though for its last race, in 1958, it had a Chevrolet engine, the original one having come to grief.

    Eventually in the 1990s his long time chief mechanic, Troy Rogers, a real character I met that day in 1998, restored it.

    After taking it to the Coys Festival at Silverstone in 1997, Pebble Beach in 2005 (display only) and displaying it in a Petersen Museum exhibit honouring Phil Hill, it was auctioned by RM Sotheby’s at Monterey 2016 where it was bought by restorer Patrick Ottis.
It is now running with an engine stamped 0538 MD.

    In Monaco it was entered by Manuel Eliçabe but driven by Tazio Ottis. Alas while it ran 14 laps in practice it was not seen again on track for the rest of the weekend.


    The other Maranello machine entered was the well-known 1953 250 MM S/N 0254 MM of Swiss collector Arnold Meier, driven in the Principality by veteran British racer David Franklin who has been at it for well over half a century.


        Marc Sonnery photo


    Always happy to chat, David explained that drum brakes around the tight confines of Monaco required circumspection to stay away from the guardrails. Thomas Schnitzler of Edi Wyss Engineering near Zurich runs the car impeccably.

    It was sold new to Count Paolo Marzotto of the famous racing brothers. Note that his sibling Vittorio was the actual winner of the 1952 Monaco Grand Prix run with sportscars, aboard 225 S, S/N 0154 ED.

    In the brand new S/N 0254 MM, Paolo failed to finish the 1953 Giro di Sicilia with Giovanni Bracco and likewise did not see the end of the Mille Miglia, sharing with Marino Marini due to heavy fire damage.

    After this it was rebodied and sold on, eventually being acquired Count Innocente Biaggio who finished the 1954 Mille Miglia, in 19th with Eugenio Berni.

    In 1956 it was sold north of the Alps to Swiss racer Hans Wirz from Zurich who ran it in numerous hillclimbs, winning his class no less than eight times.

    It had its second fire in July 1958 after hitting a tree just after the chequered flag. Wirz stored its remains for decades until they were bought in 2015 by Arnold Meier who had it restored by Edi Wyss with its original engine. Wyss had in fact bought its engine decades before.

    It has since been run in numerous events such as the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or in Dijon and the Goodwood Revival both in 2021, Le Mans Classic a year later with either David Franklin or Diego Meier, Arnold’s son. In Monaco David qualified tenth.

    In Grid D, for 3-litre Grand Prix cars built from 1966 to 1972, there was a famous one-off, the 312 B3 prototype known as the “snowplow” due to its nose looking like one or like a doorstop.

    This was an experimental car that was meant to be used in the 1972 Italian Grand Prix. It was tested by Merzario and Ickx, but it wasn’t quite ready and Ferrari decided to opt for a different concept thus it was never actually raced.

    Franco Meiners, very influential in the classic racing scene, has owned it for many years. He qualified seventh, the only Italian car in a field almost entirely made of English cars apart of two Matra MS120 which with their Mara V12 sound even better than any Ferrari.

    Grid E named after Niki Lauda was for 3-litre Grand Prix cars made from 1973 to 1976. It included a 312 B3 driven by amateur Andrea Burani.

    This chassis was raced in five Grand Prix by Lauda in 1974 and finished third three times, in Argentina, Belgium and France. Burani was well off the pace qualifying 20th and next to last.

    Grid F named after Gilles Villeneuve was for 3-litre F1 cars made from 1977 to 1980.

    German Jürgen Boden entered in his 1980 312 T5. After the highlight of Jody Scheckter’s title the previous year, the T5 proved a disappointment. Boden’s chassis was the last of the T5s built and was raced by Villeneuve in four Grand Prix.


        Marc Sonnery photo

    The final Grid, G, named after Aytron Senna was for 3-litre cars built from 1981 to 1985, but featured  no Ferraris.

    Speaking of Senna, Saturday at lunchtime there was a parade to commemorate his memory on the 30th anniversary of his passing with everything from karts to F1 cars raced by him, and former Ferrari F1 driver Stefan Johansson driving a Toleman that Aytron raced in 1984, his first year in F1.

    Eddie Irvine also drove. With his record six wins the Brazilian legend was the King of Monaco and even Prince Albert II showed up to pay his respects.

    It should be noted that just before the weekend, on May 9, the Prince inaugurated the “Ferrari F1 in Monaco: History and Victories” exhibition. He was guided by Franco Meiners who curated it.

    Ten cars were on show from the Lauda era to the 2019 SF90 in which Charles Leclerc won his first two Grand Prix. It lasts until August 31st.

    The logistics of running such an event in the tight confines of this micro nation are a huge challenge.

    As soon as one group has begun a practice session the next one is lined on the left side of the paddock, ready to go.

    Then when a session ends the cars have to trickle back into the paddock on the right side. Not only do flatbeds have to carry broken down or hobbled cars back in, but marshals might have to repair tire walls, safer barriers and in worst cases actual guard rails.

    All of that is run very efficiently and executed quickly and the giant cranes located at strategic corners are kept busy as they lift cars out of the way and later onto flatbeds.


        Marc Sonnery photo

    One other little known aspect is private balcony head count control to ensure structural safety. Since many balconies are used to watch the races by the  owners with guests or rented by private operators who charge hefty sums for access, buffets and beverages,  each balcony is inspected annually and a maximum number of occupants is decreed.

    Authorities can and do send inspectors out during race weekends and any violation results in a hefty fine and immediate shutting down of that apartment.

    Of course a balcony collapsing onto the track does not bear thinking about....but it has happened elsewhere. The Olympic opening ceremony on the river Seine in Paris this July is prompting concern and a huge inspection program of much older, frail buildings and balconies.

    For the first time instead of paddock and press room, I had a grandstand seat on Saturday afternoon. It was in K2 grandstand, overlooking the harbour, the Tabac Corner right hander which kinks around the water’s edge and the beginning of the swimming pool section.

    We could see the cars in the distance emerging flat out from the tunnel like bullets out of a cannon and negotiating the Nouvelle Chicane. Many drivers ran afoul of the exit of the swimming pool section, spinning in its final right hander, stuck there until the end of the session if facing the wrong way.

    The expression threading the needle is fitting and you can see most drivers exercising restraint but the fastest ones really show their confidence, a very impressive sight.

    All this between the sea and the mountain cliffs, framed by the city, an awe inspiring and iconic sight.


    On Sunday race day I was invited to view the action from a VIP terrace set up within the Hôtel Hermitage, located just above the uphill section of the circuit, called Beau Rivage, where the cars storm up flat out towards Monte Carlo and Casino Square.

    It overlooks the harbour, chockablock with yachts and beyond it the majestic hill of the rocher (rock) itself topped by the Oceanographic Museum, the cathedral and Prince’s Palace at the western end.

    A dream setting to enjoy the races, with an excellent catered lunch and drinks buffet all day, flute of champagne in hand, though you were not allowed to bring any glass within six feet of the terrace edge lest it fall onto the racing cars.

    Compared to current F1 cars which practically never overtake each other in Monaco as they are far too big for the narrow city circuit and have carbon fibre brakes which shorten braking distances and make passing even harder, the historic races deliver far more overtaking action.

    In the A2 race there was a major treat for Ferraristi; Claudia Hürtgen, having started from pole, roared into the distance and won commandingly in the 246 entered by Methusalem Racing, with a sizeable gap of 15 seconds over a train of three cars led by Marino Franchitti’s Maserati 250F.

    It was a very popular win; can you think of an F1 race won by a lady in a Ferrari? I can’t. A glorious moment! She received her trophy and the Fangio statuette from Angelo Sticchi Damiani, President of the Italian Automobile Club.

    In the Grid B race Joe Colasacco started third in the Auriana collection 1512 with its jewel of a 1.5 litre V12. He made up a spot and had an epic duel with British ace Andy Middlehurst in his Lotus 25 Climax.

    He tried all he could but ultimately the English car was more efficient with its superior torque and won but by only by 0.7 seconds! The third car was 36 seconds behind.


        Automobile Club de Monaco photo

    The Grid C race for GT cars was popular and elicited much cheering as they were obvious handfuls in the tight corners. It was won by a Lotus Mark X and David Franklin came ninth in the 250 MM of Arnold Meier.

    In the Grid D contest there was an exciting battle for third place between the screaming V12’s of Meiners in the 312 B3 Spazzaneve and the Matra MS120C of “Mr John of B“ (alias of the same anonymous French entrepreneur who races a 512M in the Tour Auto and owns a 512 BB/LM and Daytona Group 4).

    After stalking the Italian for several laps the Frenchman passed him into the harbour chicane after which Meiners spun at La Rascasse corner on the same lap, losing a position to Adrian Newey, finishing 5th.

    Not long after his race, Newey arrived on the same terrace we were watching from and having lunch on. As the most successful engineer in F1 history, mastermind of so many championship winning cars and also the most talked about man in F1 at the moment since he had just announced he is leaving Red Bull after two decades this was a nice surprise. Even more so when he briefly sat down at our table with his wife.

    Of course, there is strong speculation about his future so this is the taboo question not to ask. Instead I wished him much enjoyment of his new boat which relaxed him.

    I then asked about the legend of him taking his son to school in his 512M S/N 1022 – talk about a sensational entrance in front of your classmates! – and he confirmed it. “Yes I took my son and soon after my daughter to school in it! It is about to be restored.” He was very approachable and friendly. It is hoped, and believed, he will join the Scuderia.

    In race E, Andrea Burani finished 12th in his 312 B3, gaining quite a few spots, in a race won by a McLaren M23.


        Marc Sonnery photo

    Compared to previous editions it had been an amazingly safe, wreck-free weekend on this most unforgiving of circuits...until that is the penultimate race of the day when Group F took their start... you might as well call it a crash fest.

    No one was hurt – easily done in these frail chassis from a notoriously unsafe era – but a lot of expensive metal and egos got severely bruised in numerous incidents, pile ups, etc.

    This resulted in several red flags, restarts and a one hour delay. Only seven laps were run and Michael Lyons won in a Hesketh 308E while Jürgen Boden stayed out of trouble, no mean feat, finishing 15th.

    The final race, grid G, with no Maranello cars, was quieter and its end was saluted as per tradition by all ships in the harbour sounding their horns.

    Stuart Hall won in a March 821 but the prize giving by Prince Albert II took place at 7 PM which was unprecedented and the circuit was only opened to traffic at a quarter to nine that evening. Making getting around a challenge!

    The next edition will take place in mid-May 2026, two weeks before the F1 GP. If you want to experience this wonderful weekend – along with the three auctions covered later in FML – Nice is your airport (important: it is pronounced not like “nice car” but like “your father’s niece”).


        Marc Sonnery photo

    If you want to stay in Monaco be prepared to pay a hefty price with a minimum number of nights. Otherwise stay in Nice, half an hour away by local train, or Menton, just east of Monaco, 15 minutes by train, as I have done for years.

    The train station has various exits walking distance from the pit straight. Forget about driving and parking in Monaco on a race weekend where spaces get booked months in advance like the rooms and cost a premium.

    A highly recommended event far less crowded than the modern F1 weekend.

    Information on 2026 will appear in due time on














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