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© Direction de la Communication - Manuel Vitali

Every two years, the Monaco Historic Grand Prix gives motor racing fans another opportunity to see the cars that have made the Monegasque street circuit legendary.

It is an unmissable event for those who are passionate about motor sports and a certain way of life. Founded in 1997 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Grimaldi reign, the Monaco Historic Grand Prix is a competition which pits classic cars against each other on the Monegasque circuit, completing a series of tight turns on a narrow track in the heart of the city and revving their engines at full power.

“There’s genuine enthusiasm for classic cars!”
 Read Géry Mestre's interview

This unusual Grand Prix, organised every two years by the Automobile Club of Monaco, presents 50 years of motor racing.

A total of 240 classic cars (F1, F2 and other competitive single-seaters) from all four corners of the globe line up by age category, from pre-war to a more contemporary era (1980s).

© Direction de la Communication - Michael Alesi
© Direction de la Communication - Michael Alesi

A ritual gathering of vintage automobiles, the Historic Grand Prix sometimes also offers an opportunity to catch a glimpse of legendary Formula 1 drivers such as Alain Prost, Jacky Ickx or Mika Häkkinen as they step back into service and behind the wheels of cars driven by the icons of the past.

For example, at one event, Eddie Irvine drove one of James Hunt’s cars. Josh Hill, the grandson of a five-time winner of the Monaco Grand Prix, has competed in the Lotus driven to victory by his grandfather in 1968.

“I always love driving in Monaco.”

Alain Prost, quadruple world champion and winner of the Monaco Grand Prix.

© Direction de la Communication - Manuel Vitali

The 2020 event has been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus crisis. The Principality of Monaco exceptionally held three Grand Prix motor racing events in 2021 and 2022: the Historic Grand Prix, the Formula E E-Prix and the F1 Grand Prix. “Organising three competitions within the space of just a month is a major first,” explains Christian Tornatore, General Commissioner of the Automobile Club of Monaco. A logistical challenge.

Interview

“There’s genuine enthusiasm for classic cars!”

Géry Mestre, President of the Automobile Club de Monaco Historic Cars Commission, explains why Monaco’s Historic Grand Prix attracts so many people, including some Formula 1 stars...

Monaco’s Historic Grand Prix is an opportunity to see some vintage race cars... Is it just an event for fans of nostalgia?

There’s genuine enthusiasm for classic cars. The audience for the Historic Grand Prix, which now includes more young people and more women, is attracted by the spectacle of the event: a selection of extraordinary, unique cars with roaring engines, driven by semi-professional drivers, all savvy collectors with a staff of engineers and mechanics. It takes a huge amount of concentration to drive these race cars. Some former Formula 1 drivers, such as Mika Häkkinen, the world champion in 1998 and 1999, and, this year, Jean Alesi and René Arnoux have also had a go. They come to win, they’re not just here to make up the numbers. They have the bit between their teeth, it’s an enormous joy for them to come and race on the Monaco circuit!

When you see the cars from the 1930s with their sometimes basic comfort features, it’s hard to imagine the demands they placed on the drivers. What were the main challenges they faced?

In that period, before the Second World War, the cars didn’t have roll bars or seatbelts… and the drivers drove at full speed, reaching up to 200 km/h! Driving was very physical. Motor sports are still dangerous, but today the surfaces are better and the brakes more effective than they were in the past.

2021 will be the first time that the Grand Prix, Historic Grand Prix and E-Prix have all been held in the same year in Monaco. Does the circuit need to be modified between the different races?

The circuit is the same for the Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Historic Grand Prix. The route has barely changed since 1929. It changes only for the E-Prix. So we make use of the same Formula 1 facilities, the medical team, the expertise of the ACM and FIA marshals. This year, it is the COVID crisis which had the greatest impact on organisation. A lot of competitors who are registered as British, American or Japanese were unable to come. Some had tears in their eyes over the fact that they couldn’t come and race in Monaco… In the end, there were a hundred participants in the seven races of the Historic Grand Prix (pre-war and 1952–1980). Ferrari was in the spotlight with a dozen cars, since this year marks the seventieth anniversary of Ferrari’s first Formula 1 victory. The team secured its first pole position and its first wins in the driver and constructor championships in 1951, a year which also saw the first success for the team’s Argentinian driver Froilán González at the British Grand Prix. We reached out to our Ferrari network and many owners answered the call!

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