Historic racing knows a growing success. Several world-class events, like Monaco, Le Mans and many others, organize spectacular retrospectives. In England, The Earl of March went to the extent of ‘restoring’ his Goodwood track in the condition in which it was when it was closed in 1966. To the opposite of many who marvel, I am worried by the shape things are taking.

I am worried for two reasons.


First, the cars were dangerous and have remained as treacherous as they were. Driven today by the same drivers who used to race them, older and, probably, less sharp, or by others, not always talented, the risk only has increased.

Which brings me to the second point. I observe that Bugattis now have limited slip differentials, that Ferrari 250 engines rev above 10,000 rpm’s whilst, in their days, 7,800 was in the red, and hear that Maserati 450S’s run with completely re-designed crankshafts. I am even told that some entrants who own a real car commissioned a new and high performance replica for historical racing purposes. Historic, you said?

I do not wish to be the bird of ill omen and hope we can avoid a catastrophe. The knot of the matter, I believe, lies in the agonistic spirit presiding over these meetings. Too many pilots want to score. Some flatter themselves with being faster than our heroes of yesteryear and claim, seriously, they are continuing writing the pages started by Nuvolari or Fangio. Am I dreaming? Aren’t there enough modern formulas open to those who whish to demonstrate their capacities behind the wheel? Historic cars are part of our heritage. Not only should we not misrepresent history, but we also have to make sure we transmit our heritage to the future generations.

Don’t misunderstand me : I am not suggesting that historic cars should not be driven anymore, nor that Monaco, Le Mans or Goodwood should not stage classic revivals. A motor car is beautiful when it goes and when it sings, and the real automobile museum is indeed the road and the track. It is the competition I fear, because it induces danger and the temptation to include modern technology. My friends, the world does not care about your results. Stop being silly !



April 2003





P.S. Interestingly, it appears that, in the 2004 Grand Prix de Monaco Historique, the part that was most appreciated by the public was the parade of 22 Formula One Ferraris of all ages. The music, the scents, the colours … but no stake.


Cartoon by Russell Brockbank




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