2019 Monza Historic
2019 Monza Historic
Opened in 1922, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was only the third purpose-built racing track in the world. Like the two that came before, Brooklands and Indianapolis, Monza originally featured an oval section. This could be combined with a road course with very fast corners to create what was known as the temple of speed. The banked sections were abandoned but crucially not destroyed in 1969. Three chicanes were also added to reign in the cars, but Monza remains one of the fastest tracks in the world.
With only one exception in 1980, the track has been a set fixture in the Formula 1 World Championship from the very first season. In addition to the annual Italian Grand Prix, the track has also hosted more than its fair share of Touring Car and 1000 km Sports Car races. It was this rich heritage that was celebrated during the third Monza Historic. Part of the calendar of French organizer, Peter Auto, the three-day event featured a colorful mix of sports and touring cars from the 1950s through to 2010.
Peter Auto created eight distinct grids, with the shortest races run in 30 minutes and the longest up to two full hours. Practice and qualifying included, drivers get at least two hours of time on the track for each of the grids, which may explain why so many opt to compete in the popular series. The largest grid this weekend was for the two-hour Sixties’ Endurance race, with no fewer than 56 cars
taking part in qualifying.
The Sixties’ Endurance race is traditionally scheduled at the end of the afternoon on Saturday, and at Monza ran into the sunset. The packed grid featured sports cars made before 1963 and GT racers made before 1966. A mandatory pit stop allowed for an optional driver change and refueling. As at almost every other track, the AC Shelby Cobra proved to be the car of choice in this category. Driving a solid race on his own, the victory was for Philipp Oettli in his Cobra. Moritz Werner claimed a more eventful victory in the competitive under two-liter class driving his ex-Autodelta Alfa Romeo Giulia 1600 GTA. This car had been entered at Monza in 1969, but ultimately did not race there in period.
For many, the golden era of sports car racing was in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Ferrari, Ford, and Porsche went head to head. The winners of the 1970 and 1971 editions of the Monza 1000 km used Porsche 917s. In what is the model’s 50th anniversary year, two were entered in the one-hour Classic Endurance Racing 1 event, which pitted them against their original foe, the Ferrari 512 S. In the race, the Gulf-liveried 917 held a commanding lead until it ran out of fuel in the closing stages. Re-fuelling was not allowed in this race, and the 120-liter tank did not suffice! This opened the door for former Le Mans winner Eric Helary to clinch the victory in his Lola T70 Mk3b.
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There was a Group C event for cars from 1982 through to 1992. Examples of the types of cars that won during this period lined up for the two 45-minute races. These included a pair of Jaguar XJR-14s, Porsche 962Cs, a Sauber-Mercedes C11 and a Jaguar XJR-14. One of the XJR-8s was the actual winner of the race in 1987. This weekend, however, the later cars proved more competitive, with Michael Lyons winning the first race in his Cosworth DFR-engined and Momo-liveried Gebhardt, and Kriton Lendoudis winning race two in the thundering Sauber-Mercedes C11. An interesting new addition to the Group C ranks was the slightly earlier and freshly restored Gebhardt C88, which used the Audi straight-five engine more commonly used in the legendary Quattro rally cars.
Aptly named, the Greatest’s Trophy featured some of the most interesting cars of the weekend, spearheaded by a genuine Ferrari 330 GTO. The four-liter version of Ferrari’s legendary GT racer did well in both 35-minute races, leading the second race for several laps. However, Spanish racer Guillermo Fierro won both races in his Maserati Birdcage.
Touring car enthusiasts enjoyed the Heritage Touring Cup, where production-based saloons (sedans) of the late 1960s through to the early 1980s went head-to-head. As in period, this was very much a Ford versus BMW affair. The one-hour race, run under difficult conditions, was eventually won by Michael Ehrlich with a BMW 3.0 CSL that was powered by the mighty 24-valve straight six engine.
For those looking to field a sports car or GT racer that has only just been retired from contemporary racing, the Peter Auto weekends now include the Endurance Racing Legends field with a cut-off date of 2010. The grid was headlined by a Bentley Speed 8 of the type that won Le Mans outright back in 2003. The wild looking machine grabbed the victory in the first 30-minute race in the hands of owner Shaun Lynn. Sadly, there were some issues with the car for race two, which led Rui Aguas to clinch victory in the ex-works Aston Martin DBR9 that grabbed the GT1 class victory at Le Mans in 2007.
After two beautiful, warm days, the Monza Historic witnessed the changing of the seasons with a damp Sunday. This did not dampen the spirits, and spectators were treated to great racing throughout the weekend. Next up for Peter Auto is the season finale, the Dix Mille Tours at Paul Ricard. With capacity grids for almost all series, it promises to be even more exciting than the Monza Historic.
Wouter Melissen created Ultimatecarpage.com while still in high school. Turning his passion into his day job, he has since continued to edit the online magazine, covering major events around the world. Additionally, he has provided articles for a wide variety of publications like Racecar Engineering and Automobile Magazine while also photographing races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans for teams and drivers.