Racing – Le Mans Series – Monza - History In The Park
The Le Mans
Series prides itself on visiting the classic tracks of Europe and,
in the case of Monza, never was a truer statement made.
But the Grand
Prix circuit is only part of that story: lurking deep in the royal
park is another part of Monza folklore, the extraordinary banked
circuit that was last used back in 1969.
difficult sight to explain to anyone who hasn’t seen it.
visitors the closest parallel is the banked Brooklands circuit,
which was hacked to pieces rather than preserved, and whilst the
flavour of the old circuit remains (with some surviving chunks of
banking) the circuit as a whole is a fading memory.
is a completely different kettle of fish and in the trees of the
royal Parco di Monza lurks a simply incredible sight.
It draws motorsport
enthusiasts like moths to a flame and there is nobody more enthusiastic
than a racing driver with a sense of history.
took absolutely no powers of persuasion whatsoever to encourage
Embassy Racing’s dynamic duo Warren Hughes and Neil Cunningham,
while at the circuit for the opening LMS event, to join the dsc
boys on a walk in the woods to see Europe’s last remaining
monument to the early years of motorsport.
Walking up the
inside of the front straight you soon reach the Prima Variante,
the first chicane. Walk along the line of the fence on the outside
and you soon find yourself in a motorsport landscape generations
away from the gravel traps and chicanery (literally and metaphorically)
of the 21st century scene.
are a lot of ghosts here,” says Neil Cunningham as he looks
at the incredible sight of a totally complete banked turn (the northern
banking) disappearing into the distance as it curves around to the
wrong either, Campari, Borzacchini and Czaykowski all lost their
lives here (albeit on the opposite (South) curve in 1933. Wolfgang
von Trips too lost his life close by in the 1961 Grand Prix (together
with ten spectators), an accident that brought down the curtain
on Formula One cars using the banked circuit.
The scale and
condition of the track is astonishing and despite some patching
and some exposed reinforcing rods showing through the gently crumbling
original concrete, this is a remarkably complete monument to motorsport
from a bygone era.
Both of the
Embassy boys went almost instantly from chatty and engaged to quiet
and thoughtful. This is a place where time has stood still and there
is atmosphere that can almost be tasted.
is amazing isn’t it?” says Warren Hughes, but you can
almost see the racing driver in him emerging again, working out
how yesterday’s heroes found the fastest way around what must
have been a daunting circuit.
stop here in 1961 though, sportscars continued until the end of
that decade. The final major sportscar race to use the banking was
the 1969 1000 Kms. That race was won by Jo Siffert & Brian Redman
in a Porsche 908 at an average speed of 206.342 Kph. Compare that
with this year’s winning Peugeot 908 Hdi FAP which covered
the same distance at an average speed of 200.876 kph – progress
The 4.5 km banked
oval was completed in 1922 and formed part of a complex including
a 5.5 kilometre road course, which is largely the basis for the
circuit still in use. Both circuits were used in combined format
for major races (including Grands Prix) leading to the odd concept
of cars passing the start finish straight twice on the same lap.
Now though the
banking has been claimed by sightseeing race fans and daredevil
picnickers, with adults and children alike unable to resist the
magnetic attraction of the very top of the banking.
Steep? I should
say so. It takes commitment to get to the top, so pronounced is
the angle of the banking, and once you do reach the top it takes
strong arms to hang on. Let go and a nasty tumble is almost inevitable.
Rockingham and Daytona eat your hearts out, this ladies and gentlemen
is the real deal.
The brave run
all the way down, the stupid try to slow themselves too quickly
and end up regretting it instantly and the rest (including yours
truly and Warren Hughes) take the option of a low shuffle which
trades off dignity for added safety. Safety isn’t something
that came naturally when this place was in its heyday!
To have modern
sportscars racing here would be unimaginable, the margin for error
is minute, the consequences enormous.
turned to the future of this extraordinary relic, with opinions
divided between returning part of it to some form of motorsport
related use through to allowing it to return gently to nature in
the middle of the only royal park in the world that reverberates
to the sound of racing engines.
thing about the Monza banking though is that even when the cars
aren’t lapping on the modern circuit – if you close
your eyes you can still hear the scream of racing engines.