This week, Jonathan Sharp focuses on the Vernasca Hillclimb in the Province of Piacenza, and we present all three parts in the same issue. And please help identify the mysterious As Found Classic Number 10!
Archives for June 2015
Story and Photos by Jonathan Sharp
The Silver Flag Hillclimb is a relatively new classic racing venue, held in the small and charming town of Vernasca, in the Province of Piacenza in the Italian region Emilia-Romagna. The affair sounded like our kind of event, so on the weekend of June 19-21, we flew from London to Milan, rented a car from Malpensa, a Skoda Yeti which of course quickly got the nickname “Spaghetti Yeti.”
We drove about 120km south down the Autostrada Del Sole and we stayed at an Agriturismo place called Casa Dell Abbondanza (the house of abundance) which was about a mile and a half from the main road. The farm was about 6kms from the event but there was no sound of humanity, just deafening bird songs and dozens of fireflies at night. Organic breakfast was served with products made on the farm each day.
In town we ate at the local Trattoria Da Liugi which served good hearty local fair at very reasonable prices. Lunch of freshly sliced salami, Gnocchi for dinner, and Gutturnio Classico Superiore red wine to wash it down – ah, Vernasca.
Saturday morning we walked the paddocks. Abarths, GTs, GTAMs, TZ1s and 2s, 8Vs, Oscas, Morettis, Gianni, Giaur, Griffo, Oselli plus of course Alfa, Fiat, Lancia, Maserati and a smattering of Ferrari for good measure. We spent the afternoon up on the hill enjoying the feeling that this could be the Targa Florio or the Mille Miglia.
This was just a warmup for the main events which took place on Sunday. In the next two segments, we’ve arranged the cars as photographed in action at the hillclimb by alphabetical order.
Story and Photos by Jonathan Sharp
Sunday morning we went back to the hill to view a different corner. Sunday lunch was a Pannini stuffed with freshly sliced prosciutto and a birra alla spina in the village square of Vernasca, surrounded by the competitor’s cars. While we ate, we contemplated the near perfectly circle front wheel arches on the Pininfarina-penned P4/5 in front of us.
The current event at Vernasca is based on a series of 17 hillclimbs sponsored by the Automobile Club of Piancenza, held between 1953 and 1972. This means the event is open to cars built up to 1972, so the turnout is more varied than that of the Mille Miglia. The Organizing Committee reserves the right to accept or deny an application, but here are the qualifiers for entry: 1) Racing history of the car in its heyday 2) Rarity 3) Race results in historic cars events 4) Arrival date of entry form.
In this segment we present the cars in alphabetical order from Alfa to Ferrari. Note that not all the cars entered were photographed and owner’s names are not always supplied or known.
Story and Photos by Jonathan Sharp
A little about the history of this fascinating event: The Vernasca Hillclimb was originally sanctioned by the Automobile Club Piacenza between 1953 and 1972. The 1953 event attracted 40 entries, and was won by Alfa factory driver Consalvo Sanesi with a 3000CM. The race continued to grow, with 90 cars entered by 1955, when Massimo Leto de Priolo took first overall.
A Stanguellini Formula Junior achieved the fastest time in 1960, and by 1961 Odoarado Govoni took a Birdcage Maserati to win. The cars were getting bigger and faster as Govoni’s competition was Nando Pagliarini with a Ferrari SWB. Pagliarini returned in 1962 with the Ferrari to win. Abarth 1000s, Porsche 904s and Alfa TZs were popular entries in the 1960s, followed by the bigger, faster Abarth 2000s. In the early 1970s Lualdi brought the Ferrari 212 E hillclimb car to compete with the Porsche 908s. The last edition of Castell’Arquato-Vernasca was held May 14, 1972.
This segment reflects the cars at the event from Giannini to the one-off Serenissima. All in all, the 20th Vernasca Silver Flag Hill Climb was my sort of weekend. If you go next year, and as we understand, the event is already approved, you won’t be disappointed.
By Gijsbert-Paul Berk
Shedding light on the Alpine rebirth
Just two hours before the start of this year’s 24 Hour of Le Mans, spectators got a surprise glimpse of a speeding blue sports coupé. It was the first public appearance of the new Alpine Celebration AS 1 (for Alpine Sport).
This appearance of the new Alpine was also a birthday party to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the company that made the name Alpine famous by producing small Renault-based and rally winning sports cars. [Read more…] about New Alpine Prototype Seen at Le Mans
Alfa Romeo All the Cars
Author: Lorenzo Ardizio
Illustrator: Michele Leonello
Hardcover, 594 pages, 6.3 x 8.3 in.
Item Number: 214567
EAN (ISBN-13): 978-8879115902
Publisher: Giorgio Nada Editore
http://www.giorgionadaeditore.it/ for Italian edition
Price: $44.95 USD €25
Distributor:http://www.motorbooks.com/books/Alfa-Romeo-All-the-Cars/9788879115902/4192 for English edition
Review by Wallace Wyss
We in the U.S. only see a small sliver of what the Italian automakers make. Thus, if you want to be an expert on an Italian marque, it behooves you to buy a book that covers all the models made by your favorite marque. Fortunately there is an Italian book publisher, Giorgio Nada, a well-respected Italian automobile publisher, who now has a series of one-marque guides, this being one of them. [Read more…] about Alfa and Ferrari: All the Cars
1966 Matra/Bonnet Djet V S: On the Ground Floor with the French in America
By Al Axelrod
I was working away at my Beverly Hills foreign car/special interest shop in 1967 (where they had previously built the Reventlow Scarabs) when a neat little car came in the door and the owner said, “Hey, let’s go racing.” He went on to explain that he obtained the car from a Matra executive and that the company might come to the USA with their vehicles and, if so, I would be “their guy.”
You could say I was crazy to believe him. But, I was young at the time and remember thinking: “If I am a good race driver/mechanic/engineer/shop owner, they will call me up and put me on the factory team.”
The Djet was a very aerodynamic car that had the distinction of being one of the first mid-engine sports cars. Actually, DeTomaso claimed the same for his Vallelunga, but then he was always exaggerating so no one can be quite sure. And of course there was the Porsche 550 Spyder from years earlier. So let’s just say the Djet was the first production French mid-engine sports car.
The Djet was the product of a French engineering genius Rene Bonnet, who until the beginning of the 60s had been joined up with Charles Deutsch at the Panhard company. “D.B.” cars stands for Deutsch Bonnet. They had won the Index of Performance in the 24 hour race in 1954 and had won many other European events in their class.
At that time Matra was a firm specializing in machine tools, plastics and glass fiber composites. They would make the body and deliver it to Bonnet. Unfortunately Bonnet could not make his business profitable and went under after Deutsch went his own way.
By Pete Vack *
As early as the late 1960s, the Alfa enthusiast instinctively knew that of all the post war Alfas semi production cars, the Zagatos were the most desirable. Alfa Zagatos exemplified the era of the relatively inexpensive, coachbuilt GT car, as did the special bodied Ferraris, Maseratis, and Lancias.
They were also, for most part, aluminum, which beat the ever present rust problem associated with steel bodied cars of the era. Unlike the competition, Alfas were more numerous, less expensive and in general more reliable. They had mechanicals that could be understood, repaired and there were ample parts available. Another part of the lure of Alfas was that the 1300/1600 cars were a joy to drive; some, yes, underpowered, but all were fun and easy to drive. They were small, light, responsive and eager. Many were raced successfully at Le Mans, Sebring, and the Targa Florio.
The Dutch Grand Prix was scheduled for one week after the disastrous 1955 Le Mans event. Should it have been cancelled? What would you have done? In this exclusive story, VeloceToday correspondent Gijsbert-Paul Berk, who was an assistant to the Royal Netherlands Automobile Club at the time, describes the ensuing crisis and decision.
Story by Gijsbert-Paul Berk
This year’s 24 hour race at Le Mans is now over, but no one who has closely followed motor racing in the fifties can ever forget the horrible accident exactly 60 years ago, on June 11, 1955 during the Le Mans 24 hours race. This black page in the history of motor sports caused the immediate death of the French driver Pierre Bouillin (who drove under the pseudonym of Pierre Levegh), at least 88 spectators, and hundreds of wounded. It was and remains the greatest loss of life due to a motor racing event.
This sudden tragedy posed a great dilemma for the board of the Royal Netherlands Automobile Club (KNAC). Should the Dutch Grand Prix scheduled for the following weekend be canceled or take place as planned?
Story and Photos by Pete Vack
The last drag race down historic Williamsburg’s 18th century Duke of Gloucester Street occurred sometime in the mid-1960s; in fact it was also the last time any automobile was allowed to amble down the ancient boulevard, though the exact date seems to be lost to posterity. Despite this ban on the automobile, this weekend the Colony Automobile Enthusiasts Club held its car show in Merchants Square, at the west end of the Duke of Gloucester Street, where normally cars fear to tread. [Read more…] about Williamsburg Welcomes the Automobile