It was November 2007 that VeloceToday last published articles about motoring activities on the island of Malta. Check the below stories for a fuller understanding of this article and information about the island of Malta. In this article, David Arrigo writes about the latest series of events and the coming 2013 Vintage Race in this jewel of the Mediterranean.
By David Arrigo
The 2007 Grand Prix de Malte, held on the weekend of October 22, was an unprecedented and phenomenal success, whetting the appetites of the island’s population for more of this kind of historic motorsport. The Maltese islanders had never seen Bugattis in action or many of the other competing exotic cars. The backdrop of bastions, palaces, palm trees and five-star hotels was perfect as pre-war Bugattis battled with Amilcars and Astons.
After a week of events in sunny Malta, the organizer Thierry Giovannoni, supported by this author, were already well on their way organizing the next event for 2008, again to be held in October. At that time of year Malta enjoys what is known as a St. Martin’s summer; whilst the rest of Europe is already plunged into winter, Malta is still warm and sunny. In collaboration with the Malta Tourist Board, a stand was booked at Retromobile in Paris for the following February, and arrangements made for an even better event than that of 2007.
The following June, Giovannoni organized the Grand Prix de Marseilles. However, although the participating cars were plentiful and glamorous, many in French racing blue, the expected crowds never came. It was the first decent day of summer and everyone went to the beach rather than the races. With no crowds and no gate money, the event was a disappointment. Undeterred, over seventy of Giovannoni’s faithful entourage enrolled for the second Malta Event in October, in spite of the fiasco at Marseilles.
Keeping the faith
The bad luck would follow. Politics, bureaucracy, health and safety and what have you, crept in and not long before the event was due to take place, the Maltese government informed the organizers that the necessary permits would not be forthcoming! Too late to cancel, the event was switched to Sicily, and ended up with some racing at the Autodrome near Syracusa. Giovannoni decided to seek other Mediterranean venues rather than Malta.
Not letting go, the Maltese die-hards, including those from the Malta Jaguar Drivers’ Enthusiast Club, Charles Zahra, Joe Said and Edward Camilleri, under the leadership of His Excellency Joseph Zammit Tabona, the Maltese High Commissioner in London, founded The Valletta Grand Prix Foundation. The goal was to keep Giovanonni’s dream alive by adding some political clout. An event was planned for the following October, but permission was only given for use on about an eighth of the circuit around the ramparts of the walled city of Valletta.
The event, held in 2009, was no more than a timed sprint of less than a minute duration, and it attracted a decent number of local cars, but no foreign participants. In the autumn of 2010, another event was planned on the Valletta Bastions perimeter road circuit. This time permits were given for longer sprints taking up three quarters of the circuit. A handful of foreign participants from the UK came including a couple of Jaguar XK’s and an AC Greyhound. Then came more bad news.
Losing the venue
In 2011, massive renovation work, funded by the EU, commenced on the Main Gate of Valletta and many of the bastions surrounding this World Heritage City. This made it impossible for any activities of this nature to be held in the Valletta/Floriana area. Nevertheless, the Valletta Grand Prix Foundation were clever in finding another venue, this time adjacent to the ramparts of Malta’s ancient capital of Mdina. The 2011 Mdina Grand Prix proved and re-confirmed that there was definite interest in events of this nature for historic cars and that the circuit was feasible. However, there were no foreign participants.
Success, again, at last
The following year, 2012 was quite different. Toby Ross and Barry Owen, both comparatively new residents to Malta and participants in the original 2007 event, were successful in attracting a good number of cars from France and the UK, including Leo Mallet’s superb 1932 Alfa Romeo and eight Bugattis from France, some of which had participated in the original 2007 event.
The Bugattis changed the whole atmosphere and spirit of the event, and were well suited to the 2.1K circuit, which started in the shadows of the ramparts in the Mdina moat where the paddock was situated. The course went down a steep and narrow country lane into what once was an old railway station. It continued over a bridge, which made an excellent starting grid, crossing the valley below the old military barracks of Imtarfa, along one side of a dual carriageway and back into the valley, rising steeply to the Mdina bastions once more. Eight Bugattis vying for position in beautiful country lanes was a welcome sight. Also beautifully suited to the circuit was the historic 1972 monoposto Abarth of Gordon Vella, David Arrigo’s Monza and the orange 1960’s FIAT Cinquecento 500 from Sicily.
The Jaguars were not as comfortable on this circuit as they were in Valletta, and were unable to perform to their maximum through lack of width and room on the circuit. Even Guy Broad, the well known supplier of Jaguar parts from the UK and probably the most experienced driver present, dented his magnificent racing XK 120.
Hopefully next year, we’ll see an increase in smaller historic cars and monopostos from Europe. The author is planning on making some of his cars available to those who might live too far away to bring their own cars and would like to participate on a hire basis.
In fact he has gone beyond that. He organizes holidays to Malta with driving classic cars as a unique feature. The author offers tailor made packages for couples or groups of 6-8 persons to stay as house guests in his magnificent 18th Century Palazzo in fashionable St. Julian’s. His guests are provided with unique, fun cars to drive around the island in and take sightseeing. They vary from a fleet of Barchetta 595 speedsters, Jolly Beach Cars, Renault R4’s and Citroen 2CV’s and a Traction Avant. Airport pickup is by a Ford Cortina Woody Estate or a 1952 Harold Radford R Type Bentley Countryman. (So the motoring adventure commences at once!)
The seven-to-ten day itinerary is tailor-made according to preferences chosen and time of year. They include an evening of quarter mile drag racing in a pair of Monza’s, Vintage Bus sightseeing excursions, visiting the world’s oldest buildings, the Neolithic temples and the world’s only underground pre-historic Hypogeum. There is also a classic 1951 aluminum Albatross speedboat, powered by a Ford Prefect inboard engine available for a spin around Grand Harbour.
A week or so of fun is guaranteed. Guests will experience the best that Malta has to offer in the way of food, entertainment, culture and history. Private historic houses are visited as well as many museums and galleries. A wide selection of activities is offered and unique driving experiences, unobtainable elsewhere. There is no website at present but an e-mail to email@example.com will result in a personal contact with David Arrigo who will give you all the options available. Malta is easily reached from most European Capital cities through, Air Malta, Alitalia, Lufthanza, KLM, Emirates and the low cost airlines, EasyJet and Ryan Air.