May 2014 saw us undertake a rather special road trip in our 2008 Opel GT. Our trip consisted of 5 nights in the South of France at Port Cogolin, 4 nights in Brescia, 3 nights in Venice and 4 nights in the Dolomites in the South Tyrol region. On this trip we were watching the Monaco Grand Prix Historique and the famous Mille Miglia race from Brescia to Rome and back. Finally we were meeting 9 other car enthusiasts in the Dolomites who also had Opel GTs to do some driving and exploring of some passes in the Dolomites. It proved to be a simply marvellous holiday and you can read the full holiday diary on our sister site PhotoBeast here. Here though are some photographs and recollection from our trip to the Monaco Grand Prix Historique.
Sunday 11th May – A Day At The Monaco Historique Grand Prix
Monaco can be a tricky and busy place to get into with a car at the best of times, but with a Grand Prix on it would be a nightmare. Peanut’s plan then was to drive to Beaulieu sur Mer, which is about 8 miles shy of Monaco and from there catch the train to Monaco. To have a full day in Monaco and a good run in the Opel the alarm went off at 5.15 am! Gulp!
The plan worked perfectly and with no traffic hold ups whatsoever on our drive to Beaulieu Sur Mer, we arrived there at 7.30 in the morning. The station car park was empty and for icing on the cake, as it was Sunday, it was free! The hardest part of Peanut’s travel plan was getting the train tickets out of the platform ticket machine. Finally we succeeded and at 10 euros for two return tickets we could hardly complain. 10 minutes later we were in Monte Carlo out of the underground train station and seeking breakfast. We found a small cafe with some Grand Prix types in overalls already there and indulged ourselves with croissants and hot chocolate. In truth this really was a very civilised way to go and watch a Grand Prix – no queuing, no being stuck in traffic, just croissants in the sunshine! The weather was set to be perfect, warm but not too hot at 25C by the afternoon. We had seating in stand K6 but not allocated seating, so we went in to have a quick peep at what was going on on the track, and also how the seating was looking. It was still early so not a lot to see, we just admired the wonderful setting for this race, looking over the port and then we came out again and had a wander around.
We thought we might find some stalls to browse for mementos but while they were there it was not like Le Mans where there is just so much to see and do away from the track. We did get ourselves a poster and then picked up some more drinks and a baguette and returned to our stand seats to watch some racing. The series B race for F1 and F 2 cars of 1961 was just kicking off and this certainly whetted our appetite for the Monaco Historique Grand Prix. Our seats had a great view of the chicane by the swimming pool just by the port side and it was brilliant watching the cars slalom through this. The races start just behind our stand so cars were roaring past us 20 yards behind us and then twenty yards in front of us as they navigated the chicane and the noise of the cars was absolutely, totally, utterly deafening! The port of Monaco is surrounded by hills and it forms a natural echo chamber, so I really can’t stress how loud the cars were. We thought they were loud at Le Mans but this was in a whole different league of loudness. From now on, every time I fail to hear what Mrs P says it will be blamed on this Grand Prix! Commentators kept you up to speed with all events, but the French one had two things so not going for him – well three really, let’s not forget that he was French! First he had a relentless quality about him. Once he started he never, shut up and never paused for breath. Secondly he was on a mission to prove that the racing cars were not the loudest things in Monaco on this glorious Sunday. Actually they were, but by God he was a close second.
The series B race was won by a Brit. The race before that, which we caught the tale end of was also won by a Brit. The races usually are about ten laps so not too long. So in short it was great fun constantly leaping to attention each time they played the National Anthem! We then watched the Series D race for cars from 1961 to 1965 and saw another Brit cruise to victory. By the end of the day, because there were so many British drivers there, they had played the National Anthem a lot! We loved it!
Deafened by racing cars and one particular French commentator, and starting to overheat in the sun we decided to have a wander and see what was happening up by the Casino. We found a lift to take us up there, but to be honest there was not a lot for us to see (i.e. I couldn’t even get close to a Chopard watch shop) so we headed back. Unfortunately after trekking back to the lift we came up in, we were not allowed to use it to go back down and had to use the lifts at the railway station. This involved some serious walking and climbing of damnably steep steps before we could get down. On the one hand I was seriously not amused by this but on the other hand, as a bloke with a one way ticket in the health department, I was frankly rather impressed with how easily I coped with it!
Eventually, we got back to our seats and with perfect timing a man came round selling chicken and cheese baguettes, beer and water. So we had some of each and settled down to watch the racing. The baguette by the way was delicious! We saw the end of one race and then watched the whole of the Series C race which was very exciting to watch, as you could see the drivers doing their best to get every bit of performance from their motors, and there was a decent amount of overtaking too. With the cars being slimmer than modern F1 cars and not as fast, they suited the Monaco track better. One car went off track at the chicane to overtake another. it was exciting but he got a ten point penalty for the illegal manoeuvre. This was for cars from1952 to 1955 and they looked the most like road going cars to me, many being two seaters and lots of them had the humps on the back behind the driver, much like we have on our Opel GT. Maybe that was why these were my favourite cars of the day. There were a couple of Ferraris in the race, 225S’ and a 250MM which had covered cockpits, proper road cars in fact and the 1952 225S made me think of an old red bank robber’s Jag as it flew round the track evading the cops! Alex Buncombe, a Brit in a C- Type Jaguar XKC owned by Jaguar Heritage went on to win this great to watch race. God I enjoyed that National Anthem!
Time for another break. We went for a walk and explored the end of the K area we were in, where we found a cafe selling Nutella crepes and thought they would make a nice treat, which they did, washed down with coffee for me and Orangina for P. Then the Series E started.
These were the early Formula One cars and by heck they were noisy. Bear in mind that we were sat eating our crepes about 25 feet from the trackside these were deafening as they shot by. We paid the bill and walked to the fence close to the point where they had to change down to corner. At this point we were no more than six feet away from the cars as they belted by and that was an experience like no other for me! We stayed a short while to watch and even grabbed some video but the noise being so unbelievably close to the cars, was indescribably loud, so we meandered back up to the stand. By the time this race had finished we had seen all we wanted to see, so we left the track and returned to the station to catch the train back to our Opel GT in Beaulieu Sur Mer.
It was still a beautiful day and understandably after a day at a Grand Prix we were in the mood for a nice drive, so we returned home on the coast road with the roof down and then had a blistering drive through the Estoril Hills, full of sweeping bends just made for our Opel GT. In my mind I was in the Series C race and while Mrs P indulged my fantasy, she drew the line at me donning my black and red leather racing gloves! A glorious end to a great day with only a snack and a glass of wine needed for supper. Oh and the penalty for lovely weather is mosquitos, and they were in abundance this evening, but you need something to pass the time with no TV or internet, so we killed some time mosquito swatting! My mind though was still in Monaco, so every fly swatted was a red flag and a safety car deployment. What a truly fantastic day.
Addendum. Thus far on this holiday Mrs P has demonstrated an impeccable level of good planning, the train from Beaulieu Sur Mer being a prime example. She has also been a brilliant co-driver and general good egg. Throughout she has been making sure I take all my tablets (8 per day) and made sure I had suitable sun protection on, as my skin due to the chemo is very sensitive to the sun. In truth I’m a bit high maintenance but Mrs P has been simply faultless.
And there lies the problem. A basic fact of life is that in truth all men are cocks. They just are. They go looking for bother and if they can’t find it they invent it. It’s always the bloke who causes the problem. Now obviously in my case, I am of course as close to perfect as a bloke can get but even I can have my cock moments. The problem then, was that it was three days now and I had had nothing and I mean nothing to grumble about. Clearly then, as you can imagine this was getting to me. Something had to give…
On our way home from the GP we pulled in for petrol. I put the fuel in and Peanut went to pay. I asked her to get some drinks, some sexy orange rather than just water for me. She emerged from the garage shop, looking triumphant with a can of Minute Maid in her hand. At last I thought she has slipped up… “Oh P why have you got a can instead of a bottle with a screw top? You know we have no drink holders, now I will have to drink it all at once for God’s sake!” (As you can see my almost perfect life had been challenged by this disaster).
“No problem” replied the unflappable Peanut, ” I’ll just poor it into this empty bottle.” My wonderful cool lady had just made me into a double cock. Once for being daft enough to whinge about such a trivial matter, and then once more for solving my dilemma so casually. Yep I love this girl, she is more than my equal!