You can take the man out of Manchester...


Author: Martin BuckleyPublished:

I have never done the Monaco historic GP before so an invitation to go to this year’s event was not to be turned down.

Time constraints precluded a drive to Monte Carlo so we flew Sleazyjet and destressed afterwards in an Irish theme pub where I got stitched up – I was too knackered to argue – paying €10 each for two glasses of wine because I clearly looked like a complete mug.

The barman regretted this after I had set Mia on him and topped up our glasses FOC... all of which sounds like one of those ‘Ooooh they charge you £5 for a glass of orange juice down that London’ type stories that tedious people used to tell me when I told them I lived down the smoke.

I suppose it is no better than that, really, and what did I expect in bloody Monte Carlo anyway?

Still it is a fun place in that grimly fascinating way all such enclaves of the very wealthy are. Lots of young girls looking for rich old men; Ferraris and Bentleys and facelifts everywhere... and dog poo. Lots of dog poo. And bad art.

Not that many classics around on the streets. The occasional Citroën Mehari and an early XJ-S that seemed to have been semi-abandoned with its lights missing. I spotted an FX3 Austin Taxi in the museum window that was the former runabout of Princess Grace. She had it retrimmed in rich silk and velour and was apparently keen on these trinkets of British culture.

Met a fascinating globe-trotting Rolls-Royce and Bentley mechanic called Chris from London who has been working on Crewe machinery since the age of 14 and had an R-Type Continental before he was 20.

The next day we did the RM Auction. They put on the slickest show in Monaco (in fairness I didn’t get to any of the other sales) and had some of the best cars on offer including a friends Lamborghini Jarama, fully restored by Colin Clarke and I reckon a bargain for what it made (under €60k I think).

It was the kind of event where Aurelias, CSLs and E-types were bargain buys on the fringes to give centre stage to the heavy hitting million-Euro-plus machinery. Chris Evans was prowling around the lots.

On Sunday I was determined to see some racing and got tickets for the Casino Square which was great until it started tipping down with rain.

In the end we retired to a bar where the action was on the TV anyway and you could actually see the cars for real simply by hanging out of the windows.

I didn’t think those kind of freebies were possible in Monte Carlo. Great fun, but I want to see more of the older front-engined cars next time even if it means less boozing.

Returning on Sleazyjet, former owner Stelios shuffled past via speedy boarding on our flight to Gatwick and it occurred to me he should put a bid in to buy Greece at the moment to add to his empire.

Returning home, a nice TV treat was a slightly mawkish documentary on BBC4 called Grand Prix: The Killer Years.

It was fascinating to hear what Colin Chapman actually sounded like and moving to see how some of the characters involved in the tragedies were still so emotional when talking about their friends 40 or even 50 years on. Great stuff.

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