Classics pack Maltese streets

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Malta's premier classic motor sport event moved from Valetta to the historic town of Mdina for the 2011 Grand Prix from 21-23 October, but that didn't stop more than 25,000 local and international spectators turning up over the weekend.

Celebrities from the classic world included Michael Quinn (above), grandson of Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons, who was driving an XK120 loaned by the Malta High Commissioner to the UK, Joseph Zammit Tabona (top).

Among the fellow British racers were John Burton in an E-type and Guy Broad in his super-fast 'bubble' XK, both enjoying the new 2.2km track built with the help of local authorities and including a rapid section incorporating the Mtarfa by-pass (above).

The long straight was punctuated by chicanes to slow the fastest cars down, but there were still high-speed thrills (below).

On Friday, ahead of the start of the competition, visitors were delighted to find a concours d’elegance in St Paul’s Square (below), in front of Mdina Cathedral, with the BBC's Gemma Hunt as master of ceremonies and judges including British actress Nathalie Pownall, Annie-France Teyssedre, the secretary of the French Bugatti Owners' Club, whose mother was Ettore Bugatti's personal secretary.

Saturday's sprint was wet – Malta's first in such conditions – making the twisting downhill section at the start not for the faint-hearted, likewise the hairpin and the sprint back up the hill to the finish. Fortunately, Sunday dawned fine and the track soon dried, encouraging thousands out to pack Howard Gardens, Greek Gate and the ridges with vantage points over the track at Mtarfa, Mdina and Rabat.

Racers left in batches of six or seven; vintage Lotus, MGAs, Austin-Healeys and Jaguar XK and E-types rubbed shoulders with Jensens, Alfa Romeos, Morgans and Rolls-Royces in some bizarre battles. The Grand Prix was open to both standard cars and those prepared to period race trim, with a post-race Jaguar parade comprising XKs, C-, D- and E-types, followed by another from the local Old Motors Club.

"We always said that the sight of 60 classic cars racing on the full Mdina Grand Prix circuit will be a memorable spectacle," said MGP deputy chairman Joe Said (above, chased by daughter Olivia), "but we never imagined a response like this!”

Overall winner of the GP was Gordon Vella in his Alfa Romeo GT, while Charles Zahra was presented with the 'Spirit of Malta' trophy for the superhuman effort of bringing the event together.

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