Every two years a little bit of magic happens on the Cote D’Azur of the Mediterranean Sea when the tiny Principality of Monaco hosts the Grand Prix Historiques. The event reflects the long history of the most famous road racing circuit in the world with cars from pre-war Bugattis and Alfa Romeos right up to McLarens and Brabhams that dominated the Formula One scene in the late ’70s and early ’80’s.
James Mann at Monaco
One of the best things about the event as a photographer is that the marshalls and Automobile Club de Monaco are pretty relaxed about where you can take pictures around the circuit and you can get really close to the action. The city is a maze of tunnels and hidden escalators that have taken me nearly all of the 20 years I’ve been coming to the event to navigate and each time I visit I discover somewhere new to shoot.
This is one of the classic views in Casino Square De Tomaso leads March 711 in the 1966-72 race. Weather this year was mixed with the rain arriving just in time for the sports car race.
I love the grid walk at Monaco. They still have very elegant grid girls and it’s so atmospheric.Here’s Marc Devis in the 1980 ATS on pole position with an Arrows A3 in second place.
In the harbour-side paddock the ex-Jim Clark Lotus 25 gets a thorough pre-race check by Classic Team Lotus. This car finished 8th here in 1963.
This view makes a great establishing shot with the Alpes Maritime towering above the city of Monte Carlo shrouded in mist. Here’s Belgian driver Christophe D’Ansembourg in the Mclaren M26 chasing a pair of Shadow DN8s in to the harbour chicane.This is where Jenson Button had his nightmare accident coming out of the tunnel in the BAR Honda in 2003.
Monaco always draws out the star drivers and it was great to catch up with two-time F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen who drive the stunning McLaren M14A in the Heritage parade.
The only thing missing from the weekend was good friend and motor racing commentator Henry Hope-Frost who loved the event. Henry was killed in a mortorcycle accident earlier this year. I shared many a fine time in Monaco with him as he regaled us with stories of long gone racing battles that he brought to life with sound effects that only improved with each bottle we ordered.
Henry Hope-Frost:250F in 2016
I’ve just been writing and photographing a story about the amazing line up of Group B rally cars at Race Retro in Stoneleigh Park. Introduced in 1982 as a replacement for Group 4, group B was conceived to cut red tape with limited regulations to encourage more manufacturers to join the WRC.
Combining four wheel drive with the immense power from turbo-charging proved irresistible to a legion of loyal fans who still love these cars more then thirty years on after the series was cancelled in 1986 following the tragic death of Henri Toivonen’s and his co-driver Sergio Cresta in a Lancia Delta S4 on the Tour de Corse rally.
Patrick Head turned the lack lustre ugly successor to the Mini ,the Metro, into a British rally icon. The 6R4 was created in 1985 out of pretty much thin air by Williams Grand Prix engineering who did much of the development work.
The Audi Quattro was a game changer on the world rally scene. When the rules changed to allow four wheel drive cars into rallying many thought they would be too complicated and heavy to be competitive but this was quickly proved wrong when a Quattro won on it’s first time out at the Austrian round of the European Championships.
Renault 5 Maxi Turbo
Designed by Bertone’s Marc Deschamps, the Renault Five Turbo was initially launched into the Group 4 rally scene and proved competitive with Jean Ragnotti winning the 1981 Monte Carlo rally and 1982 Tour de Corse.There were upgrades for Group B with increased engine power from 210 and then to up to 285bhp and the introduction of the 1527cc engine with the Maxi Turbo in 1984 .
One of the iconic of all the Group B cars is Ford RS200.The brainchild of new Ford Motorsport boss Stewart Turner, the body was penned by Ghia in Turin, F1 engineer Tony Southgate designed the chassis suitable for the four wheel drive and Bryan Hart tuned the dry sump aluminium engine to deliver almost 450bhp.
This 308 wasn’t an official Ferrari Group B project in the UK but Michelotto had built four 308s to rally spec’ for the Italian scene.This British car,whcih still runs today with original driver Tony Worswick, competed mostly in the tarmac rallies
Peugeot 205 T16
Peugeot 205 T16s were the most successful Group B cars to compete in the final years of the World Rally Championship’s series, winning the 1985 and 1986 championships with Timo Salonen and Juha Kankkunen. The T16s were built using a standard 3 door body shell cut in half creating a rear bulkhead and a brand new tubular and sheet steel space frame at the rear of the car to house the mid mounted engine and gearbox.
I was recently asked by old friend Richard Sutton, ex dep’ editor of C & SC and Lord March’s right hand man, to take some pictures for an car exhibition with a difference.
Called Art in Motion, the idea was to collect seven iconic cars in a giant 11th century thatched tithe barn in Tisbury Wiltshire, one of the oldest of its type and now set up as an art space by owner and London gallery owner Johnny Messum.
A series of talks on automobile design is scheduled by noted speakers such as professor Dale Harrow from the Royal College of Art and critic and writer Stephen Bayley.
The opening night saw the incredible spectacle of the collection of Lamborghini Muira Alfa Romeo SS, McLaren F1, Jaguar E Type, Ferraris 288GTO and Daytona and AC Cobra brought together for the first time with a champagne reception and introduction by Richard.
The exhibition runs from 6-29th May See www.messumswiltshire.com for more details
The late Tom Wheatcroft built up an incredible collection of racing cars many of them Grand Prix or Formula One cars at the Donington Circuit which he owned.
I have a regular feature to feed in F1 Racing magazine and have built up a large archive of F1 cars photographed in the studio style but need to keep adding to it all the time. The museum ,which is open to public, is much depleted these days but there is still some gold to be found.I’d picked out the Ferrari Thinwall Special developed by Tony Vandervell on an Indianapolis chassis as campaigned by Mike Hawthorn,Peter Collins and Nina Farina amongst others and featuring a 4.5 litre V12 24 spark plug engine.
Also the Vanwall VW2 from 1955 was on my list.It raced nine times that year with Harry Schell and Ken Wharton at the wheel and featured an unusual cylinder design based on the Norton motorcycle engine developing over 300bhp.
Finally I chose the incredible BRM V16 Mk2 P30 …a unique screamer of just 1.5 litres but supercharged was capable of delivering well over 500 bhp at 8000rpm. It won on it’s first outing in 1954 in the Chichester Cup at Goodwood.
One of the images I try to shoot if there is time is a locked off shot of the whole car with the bonnet on and off comping these together to give a shadowing effect of the engine through the bonnet.See the finished image in my portfolio 1 gallery
I’ve recently been out to one of my favourite race circuits for a shoot with the epic 1971 Ferrari 512M. Circuit Paul Ricard is set in the mountains at Le Castellet behind Marseilles in the South of France and is reminiscent of Laguna Seca in California with its mountain air and clarity of light although the track is flatter and more open. Dramatically painted run off areas highlight the corners and the atmosphere in the paddock is typically Prevencal with a long break for ‘Dejeuner’ always scheduled into the program. I arrived at dawn and woke Tim Samways’s transporter driver who sportingly agreed to unload the car for me to start shooting statics in the creamy early light.Track time was arranged between 12-1.00pm but the car only arrived in the pit lane at 12.50 pm giving us only enough time for just one lap for car to car photography…which was sufficient. Just fifteen 512Ss were converted into M spec in 1971 and with over 600bhp on tap through the quad cam five litre V12 engine…we tiptoed our way around the track, the glorious song of the Italian race tuned V12 the only noise shattering the silence of the important procession of lunch.
I was down in Poole at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s brand new rescue boat building facility recently to shoot a pair of classic Ferraris left in a legacy to the charity by V12 collector Richard Colton. The 250GT SWB V12 was built in 1960 and was one of only 167 made with just 12 coming to the UK, it was the first car imported by Colonel Ronnie Hoare for Maranello consessionaires and is of a type that won the RAC TT and as driven by Stirling Moss and Phil Hill. The silver car is a 275GTB 4 cam V12, considered by many to be the best GT car ever built and was the Maranello demonstrator in 1967,both matching numbers cars were owned by Colton for over 30 years in which time he drove them all over Europe.They are expected to raise up to $10million making the donation the largest ever to the RNLI and enough to pay for five Shannon class lifeboats, as seen here.They will be sold at H & H’s Duxford auction later in the year.