A Busy Month Behind the Wheel — From the Swiss Alps to the Renaissance Capital of Italy
Now’s That’s What I Call A Hillclimb- The 2010 Ollon-Villars Mountain Race
by Swiss racer and collector Marc Caveng
Saturday morning, 18th September. Here I am on the road again, my car safely loaded behind me, ready for the third time to tackle the legendary hill climb that leads from the small village of Ollon in the Canton of Vaud to the well-known ski resort of Villars, towering 800 metres above it and 8 kilometres away.
The first observation I make about what is destined to be a superb weekend is that winter is almost upon us and patches of mist are clinging to the surrounding mountains. I sense rain! The second thing I notice is that there’s an even bigger crowd here than usual – and no shortage of wonderful cars. The line-up of Abarth open racers from the Möll collection, including the 3-litre 1970 European Mountain Championship winner, is distinctly impressive while the many others present include an Inaltera Cosworth Le Mans car, Chevron and Lola 2-litre sports prototypes, a Lola T70 Mk IIIB and even the Ferrari F1 312B Spazzaneve prototype.
Among the oldest cars there are some wonderful surprises in the form of the Pilkington family’s Talbot T150, a number of Allards and various Alfa Romeos that have been brought from the four corners of the continent. The hundred or so historic cars include authentic Italian and English racing beasts rarely seen in action in such a beautiful setting.
11 o’clock. I’m in the starting blocks and suddenly I’m off for my first run behind the wheel of my BMW M1 Procar. Just for the pleasure of it, I’m not wearing ear plugs. My helmet muffles the mechanical roar coming from behind my head just enough to make it sound like music to my ears...seventh heaven!
And what a course, with the right combination of long bends, hairpins and fast straights to transform these few kilometres of driving into a moment of ecstasy!
Just 8 kilometres. I’d gladly have done another fifty but at that point the ‘Finish’ gantry brings you back down to earth. Fortunately a celebratory drink awaits us in the parc fermé, which also provides an opportunity to chat to Switzerland’s only current Formula 1 driver, Sébastien Buemi, who’s done us the honour of attending and sharing his passion and enthusiasm. Sébastien is driving the Cegga-Maserati V12 of his grandfather Georges Gachnang, which also thrilled the many lucky spectators lining the route that weekend with its wonderful mechanical music.
Simon asked me to give you my impressions of this weekend, which we’ve experienced together twice in the past. I’d say that the course is even more exciting than the Festival of Speed and in terms of scenery the mountains are every bit as good as any country house. The landscape also takes us away from the often impersonal atmosphere of events organised on major circuits where the only really exciting moments are when you’re actually driving. The general ambiance also differs in its enormous conviviality, without perhaps the pressure generated by an (overly) large crowd of spectators such as one finds at the big meetings. But “comparisons are odious” as the saying goes and if I want to express what really sums up the Ollon-Villars Mountain Race for me, it would be a meeting of enthusiasts surrounded by the collectors’ cars we so love. If you have the opportunity to take part in the company of a group of friends, this weekend will provide you with wonderful memories and most importantly the desire to return.
‘Uniques’- Beautiful Cars in a Beautiful City
From 24th-27th September 2010, MAC Group (the organization behind the Mille Miglia retrospective) held the inaugural ‘Uniques Special Ones’ concours in Florence, Italy, initially dedicated to unique cars. I say “initially” as upon arrival one couldn’t help but notice that many of the entries were not quite as unique as one might have expected.
The lineup of cars spanned from sweeping Bugatti Type 57 Atalante coupés (a matched pair), an iconic 300SL Gullwing (ex-Niarchos), encompassing competition and roadgoing Ferraris, all manner of post-war Rolls-Royces (including coachbuilt one-offs) and some fascinating oddsballs including bespoke supercars hitherto unseen outside their creators’ workshops. Most were entered by Italian owners, many from Florence and the surrounding area. Blessed by the magnificent autumnal weather of Tuscany, the concours was held in the grounds of the Four Seasons Hotel, their private park boasting the largest lawn in central Florence.
It was a busy weekend. Dinners and lunches were all pre-organized and I can say that the food, as it should be in Italy, was excellent. The young and vibrant team at MAC always proved to be helpful and willing to overcome the teething problems of a first time event. What transpired was the feeling that the organizers didn’t have the depth of knowledge that’s needed to organize a high level international concours, but this is being addressed.
This is an event that’s unlikely to challenge Pebble Beach or Villa d’Este, but it’s certainly one to watch. It represents a major investment for MAC, who are no amateurs, and in the coming years I’m sure it will evolve into a more recognized international event attracting cars and public from around the world.
[Editors note: Best of Show went to Mr and Mrs Brandon Wang’s Ferrari 330GTC Speciale built by Pininfarina for Princess Liliane de Rethy…and yes, it is unique]
Images courtesy Studio Patrick and MAC Events.
All pictures of the race can be viewed and purchased at www.studiopatrick.ch