When it comes to Grand Prix, most motor sport fans will have their favourites but The Malta Grand Prix is probably not one that springs immediately to mind. If you are not familiar with it, have a look on Youtube and you will be in for a surprise. The racing is as hot, if not hotter, than anything F1 has to offer. The cars are all classics ranging from Minis up to E-Types and Ferrari's.
With the four-day event beginning to attract international interest, this year a team of marshals from the UK was invited to fly out and give the organisers a hand with the sixty car field; the team included three members from Bognor Regis Motor Club, Meredith Hutchins, Mark Bowen and yours truly.
Our day started very early on 4 October with a taxi arriving at 3.00am to take us to Gatwick. The plane took off on time and the flight was uneventful until we were approaching Malta, where the airport was shrouded in thunderstorms. Our pilot said there was a gap in the storms and he was going to go for it. So, we buckled up and hung on. With the plane bucking and lightning flashing all around us as we came in, the pilot touched our plane down for one of the smoothest landings I have ever experienced; great flying skill. Ours was the last flight allowed in that day with all others being diverted to Sicily.
Unfortunately, the storms and rain persisted into Thursday, resulting in the first event, a hill climb, being cancelled. To pass the unexpected spare time, we took ourselves off to a classic car museum on the north of the island. Entry was through a shop front and down some stairs, where an amazing scene opened up before you. The owner had gathered together an extensive collection of cars, of all types. They were laid out in tableau's that made you think you had gone back in time to Britain in the 60's and 70's.
The next day was taken up with the Concours D'Elegance Competition, which was held in the Cathedral Square of the old fortress city of Medina, cars taking part included a little Fiat 500 – more of which later.
Saturday saw everyone getting down to the serious business of practicing for the Sunday race day. The course/track was made up of closed public roads which included one side of a dual carriageway (the other side still carrying traffic!) and some seriously narrow lanes, probably more akin to a special stage on a tarmac rally here at home. Marshal posts were “interesting” with how fast you could run or how high you could jump being your only protection from a wayward racing car in some places. Even though it was only practice, the drivers were going for it and there were the inevitable casualties; what amazed us was how quickly cars were repaired and returned to the fray as though nothing had happened! One driver carried enough spares in his van to completely rebuild his indecently fast Triumph Vitesse and he made full use of them!
Race day dawned sunny and very hot with many of the UK contingent whacking on the factor 50 as they took up their positions. After qualifying runs it was on to the racing proper. The cars were started eight (8) at a time which, remembering my description of the track layout, made for some interesting corners and late braking manoeuvres. As marshals, we had a very busy day rebuilding chicanes etc., recovering cars that left the tarmac and generally keeping everyone as safe as we could. At this point I will return to the Fiat 500 that was in the Concours D'Elegance competition on the previous Friday.
On Sunday, it was actually driven with great verve in the races, until its little wheels lost their way on the changing road camber and a barrel role was the result. Pleased to say the driver was unhurt but the car’s Concours D'Elegance days are definitely over. The day finished with a very nice champagne reception at which the winners were presented with their trophies. A great weekend's racing the way it used to be and arguably, the way it should be today. Cheers to the Malta Classic Grand Prix.