The romantic allure of the Monaco Historic Grand Prix

Monaco Historic F1

Undoubtedly one of the best historical motorsport events to attend, for one lucky South African, it has also been a dream come true to participate (more than once). We speak to South African Jordan Grogor, who raced at this year’s event. 

Words: Wilhelm Lutjeharms

Pictures: Automobile Club de Monaco

Just mention the name Monaco to any motoring enthusiast and iconic images of the historic annual Formula 1 race will pop into their mind, as will scenes of the tight track carving its way through this small, but supremely glamorous principality. 

During May the 13th Monaco Historical Grand Prix was staged here. It is an event that covers several decades of Grand Prix and Formula One cars, and make no mistake, these are not parade laps but provide flat-out racing in near-priceless cars. 

Monaco Historic F1

We spoke to Jordan Grogor, a South African who is based in Dubai and who participated in this year’s event, his fourth. Once you're aware of where he lived the year after he left school, it becomes clear that that set the path for one of his main interests... motorsport.

“I left South Africa at the age of 18 to go and live in Le Mans, France, to do a scholarship with a racing academy called La Fillière. I originally moved to Dubai with Macsteel, a South African company. I was lucky enough to be allowed to race and work at the same time, as my boss was an avid collector and driver. That included the Blancpain endurance series with McLaren and Von Ryan Racing (now the GT world Challenge races ) as well as the national championships in the Middle East and the now famous Dubai 24-Hour event. Since then I’ve been racing quite actively during the past 12 years. 

Monaco Historic F1

“The motorsport world is very difficult, it comes down a lot to who you know, perseverance and luck. Since 2011 I’ve been racing with Fred Fatien, a good friend and the owner of the team called GPX. We won the Dubai 24-Hour endurance race driving a Ferrari for Dragon racing twice – Fred then called me up to participate in the new Renault RS01 championship under the GP Extreme banner as well as the 24-hour series around Europe which we dovetailed with select events utilising their collection of historic Formula One cars. Some highlights were the opportunity to do Goodwood in England, Monaco and Mexico in the historic masters - always competing for the win, but most importantly having fun.

Monaco Historic F1

“With historic racing you got to enjoy and be passionate about it. You need to be serious but you also need to have fun. It holds true that racing in the '60s, '70s and even the '80s seems to have been a lot more relaxed and fun. Obviously, also a lot more dangerous. 

Monaco Historic F1

“During the racing weekends there is a lot of camaraderie. Fred and GPX instilled that in our racing etiquette so to speak.”

In total, Jordan has now achieved two podiums, two fastest laps and a pole position at Monaco. “This year I got invited by ROFGO Racing to drive a new car, a 1971 Matra MS120C.”

This classic F1 machine is fitted with a 3.0-litre V12-cylinder engine. Previously Jordan raced a 1980 Arrows A3 at Monaco and I wondered how these two cars compared in terms of the racing experience.

Monaco Historic F1

“The similarities are the mechanical aspects – rigid single seater aluminium tub, light weight, a manual 5-speed gearbox and significant power. The Arrows is a ground-effect car, so the way you drive it is completely different. The Matra is like a massively over powered Formula Ford, for lack of a better word. It has big tyres, a huge amount of power and a five-speed manual gearbox… with very little aero. There is a lot of engineering and preparation that goes into these cars before a race – and that is the same for all forms of motorsport. This includes the approach to the weekend, the teamwork and the nuances of finding the perfect balance in the car. 

Monaco Historic F1

“First and foremost it is a real privilege to be able to race these historical cars. These cars have won races or had world champions in them. I like to call this the most romantic era of motorsport: the noise, the sound and the smell... something you don’t see today anymore. 

Monaco Historic F1

Another element I enjoy is going through the motions. Sit in them, start them up – it is really a pinch yourself moment. Going, for example, through the tunnel with the 12-cylinder engine singing at 11 000 rpm!

“Then there is also the camaraderie, it is fantastic. In modern motorsport, which I’m lucky enough to participate in, you kind of stay in your team and your garage. There will be briefings, debriefings and the going through all the data. However, with the historical F1, it is different. It is crowd friendly, they can talk to you and see the cars up close. The paddocks are more open as well, compared to modern motorsport. Then there are the competitors who enjoy this experience all together. 

“The calendar for historical motorsport is growing and it as an exciting time for the sport.”

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