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The Italian Job
publication date: May 9, 2014
author/source: Andrew Morland
Last summer I took part in the 2013 Vernasca Silver Flag Hill Climb in Italy.
A friend who had raced there several times before encouraged me to enter with my 1955 Lotus VI. The Hill Climb is a re-enactment of the famous event that ended in 1970.
It is now run with great enthusiasm and efficiency by the Piacenza Automobile Club. It is held over 3 days with three official runs up the hill from the attractive ancient town of Castell d'Arquato up to the pretty hill top town Vernasca. From Vernasca there are superb views across the northern plains of Italy from the ancient main square.
The 2013 event particularly celebrated Piccoli Bolidi, the 700cc & 1100cc class of Italian Specials. They use Fiat parts and are somewhat crude but later developed with tubular frames and eventually pretty bodies. The crudeness is not unlike the early Lotus and my VI was not out of place amongst them.
There was a wide range of specials which were mostly red and half of which I had never seen or heard of before. They included Bottega, Camet Magda, Cavanna, Giaur, Gilco, Mardal, Ermini, Nardi, Osca, Siata, Giannini, and Abarth. Lotus were well represented by 2 Lotus 23s, a Lotus 19, a Super Seven, a Lotus Élan and my VI.
The exciting hill climb course is ideal for road and race cars. It attracts the quality of cars seen at Goodwood, however one is discouraged from overtaking so the cars are well separated. However I did, politely, overtake a Jaguar XKSS on the twisty climb but he was more concerned with preserving the two and half million pound car than speed!
The first section is flat and very fast with each car setting off within a timed interval. It is then followed by bends and hairpins on into the historic town of Vernasca where all the cars finally park in the main square.
Needless to say every available space if filled by cheering spectators, loving the speed and the noise, especially of the Ferraris and Maseratis!
The food, wine and atmosphere at the Gala dinner, which is held outside in the historic Roman town's main square, with fellow drivers, their partners, families and enthusiasts is almost as good as driving the hill climb!
In fact the whole weekend is a wonderful indulgent celebration of motoring with the accompaniment of delicious, sumptuous meals and plentiful local wine in fantastic surroundings and by good fortune warm, sunny weather. Truly happy motoring!