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November 28th, 2007

Story by David Arrigo
Photos by David Arrigo unless otherwise noted.

Malta is a tiny island, just 60 miles south of Sicily in the very heart of the Mediterranean Sea. It is an ex-British Colony that suffered greatly during WW2. The Maltese, like their Italian cousins are passionate about cars, but motor racing on public roads has always been banned. Recently, when the prospect of having their own Grand Prix for Historic cars was seen to become a reality, the islands motoring population went wild with enthusiasm.

The results of many months of planning and negotiation between GTO (Giovannoni Thierry Organization) the organizers and dozens of government agencies, spearheaded by the Malta Tourist Authority was now bearing fruit. Thierry Giovannoni’s dream of an historic car race on the island was becoming a reality, thanks in part to and with David Arrigo’s zealous backing.

Arrigo, left, and Giovannoni discuss aspects of the Malta Grand Prix.

The Maltese Government now saw the enormous tourist potential to the Maltese archipelago, and circuit racing on public roads was finally to be allowed. Although there was little TV publicity, no posters, banners or bill boards, word spread like wildfire that a unique motoring spectacle was about to take place.

It took very little time before the Maltese people woke up to the fact that something very special was about to take place on the islands roads. As classic cars are still used for daily transportation and exquisite antique buses and wonderfully painted trucks are commonplace on this Island Republic, residents are quite accustomed to seeing ancient machinery weaving in and out of the traffic.

It is also interesting to note that Malta, per capita, has one of the world’s largest Ferrari populations. On an island a mere 19 by 9 miles there are considerably over 50 Ferraris. Maltese would-be participants, previously skeptical about the feasibility of a Maltese Grand Prix, were now eager to join the activities.

Pascal Tricoulet, Giovanonni's right hand man, drives a rare British Built Barchetta 595 designed by Peter Stevens.

Mounting enthusiasm began to swamp the organizers with applications from new and hopeful entrants. Some quick re-thinking about the situation was necessary, resulting in some fifty or more local cars joining the ‘event’ in some way or another at the last minute. Warming up the crowds the Old Motors Club in their local classic cars paraded around the track, followed by the local modern Ferraris and hill climb cars.

For years, local car enthusiasts knew that the perimeter road around the ancient city of Valletta could be an ideal location for an historic race. Valletta is a walled city, built on a peninsula by the Knights of Malta after defeating the Turkish Empire in 1565. In October, the perimeter road along and around the bastions was pulled apart, vast stretches dug up, sleeping policemen removed, and the many imperfections replaced by new tarmac. This road has always been dreamt about as being the ideal motor racing circuit with a unique and stunning backdrop of sea, ships, bastions, palaces and fortifications.

Map of the circuit on Valletta's perimeter road.

After an arrival from Genoa delayed by some bad weather, on Monday October 22 over fifty historic cars, joined by local classics, paraded in Valletta to the constant flashing of digital cameras, mobile phones and television coverage. With the weather cleared the ensuing days saw the unbelievabl sight of eight Type 35 Grand Prix Bugattis, a 1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa, a 1955 Maserati A6GCS and an Osca 1600 SP, along with other delectable machinery from the 1930s, 50s and 60s. A special rally tour made their way to the south of the island for lunch at the fishing village of Marsaxloxx, after which a high speed drive looped the south west of Malta guided and accompanied by some terrific cooperation from the police. On their high powered BMW motor-cycles, the police leapfrogged from traffic-light to intersection keeping the daily traffic at bay, thus allowing the magical Bugattis and others free and fast passage across the island.

Magical cars, magical location. Valletta as seen from the air. Photo: Malta Tourist Authority.

On Wednesday, yet another high speed drive, only north this time to the sister island of Gozo. Gozitans and tourists alike gasped as the 9.45 am ferry disgorged a swarm of highly tuned machinery rarely seen on public roads, let alone on the remote and sleepy island of Gozo. Bathed in brilliant sunshine inches from a gentle surf at picturesque Xlendi Bay the participants mingled with local classic car collectors over lunch on the promenade at St. Patrick’s Hotel.

Late on Thursday night the Drag Racetrack at Hal Far was opened for the foreign guests and their cars. For the first time in history pairs of Bugattis thundered up the ¼ mile straight racing against each other. It was magic seeing Jacky Luri in his magnificent Alfa Romeo Monza beating a 1965 Porsche 911 without difficulty.

Jack Luri's Alfa Monza was a star attraction at Malta.

Friday saw Cathedral Square in the ancient capital of Mdina (not a typo--the name of this ancient city is Mdina, without an e. The city was given the name by the Saracens in AD870), the venue for a Concours d’Elegance with a panel of local and foreign judges. Nine winners were announced during a reception held at the Xara Palace Hotel that evening. A Type 35 Bugatti, unusually painted red, a local Shelby Mustang and a Fiat 500 were amongst the winners.

A Bugatti and an Aston Martin have a go.

Saturday was race practice day and excellent traffic redirection and control was contained by the police. By early afternoon, with the police in position, the Safety Car, driven by Giovannoni and Arrigo, checked the protection of the public. Satisfied, but only just, the practice laps commenced and history was made. Circuit racing around Valletta had begun.

Concours winning Bugatti Type 35. Photo credit Paul Zammit Cutajar.

At exactly 2:00 pm on Sunday, October 28th, The Maltese flag was dropped by Giovannoni and races started on time, as the pre-war cars screamed down the Vodafone straight into the first bend at the War memorial on into Crucifix Hill. By the time the leading Bugattis reached the Phoenicia Hotel, after the exhilarating hill up the west side of the hotel, the crowd around the Triton fountain and on the start/finish line were frantic with excitement. A battle ensued between Jacky Luri in his magnificent world record holding 1927 Amilcar and Jean-Marie Laffont’s Bugatti Type 35B of the same year. Run on methanol, the Bug ran the fastest lap of the day at 2 minutes 51 seconds, representing an average speed of 120 kph to finish first.

In the 1950-1960 category a pair of local XK 120s, belonging to local businessmen Joe Said and Joe Zammit Tabona excelled and were comparable in performance to the later Jaguar XK140 of Michel Tessier and the “D” type of Jakob Richi. The 1960 Birdcage Maserati of Egon von Hoffer, Jean-Jacques Roger’s 1955 A6GCS Maserati, the Osca 1600SP of Thierry Bordeau, and the 1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa 250 of Corrado Cupellini were beyond beautiful and thrilled all. However, it was Daniel Pouteau in his red Simca Abarth that won the hearts of the public with this little car and superb driving skills, amongst a field of larger and more powerful cars.

Jorg Konig and friend enjoy the results in a 1926 Type 37A. Photo credit Paul Zammit Cutajar.

More Malta race photos below.

The final race threw the Maltese public into an absolute frenzy with the big muscle cars and Jacques Cochin's magnificent 1967 Porsche 910 dicing with the 1966 ex-Le Mans Ford GT 40 of Alain Schlessiger. When the latter car spun on the Triton Fountain roundabout, the crowd gasped then cheered as the 360 degree spin thrust him forward once more. The 1973 Maserati Bora of Bernard Guenant and Jean Marie Belleteste’s 1968 De Tomaso battled for position, closely followed by Joel Hambert’s all aluminum unpainted 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB. Smaller Alfa Romeos kept the Italian car numbers up with a 1970 Saloon, a Bertone and a 1970 Junior 1300 Zagato, all in Italian Racing Red. The GT 40 was first home.

Malta now proudly joins Monaco as being one of the only few recognized annual road circuit Grand Prix events, certainly in Europe if not in the world. The 2nd Grand Prix de Malte is to be held on 25th and 26th October 2008. Further information and entry forms are available from the co-organiser, David Arrigo at

Be sure to read about Malta in VeloceToday. is a Website which has videos and more information on the 2007 event.

Malta's website is where one may obtain history and tourism information.

Car Ferries go from Genoa in Italy to Malta, or from Sicily. Malta Grand Prix week has many different and exciting car related activities, aside from the Grand Prix, for those wishing to participate during the week ending 26th October. Entries are invited for pre-war and post-war Historic Cars. There will be races for cars under 1000cc and under 750cc, Fiat 500s, 600s, Abarths, etc. There are a few local Racing Barchetta 595s available for hire in the under 750cc event belonging to the organizers. One can fly in and race for very little cost, especially for those interested from the USA.

Rare OSCA 1600 of Thierry Bordeau.

1958 Ferrari Testa Rossa 250 of Corrado Cupellini. Photo credit Paul Zammit Cutajar.

Marc Blanc in one of the eight Type 35 Bugattis which entered the event. Photo credit Paul Zammit Cutajar.

Leo de Malet Roquefort in a Type 35 Bugatti. Photo credit Paul Zammit Cutajar.

Jean Marie Belleteste’s 1968 De Tomaso.

Daniel Pouteau in his red Simca Abarth won the hearts of the crowd as he chased much faster cars around the Valletta circuit. Photo credit Paul Zammit Cutajar.

Joel Hambert’s all aluminum unpainted 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB.

Jean-Jacques Roger’s 1955 A6GCS Maserati in front of a 1958 ex-Le Mans Kieft Bristol belonging to Andre Plasch. Photo credit Paul Zammit Cutajar.

Past Issues



Shell Historics at Moroso

CCCA Tour Part I

Classic Adelaide 2007

Mugello 2007 Part 2

Malta Vintage GP

Mugello 2007

This is Hershey

Coppa d'Oro 2007

Pebble Beach Tour

Carmel Concours

Oldtimer sideshows at the Ring

35th Oldtimer GP Nurburgring

Ferrari Concours in Maranello

Sestriere Rally 2007

Turin Concorso

Ferrari Days GB

Greenwich Concours

Mille Miglia 2007

Italian bikes at Half Moon Bay

Shell Historics at VIR

Italian Auto Moto Festival

Alfa Day GB

California Mille

Villa d'Este 2007 part II

Villa d'Este 2007 part I

Shell Historics at Infineon

Geneva take Two

Geneva take One

Paris Pot Pourri

Retro Italia 2007

Paris and Retro 2007

Cavallino 2007

Shell Historics, Moroso 2007

Detroit 2007


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