Classic Cars in a Historic City
Due to its location at the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, Malta is no stranger to foreign invasion. The island’s importance for international trade and military expansion has led to a rich cultural history that is completely unlike anywhere else in the world. Malta has passed hands between the Greek, Roman and Phoenician empires, as well as having been controlled by Arabia, Germany, France, Spain and most recently Great Britain (before achieving independence in 1964). As a result of this diverse and fascinating history the Maltese capital Valletta was officially recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980.
From May 3rd-7th Valletta will receive yet another wave of foreign invaders, this time in the form of classic car and motor racing enthusiasts from around the globe. Now in its second year, the Valletta Grand Prix has grown dramatically from a two day event to a full week programme including a meet and greet session at the Grand Hotel Excelsior, motoring trips around Malta and its sister island Gozo, as well as car exhibits by various automotive clubs. The race course follows Valletta’s ring road, a historic circuit built around the fortifications erected by the Knights of St. John in the 16th century. Neatly tracing the outline of the Valletta peninsular, the track allows for views of both the historic city and blue Mediterranean waters.
The organisation of the Valletta Grand Prix has been a labour of love for Maltese classic car enthusiasts. The idea originated in 2007 when Frenchman Thierry Giovannoni set up the Grand Prix de Malte, however he was unable to secure funding for the following year. Not to be beaten however, some passionate members of the Malta Jaguar Enthusiasts’ Club set up the Valletta Grand Prix Foundation and within six weeks had planned and secured funding for their first sprint race event in 2009.
“As a founder member, board member and participant in last year’s event, my joy was the enthusiasm of every competitor, being with fellow motoring aficionados, and participating in what one would consider to be a wedding car,” said Gerald Zammit of the VGP Foundation. “To my surprise I came second after an Austin Healy. I drove a 1971 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow”.
The success of last year’s event has more than doubled the number of participants registered for 2010, largely due to an influx of foreign competitors. The VGP Foundation has an exclusive deal to run the Grand Prix for the next four years, however this may be extended if international interest continues grow: “We want to be another Monaco and a must for all car enthusiasts to include in their yearly calendar of events,” said Mr Zammit. “We can guarantee sunny weather, warm hospitality, a number of 5 star hotels and resorts and a spectacular event.”
The Valletta Grand Prix has received full backing from the Malta Tourist Authority which has recently been targeting Britain in the hopes of attracting more British tourists. In March the MTA signed a marketing deal with TUI Travel to feature Malta and Gozo in its brochures for the next three years; similar deals have also been made with Thomas Cook and Saga Holidays.
In spite of this appeal to tourists the charm of the Valletta Grand Prix should remain intact: “The Valletta Grand Prix takes place in the off-peak season, hence this will attract more visitors who are car enthusiasts or just want to enjoy the less crowded period,” said a spokesperson for Isango!, an online provider of international tours and activities. “The customer feedback on our tours of Valletta have been extremely positive all year-round. I have no doubt that the Valletta Grand Prix will continue to attract visitors with a love of history and classic cars.”