Events: 19th Silver Flag hill climb, 2014
An Italian town celebrates Lancia's legacy with a raucous hillclimb
19th Silver Flag hill climb
Over 200 classic cars from all over Europe made the pilgrimage to the hilly streets surrounding Vernasca in Piacenza, Italy to salute the Lancia marque in the 19th Silver Flag hill climb.
Held from June 20-22nd, Club Piacentino Auto d’Epoca provided the perfect toast to Vincenzo Lancia’s legacy, which was founded in Turin in 1906 and soon to be consigned only to its home market, according to current Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne. But we digress.
Essentially, Silver Flag is a three-section hillclimb covering around 8.5km. It commenced in Castel’Arquato; a place renowned for its medieval history, and a great metaphor for the hillclimb itself – beautiful but with the potential for mayhem. The cohorts blast through the village of Lugagnano before a rapid 500 metre descent. Then the daunting climb begins: a spaghetti string of hairpins with little time to recover, towards the finish in Vernasca. Times are not recorded; this is a celebration, not a race.
The best part? It’s those fully-lit Italian race cars; barking four-potters, hot sixes, thumping V8s and the peculiar long-legged V12 howl, all bursting past crowds with barely a concrete barrier or hi-vis vest in sight. This is old-school: only a few hay bales line street corners, the angry lines of hardcore race cars shimmering through the haze of an Italian summer. E glorioso!
A flurry of Touring Cars departed at 30 second intervals, followed by GT cars, then 1950s sports cars, 1960s prototypes, Formula machines and finally the pre-war protagonists.
Crowds lined the grassy elevations, rendering images that could have come straight out of the WRC in the 1970s. Alfas and Ferraris, along with German and British interlopers, made up the majority of the field, but it was the stunning core of Lancias that caused the biggest stir.
Organiser Claudio Casali searched far and wide to source a selection of the most significant Lancias to celebrate. "These include the Lambda, Delta Integrale and S4, as well as some other very special cars such as the Flavia Zagato prototype," he said. "The special Fulvia HF Barchetta F & M, the never-used ECV Group B car and the rare Lancia 037 all-wheel drive hybrid were also present."
The Official Lancia Collection brought another four iconic cars, including a D25 Sportscar, a Group 4 Stratos in Alitalia livery and the 1972 Monte Carlo Rally-winning Fulvia HF. But its star was undoubtedly the D50 Grand Prix machine. Vast crowds gathered to see the D50 and hear the roar of Vittorio Jano's 260hp 2.5-litre V8 engine as it started; the configuration which helped Alberto Ascari snatch pole from Mercedes-mounted Juan-Manuel Fangio by a full second in Pedrables, Spain, back in 1954.
Some towering human figures in Lancia’s history were also present. Three-time Monte Carlo Rally winner Sandro Munari, nicknamed ‘The Dragon’, was a Lancia rallying stalwart, most famously in Fulvia and Stratos HFs. Also on-hand is engineer Gianni Tonti, who played a key role in the creation of Lancia’s racing department. He was accompanied by fellow engineer Sergio Limone, the designer and developer of the legendary Lancia Rallye 037 which won the 1983 World Rally Championship against the might of the all-wheel drive Audi Quattros.
The Lancias took pride of place in the paddock entrance, presented in immaculate condition but still in their natural state, ready for the torrent of people who arrived in Castell’ Arquato. A smattering of Abarths joined them, along with a Porsche 911 RS Lightweight, Maseratis Tipo 63 ‘Birdcage’ and 8CM, Breschi Franco’s loud (in colour and volume) orange Lola, a replica Can-Am McLaren M8D and a low-and-yellow Lotus-BMW 23 sports racer.
Of other famous Italians, the Alfa Romeo historic museum showed a Giulietta SS and Berlinetta 2000 Sportiva. A French influence was asserted by the Matra MS11 GP car, its godly V12 being stretched by four-time Le Mans winner Henri Pescarolo – it went on to win 'Best in Show' for post-war cars. Another famous Matra, the F2 car which Jacky Ickx qualified third in the 1967 German GP (for F1 machines), was also shown.
As well as dining among medieval landmarks, entrants won a smattering of prizes for their tyre-smoking, rev-happy contribution to the preservation of these beasts. Coys Auctioneers awarded its public-voted ‘Spirit of Motoring’ trophy to the Lancia Stratos of Alberto Pisciotta. Federico Buratti’s Lancia Fulvia F & M won the TAG Heuer ‘Best Car in History of Hill Climb Races’ award; and ‘Best Sports Car’ was the bellissimo Ferrari 500 TRC of Claudio Caggiati. The overall award list would almost fill the mag, and rightly so.
In a poetic salute, Vincenzo Lancia’s self-built Alpha, the first Lancia produced, was the last to leave as the sun set over Piacenza's peaks.
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