Simanaitis Says

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THE MONACO Grand Prix exemplifies everything that’s glamorous about Formula 1 racing. It’s the last of the grand venues, a genuine street circuit. And through what streets!


One of my most memorable visits to Monaco came more than two decades ago for the 1992 Grand Prix. It involved a round-trip drive from Paris, the route suggested by no less than famed European race driver/journalist Paul Frère. My Monaco accommodations were on the Renaissance V cruise ship docked at the quay. I watched the race from an even better venue.

They don’t make trips like this anymore.

My drive in a Peugeot 106 GTI started from Paris’s Residence du Roy, just off the Champs Elysees near Place Franklin D. Roosevelt.


Starting point in 1992; the Residence du Roy offers fine accommodations today.

Paul’s route purposely avoided les Autoroutes. In fact, whenever feasible it used D roads, Routes Departmentales, well-paved two-lane twisties around vineyards and farm country.

Paul Frre's suggested

Paul Frère’s suggested route swapped a direct 592 miles for perhaps 700 miles of enthusiast delight.

In Vienne, just south of Lyon, I stayed at Hotel Pyramide, made famous by Fernand Point, the father of nouvelle cuisine ( On the way back, again near Lyon I visited the village of Mionnay, where Alain Chapel, one of Point’s most talented students, had a Michelin three-star restaurant and hotel.


A beautiful Mionnay setting in 1992. Alas, Hotel and Restaurant Alain Chapel closed its doors in 2012.

Farther south into the Alpes Maritimes lie the Gorges du Cians, the Cians river slicing a route that’s 1500 ft. deep through limestone and red shale.


The Gorges du Cians. Image from

The Cians is a tributary of the Var, and following this river leads directly to Nice and the Mediterranean. Monaco is just a short trip east on the Basse Corniche.


The Peugeot 106 GTI gets a well-earned rest at the stern of the Renaissance V.


By cruise ship standards, the 115-passenger Renaissance V was intimate. The ship was also small enough to dock at the Monaco quay; larger ships anchor farther out in the harbor.

The Grimaldi

The Grimaldi Palace, above, is on a hill overlooking the harbor. The view from there, below, is breathtaking. The Renaissance V is the largest ship on the quay. Smaller boats can dock adjacent to the circuit.


Exploring Monaco on foot is complicated because of its extremes of elevation.

Add the restrictions of race weekend, and it helps to know some secrets to get around. It may not exist today, but—down a little alley—there was a public elevator taking one from near Portier up to Mirabeau Haute (“high”).

The Renaissance V proved very handy. Each morning, I’d breakfast on the fantail deck and do the crossword puzzle in the International Herald Tribune.


A view from the Renaissance V fantail: Even during practice, the grandstands were filled.

The 1992 Monaco Grand Prix has been described as one of the greatest F1 races, though it didn’t began as one. Nigel Mansell and his Williams-Renault were on pole and led for most of the race, with Ayrton Senna’s McLaren-Honda giving chase. Then on Lap 71 of 78, Mansell had to pit with what turned out to be race-related debris fouling his car’s rear suspension.


Monaco circuit, as it appeared in 1992. Loews was originally the Station Hairpin and is named the Fairmont now.

Senna took the lead. Mansell chased him in an epic battle during the last seven laps. They finished in that order, only 0.215 second apart.

Your correspondent

Your correspondent timing the action.

My vantage point was a particularly good one. Several of our party watched the race from a small boat docked immediately next to the circuit. The boat was probably only a forty-footer. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

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This entry was posted on March 12, 2013 by in Classic Bits, Just Trippin' and tagged , , .
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