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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.
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.
In Vienne, just south of Lyon, I stayed at Hotel Pyramide, made famous by Fernand Point, the father of nouvelle cuisine (www.wp.me/p2ETap-kX). 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013