From Potrero de los Funes
Like last year, after the stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Argentine Historic Grand Prix made its official start this Sunday on the main straight of the Potrero de los Funes international racecourse, in the province of San Luis. The all-time classic cars will travel from this Monday until next Friday, when the competition ends in the city of Bragado, province of Buenos Aires, a total of 1,820 kilometers along the roads of Nogolí, San Jerónimo , Balde, La Carolina , Merlo , Achiras, Sampacho, among other mountain towns in the province of San Luis. Aged 81 and blessed with astonishing vitality, Jorge Revello, vice-president of the Argentinian Automobile Club and one of the main drivers of this sporting and cultural event, spoke with page 12 on what this XIX edition of the GPH represents for the history of national motorsport, and why this regularity race is so attractive to the crazy family of Argentina and the neighboring countries of Uruguay and Paraguay.
-How do you assess this new edition of the GPH, the XIX, again here in San Luis, where last year the race was very crowded?
-It’s not small, is it? Almost 20 years. We are very happy with the attendance of the public, the cars, in short… And with such emblematic and beautiful cars, because let’s not forget that beyond the regularity race, what each year we put in place to drive on the roads and routes of Argentina is what we call “A traveling museum” which allows us to see the different periods of the automobile reflected in the cars themselves, ranging from the coupecitas of the 30s to the cars of the year 81. We try to make it always a party.
-The pilots and their companions continue to say they are present despite the crises, the maintenance costs that these classics have throughout the year, what do you think is the reason for this interest which is renewed even with the incorporation of women in the duo?, children and even grandchildren who perpetuate the tradition?
-The GPH is a great opportunity to show these cars so unique, personal and extremely neat. Former participants began bringing their wives, children and grandchildren as co-pilots. In other words, the whole family of motor sports is integrated and this beautiful passion follows and spreads, without conflicts, without cracks, without problems between people in a real camaraderie. Here there is friendship, joy and it is a real pleasure and pride that we have been able to run this race without interruption since 2003, except for the first year of the pandemic, when we had to suspend it.
-Historically, the GPH traveled through several provinces and this time, as in 2021, practically all the activity was concentrated in San Luis, why?
-Last year, the decision concerned the issue of sanitary bubbles. However, the experience was very good for everyone and this year we decided to extend the route to the town of Merlo and the arrival in Bragado. But, really, without the support of our sponsors such as YPF or La Caja, the government and the minister of tourism of the province, Luis Piri Macagno, what you see would be very difficult to achieve. Everything is organized and it makes things easier. Now, maybe for next year, which will be the 20th edition, we will go back to visit more provinces, do a bigger tour. But it is difficult to predict how. Last year’s experience in San Luis left us with a lot of good lessons, especially when it comes to harmony and focused competition logistics. This is something that outsiders may not see, but we value very positively.
-What information do you have about the fires in the Merlo area? Do you think they can have an impact on the development of GPH stages?
-What we do know is that until yesterday the situation was quite under control, and we believe that the humidity of these days and the drizzle of last night will help to cope with the fires. As the GPH does not touch the areas where there is fire. So we ask God to help us, to help the local populations so that all this stops. These are problems and climatic hazards that arise and that, as always, we must solve.
-Last year you were surprised by the large number of people who accompanied the race during the different stages, what are your expectations for this year?
-Last year, only in the symbolic beginning, we had about 17,000 spectators. The public in San Luis came from different places to see these classic cars, and we took all that love with us and, truth be told, we hope that this year and the ones to come, this experience will continue to grow and we will have more and more classic car enthusiasts.
– What do the pilots and their companions tell you about the GPH?
-Affection. Lots of tenderness. Think that there are a lot of drivers who work on their cars all year round, investing little by little, so that during race week everything works as it should. This is experienced as a kind of vacation that is neither winter nor summer. They are those of September, those of spring. There are people here who haven’t stopped coming for a year since 2003.
– How do you work from the Historical Commission of the ACA on the issue of generational change?
– Both for the cars and for the drivers and their companions, the years pass. That is why it is very good that the generations are renewed. It is a cultural issue that we want to pursue. Here people come across a lot of those cars that during the so-called swap plan were turned into scrap metal. We know from GPH maps that we have around 1,200 classic cars from all decades. And we came to launch races with more than 300 cars. Before we pushed the cars to 75 and now we have extended to 81. We are slowly moving the scale to bring the history of modern cars together. And don’t be surprised if, in a few years, if this continues, we see electric cars in a Historic Grand Prix. We won’t see it, surely, but that’s the way and what history has in store for us. We are not fighting against that, not at all.
In the paddock of the international Hippodrome of Potreros de los Funes, they present the classic small Ford and Chevrolet coupés from the years 1937 to 1940, an ’87 Ford Sierra and an ’81 Toyota Célica; via the Mercedes Benz of the 60s; the Fiat 600, 128, 1100 and 1500; the Renault 4L and 12, the Torino and Ford Falcon, the Citroën 3CV, the Alfa Romeo, the BMWs of the 70s and 80s; cars from Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. They are priceless gems, living vernacular automotive history. Passion for nuts and, above all, a cultural phenomenon.