Classic cars and retro chic Return of the Leopolis Grand Prix

  • Classic cars and retro chic Return of the Leopolis Grand Prix
Issue 33, March 2011.

The first motor car to appear on the streets of Habsburg Lviv arrived in 1897 – a brand new ‘Benz-Victoria’ which was owned and driven by Kazimierz Odrzywolski, the famed engineer and father of oil exploration in the West Ukrainian region. However, it took more than 30 years before the sport of auto racing reached the city. In 1930 the city hosted its first ever ‘Lviv Triangle’ auto rally, which took its unusual name from the triangular grid of Lviv streets which racing drivers were asked to navigate. This three-sided course included Vitovsky Street (formerly known as Pelczynska), Ivan Franka Square and Hvardijska Street, with Lviv’s cobbled streets and tram lines creating additional obstacles. At the time, the course was rated as among the most complex and challenging in all Europe but this did nothing to deter enthusiasm for the event among Leopolitan auto racing fans and within a year the city’s embryonic racing scene had achieved international recognition with the launch of the Leopolis Grand Prix. Although a relatively short lived venture, the Leopolis Grand Prix has remained lodged in the imagination of auto enthusiasts and their passion for this aspect of local motor sports lore will be rewarded this June with the return of the Leopolis Grand Prix to the streets of the West Ukrainian capital!

A gem of the inter-war years

Lviv’s first internationally recognised grand prix was held in June 1931. Initially the plan was to name the event the Polsh Grand Prix (at the time Lviv was part of inter-war Poland) but disagreements with the Polish Automobile Association in Warsaw resulted in a decision to name it the Leopolis Grand Prix – a name which thankfully continues to resonate to this day. The event was considered one of the more exotic on the then-emerging grand prix circuit and it succeeded in attracting a wide range of international drivers including some of the most celebrated speed merchants of the day including the likes of Hans Stuck and Rudolf Caracciola (Germany), Pierre Veyron and Annette Rose-Itier (France), Renato Balestrero and Vittoria Orsini (Italy), Maximilian Hardegg and Hans Tschaikoff (Austria), Bruno Sojka and Jan Kubirek (the Czech Republic) alongside Polish drivers Henryk Liefeldt, Jan Ripper, Maria Kolmianowa, Stanislas Czaykowski and Maurycy Potocki. The event proved hugely popular with Lviv audiences but owing to the onset of the Great Depression in the early 1930s and the deteriorating economic climate across Europe the Leopolis Grand Prix was shelved in 1934 before being indefinitely suspended by the political changes which swept the region during and after WWII. It became a local legend and a symbol of a bygone age of sophistication and extravagance which Leopolitans yearned for throughout the long, dark night of Soviet rule.

Reviving a Lviv legend

Since the dawn of Ukrainian independence in 1991 there have been numerous efforts to revive this grand prix tradition and after many years of selfless efforts from local enthusiasts this summer will see the dream realised as the city once again plays host to the Leopolitan Grand Prix. The event, which is planned for June 10-12, will not be a modern Formula One spectacular but rather will remain true to its classic car roots and feature all manner of retro autos and rare period vehicles. Originally the brainchild of Lviv classic car enthusiasts led by the local ZAZ retro club, the return of the Leopolis Grand Prix has been welcomed in official circles and will be supported by Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi, Lviv Oblast Governor Mikhaylo Tsymbalyuk and the Consul General of Poland in Lviv Grzegorz Opalinski. Fans of classic motor racing can look forward to a recreation of the original Lviv Triangle course as well as a number of additional events which will be held on the fringes of the grand prix itself including an exhibition parade of classic cars and motor fashions plus the unveiling of a commemorative plaque honouring the creators of the original Leopolitan Grand Prix.

A chance to learn ahead of Euro 2012

“Independent Ukraine has never seen a vintage car festival on this level before,” explains co-organiser Evgen Kraws, who argues that the event will also be useful for local authorities as they prepare themselves for the logistical challenge of co-hosting Euro 2012. “The Leopolitan Grand Prix will be held exactly one year prior to the kick-off of Euro 2012 and so it will be a wonderful opportunity for the Lviv authorities to test out cooperation and coordination between the city’s different crowd control, security and service sectors. The Leopolis Grand Prix will provide them with a unique chance to build up invaluable experience and hone their policing and crowd management strategies,” Kraws offers.

Leopolitan Grand Prix June 10-12
For more information please
visit www.zazkozak.com or
contact the grand prix organizers on
+38067-9001111 or
+38067-6728503