The Festival of the Automobile: Automotive Fair Albania
Images: Retro Albania & Maguette Soukouna
They promised that it would be four days of music, machines, motorcycles, and madness… and that was what it was, the second edition of Automotive Fair Albania.
Held in Tirana, the capital city of Albania, from the 26th of October to the 29th, this years’ edition dished out equal doses of bike and electric car racing, Porsche GT3s and modern Ferraris, exciting fast laps at the centre-of-town 1.5km street circuits, a motor show with 50-odd exhibitors, and a beautiful display of historic vehicles, as well as some great historic racing cars, mainly bolides from the 1950s and the 1960s.
Organised by the General Directory of Road Transport Services (GDRTS) and Retro Albania, as well as the Ministry of State for Entrepreneurship and Business Climate, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy and Tirana Municipality, Automotive Fair Albania is a veritable celebration of the automobile, a fun festival, which had some 160,000-odd citizens of Tirana and its surrounding towns, spectating and supporting the four-day event.
To get bolides which have never been seen before in Albania, Retro Albania and the GDRTS took the highly enthusiastic support of Antonio Durso and the Old Cars Club from Bari, Italy, as well as the Porsche Club Puglia and Ferrari Club Italia, all of whom traversed by boat or truck from Italy to Albania to participate in the four days of bacchanalia.
Following the ‘Race of Champions’ format, 14 electric cars—with a pair of drivers each—competed on the first day, with a Tesla Model Y winning the race. This was followed by an exciting session of thrills and spills as a bunch of motorrad riders scrapped it out shoulder to shoulder in that narrow 1.5km circuit.
I was there for the action on Saturday the 28th, when as many as 22 Porsche 911 GT3s, GTS, Caymans, Boxsters, etc, and seven Ferraris (a pair of 599s and 458s, 550, 488 and 612) went around the circuit in sequence, with timed sessions. The sound and fury of these thoroughbred GT machines had both young and old very excited.
But the biggest cheers were for the historic racers and sports cars that took to the circuit before them. Several of them were single seaters and two-seater barchettas from the 1950s and early 1960s, such as a beautiful pencil slim Stanguellini, a Lancia-engined special called De Laval, an Apache, a Scaglietti and a Le Blanc Formula Juniors, as well as an impressive Maserati 150S, which went on to win, as its navigator made it a point to make sure that the driver did not rush through the time control.
The sports cars that regaled the cheering spectators were a pair of Jaguars, an XK150 and an E Type, and a pair of MGs, a stripped-out TA and a very pretty MGA. There were two cars that had me confounded, an Elval and an Amblin… but what made my day was the distinctive Alfa Romeo 1900 Spider and the exquisite Lancia Flaminia SS Zagato in a very elegant silver livery.
One of design great Ercole Spada’s finest creation for Carrozzria Zagato, the Flaminia SS Zagato was symbolic as it was just the day before, on Friday the 27ththat I had spent most of the day with the design legend, as we at FIVA took the opportunity to induct him into FIVA’s Heritage Hall of Fame (Auto e Moto d'Epoca: Italy’s Biggest Historic Vehicle Show (derivaz-ives.com).
At centre stage though was the car, which is the oldest historic vehicle in Albania, a 1930 Hupp, owned by the media shy and discreet collector Enea Dauti. Sibora Xhemali, who heads Retro Albania, was rightfully proud to have convinced Dauti to showcase the vehicle. The Hupp was outside the convention centre where the main motor show was on, which had around 50 exhibitors of cars and two-wheelers, most of whom were European, as well as a significant number of Chinese auto makers.
Retro Albania, on the opening day of the automotive fair, had managed to assemble more than 70 historic vehicles, and some of them joined again on the day after for the parade of all the cars—both the historic ones as well as the modern ones—through the city of Tirana.
By mixing the historic with the modern, by providing a motor show, a historic vehicle show and parade, quite a bit of motorsport, and the constant pulsating throb of dance music, the concept of a festival of the automobile in all its guise made the Automotive Fair Albania a great event.
Another brilliant activity put together by the team led by Blendi Gonxhja and Lira Pipa, with the complete dedication of Anisa Pollo, Sokol Duma (who did a major part of the on-the-ground organising), Sibora Xhemali, Meri Lamçe, Jon Papadhimitri, Sara Shehu, Xhuliana Haxhiu and several others.
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