The Apex Interviews Vanessa & Flavien Marçais
To many, Vanessa & Flavien require no introduction. Regulars at both races and concours events, the couple are heavily involved in the motoring world from buying & selling automotive rarities to curating the cars on a concours lawn and running their own racing series. Together they help to curate the incredible array of cars at both the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court and the London Concours at the Honourable Artillery Company. Alongside that they are coordinating the purchases & sales of cars like a 1 of 3 1954 Frazer Nash Sebring and a 1931 Bugatti Type 51. In addition, the pair run their own race series; the GT & Sports Car Cup for Pre-66 GTs and Pre-63 Sports Cars with races from Donington to the Portimao Circuit in the Algarve. Both Vanessa and Flavien each come from automotive-centric families so it should be no surprise that they’ve ended up with the jobs that they do now, but we wanted to know a little more about the how’s and why’s behind their lives in the motoring world.
For our inaugural issue of The Apex, we spoke to them about how they got into the automotive world, what goes into curating a Concours and the impact of macro topics like climate change & COVID-19 on our passion. We also touched on the topic of their very unique wedding car. Vanessa & Flavien very kindly took the time to speak to us from self-isolation at home.
Vanessa & Flavien Marçais
How did you first get involved in the automotive world?
Good question! My [Vanessa] Father has a restoration business, established over 50 years ago, so I grew up around historic cars. It was a passion I acquired almost intravenously - whether it was playing on a rusty XK120 chassis in the back garden, or spending weekends in dusty race paddocks. It has always been my way of life. In the early part of my career I worked for a London classic car auction house and showroom, followed by going to work for Gregor Fisken in his famous Mews emporium. I realised my passion is really in organising racing events for historic cars, so it was only natural when Flavien & I created the GT & Sports Car Cup, sitting alongside our Automobiles Historiques platform, which purchases & sells historic sports and racing cars by private treaty.
Was there a particular car that began the passion for cars? Does that car still elicit the same excitement today?
Without doubt, the one car that ignited the passion is the Bugatti Type 51. That flame is still burning…
Not many people will know this, but yourself & Flavien had a rather special wedding car.
I guess not many people can say they left their wedding in a Porsche 917K. It was the famous Gulf #2 car that won the 1971 Daytona 24Hrs and featured in the film Le Mans with Steve McQueen.
You and Flavien are currently working with the London Concours, amongst others, to curate the cars to be displayed. Most ‘traditional’ Concours events are held on the grounds of historic buildings or places associated with motoring through the ages. Why host a Concours event specifically in London?
Being a very cosmopolitan city and based at the Honourable Artillery Company in the heart of the financial world – just down the street from the Old Street roundabout – gives a very interesting feel to the London Concours. The atmosphere feels very different to any other Concours event – it has a more youthful ambience. Although, thanks to the cricket grounds at the HAC, we still get to have the quintessential Concours manicured lawn.
What are the kinds of people you’re looking to attract to the London Concours?
The London Concours has, in a very short time, become very much a part of the ‘Lifestyle’ scene and the London motoring ‘season’. It makes the event very accessible to a great variety of keen enthusiasts - you get people coming into the event on their lunch-breaks & office-workers gawking from their offices at the array of cars on display. Perhaps it makes it easier for a younger demographic to be introduced to the passion, something that is also reflected in the selection of more modern cars on display. By having the Concours in the middle of the city it means that it feels more open and welcoming to those that maybe haven’t been to a Concours event before.
Do you think the Concours world has changed over the past 10 years? Where do you see it going in the next 10?
For many decades the Concours scene has been very strong and recently we are definitely seeing a broader range in age span and nationalities attending. These events will continue to be extremely popular into the future especially if racing & rally events are somewhat reduced due to energy regulations.
How do you go about choosing the themes and classes for the Concours?
Our roles as curators are to suggest ideas and themes to the Steering Committee, which is headed by Peter Read - Motoring Committee Chairman of the RAC, along with Andrew Evans - Managing Director of Thorough Events, who run the London Concours - and a team of notable ‘petrolheads’. A great aspect of London Concours is the ability to have themes you wouldn’t normally see at other Concours events – including the very popular ‘Outlaws’ and the ‘Made In Germany’ classes. This year, for example, we have a class dedicated to Hot Rods in ‘Speed of Sand’, in partnership with the Ace Café.
What are the challenges with curating the cars that will be on display?
Each year the Committee needs to choose interesting examples in Concours condition that have not been featured at the event before, and not necessarily been seen by the public in recent times. This is something that becomes much more difficult the rarer a car is or during anniversary celebrations for specific marques or models.
Any exciting star cars you can reveal for the 2020 London Concours?
Not a car specifically, but ‘The Collector’ class this year will feature the personal collection of Ian Callum CBE. We could see a Vulcan this year in the ‘Great Marques: Aston Martin’ class to Lancia rally legends like the Stratos, 037 and Delta in ‘Lancia Legends’.
Flavien, could you please tell us a bit more about your fantastic motoring archives, as well as a bit about your grandfather, Serge Pozzoli, who started the collection?
I purchased the wonderful collection of my Late grandfather Serge Pozzoli, from his estate, 20 years ago, then purchased Christian Moity’s, the great French historian and journalist, nearly 10 years ago and most recently in 2017 Ferret Fotographics, the unique motorsport image library built up over decades by Ted Walker, which comprises over 7-million original images. I also acquired some smaller collections from individual photographers over the years and collected plenty of material myself during my many years of work as a motoring journalist and editor. The various collections fit amazingly well together and the archive is very much orientated towards racing, now known as the Flavien Marçais Collection.
Together you organise the GT & Sports Car Cup, as you mentioned, for Pre-66 GTs and Pre-63 Sports Cars of a type that were raced in the World Endurance Championship in period. Vanessa, you find much overlap between those in the racing world and those in the Concours world?
Well, that’s quite an interesting question. There’s a small cross over but generally we find that the racers stick to the track events and the Concours entrants are committed to a static display. It’s a completely different approach preparing a car for 2 hours of side-by-side action versus putting it up against some of the most pristine vehicles assembled to take home the coveted 1st place rosette.
Will the impending domination of alternative energy vehicles help or hinder classic car events like London Concours and race series like the GT & Sports Car Cup?
Time will tell, but in my opinion, owners of original and genuine historic cars will treasure them even more so. Hopefully it will also amplify their desire to race, rally and showcase the vehicles worldwide.
Continuing on macro topics of the moment, do you think that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on the motoring world?
In the short term we’re seeing an abundance of owners, entrants and racers who are currently ‘chomping at the bit’ and very keen to get back out on the road, concours lawn and track to make the most of their prized possessions. It’s hard to tell what the lasting impact COVID-19 will have, but I feel that in all walks of life, not just within the motoring world, it will change many of our perspectives.
How about a few quick-fire questions to end on Vanessa.
Concours or racing? Racing.
Restored or patina? You already know the answer to that – patina!
Sports Cars or Grand Prix Cars? Sports Cars.
C Type or D Type? C Type.
Favourite Circuit? Nordschleife.
Favourite car ever raced? C Type.
Any car you’ve missed out on? You’ll have to ask me that again in a few years. The game’s not over yet!
The London Concours will be held at the Honourable Artillery Company from August 19th – 20th.