The golden hills of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca are alive with the sounds of real race cars, a la vintage and historics, for the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion.
There are 15 groups with more than 550 older, beautiful cars, spread out over four days. This year the event is honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Shelby GT350. There are forty Shelbys entered in Group 3A for 1965-1970 Shelby Mustang Cars, and all but one are 350GT’s. The other is a 1996 Shelby Mustang, driven by Charles McKee.They come from far and wide, including Australia, Canada, Colombia and Switzerland as well from the US – mostly (quelle suprise!) from California.
In the morning Shelby practice Tommy Steuer from Colombia was the fastest his 1966 Shelby 350GT.
The Reunion cars this weekend range from Brian Blain’s 1911 National 400 in Group 1A for Pre 1940 Sports Racing and Touring Cars to three 1983 Formula One Cars in Group 8A for 1967-1984 Formula One Cars – driven by Dino Crescentini/Arrows A6, Cal Meeker/Williams FW08 and Erich Joiner/Williams FW08/C.
All fifteen groups have a twenty-minute practice session Thursday and again on Friday, in numerical order. Saturday the schedule calls for two races each for all eight of the A classes – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Sunday, the B Group cars race, and the day is capped with the Awards Ceremony in the Paddock.
This year is the first year of the new FIA F1 Masters Series racing at Laguna Seca. And how sweet is that song! This series acquired the US-based Historic Grand Prix F1 group last year. The Masters Series encompasses authentic F1 cars from the three-litre period – 1966 through 1985. The overall pool of such cars isn’t that large, maybe 85-90 total, around the globe. This weekend the F1 cars come from Canada, Europe. Mexico and the US Virgin Islands. The overseas Masters drivers have kept their cars in the United States so they can compete in the five other Masters F1 events at: Road Atlanta, Barber Motorsports Park, Road America, Circuit of the Americas, Sonoma Raceway, and Mexico City. Some of the visitors have raced at Laguna Seca in the past, and nine are enjoying their first experience on the iconic 2.238, eleven-turn elevated road course. The FIA F1 Masters Championship only runs for points in Europe. The American rounds are for pure pleasure and don’t count towards the Masters Championship. Those contenders keep their American ‘fun’ car here and their points-chasing cars in Europe. None of the serious contenders are here this weekend.
John Delane of CA, 2011 FIA Historic F1 Champion, has been racing all over Europe for several years. He’s back racing in the US Masters in his No.2 1971 Tyrrell 002.
In the first F1 practice Thursday noon, Charles Nearburg of Texas was fastest in his No.27A 1980 William FW07. There are 37 F1 cars in this group. Most of the cars are in the same paddock row and many have sign board showing the car’s original driver and history. No times are listed on the results sheet, as the Reunion is “not a competition event.” However the Mazda Zoom-Zoom radar screen on the Start-Finish Bridge showed several cars going 140+mph – the fastest was a 146mph.
Second fastest F1 driver was Eddie Lawson in No.20 1980 Wolf WR4. And yes, he’s the four-time World Motorcycle Champion. He won the F1 Masters race earlier this season at Barber. And, per his crew, he is a “jewel of a guy.”
Keeping track of this exotic group of race cars isn’t easy for Timing & Scoring as the cars sport their original numbers, so there are duplicate numbers, and so some cars don’t correspond to the Entry List numbers.
Although these drivers are racing authentic old F1 cars, often in period-correct (appearance) driver’s suits, many also opt for the modern-day driver safety items such as the HANS device.
Fox Sports is here this weekend filming for a one-hour TV show on FSN, to be aired Saturday 26 September 2015 at 11:30am PT. Condensing this four-day event into an hour show will be a major effort. The broadcast time is set to follow a live NASCAR practice.