The A groups had their Rolex Races Saturday afternoon on Day Three of the 2016 Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The iconic road course hosted eight groups of widely disparate sizes, styles and colors. And in case you didn’t know, well-known motorsport TV commentator and raconteur, Murray Smith, reminded us at the lunchtime Paddock Picnic Palaver – Vintage means before 1930.
Murray ‘hosted’ two well known British humorists, cum A-List racers – David Hobbs and Jackie Stewart. Much of the funny conversation was off the record. But both Hobbs and Stewart were serious on the subject of America and its role in Formula One. Both stressed the need for an American driver to be in Formula One. Stewart said it’s needed to promote Formula 1 in the United States. Formula 1 still is big, colorful and global. There are more driving (racing) licenses in China and India than in America. F1 has the biggest TV audience in the world. Developing countries are putting major investments into racing. “We Need an American driver.” Hobbs said for an American to succeed in Formula One, he (or she) has to move to Europe at age 14-15 to get inured, because that’s where one learns. That’s a major investment for a family. Then the driver has to get into the right car, not just a Manor. That’s the difficult part. Hobbs didn’t see Formula 1 failing, but said it has issues which need resolving. It’s too technological. And he stressed “We Need an American driver.”
Both drivers felt that America, be it state or local municipality, needs to get behind racing. In all of Europe (except Britain) there is state supported racing resources. They promote Formula One teams and circuits and everyone benefits. In America locals or governments build stadiums and arenas for ball games. Why not racing?
The two agreed on something else. Neither wanted to race vintage. The cars are too old. Stewart said the best day of his life was racing a 1929 Nouvelari Ferrari at Laguna Seca with Juan Manuel Fangio.
Group Eight A is the Historic Trans-Am Group – a tightly knit and well-organized group of drivers and cars. They’re celebrating Fifty Years of Trans-Am with their own Tour, which includes Laguna Seca along with four other well-known circuits – Sebring, Lime Rock, Sears Point and Watkins Glen. The love of Trans-Am spreads beyond our shores. There is a contingent of loyal Aussies who not only love the cars and like to race them in the US, they own them and keep them here. There are three Australian owner-drivers in this year’s Trans-Am race and all have raced here before: Don Dimitriadis in No.21 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302 formerly raced by Dan Gurney; Chad Parrish in No.28T 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302; and Terry Lawlor in No.63 1967 Shelby Mustang. There will be Aussie drivers at all Tour venues this year.
Another Aussie, 1993 and 1997 Australian Touring Car Champion, Glen Seton, is racing No.15 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe in Group SixB for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc. That car is owned by Dimitriadis. This is Seton’s first time at Laguna Seca. He really enjoys the circuit, finding it challenging. He likened it to Australia’s Bathurst circuit and Phillip Island, with its blind corners. Seton would like to race more American races and likes the Trans-Am Group, as do all the Aussies.
More Aussies, in non-muscle cars: Ron Goodman is driving No.23 1954 Porsche in Group 3A for 1055-1962 GT Cars; Chris Bowden is driving No.21 1979 BMW M1 Procar in Group 4A for FIA & IMSA Cars, and Duncan MacKellar is driving one of the two No.29 1971 McLarens, a M8E in Group 7a for 1968-1974 Can-Am Car. In the B Groups, Chris Farrell is driving No.18 1982 March 821 in Group 7B for Historic F1 Cars.
Derek Hill, son of American F1 World Champion Phil Hill, won Rolex Race 1A for Pre 1940 Sports Racing & 1927-1951 Racing Cars, driving No36 1927 Delage ERA, and he turned the fastest lap time of 1:52.434 on Lap 11 at 71.658 mph. The Margin of Victory was 78.047 seconds ahead of Charles McCane in No.6a 1936 ERA R6B. The top BMW was Thomas Feierabend of Bavaria in No.328A 1937 BMW 328, finishing sixth. There were 41 cars in the 13-lap race, of the 49 entries.
David Swig of Sausalito won Rolex Race 2A for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc. Young Swig drove No.16 1958 Scarab Mk1, and beat runner-up Dyke Ridgley of IL by 01.930 seconds. Ridgley drove No.66 1960 Maserati Tipo 61 and turned the fastest lap time of 1:46.488 on Lap 7 at 75.659 mph. It was a nine-lap race. Fourteen of the 19 entries raced.
Chris Cox of NC drove his No.112 1962 Ferrari 250GTO to victory in Rolex Race 3A for 1955-1962 GT Cars, and turned the fastest lap time of 1:49.042 on Lap Three at 73.887 mph. His Margin of victory was 13.972 seconds ahead of Jeffrey Abramson of CA in his 1959 Morgan Babydoll IV in the 10-lap race. Thirty-five of the 41 entrants raced.
Gunnar Jeanette of FL won the Rolex 4A Race for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT, and GTU Cars He drove No.0 1980 Porsche 935, and his Margin of Victory was only 00.484 seconds ahead of Ken Epsman of CA in his No.20 1976 Dekon Monza. Epsman also turned the fastest lap time of 1:33.495 on Lap Three at 86.174 mph. Thirty-seven of the 50 entries raced. The top BMW was Chris Bowden of Queensland, Australia in No.21 1979 BMW M1 Procar, finishing fifth.
Marc Devis of Schoten Schoten won Rolex Race 5A for 1963-1968 USRRC & Can-Am Cars. Davis drove No.47 1967 Lola T 70 Mk3B Spyder, finishing a mere 00.044 seconds ahead of Johan Woerheide of SC, driving No.7 1965 Lola T70 Mk II. Byron DeFoor turned the fastest lap time of 1:37.297 on Lap Five at 82.806 mph, driving No.8 1965 Lola T70 Mk 1, finishing fifth. Thirty-two of 38 entries raced in the 11-lap race. Finishing third in the race was the top BMW, Harindra de Silva, father of young Tim de Silva, driving No.196 1965 Elva-BMW Mk8. Like his son, he too races SCCA in the San Francisco Region.
Wade Carter of WA won Rolex Race 6A for 1970-1984 Sports Racing Cars under 2100cc in No.74 Lola 2-liter, and turned the fastest lap time of 1:26.345 on Lap 11 of the 12-lap race. His speed was 93.309 mph. His Margin of Victory was 05.445 seconds ahead of Cal Meeker of British Columbia, Canada in No.115 1973 Lola T294. Pole sitter Tim de Silva had mechanical issues with his No.25 1978 Osella-BMW PA8, and finished 16th with two laps. On the upside, it gave him more time to get back up to the grid for his next race in 7A. Seventeen of the 22 6A entries raced.
Kirt Bennett of Monterey CA won the Rolex 7A race in No.101A 1974 Shadow DN4, and turned the fastest lap time of 1:25.499 on the penultimate lap at 94.233 mph. I watched the Zoom Zoom radar gun speed trap sign and top speeds going up into Turn One reached 160 mph. The Margin of Victory was 05.534 seconds ahead of Dave Handy in No.102 1974 Shadow DN4. There were four black Shadows in that race and even more in the paddock. Shadow designer, Don Nichols of Carmel CA, was in the paddock overseeing the cars. Twenty-four of the 27 entries raced in the 13-lap race. De Silva, the son finished eighteenth in No.22 1974 Sting Can-Am.
Pole sitter Ken Epsman of CA won the Rolex 8A Race for 1966-1972 Historic TransAm Cars in his No.2 1971 Javelin. He turned the fastest lap time of 1:43.015 on Lap Four at 78.21 mph. His Margin of Victory over Aussie runner-up Terry Lawlor was 00.353 seconds. Lawlor was driving No.63 1967 Shelby Mustang.Thirty-four drivers of 38 entries raced in the 11-lap race. Unofficially, the Zoom Zoom speed trap showed a couple of cars reaching 120 mph going into Turn One.
Sunday’s schedule calls for seven races and the Prize Giving Ceremonies.