Foggy Friday. The deep fog enveloped Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the start of the morning Group A Races at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. There was line-of-sight between the Turn Stations so it was safe to race, but it was cold, palpable fog. The sun didn’t appear until noon, and then it shone on all the many and varied activities.
The eight Group A races were run in chronological order, as there were no sound limits for the weekend. The morning races set the grids for the afternoon Rolex Races.
Group 1A was for Pre 1940 Sports Racing & Touring Cars. These cars were really old, dating back to 1911 and up through 1935.
In the Rolex Race, Luca Maciucescu, who gridded third, won in his No.37 1934 Ford Granite State Special after a hard-fought battle with pole sitter, Brian Blain in No.18 1916 Romano Sturtevant Special. Finishing third was Rick Rawlins in No.11 1926 Bugatti 37A. Maciucescu turned the fastest race lap time of 2:15.6 on Lap Five.
The oldest car was driven by Charles Test. He ran a best time of 2:52.8 in his 1911 No.19 National Speedway Roadster. The youngest cars were two 1935 Rileys. Richard Jeffery drove No.117A Riley Special Brooklands and Greg Powell drove No.16. Riley-Ford Single SeatChamp car. Sixteen drivers of the 20 entries ran the race.
In the morning race, Blain won, ahead of Rawlins and Maciucescu. Fourteen drivers ran the race.
Group 2A was for 1927-1951 Racing Cars.
Paddins Dowling won the Rolex Race in No.7 1934 ERA R2A, from the pole position after winning the morning race. Runner-up was Hans Hugenholtz in No.26 1950 Talbot T26C, who hadn’t run the morning race. Third was Charles McCabe in No.6A ERA R6B. Dowling had the fastest time of 1:58.1, on the final lap of the eight-lap race. Eight drivers DNS, including Derek Hill, son of F1 World Champion, Phil Hill, who was to drie No.51 1931 Bugatti Type 51.; and Alain de Cadenet of London, who is also part of the CBS TV Reunion telecast. He was to have driven No.106 1936 Alfa Romeo 8C.
In the morning race, Chris MacAllister came in second, behind Dowling, in his 1938 ERA 14B. That made up for not starting the morning race. Third finisher was Peter Giddings in his familiar No.31 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza.
Group 3A was for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc.
Dyke Ridgley drove his 1960 Chaparral I to victory in the Rolex Race, and turned the best time of 1:43.2 on Lap five of the ten-lap race. He finished second in the morning race. Greg Meyer came in second in No.84 1959 Sadler MkIV. They ran close together. Charging hard to catch them was David Swig in No.16 Scarab MkI. His best time was second fastest of the race – 1:44.1. Fifteen drivers ran and all finished the race. Five drivers DNS including Dominic Dobson in No.60 Cooper Monaco MkIIII.
Between races, Swig received from Executive Director Mark Gessler of the Historic Vehicle Association – on behalf of the Scarab – the beautiful glass bowl which signified the Scarab had been accepted into the HVA Registry. Each year at the Reunion it selects/honors an important car. Last year it was a Cobra. This car is owned by Dyke Ridgley.
Race Group 4A was for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT Cars.
This was a large group, with 48 entries, of which 41 ran.
Local driver Bruce Canepa won the Rolex Race after failing to finish in the morning race. He was driving his fast No.12 1979 Porsche 935, which turned the fastest time of 1:32.3 on Lap four on the ten-lap race. Second was Kiel Hogan in No.24 1976 Dekon Monza, one of three in the race. Not often one sees that many such cars in the same place at the same time. Finishing third was Cooper MacNeil in No.0 1980 Porsche 935.
Canepa owns a large restoration facility nearby in Scotts Valley in which he houses his collection of historic vehicles. He also hosts a monthly Cars and Coffee event which is so well-attended that local volunteer college students staff it.
Fourth and fifth were Ken Epsman in No.20 1976 Dekon Monza and Zak Brown in No.18 1981 Porsche 935.
Adam Corolla finished 16th in his No.70 1979 Porsche 935, and 19th in the morning race.
In the morning race, two Porsches proved yet again you don’t have to win or be in front to have an exciting race and photo finish. Mid-pack, Alan Benjamin in No.61 1975 Porsche 3.0 Carrera RSR and Cameron Healy in No.11 1977 Porsche 911 Carerra RSR finished neck and neck, in positions 21 and 22.
MacNeil won the morning race, followed by Gunnar Jeannette driving No.28 1977 Porsche 934.5 and Epsman. Fourth and fifth were Hogan and Brown. Forty-five drivers started that race with three DNS.
Also in the morning race, three fast drivers DNF’d after two laps – Canepa, Mike Thurlow in the boldly colorful No.53 1976 Chevrolet Corvette, and Charles Nearburg in his No.70T 1980 Porsche 935 K3; with Thurlow and Nearburg among non-starters for the Rolex Race.
Race 5A was another large group, for 1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars. Many of these cars used to race in the Del Monte Forest before the opening of Laguna Seca. Most of the Group’s cars are in Row Q at the Reunion, and most of them will still be there Sunday. Several, including four owned by Rob Manson, will be showing at the Pebble Beach Concours on Sunday, including the winner of both races – Dave Zurlinden of Monterey CA. He drove Rob Manson’s 1953 Tatum-GMC Special (with car body by Hagemann) to victory in both races, and turned the fastest time of 1:50.4 on Lap Four of the nine-lap race. Second in the Rolex Race was Dyke Ridgley in No.17 1953 Jaguar C-Type, with John Buddenbaum in No.3 1949 Jaguar Parkinson Special, which also will be showing at Pebble Beach. They all finished in that order for the morning race also.
Fourth and fifth were local driver, Don Pepperdene in No.77 1949 Baldwin Mercury Special and Marcus Bicknell from the United Kingdom in No.15 1952 Streets Manning Special.
Thirty-seven drivers started the race, with seven DNS, including Joe Huffaker in No.77 1955 MG TF 1500, who had mechanical problems after the first lap of the morning race, Bruce McCaw in No.65 1961 Austin Healey Sebring Sprite and Manson in No.9C 1953 Kurtis 500S, who didn’t run the morning race either.
Finishing fourth and fifth in the morning race were Bernard Juchli in No.86 1955 Jaguar Hagemann Special and Don Pepperdene in No77 1949 Baldwin Mercury Special.
Young Timothy de Silva is one of a new generation of vintage racers. The college student won his two races last weekend at the Pre-Reunion. I mistakenly wrote that he didn’t run the second of the Formula Junior races (as his car broke.) But what I didn’t know, and neither did Timing and Scoring, was that Scott Drnek offered up his 1963 Brabham BT6 for de Silva to drive. Timothy started ninth in Group Nine for FJ’s with disc brakes – the faster cars. He won the race.
This weekend, deSilva was fastest in all four of his sessions for Group 6A – 1970-1984 Sports Racing Cars under 2100cc. He won the Rolex Race and was nearly three seconds faster than the next closest car, driving No.25 1978 Osella PA8. Runner-up was Cal Meeker from British Columbia, driving No.115 1973 Lola T294. Third was Andre Lara Resende i o.126 1978 Chevron B36. Eighteen cars started the race, with three DNS including Mike Thurlow, who finished second to de Silva in the morning race. Thurlow drove No.4 1973 Lola T294. Nearly all drivers ran their fastest time on Lap Seven.
Meeker was third in the morning race., which had nineteen starters and two DNS.
Group 7A was for 1963-1973 FIA Manufacturers Championship Cars. There was a nice turnout of 34 cars, plus the seven DNS.
Chris MacAllister won from the pole position in No.5 1973 Gulf Mirage, and was four and a half seconds faster than the runnerup, Cameron Healey in No.20 1970 Porsche 908/3. Third was Richard Dean of England in No.46 1970 Chevron B16.
Fourth and fifth were Gray Gregory in No.44 1970 Chevron B16 and Bob Kullas in No.23 1969 Chevron B16.
In the morning race, the finishing order was MacAllister, Healey, Gregory, Kullas and Dean.
One of the drivers who didn’t run Saturday afternoon was Scott Barrett of Texas. He drove his No.53 1965 Koch Chevy Special in the morning race. The car was built by Wayne Koch, with a 440 hp, 2.5 liter, 4-cylinder Chevy engine, with Porsche 356 rear end. Back in the day it ran a lot of races, including the American Road Race of Championships. Koch won the ARRC DMod class his first year. After that the class became DSR and was a larger, more inclusive class and the Koch Special was not as competitive. Barrett has had the car for nearly four years and completely rebuilt it, saying it’s ‘awesome.”. At the Reunion he runs with the larger FIA Cars, in what he calls a “most diverse class”
Group 8A was the smallest run group all day, with 11 starters in the 19-car field. This group of 1981-1991 IMSA GTP Cars were the fastest all days. Winner Charles Nearburg in his No.99 AAR Eagle MkIII GTP ran a lap of 1:23.9, two seconds faster than runner-up Jonathan Bomarito in his No.202 1989 Mazda 767-B, who didn’t run the morning race. Third was Wade Carter in No.68 1984 Porsche 962. The DNS list for the afternoon was impressive, including Bruce Canepa, who only ran two laps in the morning race in his No.10 1986 Porsche 962; and Zak Brown, who finished third in the morning race, driving No.16 1986 Porsche 962. He won both his Pre-Reunion races in that car last weekend.
The McLaren M23 Formula One car, driven by former F1 driver, Mika Hakkinen, in Exhibition Laps Friday and Saturday, is being packed up and crated for its trip back to the UK. This was the first Hakkinen had driven on the 2.238-mile elevated road course. He found the braking zones required a lot of skill, and The Corkscrew was challenging. He thought German Touring Cars at Laguna Seca would be fun, but it was a long way from Germany.