The Hills Are Alive with the Sounds of Music – Vintage Style

SHELBY Sign

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.

FIA F1 Masters Trophies

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.

Joihn Delane

John Delane's No.2 1971 Tyrrell 002 F1

Charles Nearburg No.27 1980 Williams FW07

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.

Eddie Lawson's No.20 1977 Wolf WR4

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.

Niki Lauda's No.1 F1 car

Frederic Fatien No.24 1974 Hesketh 308B

Benneton

Dino Cresencentini No.29 1983 Arrows A6

Robert Blain No.9 1975 March 751

Harindra De Silva No.117 1974 Shadow DN3

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.

Driver with HANS device

Jean Denis Deletraz

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.

SUNNY SUNDAY

Corkscrew

It was another sunny and warm day Sunday for the second/last day of the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Pre-Reunion at the iconic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

The schedule called for practice for the groups in numerical order, followed by afternoon races for Groups 1-11.

1992 factory Mazda RX7-92P

The fastest group of the eleven is Group Six for 1981-1991 FIA IMSA, GTP, GTO cars. Sunday morning during practice the cars were hitting upwards of 140 mph, as shown on the Mazda Zoom-Zoom radar screen on the Start-Finish Bridge.

Saturday’s Group Six winner was Weldon Munsey in the factory 1992 Mazda RX7-92P, edging Bruce Canepa’s 1990 Porsche 962C. The average race speed in the 11-lap race was 83.074 mph. He won again Sunday, besting his factory teammate, Robert Davis in one of three factory Mazdas, a 1990 Mazda 787.

Derek Hill's 1962 Maserati Tipo 151

Derek Hill, son of the late Phil Hill, had the pole and won the Saturday Group Five Race for 1995-1961 Sports Racing Cars. Hill drove the white 1962 Maserati Tipo 151.His Margin of Victory was 01.865 seconds, and the average race speed was 61.704 mph in the eight-lap race. He bested Greg Meyer’s 1962 Dailu MK2. This group includes Derek Bell in a 1959 Maserati T-61 but he wasn’t there Saturday.

Sunday Group Five’s race finished under caution, with Donald Orosco’s 1958 Lotus 15 the winner, ahead of Greg Meyer and pole sitter, Derek Hill.

Trans-Am Alley

The Trans-Am Group Eight is always a popular one, with 31 cars from back in the day. One of the those drivers is TV broadcaster, Mike Joy, who is driving No.89 1966 Ford Mustang owned by Kenny Epsman, who is driving No.2 1971 AMC Javelin. In answer to an earlier posed questions – yes, cars sold at the many car auctions held during the Classic Car Week on the Monterey Peninsula do end up racing in the Rolex Reunion races. One such example is No.16 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 originally driven by Peter Gregg. The car is now owned by Epsman, three owners removed from the original auction purchaser.

Mike Joy and son

No.89 1966 Ford Mustang

No.16 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302

Bob Earl, veteran IMSA sports car driver, now is a driver coach and test driver. This weekend he’s shaking-down three cars. He was set to race the No.87 1971 Ferrari 312PB in Group Seven for FIA Manufacturers both this and next weekend, but has now been pre-empted for the Rolex Reunion by Lyn St. James. He’s also coaching and shaking down two factory BMW’s.

Bob Earl

Bob Earl's No.87 1971 Ferrari 312PB

Bob Earl's Coaching Cars

Peter Giddings/No.31 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza

In the oldest group of cars, Group One, for Pre 1951 Sports Racing and Touring Cars, perennial winner, pole sitter Peter Giddings again won in his much-raced 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza. His Margin of Victory in the six-lap race was 48.482 seconds, ahead of Max Jamiesson’s 1935 Ford Sprint Car. Gidding’s fastest lap of 2:01.307/66.417 mph was turned on the last lap.

Group Two for 1955-1962 GT Cars/1958-1963 Formula Junior Cars was won by pole sitter Chris Locke in No.27 1963 Lotus 27 Formula Junior. His Margin of Victory was 02.528 seconds in the nine-lap race, ahead of Timothy De Silva’s 1963 Huffaker Mk6. Locke turned the fastest race lap of 1:44.507/77.093 mph on the last lap. The average race speed was 70.175 mph.

Group Three for 1973-1991 FIA, IMSA, GT, GTX, AAGT, and GTU Cars was won by Mike Thurlow in his 1976 Chevrolet Corvette, with a Margin of Victory of 00.821 ahead of pole sitter Ranson Webster in No.42 1976 Porsche 935 K3. Thurlow turned the fastest race lap time of 1:36.257/83.701 mph on Lap 4 of the ten-lap race. The average race speed was 76.264 mph.

Group Four for 1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT Cars was won by pole sitter Cameron Healy in his 1953 Porsche Cooper Pooper, with a Margin of Victory of 15.580 ahead of Rob Manson’s No.7 Balwin Mercury. Healy turned the fastest lap of 1:49.555/73.541 mph on Lap 5 of the nine-lap race. The average race lap was 67.015 mph.

Group Five for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under/over 2500cc was won by local driver, Donald Orosco in his 1958 Lotus 15. The Margin of Victory (01.311) isn’t indicative of the race finish, as the Pace Car led the field to the checkered flag. Orosco turned the fastest lap of 1:46.870/75.389 mph on Lap 5 of the seven-lap race.

Group Six for 1973-1991 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT, and GTU/GTO Cars was won by pole sitter Weldon Munsey. His Margin of Victory over factory teammate, Jeremy Barnes’ 1991 Mazda RX7-92P was 20.804 The fastest race lap was turned by local driver, Bruce Canepa in his 1990 Porsche 962C. His time was 1:26.947/92.663 mph on Lap Eight on the eleven-lap race. He finished ninth of the sixteen-car field. The average race lap was 83.812 mph.

Group Seven for FIA Manufacturer’s Cars was won by Keith Frieser’s No.27 1972 Lola T290, 06.300 seconds ahead of pole sitter Cal Meeker’s No.115 1973 Lola T294. Third place finisher, Chris MacAllister’s No.5 1973 Gulf Mirage, turned the fastest race lap of 1:26.463/93.182 mph on Lap 5 of the eleven-lap race. The average race speed was 84.467 mph.

Group Eight for 1966-1972 Historic TransAM Cars was won byJim Hague in No.16A 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 by a mere 00.148 seconds ahead of Ken Adams in No.45 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302. Pole sitter Ken Epsman’s No.2 1971 AMC Javelin finished fourth behind Mike McGovern in No.16T 1971 AMC Javelin. Bruce Canepa’s No.6a 1970 AMC Javelin finished sixth, but turned the fastest race lap of 1:45.960/76.036 mph. The average race lap was 68.236 mph in the nine-lap race.

Group Nine for 1961-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc was won by pole sitter Fred Della Noce from Brazil in his colorful No.18 1986 Ginetta G12. He beat his Brazilian teammate, Dalmo De Vasconcelos in No.85 1965 Lotus Elan 26R by 02.957 seconds, and he turned the fastest lap of 1:46.086/75.946 mph on Lap 6 of the eight-lap race. The average lap speed was 67.513 mph.

Fred Della Noce's No.18 Ginetta G12

Justin Wilson's No.54 911 67S Porsche

Patrick Long's No.68 1968 Porsche 911 T/R

IndyCar driver, Justin Wilson of England, was a last minute entry in No.54 911 67S Porsche. He qualified third and finished fifth in the race. The only American Factory Porsche driver, Patrick Long of CA, finished twentieth in No.68 Porsche 1968 Porsche 911 T/R.

Group Ten for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc was won by Chris MacAllister in his No.146 1964 Cobra 289, 04.113 seconds ahead of Dale Akuszewski’s No.55 1965 Sunbeam Tiger. Pole sitter Mike McGovern’s No.19 1964 Shelby Cobra came in twelfth. The fastest race lap of 1:41.430/79.432 mph on Lap 3 of the eight-lap race was set by Edward Hugo’s No.996 1996 Corvette. The average race lap was 61.748 mph.

Group Eleven for F1968-1976 Formula 5000 Cars was won by pole sitter Zak Brown’s No.51974 Lola T32. His Margin of Victory was 00.140 seconds over Craig Bennett’s No.0 1975 Shadow DN6. Bennet also turned the fastest race lap of
1:27.971/91.585 mph on the last lap of the nine-lap race. The race was punctuated by a caution. The average lap was 60.788 mph.

Next week’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion starts Thursday, for a four-day festival honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Shelby GT350.

Bruce Kawaguchi's No.29 1965 Shelby GT350

Sunshine and Strawberries

1965 Shelby GT350

More than 330 vintage and historic cars are gathered at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Pre-Reunion races. They come from far and wide, and the years range from a 1924 Duesnberg Model A Speedster in Group One Pre 1951 Sports Racing and Touring cars, to a 1991 Chevrolet Camaro in Group Six for 1981-1991 FIA, IMSA GTP, GTO and GTO cars. There are eleven race groups in all.

This weekend is the precursor to the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Shelby GT350 Mustang car. There are more than 550 entries for that weekend.

Saturday’s weather was ideal – low seventies, blue skies with no fog or clouds, and a brisk breeze to keep it temperate.

For the Pre-Reunion, 21 Shelby GT350’s are racing in Group 10 for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc, out of a fifty-three car field. There are also a wide variety of other Shelby’s, Mustangs and Cobtras, as well as cars of other marques. This is the largest of the eleven Pre-Reunion groups.

Formula 5000 Banner

There are 38 entries in Group 11 – Formula 5000, and they come from far and wide. The US has a strong Formula 5000 Drivers Association. Australia also has an F5000 association, and the F5000 drivers in New Zealand have a really strong group. The two Down Under Groups really wanted to run this race, so there are 11 cars from New Zealand and four from Australia. There are also entries from Denmark and Canada, as well as eight states including California. Of the foreigners, at least ten are racing at Laguna Seca for the first time. All love it. And some go to any lengths to prepare their cars.

1968 Lola T140 from New Zealand

1973 Begg FM 5 from New Zealand

1968 Lola T140

One unfortunate F5000 driver, Johnny Crean of New York, had a mishap with the Turn Eleven wall, but he is alright. The same can’t be said for his car.

1972 Lola T300

Eric Haga from Renton WA, ran in the original F5000 series back in the day. He still has that original F5000 car, but it’s not quite race ready. For this F5000 gathering, he’s racing his No.94 blue 1972 Lola T 300, originally raced by Eppie Weitzs back in 1972…this weekend and next.

Based on the morning practice session, Zak Brown of IN had the pole for the afternoon F5000 race, driving No.5 1974 Lola T332. He won the race by 01.277 seconds ahead of Steven Ross in his 1973 McRae GM-1. The nine-lap race ran 20.142 miles in 18.35.180 minutes. The average race speed was 65.022 mph, slowed by some cautions for stranded cars.

One of the perks of being a participant at the Pre-Reunion is the afternoon (local, fresh) Strawberries and Cream provided by Gill Campbell, President of SCRAMP (Sports Car Racing Association of Monterey Peninsula.)

Gil Campbell with Strawberries & Cream

SATURDAY, IN THE PARK

BorgWarner Trophy

Saturday the crowds came back to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Legends Day by Firestone – another lead-up for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. The weather was pcture-perfect, 75 degrees with just a few photogenic fluffy clouds and a very gentle breeze. There were fans and families everywhere, like a Saturday in the Park.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay & Mario Andretti

Ryan Hunter-Reay & Mario Andretti. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

The Pit Lane grandstands were filled with eager fans to watch the public Indy 500 Drivers’ Meeting, where special awards were presented and each starting driver received his or her Starter’s Ring. Last year’s Indy 500 Champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL and his Andretti Autosport team owner, Mario Andretti, received their Baby Borgs. These are smaller versions of the original Indy 500 trophy, which is now valued at $2 million.

This year, perhaps for the first time, the Last Row is filled with drivers who are in that order because they’re driving a car qualified by another driver. INDYCAR rules require cars with a driver change must start at the back despite the qualifying order. The order within that order is based on owner points. This year the Last Row drivers are James Davison/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda – for Tristan Vautier; Tristan Vautier/No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda – for Carlos Huertas; and Ryan Briscoe/No.5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda – for James Hinchcliffe.

Ryan Briscoe

Tristan Vautier

James Davison

Left to Right: Ryan Briscoe, Tristan Vautier and James Davison. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.

No.19 Honda

Speaking of Davison, he will be sporting a new livery for the race. It was finished Thursday night and was on the car for Carb Day. He was towed down to Pit Lane Saturday, where his team did an Installation Check – to check some things after changing the engine and doing some settings.

In Gasoline Alley, all was fairly quiet. Very few teams were in evidence – most were closed up tight and the teams had the day off. Takuma Sato/No.14 AbC Supply AJ Foyt Honda was the only car seen going through the Tech Tent.

Everywhere there were tour groups of one kind or another, being led through the garage area with explanations for everything.

Co-team owner, Bobby Rahal/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda, was giving a radio interview in front of Firestone. Arie Luyendyk was doing likewise in the Media Center TV booth.

No.14 Honda

Bobby Rahal

Arie Luyendyk

In the Pagoda Patio area, there were mobs of fans queued up quite orderly and patiently for their turn in the Driver Autograph session, which preceded all 33 of the drivers heading downtown to be driven in the annual Indy 500 Festival Parade.

Just prior to the Drivers’ Meeting, vintage cars toured the course for an hour. The noise was quite deafening compared to the high pitched whine of the IndyCars. Afterwards, the cars were on display in the Patio.

Vintage Cars

GROUP-B RACE RECAP

The sun broke through the fog mid-morning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and the rest of the day was beaut. Because of the fog delay, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion Group B cars got a late start, so all eight groups had shortened qualifying races.

Race Group 1B – 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under 2000cc was won by Brian Orosco in his No.36 1959 Huffaker Genie Mk IV. He took the lead almost immediately, from his P3 start based on his finish in the morning race. Brian Orosco turned the fastest time on the last lap of eight, with a burst of speed to 75.638 mph.

Orosco’s Margin of Victory over Frank Zucchi in his 1960 Piranha Sports Racer was 09.118 seconds.

Pole sitter from the morning race, Edward Lamantia’s 1962 Huffaker Mk V Genie, never ran.

John Wilburn’s No.259 1959 Peerless AmBo gave out on his on the first lap, necessitating a flat bed tow, and three pace laps before the Green Flag. Another casualty was Tom Tuttle and his 1961 Huffaker Genie Mk IV. He started second, and was running fifth when he pitted and retired.

The average race lap was 56.965 mph. Thirty-four cars of 39 ran the morning qualifying race, and twenty-eight in the feature.

Group 2B in Corkscrew

Race 2B for 1963-1972 FIA Mfg.Championship Cars was won by Gray Gregory, who was the pole sitter based on his morning’s finish.

Runner-up was John Goodman and his 1972 Ferrari 312SP Spar, after starting fourth. The Margin of Victory was 09.510 seconds. Third starter and finisher was Cameron Healy and his 1970 Porsche 908/3.

Gregory turned the fastest race lap of 84.502 mph on Lap 2 and 82.584 mph was the average race lap.

The track has two radar gun ‘speed traps’ which measure the car’s speed at that given point. The Zoom-Zoom display on top of the Start-Finish bridge measure the speed going uphill into Turn One. For Group 2B the top speed was 127 mph. The other radar is between Turns Four and Five.

Gregory led almost the entire 13-lap race. At the start, the second-placed starter, Harinda De Silva and his No.196 1965 Elva Mk 8 got the jump on Gregory, but spun out on course in Turn Three, and had to wait out the field before rejoining the pack. He went from back to P6 in no short time, and finished fifth, just ahead of veteran racer, Lyn St James. She started seventh and finished sixth.

St James also was awarded the Rolex Award for excellence in her class, in 2B. The award is selected for each race group by an independent and anonymous group of judges.

Seventh was veteran sports car and endurance racer, Gunnar Jeanette in the REVS car, No.526 1965 Ferrari 250 LM Berlinetta, after starting tenth. Wonder how that will show up on the data for which he is wired all over.

No.54 1967 Porsche 911 S

Patrick Long

Porsche factory driver, Patrick Long, started P16 and finished in the No.54 1967 Porsche 911S owned Alan Benjamin out of Boulder, Colorado. The car was a class winner in the 1967 Daytona 24 Hour race. Long described it as small, short wheel base and no aerodynamics. “It’s a bundle of fun and a lot of work.” This is Long’s first Reunion race. He ran Rennsport a few years back, and walked the paddock introducing himself to all the Porsche owners, saying if they ever wanted someone to drive their car, Long was ready, willing and able. It worked and a year or so later, he got the call. He helped set up Benjamin’s other Porsche, an Andial last weekend. Maybe next year Long will drive the Andial.

Craig Bennett and his 1974 Shadow DN4 won the Group 3B race for 1963-1974 Can Am and USRRC Cars, and set the fastest time of 92.604 mph on Lap 3, the top lap time of the day. Car creator, Don Nichols, was at the track this weekend, keeping a low profile. He said he’s 90 years now, and it’s nice to see his Shadow cars still racing.

Group 3 B was fastest all around. The Margin of Victory in the 13-lap race was 18.095 seconds, the average race lap was 85.383 mph – the highest of the day, and the Zoom-Zoom display highest speed was 152 mph – highest all day. Because the cars are out of sight it’s not easy to determine which car sets which speeds.

Thomas Steuer started and finished second in the 1970 McLaren M8C owned by friend, Spencer Trenery, as Trenery’s still in a wheel chair with a broken left leg. Steuer is also racing his own Chevrolet Corvette in another group.

Rick Knoop's No.3 1972 McLaren M8F

Rick Knoop’s No.3 1972 McLaren M8F

Rick Knoop and his wild blue 1972 McLaren M8F came in third. Knoop wore his father’s race suit to drive his father’s car. Knoop just spent the last 31 months putting together an hour+ long documentary on “The Last Race in The Forest” referring to the Pebble Beach race in which his late father, Fred Knoop raced. Many other local SFR SCCA and professional racers were from the area and are featured. The film had a private showing earlier this week, hosted by Pebble Beach. It’s getting good reviews from those who have the good fortune to see the movie.

Chris McAllister's No.5 1971 McLaren M8F-1

Chris McAllister’s No.5 1971 McLaren M8F-1

Chris McAllister and his No.5 McLaren M8F-1 started twenty-second, and moved right on up to fourth place. He received the Rolex Award of Excellence for his race group.

On the cool-off lap, Lilo Zicron crashed his 1966 Lola T70. He got two wheels off Driver’s Right past the Start-Finish Bridge, and shot across the track and hit the concrete wall on Driver’s Left, scattering parts and sending at least one wheel careening across track. The second and third place McLaren’s narrowly avoided the incident and threaded their way through the wreckage. The driver appeared shaken but otherwise OK.

Race 4B was won by second place starter, Mike Miller and his 1970 Chevron B19. World Champion Motorcycle rider, Eddie Lawson had the pole in his No.17 1975 Osella PA 3/5 and led much of the race, until it appeared that he fell back to fourth when he slowed for an Emergency vehicle and those behind did not. He moved back up to finish third by dogging Wade Carter’s 1974 Lola T294. Lawson set the fastest lap of 91.828 mph on Lap 5.

Miller’s Margin of Victory over Carter was 00.847 seconds, and the average race lap was 85.22 mph. The Zoom-Zoom speed was 134. Sixteen of the 22 entrants raced.

Race 5B for 1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT cars was won by the pole sitting car, No.25 Tatum Special from the UK, driven by Rob Manson of the UK. He also set the fastest time of 72.704 mph on Lap 3.

The Margin of Victory was 00.241 seconds, the closest of the day. The Zoom-Zoom speed topped out at 104 mph.

Second was Cameron Healey, who started in his 1953 Porsche Cooper Pooper. The Margin of Victory was , Third was John Buddenbaum’s 1949 Jaguar Parkinson Special, which started second.

The average lap time for the 11-lap race was 71.03 mph. The Zoom-Zoom speed was 104 mph. Nineteen of 28 entrants competed.

Howard Swig's 1951 Chrysler Saratoga Club Coupe

Howard Swig in the family No.32 1951 Chrysler Saratoga Club Coupe was entered, but did not run due to last minute mechanical problems. His father, the late Martin Swig, raced La Carrera Panamerica Mexico Rallye in the car, a sister car to the one raced by the late John Fitch – who has autographed Swig’s hood.

Loud doesn’t begin to describe Group 6B for 1981-1989 FIA and IMSA GTP, 1980-1991 GTO Cars. And fast. Their Zoom-Zoom top speed was 146 mph. The top three finished where they started 1-2-3.

No.3 1990 Chevrolet Beretta

TK’s No.3 1990 Chevrolet Beretta

Winner Welson Munsey drove his 1992 Mazda RX-t-92P had a Margin of Victory of 05.006 over runner-up Russell Kempnich of Australia in his 1984 Porsche 956C.

Canadian Pieter Baljet finished third in the 1990 Chevrolet Beretta originally raced by veteran driver and four-time Trans-Am Champion, Tommy Kendall. And perhaps coincidently, TK has now rejoined the new Trans-Am Series, racing his second Trans-Am race this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, driving No.11 Dodge Challenger SRT painted Sam Posey green – which replicates the color on Kenny Epsman’s No.77 Historic Trans-Am Dodge Challenger, affectionately called Green Slime.

No fastest lap time was recorded. The average race speed was 81.364 mph. Twenty-six of 38 entrants ran the 8-lap race.

After starting third, Herbert Wetanson won the 7B race for 1061-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc in his 1966 Alfa Romeo Ginetta G4. His Margin of Victory was ahead of Patrick Byrne in his 1965 Alfa Romeo GTA Corsa. Byrne started second. Finishing third was Alan Terpin’s 1967 Porsche 911 T/R-he started fourth.

The fastest lap time was set by perhaps the youngest driver of the weekend – Byrne, at 77.195 mph on Lap 7, the Zoom-Zoom speed was 108 mph, and the average race lap was 71.457 mph.

Ken Morgan and his 1968 Chevron B8 started on pole, but something happened on Lap Seven, and he was credited with P31 in a field of 34, of 46 entrants.

The last race of the day and the weekend was 8B for For1974-1980 Formula Atlantics. Pole sitter Ethan Shippert drove his 1976 March 76B to victory.
His Margin of Victory was 02.202 seconds, and his was the fastest race lap with a speed of 93.65 mph.

Those cars can fly. They were the second fastest group of the day, turning a Zoom-zoom speed of 128 mph. The average race lap was 86.082 mph.

Veteran vintage racer Danny Baker of San Francisco started and finished second in his 1979 Ralt RT-1. He received the Rolex Award of Excellence for his race group.

Danny’s father, Robert Baker ran and finished fifteenth after starting seventeenth. Robert also won the prestigious President’s Award, for being the person who richly personifies historic racing. He received the original Bill Patterson painting which graced the program cover and posters.

Third was Wade Carter’s 1976 March 76B. The race was 12 laps, with nineteen competitors of the 27 entrants.

Jon Norman of Berkeley CA was one of the founders of the original Formula Atlantic Series. He campaigned long and hard to have a Formula Atlantic class at the Reunion. Two years ago Norman must have worn down the promoters as the class got its very own race. The class rotates with the Formula Juniors and Formula Ones.

Norman bought back his old No.58 1971 Lotus 69, but not without effort. When Norman sold it, the owner really liked it but didn’t race it. Norman tried unsuccessfully several times to buy it back, and then from the relatives after his death. After several tries, Norman’s long-time buddy and partner in crime, Phil Reilly said ‘ “Let’s go get that car.” So Norman and Reilly drove to the brother’s place, and dickered until they reached an agreement. The car was suspended from the rafters of a barn. Why is it the beautifully restored cars we see these days were once languishing in a field, barn or garage?

Anyhow, the car was restored, and Norman is enjoying racing it, although admittedly not quite as fast as in the olden days. He started and finished ninth, although he ran as high as ninth.

Lyn St. James raced a 1972 March 722, starting twelfth and finishing eleventh.

At the Awards Ceremonies after the races, next year’s featured marque was not announced … specifically. There were several not-so-veiled asides, such as “Oh look, here is a stunning P51 Mustang flying overhead. Next year we will be celebrating a very special 50th model anniversary with a manufacturer you all know for performance on the track.” And on cue, a vintage airplane – P51 Mustang, flew over. And Ford Motor Company just so happens to be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Mustang car next year, and the 2015 car was on display in the paddock. Also available were souvenir small replica cars.

2015 Mustang sign.

So … you figure it out.

IMG_2524

FOGGY MOUNTAIN BREAKDOWN

MRLS Start-Finish Bridge

This view at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca greeted the drivers in Group 1B Sunday morning of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Somewhere in one of those photos are the Group 1A cars. A lower than usual fog enveloped the track, and as it’s wont to do, it shape shifted. Eventually, after 35 minutes, visibility increased to allow cars on course.

Sunday has eight B Race Groups, with Maserati Corral Parade Laps and VIP Hot Laps during the Lunch Break, and the Awards Ceremonies following the last checkered flag.

MRLS Front Straight

MRLS Front Straight

MRLS Front Straight

To brighten up your day, here are some photos of sunnier times.

Thursday night on Italian Island was the annual Welcome Party and this time it was ‘La Dolce Vita’ – all things Italian … within reason. All Reunion participants were invited, and even someone with Consul license plates enjoyed the evening of Italian food and music.

A restored gondola was available for photo ops, and seizing this opportunity for fun and games, Gill Campbell, President/CEO of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca played at being gondolier, for her predecessor, Scott Atherton and wife. Atherton has long since with with IMSA and now the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship as IMSA President and COO.

Enjoying his very first vintage race at Laguna Seca was all-around veteran racer, Scott Pruett, who is now running in the TUDOR series. In the past, there was always a racing conflict which kept him from attending this weekend.

I got a look Thursday night at the Emergency Crew helmet signed by Sir Jackie Stewart when the Pebble Beach Tour did its Parade Laps around the famed 2.238-mile elevated road course. Not one to seek autographs, friends and relatives of Karen Crew gave the helmet to Stewart to sign for Cantu. He told her that he wasn’t personalizing the autograph, as “it was more valuable with just his signature.” Cantu said she would never sell it, and Stewart joked “But your kids might.”

Gill Campbell, with Mr & Mrs Scott Atherton

Gill Campbell, with Mr & Mrs Scott Atherton

Scott Pruett

Scott Pruett

Jackie Stewart autographed E Crew Helmet

Jackie Stewart autographed E Crew Helmet

Consul Plates

Consul Plates

GROUP-A FEATURE RACES

In Race Group 1A for Pre-War Sports Racing and Touring Cars, Bruce McCaw won in his 1929 Bentley 4.5 liter LeMans rep. He finished third in the morning’s race. His Margin of Victory was the closest of the day at 00.626 seconds. Runner-up Richard Jeffrey’s 1936 Triumph Special 9 had the fastest race lap of 54.023 mph on Lap 5 of the eight-lap race. The morning’s race winner, Pete Thelander, finished third in his 1934 MG NE. Twenty-one cars competed, and the average race time was 52.117 mph.

Not having such a good day was perennial favorite, Ed Archer of Hayward CA. He lost the left rear wheel of his bright yellow 1915 Ford Roadster, and had to be towed in from Turn 10. Unless he can get it repaired overnight, he might have to call Triple A, as Archer is probably one of the few, if not the only, competitor to drive his race car to and from the track. He does it up right, complete with period-appropriate attire. Archer won last year’s Henry Ford Trophy for the most significant Ford-powered entry.

Dick Deluna's No.9 1912 Franklin Torpedo Phaeton

Also towed in on the first lap was Dick Deluna and his magnificent 1912 Franklin Torpedo Phaeton. Deluna collects cars and specializes in ancient cars, and is quite the sight in his antique vehicle wearing up to date modern race gear. He enters concours here and abroad, and is fond of showing off his cars. A retired CEO, who explains his hobby as such: “Why do I do this?” It’s golf and tennis all rolled up in one. I always considered myself a bad athlete.”

Dick Deluna's No9 1912 Franklin Torpedo Phaeton

Dick Deluna’s No9 1912 Franklin Torpedo Phaeton

Jos Koster of Germany owns Group 2A for 1927-1951 Racing Cars. Not quite sure how the two younger Maserati cars were assigned to this group. His 1957 Maserati 250F won from the pole, with an even larger Margin of Victory than in the morning qualifying race. Koster had the fastest lap of 72.858 mph on Lap 10 of the 11-lap race. He finished 15.531 seconds ahead of runner-up Jeffrey O’Neill in his 1957 Maserati 250F. Third place was Paddins Dowling in his 1939 Maserati 4CL, making up for the morning’s DNF after mechanical problems on Lap One. The average race time was 70.282 mph for the 25-car field.

The Group 3A race for 1955-1962 GT Cars was won by Kaid Marouf in his 1960 Alfa Romeo SZ with a Margin of Victory of 04.453 seconds. Second and third were Adrian Van Der Kroft of Belgium in his 1959 Morgan 4, and Alec Hugo in his 1962 PorscheDyke Ridgley’ and his No.173 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta turned the fastest time of 72.494 mph on Lap 4 of the 11-lap race. He had won the morning’s race. Third overall was Alex Hugo in his 1962 Porsche 356B. The average race time was 70.852 mph. Thirty-five of the 49 entrants competed. One driver hailed from Australia.

SFR SCCA Communications Chief Bill Kirkwood of nearby Carmel took time off from his volunteer race official duties to race his stock 1961 Elva Courier Mk II with 1622cc, up against five Corvettes, a Maserati Tipo 151 and some other big cars. He started and finished mid pack in both of his races Saturday, and was happy to have had his entry accepted and the opportunity to race both Reunion weekends. When next seen, Kirkwood will be back up in Race Control for the next SCCA race at Laguna Seca.

Jeffrey Abramson in his 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Ro won Group 4A for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc. He beat John McKenna’s 1963 Shelby Cobra by 23.084 seconds, the largest Margin of Victory all day. Third place was Dale Akuszewski’s 1965 Sunbeam Tiger. Tommy Steuer had the fastest race lap in Spencer Trenery’s 1965 Chevrolet Corvette. The average race time was 77.811 mph. Thirty-nine of the 45 entrants raced in the 12-lap race.

Group 5A race for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT,GTU cars started out as a good race between Ken Epsman in his No.20 1976 Dekon Monza and Bruce Canepa’s No.12 1979 Porsche 935. Epsman won the morning race, and Canepa finished third behind John Hildebrand’s No.56 1978 Chevrolet Camaro.

On Lap Five Epsman lost a wheel in Turn Four, while leading and hit the tire wall, ending his race. He was unhurt. The race was Red Flagged due to Epsman’s hazardous location. The wheel flew over the wall but landed safely in the grandstand, as the spectators saw it coming and all moved. Once landed, there was an Oklahoma land rush to get the wheel – as though it was a baseball. A SCRAMP official took a photo of the lucky retriever. The wheel was returned to Epsman, who took it all in stride as he walked back to the paddock. The Emergency Crew caught up with him to see if he was OK, and he replied with his own special brand of humour.

Meanwhile, Canepa pulled off on the front Straight in front of the Starter with a dead battery. His crew found one and got him restarted, and he joined the pack right after the single file restart behind the Pace Car.

Actor comedian Adam Carolla led the field behind the Pace Car, in his 1988 Nissan 300 ZX; but by the time the green flag flew Hildebrand shot out in front, as did veteran racer, John Morton, in No.01 1982 Ford Mustang. Two laps later Hildebrand took the checkered flag, followed by Morton. Hildebrand’s son, racer JR Hildebrand must be proud.

Third place went to Ranston Webster’s 42 1976 Porsche 935 K3. Bruce Canepa set the fastest race time of 87.052 mph on Lap 3, and he finished fourteenth overall, on the lead lap. The average race time was 69,564 mph, no doubt slowed by the Red Flag. thirty-nine of 45 drivers ran. The race lasted eight laps.

No.10 Gulf Mirage GR8

No.10 Gulf Mirage GR8

Sports car racer, Marino Franchitti in No.10 Gulf MirageGR8, didn’t run in the afternoon, and only got four laps in the morning race. The beautiful big car had mechanical problems all weekend.

Don Orosco’s won the Group 6A Race for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc in his No.59 1958 Lotus 15, finishing 04.822 seconds ahead of Bruce Canepa, who had a busy back-to-back afternoon, running from one race car to another. Jurgen Boden of Germany placed third in his Maserati Tipo 63.

Orosco set the fastest time on Lap Four at 76.311 mph. The average race speed was 71.465 mph. Twenty four drivers of 31 ran the race.

Three cars spun out in coolant left in Turn Three but avoided hitting each other. One continued and the other two sat out the rest of the race, visibly unhappy. With help from the Emergency Crew, the cars were pulled free and continued on their way back to the pits after the race. They were Erickson Shirley’s No.25 1951 Lister Costin, and David Swig in No.35 1957 Monsterati Special, who had moved up from ninth starting to run a strong seventh. They were credited with P16 and P17, respectively, one lap down in the nine-lap race.

The field got a second pace lap for a car off mechanical exit of Turn 6 up against the tire wall.

Epsman got his back in Race Group 7, again winning the Historic Trans-Am race for 1966-1972 cars, driving his familiar Red/White/Blue AMC Javelin It was an exciting race with lead changes almost every lap, sometimes official at S-F, and sometimes around the course. Clearly, it was the most exciting race of the afternoon. The Trans-Am group knows how to put on a good show, and it was all good, clean fun.

Epsman set the fastest time at 78.149 mph on Lap Five. The average race time was 70.935 mph.

Jim Hague led at least once in his No.16 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 and finished second, 00.092 seconds behind Epsman, a photo finish. Third was Mike McGovern in his No.1 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302.

Jim Halsey led several times in his No.61 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302, and finished fourth.

Thirty-one of the 41 drivers raced. One who didn’t was Bruce Canepa and his No.92 1970 Pontiac Firebird. Maybe three races in a row was asking a bit much.

Sunday is the last day of the four-day Reunion weekend. The schedule calls for eight Group B races, followed by the always entertaining Awards Ceremonies, with Mike Joy as Emcee.

RACE-A RECAP

Group 1A Start

Saturday morning at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Groups One through Seven A ran qualifying races. They ran in numerical order, and then there was a lunch break before the afternoon races.

The first race Saturday morning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was Group 1A – Pre 1940 Sports Racing and Touring Cars. Pete Thelander started third and won in his 1934 MG NE. His Margin of Victory over Leif Jacobson’s 1934 MG NA Magnette was 3.274 seconds. Bruce McCaw’s 1929 Bentley 4.5 liter LeMans rep was third. The average race time for the six-lap race was 51.384 mph. Twenty-two cars took the checkered flag, in a field of 26. All the drivers were from the West Coast, no doubt used to the Monterey Peninsula summer morning low fog.

Race 2A – 1927-1971 Racing Cars was won by One – Car #1 1958 Maserati 250F owned and driven by pole sitter Jos Koster of Germany. He led flag to flag, with a 14.687 seconds Margin of Victory. Runner-up was Jeffrey O’Neill/s No.4 1957 Maserati 250F, with Charles McCabe’s No.71 1936 ERA B coming in third. The average race speed was 70.282 mph. The race had 26 drivers of the 28 entries. The majority of drivers hailed from the West Coast.

Gregory Whitten’s Group 2A 1935 ERA Type B stalled under the Starter’s Stand on the front straight and was towed to safety during the ensuing caution. He had started seventh.

The Bonhams 1793 Cup Race 3A – 1955-1962 GT Cars was won Dyke Ridgley and his No.173 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta in the eleven-lap race. His Margin of Victory over young Patrick Byrne’s No.17 1958 Alfa Romeo Giuletta Sprint Veloce 750 was 09.371 seconds. Finishing third was Charles McCabe in his 1936 ERA B. The average race speed was 71.083 mph.

Race Group 4A for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc was won by James Farley in his 1965 Shelby 427 Cobra, with a Margin of Victory of 01.920 seconds ahead of pole sitter Tommy Steuer of Columbia in the 1965 Chevrolet Corvette, owned by Spencer Trenery. Steuer stepped in at the last minute in this and another of Trenery’s cars, as the young lad is recuperating from a broken left leg. Third was Jefrey Abramson in his 1964 Chevrolet Corvette.The average race speed was 73.058 mph.

Kenny Epsman

Kenny Epsman

Kenny Epsman sat on pole and won the Group 5A race for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT, GTU Cars. He drove his bright red 1976 Dekon Monza IMSA car, with a 12.127 second MOV over John Hildebrand in his 1978 Chevrolet Camaro. Bruce Canepa’s 1979 Porsche 935 was third. The average race time was 79.84 mph in the 12-lap race.

Don Orosco drove his 1958 Lotus 15 to victory in Group 6A for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc. Pole sitter Dyke Ridgley finished second, 05.023 seconds behind. Bruce Canepa finished third in his 1959 Maserati Tipo 61. The average race lap was 67.458 mph in the ten-lap race.

One of the crowd-pleasing races, Group 7A race for Trans Am cars 1966-1972, ran its first three laps under caution. Steve Link’s No.72 1969 Chevrolet Camaro broke in Turn Six on the first Lap bringing out the double yellows. Then the horses flew on Lap Four, with the fastest cars reaching upward of 120 mph under the Mazda Zoom-Zoom radar indicator.

Kenny Epsman's No.2 1971 AMC Javelin Trans-Am

Kenny Epsman’s No.2 1971 AMC Javelin Trans-Am

The 12-lap race was ultimately won by Ken Epsman and his No.2 1971 AMC Javelin. The lead changed officially at least six times, and more often around the track. The other leaders were Jim Hague’s No.16 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302, originally raced by Peter Gregg and Jim Halsey’s No.61 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302.

After the race, Epsman gave fans a ‘guided tour” of all of his race cars and his Paddock Classic Car. The crew tells me that the No.2 car is Epsman’s favorite. It originally started out as a Team Penske car with Mark Donohue as driver. Then Penske gave it to Roy Woods who was one of its drivers.

Gordon Gimbel’s No.83 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302 had bad luck on the cool-off lap. His rear end seemed to have problems, he swerved back and forth and into the concrete wall driver’s right in Turn 11, and then coasted back to touch the concrete wall drivers left. He was alright.

Radio and TV broadcaster Mike Joy in Kenny Epsman’s No.89 1966 Ford Mustang had mechanical problems involving the motor, necessitating a tow up to the top of the hill at Turn Eight where he was cut loose and coasted home.

The Trans-Am group personifies the spirit of vintage racing, as echoed by Vic Elford who started and finished mid-pack in his No.16 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 – “We don’t race to win, we race to have fun.”

SUNNY SATURDAY

Maserati Display

Maserati Display

Trans-Am Display

Trans-Am Display

By Race Group 2A, the sun started pushing through the ever-present morning low fog at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the breeze woke up and the humidity was 87 percent.

Saturday’s schedule calls for Groups 1-7A qualifying races, followed by Races 1-7A after the long lunch break. The grid for the morning races was set by merging the practice and qualifying results from Thursday and Friday. The mix of fast times was about even between P1 and P2, although as the classes rose in size and horsepower and ran later in the day seemed to have faster times on Thursdays.

To answer – again – why there are no lap times shown on the results sheets, the reason is that this is not a competition.

Maserati Mc12 Stradale

And just because there are no cars on track during the lunch breaks of the race days doesn’t mean there wasn’t activity. Ceremonial Laps, VIP Hot Laps in the track Safety Car as well in Maserati cars – street and the Maserati MC12 Stradale race car, of which only three were built. The Maserati factory drivers are Nick Hommerson and Leon Ebeling in the race car, and Michael Bartels in the street car. Mazda drivers pilot the track Official Mazda Pace Cars.

Four months before he died, the late Phil Hill got a ride in the Maserati Mc12, with son Derek Hill driving. “Being able to drive hi around like I did was absolutely fantastic. At first I was concerned I might have been scaring him, but I saw he had a smile on his face, so I knew he enjoyed it.”

One of the things young Derek does in his spare time is drive Cadillacs on winding roads for TV commercials. He drove on some very treacherous roads in foreign countries, and the highlight for him was seeing the commercials run during the Olympics Opening Ceremonies. At the time, he admitted, “I had no idea production was such hard work. It was four long days and very short nights working from dawn to dark, with a commute to a small hotel nearly two hours away. But, in retrospect, it was a lot of fun.”

The Maserati Corral Parade Laps is also part of the lunch break for both days. There are a variety of car corrals out on Italian Island, and Friday evening after the last checkered flag, a long parade of Sunbeam Tigers took to the track for their day in the sun.

Maserati scheduled a Press Briefing for mid-morning Saturday to unveil its new street cars.

The Scrutineering process for 538 cars is long and tedious. The sanctioning body, HMSA – Historic Motor Sports Association, provides Scrutineers, nine in all. The process for each car takes 10-15 minutes. Two hundred or so of the cars went through the process last week at the Pre-Reunion. For those not yet processed started Wednesday of this week and continued through Friday.

After each car receives its event-appropriate Tech sticker, the Scrutineers turn their eyes toward impound and mechanical checks. Some of the drivers get aggressive in their motorized works of art, and there were five impounds on Friday. Cars may have been hurt, but no drivers were.

Bob Varsha at work

Bob Varsha relaxing

Bob Varsha is the host for the FoxSports TV hour-long show for Monterey Car week, with 45 minutes devoted to the Reunion. The airing will be later this summer, with multiple showings. Stay tuned.

Bill Doyle's 1984 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am owned by Kenny Epsman

No.53 Wheel Covers

One of Kenny Epsman’s stable is the No.53 1984 Pontiac Firebird originally raced by Bill Doyle in Trans Am. The wheel covers were handmade by Joe Huffaker.

Reunion Paddock Road Signs

PADDOCK PATROL

The weather gods shone down, literally as well as figuratively, on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the 2014 Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion.

The sun brought out all the highlights in the more than 530 vintage and historic cars in the paddock and on display. Additionally there was a paddock panoply of classic vehicles of all sorts, scattered among the many race cars. The track/race promoter has seen the wisdom in allowing entrants to display their pride and joys. The gamut ranges from Mokes and Cushmans to a street McLaren. There also were some Auction cars from some of the many car auctions being held this week – day and night.

Moke

Cushman

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McLaren

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Barrett-Jackson Bugatti

Silver Car

1967 'Monte Mini' Monte Carlo Rally Winner

US State Department Consul Plates

Austin Healey

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Bonham's Speedwell

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