The hills were alive with the sound of vintage race cars Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the 36th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races. STEVE EARLE, founder of General Racing which puts on the annual even, was even happier Saturday. The weather couldn’t have been any better – warm, sunny, blue skies, nice breeze and lots and lots of fans. Traditionally Saturday seems to be the best attended day of the three days, and spectators were everywhere. The hills were covered with cars and fans, the paddock was crowded and the crossover bridge was clogged with happy people.
I started the day in quite a civilized manner…sitting with friends in the warm sunshine on the patio of the Red Bull Energy Center high atop Turn One, having a wonderful catered breakfast. The vista was magnificent. Just the place to watch the twenty-minute warmup for Group 1A – 1904-1940 Sporting Cars. As the song goes, Good Vibrations.
Saturday is devoted to the Group A cars which are spread among eight Groups.
Group 8A for 1981-1990 FIA Manufacturers Championship and IMSA GTP cars has 21 Porsches, four Marchs, two Lolas, and a Mazda. The category is a real crowd pleaser. Just make sure to wear good ear protection. The Mazda R792P was driven by actor-driver PATRICK DEMPSEY in the morning warmup. It is not known if he will race the car in the afternoon. Stay tuned.
The philosophy of the Monterey Historics is that the cars are the stars. The race results sheet list drivers in finishing order, but without any times. The race grids are made by Earle, using his own formula which takes into consideration the finishing order from Friday practices. No trophies are awarded for finishing first in a race. The results from last year are in this year’s program.
Sunday afternoon there is an awards ceremony and gathering. There are special awards and presentations, including the Rolex award (a watch) to a driver in each group for outstanding presentation and performance.
For me it’s all about the people and their cars. Everywhere I look there are interesting cars and not all are entered in the race. Even my motel parking lot looks like a mini-concours. Every car and every owner and/or driver has an interesting story.
One stand-out car driven to and from the track this weekend is a 1983 Porsche 959 Paris to Dakar rally car, winning that prestigious event in 1986. The car, owned by HARLEY CLUXTON of Scottsdale AZ, is street registered in Britain.
Claxton’s passenger for the ride both ways was Indy Racing League driver, DARIO FRANCHITTI. The 2007 winner of the Indianapolis 500 and the IRL championship throughly enjoys the ambiance of all the wonderful cars. He came to the Historics last year also. When we spoke Saturday morning after he got out of the car, Franchitti was the most relaxed I’ve ever seen him. It was smiles all around.
Franchitti was up at Infineon Raceway Thursday watching his teammate, SCOTT DIXON, test his Ganassi IRL car. Franchitti will go home after the Historics until next weekend when he’s back to Infineon for the IRL race.
Saturday morning the Group A cars had warm-ups. The eight groups of car have ten-lap races Saturday afternoon. Interspersed within all the races are a variety of exhibition laps, demonstrations and parades.
A good time is being had by all.