FABULOUS HUDSON HORNET

Sunday was the third wonderful day of vintage racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the 36th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races. Again the weather was warm and wonderful, with clear blue skies without a cloud in sight. A nice breeze kept it fresh.

The crowd was thinner Sunday, but not unexpected. Many people take in the Pebble Beach Concours before heading back to the track for the last races and the Awards Ceremonies. Saturday’s crowd was thought to be up from last year. GILL CAMPBELL, CEO/General Manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, said the event T shirts sold out Saturday morning.

There were two Hudson Hornets in the paddock – very close to each other. One was an authentic 1951 Hudson Hornet formerly owned for years by IVAN ZAREMBA, who restored and prepped the car. It was sold a couple of years back to a trio of owners including JOHN BRESLOW, who is racing it this weekend in Group 1B for 1947-1955 Sports Racers and GT cars over 1500cc. The car has a great chrome grille, almost like a happy face. The dash area is full of more chrome and wood also. Under the hood is the familiar gold colored engine parts from SMOKEY YUNNICK. There’s no mistaking the navy blue car – it says Fabulous Hudson Hornet in big bold letters filling the whole side of the car.

Around the paddock corner in the Gunnar Racing display is the other Hudson Hornet with much the same livery in a lighter shade of blue. This one is definitely a show car, although it has been on track. More about that later.

This show car was built for Pixar, a local film studio based in Emeryville CA, for the animated movie, ‘Cars’ – the last independent movie made before Pixar was bought out by Disney. It was JOHN LASSETER’s project and he is instrumental in the car being here this weekend with Gunnar Racing – owned and run by KEVIN JEANNETTE. Lasseter will be here this weekend.

In the movie, one of the main characters was ‘Doc’ Hudson, voiced by the late PAUL NEWMAN. Lasseter’s Hudson was the inspiration for the animation. The actual car was built by Gunnar Racing, morphing two Hudson Hornets together. The chassis is from a RICHARD PETTY NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series truck. While it looks and sounds heavy, Gunnar Racing engineer, MARK SCHOMANN, said it is very light and fast. Schomann was engineer for  PLN when he raced with Team Gunnar. Newman’s Rolex 24 Hour co-driver was often GUNNAR JEANETTE, making them the odd couple of racing. Newman was always the oldest driver, while Jeanette was the youngest – still a teen when he first paired with PLN at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.

The ‘Doc’ Hudson Hornet was at the opening of the movie in Charlotte, did a tribute lap at Talladega with PLN, and then at Petit Le Mans.

The team was hoping PLN’s daughter, NELL NEWMAN, would be able to make it out to the Historics.  Schomann joked that he wanted to try and scare her with a lap or two in the Hudson, although he admitted it would take a lot to scare her.

This year’s Monterey Historics will be aired 16 October 2009 at 8 PM ET. The one-hour show will have DAVID HOBBS and MIKE JOY doing the commentary. The Monterey Historics were first shown live when Speedvision was launched, facilitated by SPEEDtv Vice President, BOBBY AKIN. Bobby is driving this weekend in the 1985 Porsche 962 raced by his late father, BOB AKIN. The car is in Group Eight A for 1981-1990 FIA Mfrs and IMSA cars. To Akin, the Historics was a cherished event and it was to have a proper home on Speedvision (as the channel was originally called). The Monterey Historics was the first live Speedvision broadcast, complete with full-on at-the-track resources, making it the first keystone event on the channel.