Saturday morning at Mazda Raceway Laguna for the first day of the new event – Pre-Reunion – the weather was dripping wet, windshield-wiping foggy…and cold. The track was wet, oily/slippery and not raced on since the MotoGP race two weeks prior. The track soon dried, but drivers were carefully negotiating the track. CRIS VANDAGRIFF, HMSA CEO/President, told the drivers in the Saturday meeting at oh dark thirty that Racing was not a contact sport. If a car was damaged, the driver was excused for the weekend and next week’s inaugural Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which is honoring Dan Gurney.
Vandagriff also emphasized how deep were the sand traps around the 2.238-mile elevated road circuit; so, if a driver was caught out in the gravel, be prepared to have an umbrella and “be at the beach, as he or she wouldn’t be leaving soon.”
The Rolex Reunion and the Pre-Reunion races are “an evolution of historic racing,” said a track spokesperson. They follow the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, which had a 25-year run founded and operated by STEVE EARLE and General Racing. He later added the Pre-Historics as a non-spectator event as a run-up, practice, track-time for drivers new to the 53-year old track.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is running the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and the Pre-Union races for the first time, both spectator events. There are 339 cars entered for the Pre-Union and 620 for the Rolex Reunion, both records. No wonder there aren’t enough transponders to go around…yet.
Everyone agrees the two-day Pre-Union schedule is tight. After all there are ten race groups this weekend, which practice/qualify and race each day, all cars getting four track sessions. The paddock is crowded, but parking and spacing is a work in progress. GILL CAMPBELL, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca President/CEO, said this year’s Driver’s Gift would be a shoehorn. There is no room for support vehicles in the paddock this year.
The Pre-Reunion is considered by some as a warm-up for next weekend’s Rolex Reunion, and is by definition a low-key weekend. Many of this weekend’s entrants/drivers will be running next weekend. Vandergriff said there is no prize money this weekend, and results may not mean anything.
Next weekend for the Rolex Reunion, there will be special awards of various kinds, and Judges will make those determinations. The types of awards and Judges are confidential at this point.
Among the displays in the paddock for the Rolex Reunion will be a tent devoted to the Gurney Eagles. The tent, located at the foot of the cross-over bridge in the paddock, will feature 26 cars. Saturday there will be a picnic with Dan and he will be interviewed by the legendary MURRAY WALKER, sometimes known as Muddly Talker.
Another display tent in the paddock near the Pit Lane is devoted to Lotus, for the Pre-Union weekend. On display will be six special Lotus cars: Elise, Elise Roger Becker limited edition, Evora Cup GT4, Evora road car, Exige 260, and Lotus 125 – the open-wheel car that’s for sale to private owners and which is part of Exos, the whole Lotus driving experience.
Bugatti will also have a display tent in the paddock, an for the Rolex Reunion, Porsche will have a display tent where Lotus is this weekend.
Among the ‘stars’ expected for the weekends are: PATRICK DEMPSEY, VIC ELFORD, STEFAN JOHANSSON, PARNELLI JONES, TOMMY KENDALL, JOHN MORTON, BOBBY RAHAL, SIR STIRLING MOSS, DANNY SULLIVAN, and Gurney. Gurney’s son, ALEX GURNEY, as well as DUNCAN DAYTON, will be honored guests at the Rolex dinner next weekend. Both Alex Gurney and Dayton are racing this weekend. Gurney and co-driver JON FOGARTY finished third in the Rolex Grand-Am Daytona Prototype race at Watkins Glen, and Dayton’s Highcroft Patron LMP team narrowly missed winning the American Le Mans Series at Mid-Ohio, with drivers DAVID BRABHAM and SIMON PAGENAUD.
All ten groups had a practice/qualifying session Saturday morning, leading up to an afternoon race, where hopefully the sun will break through the heavy overcast.