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.”

Last Modified on August 16, 2014
This entry was posted in Vintage
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