Saturday morning it was a scorcher at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the first day of racing at the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. The weather was downright hot – 81 degrees F by 10:30am … and climbing. The skies had odd thin wisps and veils of transparent clouds scattered about. People were absolutely everywhere, taking photos, gawking and gaping in the paddock and around the course at the eight Groups of A cars. It was difficult at times to get a clear shot of any car or driver. The morning schedule called for fifteen minute, timed races, followed by afternoon races of 20 minutes each.
The grids for the morning races were set by combining the two practice session times and those race results set the grids for the afternoon races. However, the only times shown on any of the results sheets were those of average and fastest race lap in each race. This vintage weekend is not considered “a competition event.”
This year’s Reunion is honoring The 50th Anniversary of the Shelby 350GT, and they were show cased in the Bonhams 1793 Cup Races for Group 3A – 1965-1970 Shelby Mustang Cars.
Thirty-two of the 38 entries took the Green Flag in the morning race. Terry Lawlor of Australia won in his No.8 1966 Shelby, beating pole sitter Tommy Steuer of Colombia in his No.1 1966 Shelby. Third place was Jim Hague’s No.211 1966 Shelby.
The Margin of Victory was 00.570 seconds, with the average race lap of 70.866 mph. The Mazda Zoom-Zoom radar screen on the Start-Finish bridge clocked a fast lap of 121 mph, but just once.
Although the Group 3A time span was listed as 1965-1970, all the cars were 1965-1966. Twenty-five of the 40 entrants were 1966 cars, and the rest were 1965.
Conrad Stevenson of Berkeley Ca won the Group 1A Race for Pre 1940 Sports Racing and Touring Cars. And it was a good year for 1939. Stevenson drove his No.39 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C2500 Super Sport to victory 19.767 seconds ahead of runner up Joe Harding/s No.11 1939 Lagonda V12 Le Mans. Howard Swig finished third in his No.19 1931 Chrysler CD-8 Le Mans. Only 15 of the 29 entries ran the race. Missing from the field was pole sitter Richard Morrison of KS in his No.12 1939 Lagonda V12.
A large field ran the Group 2A race or 1955-1962 GT Cars. Pole sitter Joe Colasacco of CT won in his 1963 Alfa Romeo TZ-1, 02.466 seconds ahead of Ron goodman of Australia in his 1954 Porsche 356. Mark Colbert was third driving his 1962 Ferrari 250 GT Lusso Competizione.
Pole sitter Bruce Canepa pulled his No.12 1979 Porsche 935 into the pits with mechanical problems after the first lap of the morning Group 4A Race for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT-GTX, AAGT, GTU Cars. Didier Andr from France won the race in his No.76 1977 Greenwood Corvette, after starting third. He was 24.885 seconds ahead of runner-up Chris Liebenberg’s No.22 1982 Ford Mustang. Finishing third was Ranson Webster’s No.42 1976 Porsche 935 K3. The average lap was 83.979 mph. The top speed recorded – just once – on the Zoom-Zoom screen was 140 mph.
Thirty five of the 41 entrants ran the 11-lap 4A race. Among the drivers were Pro Porsche drivers, Patrick Long – the only American Porsche factory driver running in the FIA World Endurance Cup and Leh Keen, who runs the USCC Series. Also multi-talented veteran driver, John Morton. Long drove Alan Benjamin’s No.61 Porsche 3.0 Carrera RSR, Keen drove David Mac’s No.28 1977 Porsche 934.5; and Morton ran Rob Fuller’s No.49 1972 Datsun 240Z
Pole sitter Derek Hill of CT, son of the late F1 World Champion Phil Hill, won the Group 5A Race for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc, racing No.3 1962 Maserati Tripo 161 owned by Lawrence Auriana. His lead ahead of Greg Meyer’s No.41 1962 Dailu Mk2 was 01.190 seconds. Third overall in the 25-car field was Joseph Diloreto’s No.33 1961 Dolphin SportsRacer. The average race speed was 68.344 mph.
Another well-known driver in the field was long-time veteran sports car driver, Derek Bell of England. He raced the No.96 1959 Maserati T-61 owned by Jack Croul. The car was qualified by Jon Norman Thursday and Friday as Bell had other commitments. Bell started and finished tenth.
The Group 6A FIA Manufacturers Championship Cars race was won by Pole Sitter Keith Frieser of Canada, racing his No.27 1972 Lola T290. He finished 01.724 seconds ahead of fellow Canadian, Cal Meeker’s No.116 1973 Lola T294. Wade Carter’s No.74 Lola T294 finished third. The average lap was 78.201 mph for the ten-lap race. Twenty-seven of the forty-car field took the Green Flag. Professional sports car driver, Marino Franchitti started and finished sixth in that race, driving Harley Cluxton’s No.10 1975 Gulf Mirage GR8.
Local vintage driver/car enthusiast, Bruce Canepa won Group 7A for 1981-1991 FIA/IMSA GTP, GTO Cars, racing his No.100 1990 Porsche 962C. He aced the start from second place and had a good race with Pole Sitter Parker Johnston, racing the factory No.49 1991 Acura Spice GTP Light. That car has been sitting in the Acura Museum for the past 23 years, since Johnstone last won a race with it. Weldon Munsey finished third in the factory No.77 Mazda RX7-92P. There were three factory Mazda’s in the race, all from a museum, which were driven and worked on by Mazda executives, doing everything on their own time. Jeremy Barnes in No.62 1991 Mazda RX-7 finished sixth and Robert Davis finished seventh in No.56 1990 Mazda RX-7.
Veteran IMSA driver, David Donohue drove his 1991 Championship winning BMW M5 IMSA, which is now owned by BMW of North America.
The Margin of Victory was 02.408 seconds, the average race lap was 75.094 mph and 28 of the 35 entrants ran the race.
The morning Group 8A race for 1967-1984 Formula One cars finished under Caution as the track had been severely oiled by a ailing car. Taking the checkered flag was pole sitter Charles Nearburg in his No.27 1980 Williams FW07. His Margin of Victory ahead of Erich Joiner’s No.101 1983 Williams Fw08/C was 02.090 seconds. Finishing third was Motorcycle World Champion Eddie Lawson in No.20 1977 Wolf WR4. The top three finished where they started. The average race lap was 86.904 mph. Thirty-four of the thirty-seven entrants ran the 12-lap race.
After the morning races there was a nice long lunch break which allowed people to partake and/or participate in a variety of activities. Out on the Island Sir Jackie Stewart and multi championship driver, Scott Pruett held forth for Picnic tales and lores from their respective lengthy careers.
Also, in the paddock was a Haggerty Education Program presentation on Automotive Restoration and Preservation: “Young People and Old Cars – The Future of Restoration”. Diane Fizgerald, National Director of the HEP program geared towards recruiting and involving young people in the automotive restoration field, oversaw the presentation, which was moderated by McKeel Haggerty. The presenters included veteran racer Lyn St. James – also a HEP Ambassador; and longtime racer, Dominic Dobson – who is also National Director of Club Auto, ACM, the largest automotive museum in North America. Others were Josh Baum, private collector conservationist and former HEP intern; Tim Chambers, Laguna Hills High School Auto Tech Instructor; Stacy Puckett, McPherson College graduate and current employee at RM Sotheby’s auction house; and Stephen Murphy, curator and restoration specialist at Chicago Vintage Motor Carriage.
The presentation was recorded and broadcast live.
The panelists had pearls of wisdom for the audience, parents and kids. Parents-expose your kids, and kids chase your passion. Foster curiosity, and be excellent at what you. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Kids who work on cars are the future. Community Colleges are picking up the slack on Auto Shop and Industry classes being cut out of the public schools. Invite kids for rides in your vintage car, at Car Corrals and events. Spark their passion. One driver said there needs to be a smart phone App that kids can use to scan and work on cars. Get a mentor. Vintage cars are rolling pieces of art.