Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion – 18-21 August 2016
In the early days of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance there were the Pebble Beach Road Races around the Pebble Beach streets. The great Phil Hill won both events on the same day in 1955 But as the speeds got higher there were a number of accidents which resulted (like many events of its type around the world in those days) ended in 1956 and racing moved to Leguna Seca in nearby Salinas
The venue itself is quite baron, but its undulating location makes for some interesting off-camber corners, and of course the iconic corkscrew.
With over 500 cars entered getting around the paddock area was quite a feat. There are of course some fairly serious set ups of Pantec trucks with their own hospitality, but there’s also some of the old fashioned simple set ups of trailers and small pop-up marquees that don’t cover the entire car. Surprisingly, it took a mere five minutes to bump into an Australian – Chad Parrish from Lithgow in NSW who was over with a few other Aussies from NSW in Ford Mustangs and Shelby Mustangs.
The Mazda Heritage Collection were racing and demonstrating four very important cars. Among them the 1989 Mazda 767B Group C sports-prototype. This 767B is the famous “Charge” livery car that won the GTP class at the 1989 Fuji 1000Kms and finished 0th overall at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June that year. Housing a highly developed four rotor 13J engine achieving a healthy 630BHP it was the halcyon days of the Mazda sports car racing program.
Mazda continued to develop the rotary Wankel motor with the 787 in 1990. The 787 here is chassis 002 and whilst is was a DNF at Le Mans in 1990 returned in 1991 to finish in eigth. Its successor, the 787B taking out a win for Mazda that year. The development of the motor resulted in a massive 720BHP.
With BMW celebrating its Centenary in 2016, BMW Group North America produced its largest celebration outside of Munich at this event with many museum cars on display and being demonstrated, but also about 60 privately-owned cars on the track in many of the races. This included two Australians; Queenslander Chris Bowden and Victorian Andrew Cannon. Bowden driving his M1 Procar whilst Cannon drove his ex. Works 3,0 CSL “Batmobile”.
Above: The first in the series of the truly iconic “Art cars” this is the 3.0 CSL that was painted by American artist Alexander Calder. It did have one race, the 1975 Le Mans 24 Hours before becoming a permanent exhibit. It was exhibited at Monterey alongside the latest in the 17 car series; the 2010 BMW M3 GT2 painted by Jeff Koons.
Above: Andrew Cannon’s 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL Group 5 car won the 1975 Sebring 12 Hours and finished ninth overall (and first in class) at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1976.
Continuing with the search for Australians it didn’t take long to find another Queenslander, Duncan McKellar who was competing in the CanAm race in his McLaren M8E. With CanAm celebrating its 50th anniversary at the event it took some time to comprehend the great depth of cars in that field. The almighty Shadows, a number of McLaren M8Fs just to name a couple.
Ron Goodman from NSW brought out a 14 person crew with him and his 20ft container to run the Porsche 356A he has had so much success in in the past.
The pre-war category showcased some very significant cars, not the least of which was ERA R2B “Romulus” which Prince Bira of Siam raced in period and the Thai Royal family retained until recent years. Current custodian, Greg Whitten drove it very well but couldn’t match it with the front running ERA R2A of Paddins Dowling and the Delage –ERA (from the Mullin Automotive Museum) of Derek Hill and the ERA R6B of Charles McCabe.
The difficulty for these pre-war cars was that they were first on track each day. Up in the hils it tends to get quite misty. On driving into the track from Carmel it was so misty on approach that you literally couldn’t see in front of the car. That was at 7:30am and by 9:00am it hadn’t changed too much. The practice session Friday morning lasted about 3 or 4 laps before they were all flagged in. many competitors pulled over on the main straight. Even later on when group 4A came out (Bowden & Cannon’s race) the cover of mist was still well and truly over the track.
Back to the paddock walk and we caught up with Peter Giddings (past regular at Phillip Island in a number of his cars). Peter was sitting back, relaxing and directing proceedings of adjusting the rear brakes on his Alfa Romeo Monza. This straight-8 twin-OHC pre-war Grand Prix car is well suited to both track and road events. Peter finished a credible fourth. Interestingly a Monza sold at the Gooding & Co sale during the weekend for over US$11,000,000.
Above: The Alfa Romeo Monza of Peter Giddings. …meanwhile, Peter and the scribe had a chat while the brake shoe was put back on.
George Winguard has a very impressive collection of Edwardian & Veteran cars that he and others drove in this race. The 1916 National is one of 4 survivors of over 2,000 production cars built. This was built up as a ‘modified stock car’ and was found in disassembled form in 1991. We understand its period racing history is unknown, but we’re sure the riding mechanic was needed then too.
Group 2A consisted of Sports-racing cars (over 2 litre) from 1955-1961, among them a number of Jaguar D-Types. Chris McAllister was on track in his Ecurie Ecosse team car and Dean Mailing steered his ex. Works XKD-403 (1954 team car) that was driven by the likes of Stirling Moss and Peter Whitehead in period.
Their competition in the race came from a brace of Maserati Bidcages, Lister Costin and an all-conquering Scarab.
The transporters are just the norm at Leguna Seca, but my prize has to go to Chris McAllister’s Pantec. The livery really tells a story of what could be inside. Not many people in Australia advertise what’s in their trailers like they do in the US
With trying to fit in so many events during the Monterey week, Historic Racing Australia only saw the Thursday practice session for the Formula One cars, but there were plenty of them, including this Lotus. The 1977 Lotus 76 was driven to fifth by Katsuanki Kubota.
Kubota was pipped to the line by our own Chris Farrell (QLD) in his 1982 March 821.
A brace of Australians took part in the Trans-Am race with Terry Lawlor again doing well in his historic 1967 Shelby Mustang finishing second, whilst Chad Parrish took 9th overall in his 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302. The Lawlor car has a fascinating history being number 26 of 26 Shelby Mustangs built and possibly the most significant having won the 1967 Riverside Gran Prix for production sports cars.
The 1967 Porsche 910 chassis noo. 910-025 is one of a pair of sports-prototypes that were on track during the course of the weekend. It’s 6-cylinder engine produces 225BHP and had to be one of the prettiest cars on track. It’s photographed on track with one of the Group 2 BMW 3.0 CSLs.
Saturday proved to be a very hectic day. It started with an early morning breakfast at the Rolex Drivers’ Lounge with fellow Australian, Andrew Cannon and his crew, then the morning’s races spent at the Corkscrew and surrounding corners before lunch at the Vintage Motor Racing tansporter and the afternoon spent trackside back-and-forth between turns one & six.
The mist and fog over the track was not as dense as on Friday (previous day), but it was still quite low and remained that way for the first two races.