There are times to spectate and there are times to roll up one's sleeves and participate. At the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion this year, both options brought abundant joy, as more than 550 authentic and historic racecars from nearly every decade of motorsports history popped their clutches and shifted gears on the esteemed road course of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Over Aug. 16-19, the cars – split into 17 groups according to age and engine size and chosen for their period-correct presentation – put in two days of practice and a weekend's worth of morning qualifying rounds followed by afternoon Rolex Races that “counted most.”
The busy schedule certainly left those behind the wheel with plenty to do, and it gave car enthusiasts – who could watch the action from hillsides and bleachers and mix elbow-to-elbow with drivers, owners and crews in the paddock area – much in which to indulge.
Perhaps the busiest person at the event this year was Lynn Park (RIGHT), better known as “Mr. Cobra.” As the Shelby Cobra was the chosen marque for 2012 and Park is proficiently versed in everything Cobra, the Californian seemed the obvious choice for selecting and assuring the provenance of the 45 authentic Cobras that would race in Saturday's feature race. The choice could not have been more perfect, and at the awards ceremony, Park was given “The Spirit of Monterey” recognition as the driver who excels in the spirit of the weekend, along with a specially engraved 18k stainless steel and gold Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona. Park drove one of his 14 personally owned Cobras in Saturday's race while his sons drove two of his others.
“If you look up the term ‘labor of love' in Webster's Dictionary, you will find me and a Cobra in a picture there,” said Park, who has owned 50 Cobras over his lifetime and personally knew the late Carroll Shelby. “I love this, and I live and breathe Cobras all day long. We worked really hard to get this event done just this way, and in fact when the organizers said they were going to turn the Cobra end of it over to me, I said, 'OK, beautiful, we'll get it done.' All the Cobra guys are so cooperative, and they're just the nicest bunch of people you are ever going to see. We crowded all those Cobras into that paddock, and what a show!”
Park choked up when he recalled Carroll Shelby telling him he couldn't wait to be here for this special year at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. “He was really looking forward to it,” said Park. “Of course we miss him, and it is such a shame he cannot be here to have seen all this.”
Appropriately, Park also received a special giclee print of this year's poster artwork, which was rendered by artist Bill Patterson and features a Shelby Cobra as it crests the Corkscrew: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca's signature turn that drops 5 ½ stories in only 450 feet of track length. Rolex Awards of Excellence were also awarded in each race category, as determined by an independent panel.