The Final Day
Even with Cobras stealing the show on Saturday, today's final races brought thrills of different kinds to those who watched. The most exciting race was offered up by the event's fastest cars, the 1981 – 1989 FIA Mfg. Championship & IMSA GTPs. Zac Brown's pole-sitting 1986 Porsche 962 led flag to flag, but Brown conceded, nevertheless, that it was all hard work.
“I was worried about Rick Knoop in the Group 44 Jaguar, because he won last year," he said. "With these older cars you want to get as much of a lead as you can, because you never know when you might have a mechanical or electrical glitch.
"The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is the biggest vintage race in the country and arguably the biggest in the world, so to come out and win it is pretty awesome. I've had this car for three years, and last year I put the ex-Formula 1 driver Stephan Johansson in the car, and he won, so it is currently undefeated at this event.”
Brown grew up racing, starting with go-karts at age 13 and racing professionally from 1991 to 2000. Then he stopped. “I decided to do historic racing and find it to be a blast; I love it,” said Brown, adding that the experience of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion goes beyond the racetrack. “It's the whole weekend. My wife loves it; I've got good friends who have come out here, I have friends who have flown here from Europe to take it all in so it's a great two weeks, I came out for last week's Pre-Reunion race as well, so it's a great ten days of driving, with nice food, nice wine and an experience to be remembered.”
Every sport requires a training ground, and in 1958, motor racing developed the perfect training ground to lead to Formula 1, called Formula Junior. It began with front engine cars and was dominated by Italian drivers, but when the formula adopted rear engine cars, the British took over. The most notable British drivers were Jim Clark and other great drivers were John Surtees, Trevor Taylor and Peter Arundell.
It was a British racer who now lives in Virginia, Mark Gillies (88, RIGHT), who stole the show with his 1962 Lotus 22 in the 34-car race for Formula Juniors here. “I've owned this car for about four years, but the two previous owners have raced it here at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion for a number of years and won with it also,” said Gillies, who has been racing for over 30 years. “The Lotus 22 was a popular car in Formula Junior and mostly run by privateers; although, there were always one or two works cars as well. They were sometimes used in Formula 1 races but mostly just to fill the field, as they were not competitive in that class.”
Also racing in the Formula Junior Group was Sharon Adelman (Free Union, Virginia), who finished 12th in her 1963 Brabham BT6. “The race was fierce, competitive and very exciting,” said Adelman, who has been racing for five years and wasn't the only woman registered in this class. “There are a lot of competent women here; it's just that when they put on their driving suits, you can't tell them apart,” said Adelman. “This is my first time racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and I'm really excited and really surprised I did so well. There were a lot of very competent and able drivers in this group, so I felt very safe as a ‘newbie'; it was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to come back.”
The Oldest Car
The appeal of vintage motor racing is largely the experience of watching colorful race cars once again competing on race circuits around the world. Enthusiasts can reminisce about the glory days of the sport and often times learn something that goes well beyond either memory or imagination. When eight cars built before World War I raced in yesterday's Pre-1940 Sports Racing and Touring Cars, fans knew it was something special. What they found out about the oldest of these cars – a 1907 Renault Grand Prix owned by Alan Travis – was truly beyond remarkable.
According to Travis, who eagerly related his car's history with great authority to anyone who asked, the car was once owned by William K. Vanderbilt. “Vanderbilt had watched the very first grand prix at Le Mans,” said Travis, “and Renault won that race with one of these cars. He was so impressed with the car that he ordered 10 of them to be brought to the United States because he was creating a race series in the USA called the Vanderbilt Cup. This is one of the 10 cars.”
Travis said his car's top speed in those days was 90mph and he had it going 84mph this weekend. “We've actually driven this car 4,000 miles within this last month,” said Travis. “We competed in the Great Race back east and then we've come here to race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with all its tight turns and up hills and down hills on these wooden wheels. You can imagine entering a corner at 60 miles per hour in a 105 year-old-car with wooden wheels; it's probably more exciting than driving a Cobra at 150mph into that same turn.”
Travis added that the Renault, which cost $15,000 new in the days when you could buy a house for $500, has two wheel brakes only on the rear, but he can't use them going through the corners, because the car kicks out and then slides. “Yesterday we did a four-wheel drift in the morning, and that was extremely unnerving,” said Travis. “When my riding mechanic and I finally got through the slide, we looked at each other and said, ‘Well, we weren't thrown from the car, so let's keep going!'
“I've had this car for one year, and it had never been restored, so I took it down to the frame and found that the rivets had gotten so loose that the frame members were wiggling. These were the same type of rivets that seven years later were used to build the Titanic, and those didn't work out that good either. I did all the work myself, and I did it sympathetically, so things that were a little bit dented or a little bit torn I didn't fix, because it has earned all of that and are badges of honor.”
The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is an annual tradition held the third week in August during the Monterey Peninsula's wildly popular Classic Car Week. The competitors this year were from 10 nations – USA (547), Canada (5), Brazil (4 ), Switzerland (2), UK (2), Monaco (1), Netherlands (1), Australia (1), Belgium (1), Virgin Islands (1) – and 28 states, with the largest contingents coming from California (348), Washington (29), Nevada (25), Arizona (23), Florida (14), Texas (14), Oregon (12) and Colorado (12).
For full results from the weekend, click here.