The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion concluded Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca,, where the remainder of the 550 cars (which are divided into 17 Rolex Race Groups according to age and engine size, and each one must be period-correct in their presentation) took their turns on the classic road course. While every group winner was proud at the end of their designated race day, none was more emotional than Terry Larson of Mesa, Ariz., who was deemed worthy of the overall Rolex Award of Excellence, given at Sunday's awards ceremony to the driver who excels in the spirit of the weekend. He not only personally raced two of the three cars he brought with him (a 1954 Jaguar XK120, a C-Type Jaguar (ABOVE LEFT) and a 1958 Lister Jaguar) but also was instrumental in coordinating the Jaguar C- and D-Type cars featured in the Jaguar Heritage display, which punctuated Jaguar's presence as this year's special marque.
“It's hard to put into words how I feel about this wonderful award; it's so nice to be appreciated for what you do,” said Larson, who also was presented with a Rolex Steel and Gold Daytona. “I love the marque, especially the C-Type and D-Type Jaguars, and I worked on gathering the cars for everyone to enjoy. It would give anyone who put it together a lot of satisfaction. That's kind of what a real enthusiast is all about – you don't need recognition to make it worthwhile, but I sure do appreciate it.”
Appropriately, Larson also received a special giclee print of this year's poster artwork, which featured a Jaguar E-Type rendered by artist Bill Patterson. Rolex Awards of Excellence were also awarded in each race category, as determined by an independent panel.
Spectacular 1-2 finish for the Group 44 Jaguars
In motor racing, sometimes things do not go well and days of preparation are for naught. At other times, however, the joy of a brilliant finish creates magic, as it did today when the Group 44 Jaguars of Rick Knoop (Laguna Beach, Calif.) and Doug Smith (Plantation, Fla.) finished first and second, respectively, in Rolex Race Group 6B (1981 – 1989 FIA Mfg. Championship and IMSA GTP cars). It was cause for hugs and cheers, but more important, it was a salute to Jaguar and Bob Tullius, the driver and special guest in attendance at the event who helped establish Jaguar's name in international racing from the mid-1970s through the '80s.
“I haven't seen Bob Tullius in 25 years, and I actually raced against him when he raced this car that I drove today,” said Knoop, adding that “back in the day” he also fought tooth and nail with Chip Robinson, Doc Bundy and the other Group 44 drivers. “Today's race was so exciting – can you imagine 24 cylinders (between Doug's V12 engine and mine) coming off the Corkscrew? I tell you, that is what living is all about.”
Doug Smith said that he started second and finished second. “Rick is such an awesome driver, and today's race was the most fun I have ever had in a racecar,” he said. “As I waved to the fans in the stands I got a bit choked up; it was an awesome feeling. My family is a motorsports family, and I grew up watching these cars race, so this weekend has been a childhood fantasy for me. Waking up tomorrow will be a disappointment, because it will mean it's all over until next year; I really didn't want this to end. The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is definitely Disneyland for big kids.”
An international field
Although its largest contingent came from 27 states across the continental U.S., this year's Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion was decidedly international, with drivers representing 14 countries (USA, France, Monaco, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, England, Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany, Spain) as well as Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
France's Yves Junne (LEFT), who races Porsches in Europe at events such as the Le Mans Classic and Spa Six Hours, drove a Porsche 904 belonging to a good friend and his own Lola MKI, which he keeps in the U.S. “This event is wonderful for us Europeans,” he explained, adding that this is his fourth time here for it, “because it has a lot of flavor and, of course, the association with the other events here in the Monterey area such as the auctions, the (Pebble Beach) Concours d'Elegance, and all the other activity. Everyone loves racing the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and even those who have never been here – they all wish to.”
John Hugenholtz , a Dutchman who now lives in Schilde, Belgium, has been coming to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion since 1984, and this year he raced his Lotus Elan 26R. He commuted from his hotel to the races in his Shelby Cobra, which is just one of the impressive cars from his large automobile collection. “Many of the American racers we have met, they come to Europe to race, and when we come here they invite us to stay at their houses, and we have such a nice time,” said Hugenholtz. “So half of our pleasure is the racing but the other half is the friends we now have here.”
Andrew Prill (Halstead, England), who first came to the event in 1998 and has missed only two years since, added: “Whether you go to the Le Mans Classic, Goodwood Revival or any of the other great historic events, they all have their own distinct feel. For us who come here from abroad, we're not accustomed to the same feeling of camaraderie as we get here. The spirit here is remarkable – I've had some guys who I've had a great dice with come out of their cars after the race and shake my hand. We certainly appreciate all that Rolex has done to keep the sport at the level it is. Cars and watches – those are two of my favorite things. Rolex has become synonymous with first-rate motor racing, and we all appreciate that.”
Cobra to be next year's featured marque
Cobra, one of the most recognized and iconic names in the motorsports and automotive worlds, will be the featured marque at next year's Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, set for Aug. 17-19, 2012. Today's announcement was made at the closing awards ceremony by Gill Campbell, CEO/general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca who was accompanied by the growl of a Cobra driving on to the stage.
Created by Carroll Shelby in 1962, the original Shelby Cobra quickly established itself as the dominant American competitor on the international sports car racing scene, narrowly missing the World Sports Car Championship in 1964 and winning the championship in 1965, a remarkable achievement "from scratch" against established European competitors. This success was prompted by a strong partnership between Carroll Shelby and Ford Motor Company. Shelby chose Ford engines to power his cars that consistently outperformed its competitors.
Next year will be the 39th year of historic racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Carroll Shelby was honored in 1997 at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, and 2012 will be the first time the Shelby Cobra will be featured.