Every year around the middle of August, my friend John and I put everything else in our lives aside– wives, kids, jobs–and spend a few days at one of the most awesome events any car nut could hope to experience. For two days we bask in the glory of the most exquisite sheet metal on the planet, breathe in the smells of high octane gasoline, and delight in the aural assault of over 400 high performance machines as they convert dead dinosaurs into speed, beauty, and that glorious sound. Few events can compare to the aural, visual, and olfactory onslaught of multi-million dollar machines being pushed to the limits of performance that is theMonterey Historics at Laguna Seca Raceway.
Starting in 1974, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, known colloquially as the Monterey Historics, has been part of the middle of August on the Monterey peninsula along with the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance. In the beginning, there were only those two events but over the years it has grown to a full week worth of car celebration with more than 30 events spanning the gamut of car interests. Along with the historic races and the Concours, there are numerous car shows in the streets of the town of Carmel, automobilia gatherings, car auctions hosted by Mecum, RM Sotheby’s, and Gooding & Co., The Quail motorsports gathering, and more. It’s heaven for a car nut!
On Thursday evening, John and I sat at a corner on the main drag in Carmel and lost count of the number of McLarens, Porsches, and Ferraris we saw. At one point a Koenigsegg drove by and parked on the side of the road. Every type of exotic you could ever want to see was there to be enjoyed.
For us, though, the highlight of the week is always the racing at Laguna Seca and this year did not disappoint. Over 400 cars were entered and put on one heck of a show. Most of these cars are one of a kind, irreplaceable machines and you would think that the owners and drivers would be extra careful not to damage them and baby them around the track. You would be wrong. These folks don’t hold back. Wheel-to-wheel racing was everywhere and created an exciting atmosphere. Two races in particular stood out to us: The battle for first place between the 1964 Lotus 26R driven by Horatio Fitz-Simon and the 1966 Ford 289 Cobra driven by Ford CEO Jim Farley and the battle for first place in the Trans-Am race between the top five cars lead by Bruce Canepa driving the 1970 AMC Javelin.
The race between the Lotus and the Cobra was especially interesting because these cars are so different. The Lotus has a 1600 CC 4 cylinder engine while the Cobra has a 4500 CC V8. The difference in horsepower is enormous, but Laguna Seca rewards handling and nimbleness through the majority of the track. It is only on the long front straight that horsepower becomes king and that’s where the Cobra would shine. Everywhere else the Lotus ,with its low weight and quick handling, would run away from the heavier Cobra. Here they are at the beginning of the race with the Cobra on pole (sorry about the shaky video, I forgot my monopod):
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In the second video above the Lotus has made the pass for first place. These guys are not hanging around!
The Lotus went on to a well earned win.
Every year, the Historics showcase some significant aspect of motorsports history, a brand celebrating an important milestone or anniversary, or some other event that has played a pivotal role in racing. This year was the celebration of 100 years of Le Mans and an amazing collection of historic Le Mans winning cars were brought together. Let’s bask in the glory of Le Mans history. Get ready and…
The 1975 BMW 2002 of Scott Hughes:
The iconic Porsche 917 that raced at Le Mans in 1970.
I love the fact that these cars are not pristine!
Not a bad line-up, eh?!
The #67 Ford GT that won the 2018 IMSA 24 hour race at Daytona and took 4th place at Le Mans in 2018
The 1949 Aston Martin DB2 that ran in the 1949 Le Mans race
Engines, engines and more engines!
I’m sure glad there is someone who knows what all that stuff does ‘cause I sure don’t!
Driver comfort has never been the strong suit of race cars:
Buttons, buttons, and more buttons!
Many famous drivers were present in spirit:
A mini celebration of Minis:
Some came with big rigs and large tents:
While others had much simpler operations:
But who am I to judge? They’re out there racing while I’m just standing here watching. Hats off to all of them!
Race car air conditioning.
I hope Rolex watches are better made than their signs. This one decided it wanted to join the races.
More gratuitous race cars:
1970 AMC Javelin
1970 Dodge Challenger
1976 Penske PC4
1983 Lotus 91
1981 Williams FW07C
1963 Ford Falcon
1912 Franklin Model D. What these drivers are thinking: “Please don’t roll over, please don’t roll over, please don’t roll over.”
At the corkscrew with the 1966 Le Mans winning Ford GT, a Mclaren F1, a quad-rotor Mazda and some Porshaaaaaaaaa…
2007 Pescarolo LMP1
1988 Porsche 962C
Sometimes, things go wrong:
1989 Mazda 767B
Ouch! The 1968 Alfa Romeo GTA of Jeffrey Rothman got into some oil dropped by another car in turn 1. The result was not good but at least Jeffrey walked away.
Some more gratuitous car shots:
Ever wonder why they call them floor “boards”?
David wanted me to show some cool “tech”, so… What do you do when you have a fuel metering block with lots of high tolerance parts inside that do not like to work when cold?
I’ll close with two cars that Classic Team Lotus brought which will be the subject of an upcoming video where David and I talk with the team manager about the changes that happened during the 5 years between them:
The 1977 Lotus Type 78 which was the first to use ground effects, and…
… the 1982 Lotus 91 which had the first carbon fiber tub and also the last to use ground effects.
An awesome weekend with awesome cars. For car nuts like us, it just doesn’t get any better.