Welcome to part two of my Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion coverage that’s only a year late. If you missed the first part where I explain why I’m just now posting some of the 2,300 photos I took during last year’s vintage racing gathering at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, I suggest starting there. The short story is it was inconvenient for me to go through them all at the time for life reasons, but with Monterey Car Week in full swing now, this is almost maybe kinda sorta just as good a time as any, probably.
But regardless if these shots are still relevant, the truth is historic racing is just plain cool. And if you happen to be in the area this week, chances are good you’ll see many of these same cars racing again this coming weekend. If museum-quality race cars from all eras and many disciplines being driven hard on track is your thing, you just might enjoy this selection of shots past the jump.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a track that’s quite literally built into a mountain and I was reminded of that when climbing up into the marine layer at the crack of dawn. When driving over the bridge into the infield, I could barely see the track twenty feet or so below me. Walking around a relatively empty paddock with all that fog has an eerie sort of feeling to it. Shortly after taking this shot, I heard engines fire. “No way, they’re not going out in that”, I thought…
Headlights were all I could see as these 50’s sports cars continued their descent from the Corkscrew into the final few turns. The fog persisted for the first few run groups this day until the sun finally broke through.
Yet another several-million-dollar Ferrari on track. Even the Denzel 1500 in the back looks shocked.
As is tradition, the cars get louder and rowdier as the day goes on. The high-displacement 60’s GT cars were another group that was so much fun to watch. I’d say they were about as brave as the TransAm guys in terms of close racing and absolutely fearless driving.
This group was also packed with Cobras which looked to be the most difficult to keep straight. These cars were practically sliding down the Corkscrew with drivers’ elbows flying. It was a breathtaking display of car control.
Despite being at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, there weren’t quite as many Mazdas as I would have expected, but this 1970 R100 more than made up for that. It sounded like an angry bees nest and looked like a barrel of fun.
In honor of their centennial, BMW was the featured marque of the weekend and several historically significant classics were brought out to play from BMW’s own collection. The actual 3.0 CSL that scored BMW’s first victory in America at the hands of Brian Redman and Ronnie Peterson was supposedly driven by their North American CEO at the time, Ludwig Willisch. For not being alive during its historic 1975 IMSA GT season, seeing it stretch its legs again was the next best thing.
BMW also spared no expense in setting up a huge static display in the paddock that brought out two other significant machines. The original Alexander Calder 3.0 CSL Art Car and the latest (at the time) M3 GT2 by Jeff Koons were the centerpieces of a display that also chronicled BMW’s history in motorsports. Some of those same cars on display would be rolled out and raced throughout the day. For obvious reasons, the Art Cars didn’t race.
This E46 M3 GTR was restored just a few years ago and has some pretty special history behind it. During their dominant ALMS season in 2001, they rolled out this Stars and Stripes livery during the aftermath of 9/11 for the final race of the season at Road Atlanta. Bill Auberlen, Borris Said, Hans Stuck drove it to victory and the car became even more of a legend than it already was at the time. Borris Said had the honor of driving it again that weekend.
That’ll probably be the only time I ever get to see this – or any – E46 M3 GTR back on track. This was one of the cars I shot every time it went by. Sadly, I was never able to catch one of its huge upshift fireballs coming from the side-exit exhaust.
From one ALMS-era M3 to the next, this E92 M3 GT was – and still is – a hero of mine. This was literally the only car on track that weekend that I’ve seen race back in its prime. At my first Petit Le Mans in 2010, I cheered on an older version of this car as it claimed BMW Team RLL a championship victory. The next year it was a double podium at Road Atlanta and a full championship sweep. I then got to see this exact 2012-spec M3 GT race for the final time the next year. I still miss it.
Yet another car I’ll probably never see on track again, the V12 LMR. Bill Auberlen was reunited with this one and drove the ever living crap out of it. It was very close to the front of the pack when a mechanical issue forced it to retire, but it was fast. So fast that I had to rely on faster shutter speeds just to get it in focus.
Have you ever seen a Bizzarrini race car? Well now you have.
That’s a ’67 Porsche 911 on three wheels at the bottom of the Corkscrew.
The mighty Lola T70 was a dominant force in the late 60s, as was this particular MK3B Spyder that weekend. It won its main race and set the second fastest lap time of the group. The fastest time was set by another T70.
This 1972 Ferrari 312PB won its race as well by a sizable margin. I never knew of this car’s existence, but it made a huge impression on me. Killer looks, awe-inspiring performance, and the unmistakable roar of a flat twelve. I’m a fan.
Now this Mazda RX-792P right here is about as rare as a race car gets. Three were built before the car was cancelled and only two ever raced. Mazda keeps this one in their private collection and it’s very likely the only one left in running condition. It too made its presence known through massive fireballs in addition to its four-rotor wail.
Did I mention Bill Auberlen drove the ever living crap out of that V12 LMR? Those 962s were consistently some of the fastest cars in that group, but Bill kept them busy.
And now for some more Formula One goodness, courtesy of this 1975 Hill GH1.
This is a 1980 Williams FW07B. It was once driven by Alan Jones. He won the championship that year and this very car surely helped with that.
Finally, Sir Jackie Sterwart’s Ford-powered 1971 Tyrrell. During the 2015 historics, he was reunited with this very car and it still races regularly.
I hope that by this point I’ve been able to accurately portray how incredible the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is. These shots represent a very small fraction of the cars you can expect to see racing throughout the weekend. I beg you, if you’re anywhere near Monterey, California later this week, you have to go.
Full size versions of all of these shots and more are up on Flickr as usual.
[Images © 2017 Hooniverse/Greg Kachadurian]