A Day at the Races: The 2008 Rolex Monterey Historics
When you’ve had your fill of concours and auctions, there’s only one thing to do: head for the hills and take a day off at the Mazda Raceway.
Saturday’s the day when visitors to the Monterey Peninsula find time to get some sun and high-octane action at Laguna Seca. Given a good run with the traffic, it’s only 45 minutes or so away from Pebble Beach or Monterey, and a day at the races is the perfect antidote to endless speculation on correct oil filter colours or 250 GT Lusso values.
I took the day off and, with a couple of close friends, had a whale of a time seeing racing cars that (outside the Goodwood Festival of Speed) you will never see in Europe.
Amazingly, it was the 35th running of the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races in 2008. ‘Presented by Toyota’, as they have been in recent years, the three-day event cleverly showcases the best of US racing with the top European marques so beloved Stateside: Ferrari and Porsche, together with vintage Alfa Romeos and Bugattis.
Homegrown hero Mario Andretti, the 1978 Formula 1 World Champion, was honoured at this year’s event. The man from Nazareth (Pennsylvania, that is) was behind the wheel of a John Player Special Lotus again and swung the black and gold machine round the sweeping course’s curves like, well, no other.
I was impressed.
The on-track action on the Saturday comprised races for older cars (and Indy Roadsters), two Formula Junior heats (the small-capacity single-seaters being a feature this year), 1955 – 1960 Sports Racing Cars over 2500c, Historic Trans-Am cars, 1966 – 1974 Historic Can-Ams, and 1964 – 1975 FIA Sports Racers.
The headlining race, for me, at least, was the Trans-Am event. You just don’t see these ‘stock’ small-block V8s in the UK. We have the St Mary’s Trophy at the Goodwood Revival that will (in its later-year incarnation) feature American cars such as Mustangs, Falcons and Galaxies, but nothing can compare with the Trans-Am in its early 70s heyday for rumbling door-to-door, eight-cylinder action.
To be correct, of course, a certain J. Rindt in a tiny Alfa Romeo GTA did well, and Tony Adamowicz won the 1968 Manufacturers’ Championship driving a Porsche 911, but it’s the big-capacity metal that people flock to see.
In 2008 it was Ken Epsman, from Saratoga CA, that played Sam Posey in the #77 lime green Dodge Challenger to Jamey Mazzotta’s Parnelli Jones or George Follmer in his yellow Bud Moore 1970 Boss 302 Mustang.
Unlike the original series, the door-handles remained untouched, however, as the rules for competing at the Monterey Historics are strict - one strike and you are, quite literally, out the following year. That notwithstanding, it was still a tremendous spectacle and well worth the $85 ticket price alone.
Next year’s Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, Presented by Toyota are scheduled for 14 - 16 August 2009, with Porsche as the official marque.
Text: Steve Wakefield
Photos: Classic Driver - all strictly copyright
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