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10 things we learnt at the 2014 Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Submitted by on August 29, 2014

Maserati MontereyCountless beautiful historic racing cars descended on Laguna Seca for the Monterey Motorsports Reunion, a mind-blowing whirlwind of all things fast.

If you think that racing cars should be driven rather than parked on golf courses, the pinnacle of Monterey Car Week is the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Forget the famous Pebble Beach concours, we’d rather spend Sunday at a track like Mazda Raceway Leguna Seca.

MORE: Stand-out cars from the 2014 Monterey Auction Week

…and that’s exactly what our man John Young went and did. Fully immersed in the event as part of Ron Goodman’s team and their Porsche 356, these were the ten things which surprised John the most.

MORE: Gallery – The 2012 Monterey Motorsports Reunion by Brad Fox

Hungry for more? Don’t forget to check out the 10 things we learnt at the Monterey Motorposrts Pre-Reunion.

MaseratiMaserati was the featured marque. It’s 100 years since the brothers Maserati opened their garage in Bologna, Italy. It would be another 12 years before the first car to bear their name was made and proved its potency winning the Targa Florio in the same year.

So there were more Maseratis present than most people have ever seen in one place. Maserati put on a marvellous display of machinery, old and new. The modern MC12 looked and sounded amazing. The sole surviving Tipo 151 was as different as it is rare. Among the quirkier highlights, however, was a fabulous early fifties factory transporter, backdrop to the 4CL racecar. Very tasty indeed.

Plus, there were privately entered Maseratis… 250F, 300S, 450S, 3500GT… name your favourite Maserati and chances are it was there.

Trophies Story 2They do things differently in America. Vintage racing in America is gentlemen’s racing. What does that mean? It means exactly that. Rubbing panels is out. Gentle ‘love taps’ are a big no-no. Have a coming together of any sort, and there’s every chance you’ll get a 13-month ban, which means you won’t be running at the following year’s event. Passing isn’t easy. Diving under brakes is hard, because a pass isn’t deemed to be made unless you get right past the other car before the corner so its driver can maintain line. Goodwood, for example, is a much tougher school! The philosophy at Monterey is that the preservation of the cars is at least as important as racing them. They may just have a point.

To drive it home, the trophies presented on Sunday afternoon don’t go to the race winners. Instead, a Rolex Award for Excellence is presented to a driver from each of the 15 race groups.

 sports car traffic

That doesn’t mean they don’t drive them hard and fast. There are plenty of in-car videos circulating on YouTube that prove how hard, fast and well cars are driven. Check them out and you’ll be left in now doubt that Monterey is not just processional racing. Overstep the mark, however, and you’ll serve a drive through penalty for “attitude adjustment”. It actually happened to the first and second placed Ferrari and Corvette in Class 3A for GT Cars 1955-1962 as they started lapping slower traffic on Saturday afternoon. Respect your fellow competitors… or else.

Tom Price's 250 GTO

The big end of town is out in force. And they bring some spectacular machinery along. Not just the aforementioned Maseratis. Ferraris galore. Rare Astons. Porsches you’re privileged to see, let alone see on a track. The morning after a Ferrari 250GTO sold for over $38 million, another was being raced by Tom Price (Mr Price was actually racing two cars at the event, the other being a Maserati 250F!). The Maserati Tipo 151 was there to be driven by Derek Hill, son of American F1 World Champion Phil Hill, not just looked at.

Intrepid transporter

With the big end of town come big end transporters. At English and European meetings we’ve visited, the normal procedure is for teams to unload their cars outside the paddock. The racecars are accommodated in marquees, carports or garages alongside others in their class. It’s done that way at places like Goodwood, Silverstone or Le Mans. At Leguna Seca, the limited garage accommodation is occupied by manufacturers. The paddock area is jam-packed full of immaculately presented transporters, with canopies for cars, caterers for driver/owners and fully equipped mobile workshops. It’s all part of the show at Monterey, and some of the transporters would be right at home in the heady world of F1.

Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion 2014

‘Arrive and drive’ reaches new heights. Chances are if you’re a highflying business or professional person, you don’t have much time to coordinate your racing activities. In America there are several organisations offering the perfect solution. You just roll up on the day and everything is ready for you. Companies like Dennison Motorsport provide a splendid service for those who an afford it. Even Porsche is getting in on the act with its own service for owner-drivers.

 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion 2014

Great racing… or a great show? At times, the front-runners just go out and have a good time. The Trans Am race on Sunday afternoon was the most obvious example, where the top five drivers swapped positions with each other just a little too often for credibility. For all that they were still driving the cars very fast and well, and the sound of these almost totally unmuffled V8s is shattering. The commentators summed it up, however, when they suggested we should put our hands together for “a great show”.

Transam

Highlights of the driver’s meeting. “Among you are some real race car drivers,” said the circuit CEO Gill Campbell who added, “The rest of you are drivers of race cars.” Her point wasn’t lost on the audience. Nor were the remarks of the Race Director as he described the use of flags. “The blue flag with the yellow strip being shown to you means there’s a race going on, and you’re not in it.” In other words, get out of the way. It may be gentlemen’s racing, but it’s still racing.

 Alpine V8

Nine Tigers. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the introduction of the Sunbeam Tiger, the most affordable blend of British design, American iron and Shelby input money can buy. There were nine of them racing at Monterey, and the front-runners were pretty quick. Hardly surprising, considering the car’s size and the Ford V8 up front. Among them was the immaculate black Hollywood Sports Cars Tiger, a legend on the West Coast and a concours entrant at Carmel earlier in the week. But arguably the most valuable Tiger of all didn’t have a Tiger badge on it. The ’62 Alpine which Shelby turned into the Tiger prototype in a matter of weeks was there in tidy ‘survivor’ condition. The only clue to what lies within is a ‘260 V8’ badge below the Alpine badge on the fender.

 Monterey_Paddock_Award

A follow-up from our Pre-Reunion report. Cameron Healy finished on the podium in every event he contested in the Pooper and Porsche 908. Alex Curtiss received the Rolex Award for Excellence in Class 7b in his Mercedes-Benz 300SL, moving from 13th grid position to finish 7th in the final race for the category. Ron Goodman’s ‘ Outback garage’ won the award for the Best Paddock Display.

Should you go to Monterey? Absolutely. The hardest thing is deciding which of the other events you’ll go to. But be warned, some of them are quite expensive to get into. While the Tuesday Concours on the Avenue at Carmel-by-the-Sea is free, the headline Pebble Beach event will set you back 300 bucks to get in. The auctions aren’t free either. But it’s all part of the week’s excitement. If Monterey isn’t already on your bucket list, it should be.

John Young

Note: the writer travelled to Monterey with Ron Goodman’s team

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