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9 Good Reasons to Experience the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Pre-Reunion

Submitted by on August 12, 2015

Rolex Monterey Pre-Reunion

Monterey Car Week is on most car people’s ‘bucket list’. And for those whose focus is motorsport, Monterey’s highlight is the historic car racing at Laguna Seca held over the weekend that concludes the annual festival. But once again, the 2015 Rolex Monterey Pre-Reunion proved that it’s worth arriving in Monterey early. Here are a few things we liked this year.

Less can be more

Next weekend, the big end of town will be out in force. It’s not that there aren’t fabulous and exotic cars in the pits and on the racetrack at the Pre-Reunion. But the whole ambience is more relaxed than the main event. It’s easier to walk around, easier to park, and the racing is just as competitive. Okay, less isn’t more. But it has its special charm.

Rolex Monterey Pre-Reunion

The rumble, the roar, the raw excitement of V8s

Last year’s featured marque was Maserati. Most years, it’s a similarly exotic name. This year, however, Monterey celebrates 50 years of the Shelby 350GT. In Category 3A, there were 19 of them fighting it out. Not for the highest spot on the podium, however. The first race was won by a very rapid Sunbeam Tiger, the second by an ex-Dan Gurney AC Cobra. At least the honour was reserved for cars which wouldn’t have existed without Carroll Shelby.

Rolex Monterey Pre-Reunion

Formula 5000 returned in force

The V8 soundtrack continued. It’s been a long time since Formula 5000s turned out in force at Monterey, but the class has a great history here. From 1968 to 1975 the thunder of these brutal racecars reverberated at the Laguna Seca circuit.

Most cars returned in the hands of enthusiast owners from all over the world. But there was a notable exception: Tony Adamowicz returned in the Gurney Eagle in which he clinched the 1969 SCCA Formula 5000 Championship. A rarity was the Australian Elfin, a highly successful car in its home country in period when driven by constructor Gary Cooper.

The invasion from down under

Which brings us neatly to another feature of this year’s event. Every year, a handful of enthusiasts ship their cars from the other side of the world to Monterey. This year, the handful had grown to 19. We counted 10 Kiwis, all in Formula 5000s, and 9 Aussies racing. The Australian entries included Porsches 356 to 962, Shelby GT350 and 4 Formula 5000s.

Rolex Monterey Pre-Reunion

The changing face of the automotive ‘office’

Today’s F1 cars and Le Mans cars bristle with technology. But even in the historic era, the contrast is huge. Check out the difference in the cockpits of Terry Sullivan’s 1958 Denzel 1300 and George Nakis’s Porsche 962…

Rolex Monterey Pre-Reunion

All that’s gold doesn’t glitter

We’ve always had that picture of US-based classics being highly – some would say over – restored. The barn find movement, the passion for originality. Take these two Bugattis… one as you’d expect in most places, the other typical of those you see racing at events in France such as the Circuit du Remparts at Angouleme. (Another event well worth a visit, by the way.)

Rolex Monterey Pre-Reunion

A featured car… and it’s not a Shelby or a Ferrari

In search of cars with patina, we came across this very original Morgan Plus 4. Owner Piers Gormly said that the car had been a racecar all its life, which explains its total mileage of just 23,000.

Piers has been the Morgan’s custodian for six years, having bought it from the estate of original owner and friend, Arch McNeill. “Arch was a terrific driver,” said Piers. “He beat drivers like Phil Hill, Bob Tullius and Dan Gurney, before they went on to greater things. He was one of life’s natural gentlemen.”

Arch raced the car at Lime Rock, Watkins Glen, Freeport, Bridgehampton, and Nassau in the Bahamas where he scored perhaps his best result with a class win and 5th overall.

“I’ll never sell it, and never restore it,” says the current custodian. And it’s probably a wise idea. With the current interest in preservation, it’s interesting to reflect that a car with so much history and originality would probably depreciate by whatever you spent on it… and maybe even more.

The people you meet

Wherever you go to see historic motor racing, you meet incredibly friendly people. The owners of everything from the almost obtainable to the stratospherically valuable are happy to share their enthusiasm, particularly in America.

At the Monterey Historics, the great people you meet include the event organisers, the Monterey Bay Veterans who provide a brilliant service driving spectators to the top of the Corkscrew in a fleet of golf carts, and the fellow spectators you bump into.

Rolex Monterey Pre-Reunion

The Corkscrew

It’s one of the most famous corners in the world and a great place to watch the cars drop though almost six storeys in a single S-bend. Walk 25 metres to the crest of the hill and you can see 70% of the circuit below.

So, is it worth going? Absolutely. It’s a relaxed and friendly weekend. And while you’re waiting for the main event the following week, there are around 30 more car-related events to choose from. What could be better?

Rolex Monterey Pre-Reunion

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