The Perfect Weekend: Monterey 2013

What is the recipe for the perfect automotive event? First of all you probably want a great setting. How about the beautiful coast of central California? You know, picturesque rolling hills, pristine beaches, golf courses, historic towns and great winding roads. Check.

More specifically, I’m talking about Monterey, California and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It’s one of the world’s great racing circuits and a jewel of the American motorsport scene. Perfect weather is another nice bonus. There’s just something about cool coastal fog in the morning that eventually gives way to mild temps and that picture-perfect California sunshine.

Oh yeah, you’re also gonna want some properly-cool machinery. In this department, we’ve got hundreds of historic racing machines spanning from the earliest years of the 20th century right up through the early 1990s and beyond – each with a bonafide competition history behind it, and each here to be driven in anger just as they were designed.

I am, of course, talking about the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion – and the reasons above are just part of why this is my favorite event this side of the Pacific. It hasn’t even been 24 hours since the 2013 event wrapped up, and already I’m missing the sights and sounds I experienced at Laguna Seca over the weekend.

The Rolex Historics are of course just one part of the automotive celebration that takes over the Monterey peninsula every August, and I wasn’t the only Speedhunter in the area to capture the festivities. Mr. Larry Chen was also in the region to check out the world famous Pebble Peach Concours D’Elegance, which he will be reporting on shortly.

I meanwhile, would be focusing my efforts on the action unfolding at Laguna Seca. Sure, golf course car shows and exclusive auctions are great, but in my eye the Rolex Historics are the most visceral and most exciting part of the Monterey Classic Car Week festivities.

Seeing as this would be the second time I’ve covered the Rolex Historics, I sort of knew what to expect when I arrived at Laguna Seca on Friday morning. Or at least I thought I did.

At the first moment I heard the sound of the vintage racing machines lapping the track during practice in the damp morning air, I was overcome with a severe case of what we call #joyofmachine. For a few moments I couldn’t do anything just stand there with an open mouth, staring at the cars as they roared down the front straight.

Even though I’ve had the great fortune of seeing some fantastic stuff during my five years as a Speedhunter, there are still those occasions where all I can do is sit there and grin like a kid in a toy store. This weekend had too many of those moments to count.

Once I had recovered from the initial euphoria, I decided to take a little walk through the paddock and look over some of the cars that’d be racing over the course of the weekend. This brings me to another one of my favorite parts about the Rolex Historics: accessibility.

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a media credential or just a general admission ticket, the pits are wide open for anyone to get an up-close look at the historic machinery and to soak up all the details that make these cars so great.

Better yet, the owners and drivers of the cars are very friendly and always willing to chat and tell you more about their machines.

This might be unexpected, considering that we are talking about some incredibly rare and valuable machinery owned by some extremely wealthy individuals. At the Rolex Historics though, everyone’s a car enthusiast above anything else.

At one point I even spotted Jay Leno walking causally through the pits, checking out the cars and chatting with fellow gearheads, just as he does every year.

Once I had wandered the paddock a bit, I decided to hike up the hill and take my position trackside to capture some of these cars in action.

I have to say it felt a little strange setting out to photograph cars in motion, as the last time I shot motorsport was at an MSC drift event in Japan way back in January. It didn’t take me long to reacquaint myself with the art of motorsport photography though, and it doesn’t hurt that Laguna Seca is one of the most scenic and photo-friendly circuits I’ve ever visited.

One of the best things about the Rolex Historics is the sheer variety of race cars that take to the track over the course of the weekend. While all the cars are considered ‘historic’ the diversity of the machinery is staggering.

To some, the word historic might mean the cars of the 1927-1951 Racing Car class. While I’ll be the first to say my knowledge of these cars is extremely limited, it’s amazing to watch something like this 1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B navigate the course with the driver leaning into the corners as a motorcycle racer would.

Or maybe your idea of historic includes more contemporary cars like this 1982 Ford Mustang IMSA GT racer, which was one of several 1980s era IMSA Fords that were competing. Old, young, or somewhere in the middle – there’s something for everyone.

There’s also the selection of historic race cars that Mazda brought from its own collection, including its well-traveled 787B which filled the Monterey hills with the unmistakeable scream of it four-rotor engine. Given the strict sound regulations that are usually in place at Laguna Seca, this is not something you’ll see (or hear) often around here.

Each year the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion has a featured theme, and for 2013 it was the Corvette that was spotlighted as America’s sports car is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

There were close to 50 historic Corvette race cars that took to the track in the various classes, including this amazing 1963 Grand Sport which could be seen battling its arch rival, the Shelby Cobra, around the hills and twists of Laguna Seca.

Of course, the recently released C7 Corvette Sting Ray was also featured prominently during the event too, with a fleet of the new ‘Vettes making repeated demo laps around the track and looking pretty badass while doing it.

The real highlight of the weekend though came on Saturday afternoon when Speedhunters’ good friend Tommy Milner made a surprise appearance behind the wheel of the never-before-seen C7.R prototype. The sight of the camo-covered race car on the track perfectly bookended the amazing selection of Corvette racing history that was showcased.

Of course the ‘Vette’s 60th wasn’t the only birthday being celebrated at Laguna Seca. I’m sure you know that the Porsche 911 is also celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and to mark the occasion Porsche brought out a few historic gems from its own garage.

The Porsche fatory roster included the iconic 911 GT1, which brought back memories of the 2011 Rennsport Reunion as it took to the track for some demonstration runs at the end of the day on Saturday.

But it’s not just the racing cars and on-track action that make the Rolex Historics so great. Throughout the weekend, open areas around Laguna Seca are filled with a selection of vintage and exotic cars that would put most stand-alone car shows to shame.

It’s also nicely organized. The Ferrari club sits in one area…

… while the Porsche club sits in another. Then there are Aston Martins, BMWs, Shelbys and so on.

More than anything though, to me the Rolex Historics experience is about the individual scenes that together make for one of the most unforgettable experiences in the automotive world.

It could be the image of a priceless 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta dipping through turn five, exploring the limits of its grip and displaying just the right amount of oversteer at corner exit.

It’s also the sight and sound of a jam-packed field of vintage Trans Am cars battling it out like its 1970 again. More on this in a future post.

Or it could be an incredibly quick and agile ’64 Lotus Elan 26R pulling through the Andretti Hairpin as daylight pops out out from beneath its inside front wheel.

Or it’s a Porsche 935 K3 rolling through the iconic Laguna Seca Corkscrew before disappearing down the track in a symphony of flame and turbo noise.

It’s all that and so much more. Stay tuned for more throughout the week as I continue my look at the 2013 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, but in the meantime be sure to enjoy the high resolution desktops below.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: speedhunters_mike

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