Managing the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion with its 550 race cars, multiple sponsors, exhibitors, hundreds of journalists and thousands of visitors is a sizeable endeavor. Under the direction of an all-volunteer board of directors, the task falls on many shoulders, but perhaps none more than those of Gill Campbell and Barry Toepke.
As CEO and General Manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Campbell oversees all aspects of not only the world-class race circuit, but also the massive Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Fortunately, she was raised in the automobile industry, with the family business selling Morris Minors and two older brothers who raced alongside such greats as Colin Chapman and Sir Stirling Moss.
Campbell also had her own event management agency in Portland, working with the Portland Historic Races, American Le Mans Series and the Oregon Brewers Festival, in addition to working with the Monterey Historic Automobile Races (the predecessor to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion) and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
In 2002, she became the CEO/General Manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and has been its most ardent supporter ever since. Her hands-on approach has netted such series as the World Superbike Championship, the MotoGP World Championship, the Ferrari Challenge and the Porsche Rennsport Reunion to Monterey.
But the many accolades and awards she has received over the years pales in comparison to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. “This is the crown jewel in our racing calendar each year and one that gives me great pride when seeing our entrants unload their incredible cars,” Campbell says. “There is no other place I’d rather be the third week in August than right here in Monterey. This is the World Cup of classic and race cars, and we are in the middle of it all.”
The packed schedule of racing, dinner parties and events keeps Campbell on her toes 24/7. “Downtime comes the fourth week in August, but really only for several days before we gear up for the next race,” she adds.
For Barry Toepke, Vice President of Communications & Historic Racing, it was Steven Earle who brought him in to manage the PR programs for General Racing. “I’m as vintage as some of the cars,” Toepke chuckles as he reveals that this is his 25th Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.
Toepke’s first Monterey experience came in 1989 when Aston Martin was the featured marque. “The recreation of Aston’s Le Mans pits staggered me and to this day is the benchmark to which all others strive for.”
In an ironic twist, after years of representing the historic races for the promoter, Toepke became a consultant to Toyota to manage the automaker’s sponsorship of the races. “The Toyota years provided a different view of the event and was a blast helping organize the Toyota Race of Legends, which featured legendary drivers from F1 and IndyCar competing in one-make races.”
It was an “easy decision” when Campbell asked him to join the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca family to manage the newly-named Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. “Being in on the ground floor of taking an absolutely fantastic event to new heights is a personal career highlight. I’m having more fun doing what I do now than when I worked for Lamborghini and having a Diablo VT as my daily driver.”
Now, Toepke is enjoying the spoils of five years with the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and observing its continued growth and prominence. “Through such a strong partnership with Rolex, the anniversary being involved in the historic races in Monterey event is evolving and new elements are being added to keep it fresh and audiences invigorated to return.”Stick To The Script
Saturday August 16, 2014
It’s a 5:00am start to prepare for the biggest day of the weekend. We host upwards of 1,000 people for breakfast and we alternate greeting participants and SCCA workers. Once the “marine layer” lifts, the racing begins. We don’t like a quiet track, and with the race schedule, it usually isn’t quiet for long.
The closed circuit TV monitors that hang in the Stewards’ room is our window onto every part of the track. The priority is driver and car safety, so we’re always keeping watchful eyes. It’s amusing to see participants’ expressions when they come into the room. Some have no idea we have eyes so widespread.
From the moment the doors open, there’s a steady stream of people passing through. We’re hopping up and down constantly, exchanging parking passes, talking with drivers – some of whom do not really want to talk to us, because they’ve been asked to visit (usually for driving conduct) – to impromptu meetings.
The morning had a few last-minute paddock movements in the Maserati display to ensure banners were fitting just right. They were getting set to host 100 journalists and fans for the North America debut of the Alfieri concept car. It went off without a hitch and everyone went away pleased with the results.
Both of us left at noon to be on hand for Sir Stirling Moss’s Picnic talk, and more so for the surprise birthday cake delivery by Alma Hill. It was one of those perfect moments where everything just clicked.
Gill hurried off to the Red Bull Energy Center suite to greet guests, while Barry walked to the pit row suites to check in and say hello to corporate sponsors. It’s really like staging a big improvisational play with hundreds of characters. We know the script and must keep on schedule, but fluidity and adaptability is probably the most important trait to have.
Once the racing ended Saturday, we opened the track gate and allowed roughly 50 Sunbeam Tigers out onto the front straight for a 50th anniversary event and finished everything in less than 30 minutes. It was pretty cool to see them pull it off and for us to provide each one with a memorable moment.
As the sun set, we ditched the uniform for civilian attire. The door was locked and both of us climbed into our cars and drove to a beautiful home in Asilomar on the beach for the annual Mazda media dinner.
This low-key gathering has wonderful food and wine and the guests are top-notch. Then the wall hit for Barry at 10:00pm. Time to say goodbye, head home and climb into bed to be ready for the next morning call at 6:00am. Sunday is always a bittersweet day, as it’s the end of a year-long journey.
But, it also signals the start of the next year, which begins bright and early Monday morning with meetings… and plenty of coffee.
Gill Campbell & Barry Toepke
Photos by Rod Chong