Like Naveed, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is the one event on our calendar that I don’t want to miss. It’s not that I’m expecting to see something new or out of the ordinary here. Exactly the opposite, in fact, and this is exactly why we keep coming.
It’s tradition for us now, making the annual trek down to Monterey area to soak up the spectacle of these sports cars from a bygone era. Being forced to take a year off due to the pandemic made me miss taking in the vintage action from trackside all the more. It seemed like I wasn’t the only one, either. While the bleachers themselves never seem to fill up at Laguna Seca, the parking lots, campsites, paddock, and the grassy knoll that is the Corkscrew viewing area were packed with excited fans. It felt like there was a newfound energy among the drivers as well, as they seemed to be pushing harder for that extra 10th of a second than in previous years.
The races themselves are always secondary to the overall experience for me here; I have no real vested interest in any particular driver or car. It might seem juvenile, but all I really care about is being there to feel the vibrations that only a vintage race car can give off. As such, I don’t really care who wins or loses.
Unsurprisingly this sentiment does not seem to be shared by the drivers themselves. Perhaps they cared even more about winning this time around, maybe there was some rust to be chipped off after a year of thinned-out racing, or maybe they were just plain excited like everyone else to be back at Laguna Seca again. Or maybe over the pandemic they came to the conclusion that a few extra stone chips never hurt, anyway.
Whatever the reason, there were many more cars spun around the wrong way than usual, and the racing just seemed all the better to watch in 2021.
The Skoal Bandit and Duracell cars in particular seemed to be having a grand game of cat and mouse out on the circuit Saturday afternoon. Can you imagine going to the track in 1990 and seeing these Camaros duke it out? I’m sure some of you were there in person, while the rest of us are simply left to our imaginations and vintage revivals like this one.
I’ve always loved that Duracell car, and year after year the magic of these storied racers never wears off on me. Take Niki Lauda’s Ferrari 312 T2 as another prime example of this. On and off the track, there’s just so much to see at any given time.The Day Job
As soon as I arrived at Laguna Seca, I made my way through the entirety of the paddock to see what sort of stuff was strewn about. There’s nearly as much awesome machinery not racing as there is competing. I guess when you drive a GTP car on track, you can’t exactly jump in a Camry for your drive home. I guess having loads of money also helps.
You’ll find more than just good cars in the paddock, too, and after a year off it was just that extra bit special to see everyone hanging out and having a good time again. Sometimes it’s these smaller fleeting moments that are worth a second look, and in the end are the ones that matter the most.
I also made a quick pass through Bring a Trailer’s Alumni Gathering, as I’ve been working remotely with the San Francisco crew for a couple of years now in a more-or-less full-time capacity. My friend Vince brought his Honda CR-X Si that he drove across the country back to California last year, the shop S30 was parked up next to a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, and the Ferrari Testa Rossa recreation from our car-spotting story was out as well. It seemed like a bit of everything made it over to BaT’s shindig, from the expected 911s to a 29-foot-long 1970s motorhome that later sold on the site for $151,000.
As you can tell, there’s a lot of great stuff hiding around the infield at Laguna Seca, and Naveed was on paddock patrol to give you a closer look at a few of his favorites.
Meanwhile, I was heading trackside for what would be my own personal pinnacle of Car Week.Blood, Sweat & Fuel
I made it just in time to watch what is likely my favorite class queuing up in the pits for the next session. Porsche’s dominance in this particular group is as obvious today as it was back in the day, and I’ll always be grateful for any chance I get to see these cars grace a racetrack.
In the mid 1970s, the 911s did have a bit of trouble reining in the DeKon Monzas, and I’ve been cataloging a number of photos of this particular orange chassis for some time now. It’s been in the care of my friends over at Impeccable Inc, who I last visited in 2019.
Of course, this car’s story is one all to itself, and as such is one for another day.
This all-black 911 in the lineup caught my eye immediately as well. The unique bodywork comes courtesy of the fact that it was a street car converted for racing use, built to RSR specification, and entered in Trans Am and IMSA GT series in the early 1980s. I love it.
As Naveed did, I recognised its driver straight away: Patrick Long, the only American Porsche factory racing driver. He’s raced at Le Mans in various Porsches since 2004, as well as in the FIA World Endurance Challenge, Rolex Sports Car Series, American Le Mans, the Nürburgring 24 Hour, Bathurst 12 Hour several times, and the list goes on and on…
Needless to say, he seemed to be enjoying himself chasing down the big turbo cars throughout the weekend. You can watch some in-car practice laps with Patrick put together by The RACER Channel here.
I was having the time of my life as well, and found myself shouting euphorically into the sky with some kind of pandemic-infused relief as the V8 cars blasted by — brakes locking, tires squealing, engines howling — while the sun set over the opposite end of the course.
I spent the day hitting my favorite corners and also trying to find some fresh angles as the cars went round and round, the sound and smell of used-up race fuel rattling around my noggin and making the hair on the back of my neck stand up from time to time. It was just so good to be back and to imagine again the races these cars saw in period.
Always a special weekend, full of cars significant to me personally as well as the books of racing history, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion really isn’t one to miss. It’s more than just a race weekend; RMMR is an important look into the past. Vintage racing is an act of preservation like nothing else, and I am always glad to see these cars being used, abused and fixed. Again and again.
Just as they were meant to be.