Every year during Monterey Car Week, the folks over at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca put together a real extravaganza for enthusiasts to indulge in. And this year was no exception, especially with IMSA being the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Festival’s featured marque.
The featured marque tradition started back in 1975, with members of the board deciding which historically-significant brand or genre of racing deserves to be the primary focus of the week-long event. The tribute typically results in special vehicle and team displays, parade laps, iconic cars doing hot laps, and even special ‘spec’ races or ‘one time’ tribute runs. Big names like Porsche, BMW, and Nissan have all made their way into the ranks in previous years, but 2019 was a bit more special, for me at least.
This year, the marque was the International Motor Sports Association – better known as IMSA – to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary.
As we all know, IMSA has played a key role in the world of automotive racing throughout its half-century of history, especially here in the United States. In fact, if it wasn’t for IMSA’s existence, I genuinely don’t believe that motorsports would play as much of a part in American culture, despite the existence of other sub-segments like SCCA and USRRC.
Although those associations are just as important, IMSA has always enjoyed unparalleled admiration from enthusiasts. Maybe it’s been the wide range of series that brought so many of us together, or maybe it was just really good marketing. Regardless, the honor of featured marque at RMMR 2019 was very well deserved.
With that said, IMSA took great pride, showcasing around 550 cars from every series of racing throughout its significant existence. Series which included vintage Formula 1 cars, pre-war racers, IMSA prototypes, and even Endurance Legends. While I tried to capture all sides of every spectrum, I spent the majority of the day honing in on my favorite segment – the Grand Touring series.
The cars of the GT series hits a special note in my heart, not only because they are utterly exciting to watch, but more so because they’re relatable. Cars like the Porsche 911 variants, the Nissan Z chassis, BMW E9 and E21 chassis, and even American icons like the Corvette and Dekon Monza.
These are the cars that resonate with us the most. The ones that we spent time in, whether it was the back seat of your grandfather’s 911 in the ’70s, or passenger seat of your mother’s 280ZX in the ’80s. Or possibly even the cars that we first learned to wrench on, attempting to understand how to fine tune carburetor jets while spilling fuel all over our hands and falling in love with the scent of leaded gasoline. These cars are what we as enthusiasts still aspire to own, and will maybe even build tributes to in the future.
Despite their increases in value over the last few years, the cars found in the GT series are still somewhat attainable. And that’s where the most important aspect of this display comes in.
These are the cars that will continue to serve the purpose in which they were initially developed for. Though some may be rarer than others, their existence will continue to prevail onward in the future of vintage racing for decades to come. I understand that the older series will likely move forward as well, but more likely than not, the pre-war stuff along with various other series will eventually be forced to phase out – at least in my opinion.
Those cars are slowly making their way to becoming irreplaceable, which in turn will ultimately result in owners refusing to actually race them. I argue this because of the astronomical amounts of moving pieces behind the scenes that take place to bring those cars out in the first place.
The craft of custom fabricating parts, the knowledge base that backs the support for maintenance, let alone the act of actually attaining the car in the first place, are all eventually going to phase out as time moves forward and costs steadily climb alongside them. Even for the rich, there comes a time where it just doesn’t make sense to risk something irreplaceable anymore.
I guess what I’m really getting at here is that the cars of the GT series are only at their early stages of life in the world of vintage racing. More and more enthusiasts are finally starting to understand the visceral experience that comes with ownership and the act of racing these cars.
And with that comes a promising light for the future of this series.