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2007 Monterey Historic Automobile Races
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Introduction
In the early 1950s the roads in the Del Monte Forest just north of Monterey, California were frequently used for races. As we found out driving to the Pebble Beach Lodge, that was for a very good reason. Due to complaints from the locals, racing in the Forest was banned after 1956. The racers had no need to worry as a few miles in-land a permanent replacement for the twisty and undulating roads was constructed; Laguna Seca Raceway. Racing commenced in 1957 and the track quickly gained popularity thanks in no small part to the ‘Corkscrew’; still regarded as one of the most exciting corners in motor racing. Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, the track continues to thrive and hosted the 34th Monterey Historic Automobile Races. Coincidentally the ‘Historics’ are held on the same weekend as the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in the now quiet Del Monte Forest.
Since the first edition of the Historics, several new generations of racing cars have come and gone, and in the last few years many of these have been invited. With the ever growing number of competitors, the organizers were ‘forced’ to extent this year’s event to four days. That first day saw the first practice runs and qualifying for the Ferrari / Maserati Challenge, while on the next three days the familiar fourteen-race program unfolded. Our photographers were trackside throughout the event and have captured the action in a spectacular 220-shot slideshow.

1957 – 2007
Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Laguna Seca was one of the main themes of this year’s Historics. As part of the celebrations, the winner of the very first race, Gerard Carlton ‘Pete’ Lovely was honored and proclaimed ‘Legend of Laguna Seca’. Perhaps not so much because of that first victory, but more for his entire career that now stretches over sixty years. A Volkswagen mechanic and salesman by trade, he stormed to the forefront of American racing as a privateer in a wide variety of machines including his own Cooper-Porsches; somewhat unkindly nicknamed by the media as ‘Pooper’. Even though that name stuck nearly fifty years ago, Pete can still not stomach it. He then moved to Formula with a Lotus 16, but he failed to make an impact. Ten years later he reappeared in F1 with a Lotus 49 and managed to clinch a seventh spot in an era when the sport was dominated by the likes of Graham Hill, Jackie Ickx and Jackie Stewart. He never really retired and continued to race his cars in historic events and is a set fixture at the Historics. Fifty years after scoring the track’s maiden win, Lovely still had not lost his edge and at the age of 81, he clinched another victory from pole. If it was scripted, (which we highly doubt), Hollywood could not have done it any better. It fits right in his rich arsenal of anecdotes, he is more than happy to share. Pete might not be the biggest talent with the most impressive record, but his long career and fantastic spirit makes him a well deserved Legend of Laguna Seca.

Indy Roadsters
America’s most famous race, the annual Indy 500, was dominated by the so called ‘Roadsters’ in the 1950s and early 1960s. At first sight these machines don’t look overly complex, but at the few occasions that they lined up against Europe’s finest, the Roadsters reigned supreme. At the heart of most of them was the legendary alchohol burning Offenhauser four cylinder engine, usually mounted virtually flat in the tubular chassis. Designed specifically for ovals, the drivers sat off-set to the left next to the driveshaft for an optimal weight balance. Due to the incredible torque, they needed only two gears and the first was used for getting out of the pits only. Mostly built by Watson and Kurtis, the brightly livered racing cars were usually named after their sponsors. Famous machines include the ‘Leadercard Special’, ‘Piston Ring Special’ or ‘Bardahl Special’ to name a few. In those days the Indy 500 was part of the World Championship, but due in part to different regulations, no Formula 1 car ever won at the Brickyard. In the late 1950s, the Italian banked track of Monza hosted ‘The Race of two Worlds’ twice. Run with the Indy 4.2 litre displacement limit, it gave the opportunity for the Europeans to seriously challenge the Americans. Again there was no stopping the ‘simple’ Specials; Ferrari came closest with the purpose built twin-cam V12-engined 412 MI (Monza/Indianapolis). The Roadster era finally came to an end when Lotus’ Colin Chapman revolutionized Indy racing with his lighter and mid-engined single seaters.
An impressive number of Roadsters ventured out to the track where they never raced in period. Some were shown in the paddock only, but most took part in a demonstration race. Among them was the 1959 winning ‘Leadercard Special’, both the 1957 and 1958 Monza winning Roadsters and one of the first turbo-charged engined Indy cars.

Toyota Race of Legends
In 2006 main sponsor Toyota successfully tried to attempt the lap record with their Formula 1 car and this year they put on an altogether different show to entertain the crowd during the lunch-break. They lined up ten Scion hatchbacks for nine legendary racing drivers and one charity auction winner to drive. Among them were the likes of Parnelli Jones, Derek Bell and Al Unser Snr. The racing was quite a contrast to the careful driving in the regular races; it was clear that all drivers agreed that they could not return to the pit undamaged. The ‘legends’ found some rarely used lines through the corkscrew, which left the corner workers blowing kitty-litter off the track for 20 minutes after. It all went horribly wrong for Johnny Rutherford and Vic Elford as they hit at the exit of the corkscrew, careening Elford’s Scion into the tire wall. Fortunately nobody was hurt. Winner of the race was Derek Bell, who managed to get through the race virtually undamaged. Two-time F1 World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi later told us, he felt the small racers did not have enough power.

Cars of note
Although no longer in single spec, the remains of Ferrari’s Monza/Indy machine was also active at Laguna this weekend. When the Monza race was over, the engine was removed and mounted in a sportscar chassis. This massively powerful and unique racer was sent to the United States, to once again try and beat America’s finest; this time in the popular SCCA races, but again with little success. Even the highly talented Phil Hill and Richie Ginther struggled to get to terms with the massively powerful racer. Last year, it grabbed headlines as it was offered by RM Auctions, who expected to break the Ferrari auction record with it.
One of the big stars of the weekend was Chris McAllister, who drove both his Spa 1000km winning Mirage M6 and ex-Denny Hulme ‘Works’ McLaren M8F to victory in their respective races. Both cars were meticulously prepared and McAllister completed the picture by running the McLaren with a replica of Hulme’s helmet. He reckoned the agile Mirage would prove to be quicker, but he actually clocked faster times in the bright orange beast.
GT-racing’s heyday was most definitely in the first half of the 1960s, when the Manufacturer’s World Championship was held for this class. It resulted in the development of some of the most legendary cars, most of which took to the track during the Historics. The most successful was no doubt the Ferrari 250 GTO of which the 1963 Le Mans Class winning example was present. Its reign was broken by the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe. This was reflected in the GT race at Laguna as well, as Robson Walton took victory in the fifth and last of the Daytonas. It was also good to see the Daytona's designer and ace photographer Peter Brock trackside again, fully recovered from his serious accident.

Conclusion
With pristine examples present of the Alfa Romeo P3, Ferrari 250 GT and Porsche 935 to name a few of the hundreds of cars entered, its hard, or maybe impossible not to thoroughly enjoy the Monterey Historic Automobile Races. The best part is that everybody is allowed into the paddock where the cars, often presented with detailed information, can be admired up close. Punters used to the ten-tenths style of racing often seen in Europe, will miss that during the ‘Historics’; damage will lead to an automatic ban from the current and next event. On the other hand it is highly unlikely that people will take to the track in their valuable machines if the racing was any more intense. The Monterey Historics is one of the world’s premier celebrations of motor racing’s rich history and a must visit for every racing enthusiast.

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Report by Wouter Melissen and images by Pieter Melissen, Rob Clements and Wouter Melissen for Ultimatecarpage.com.