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2009 Monterey Historic Automobile Races
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Porsche was the featured marque during the 36th edition of the annual Monterey Historic Automobile Races. No manufacturer has made more racing cars, so it was no surprise to see the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca paddock and track flooded with hundreds of German company's finest creations. Many were run of the mill 356s and 911s but there were also many very significant models in attendance like the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans winning 917K, the Gulf 917K used by Steve McQueen in the 1971 motion picture Le Mans, Preston Henn's 1985 Daytona and Sebring winning 962 and the 996 GT3 that beat all prototypes to take an outright win at Daytona in 2004. In addition to these privately owned models, Porsche brought and demonstrated an interesting trio from their fabulous Stuttgart based museum; the 718 and 804 F1 cars and the unique flat-8 engined W-RS. Added to the mix were many more exciting and important classic racing cars that took to the track in a total of 15 races during the three-day weekend. We were at the track for as much as the ever tight schedule allows and we have managed to capture all 15 classes, the Porsche demo runs and the ever impressive group-shot, all of which can be found in our scintillating 200-shot gallery.

Porsche's loyal customers
One main reasons Porsche has been such a successful manufacturer of racing cars is the company's strong and very loyal customer base. They not only buy the cars but also score many national and international wins. The all-conquering Can-Am effort of the early 1970 was for example instigated by Porsche dealer in California and team owner Vasek Polak and later very effectively executed by Roger Penske's operation. Fittingly two of those 917 Can-Am racers were found out on the track (Group 6B); Brian Redman raced the 917 PA that was originally used in 1969 by Jo Siffert and Hurley Haywood campaigned his old Brumos 917/10K. This was one of several Porsches painted in the highly familiar white with blue and red stripe of one of Porsche's most loyal customers. Originally under Peter H. Gregg's leadership, Brumos has raced Porsches since the 1970s and now with endurance racing legend Hurley Haywood at the helm it continues to do so to this day. Earlier this year Brumos was responsible for yet another Daytona 24 Hours win for Porsche. Haywood also raced a Brumos Porsche 935 in the IMSA GT race (Group 7B) on Sunday alongside Robson Walton in a similarly attired 935. Current Brumos driver David Donohue, son of 1973 Can-Am champion Mark Donohue, also competed in the IMSA GT but he failed to reach the finish. Like last year the race was won by Australian Rusty French in his black and gold Porsche 935 K3.

Roaring sports cars
One of the few post-war groups that featured no Porsche was Group 6A for the big front-engined sports racers of the late 1950s. This was one of the exciting groups of the weekend and a real battle or brawn against brains. Pole-sitter Robson Walton in the thunderous Scarab Mk1 fought off Don Orosco in his 'pesky' Lotus 15, who had started down in sixth. Coincidentally, it had been Orosco who had sold the unique left-hand drive Scarab to Walton a few years ago after successfully campaigning it himself for many years. The two protagonists lead an impressive field that consisted of no fewer than four pontoon-fendered 250 TRs. Among them was Jon Shirley's unique prototype and a rarely seen example raced with verve by Chris Cox. Although having competed with his 250 TR in every edition of the Historics, David Love lost control coming into the legendary 'Corkscrew' corner and scraped his prized machine along the barrier on the exit. Fortunately it is impossible to write off cars of this value and we expect to see the well used 250 TR back on track again soon. There was a fifth Ferrari in the field featuring the legendary pontoon-fender style body. This was no 250 TR but Bruce McCaw's ferocious 335 S powered by a 4.1 litre twin-cam V12 engine. Despite having over 400 bhp on tap, we are told that it is actually easier to drive than the similar Maserati 450S; it will, however, still spin its tires in second gear with frightening ease.

A sight to behold
The front row of the Group 7A race for the 1964 to 1971 sports racers provided a spectacular trip back in time. On pole was two-time Le Mans winner and holder of the distance record (5335 km or 3315 miles) Gijs van Lennep, alongside him five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell and right behind them was all-around legend Brian Redman. Adding to the spectacle was the fact that they were in two Porsche 917Ks and a Porsche 908/3 respectively. The start of the race was truly a sight to behold. Van Lennep only very rarely races these days and could not keep with his better trained rivals. Putting up quite a show he eventually had to settle for, a still very impressive, third. Much to his disappointment, Bell's Gulf liveried 917K suffered from an electrical problem and after three laps ran on only six cylinders. This opened the path to victory for Redman in the superbly presented 908/3 from the Collier Collection. He did have a scare late in the race when he tried to pass a backmarker coming out of the Corkscrew. They touched but both machines could continue. The field consisted of a further two Gulf 917Ks, two other 908/3s and a beautiful Ferrari 512 S just for good measure.

A fitting finale to Saturday's action
Following immediately after the 917s and 908s was the race for 1980s and early 1990s IMSA GTP and Group C racing cars (Group 8A). It was the first time these beasts were invited to the Historics and they came out in force. With very powerful engines and ground-effects aerodynamics these prototype racers remain some of the fastest racing cars ever built. The ultimate development was the Toyota-Eagle Mk III, which some say could still compete with the current, more restricted LMP cars. Unfortunately, although one example was present at the meeting it did not take part in the Porsche dominated race. Three of the very few exceptions to the Porsche rule were provided by Mazda. Private owners brought the two Mazda engined Lola T616s that were raced in the mid-1980s on street tires by the BF Goodrich team while Mazda themselves fielded the RX-792P of 1992 vintage. The car had not been driven in anger since the end of the 1992 season but it did not miss a beat throughout the weekend. With its howling rotary engine and fire-breathing exhaust it definitely stood out among the 956s and 962s. Victory in the ten lap race was for Mark Hotchkis in his family's purple Fabcar-built 962. He beat Gunnar Jeannette in the 962 based Kremer K8. Further down the order was Preston Henn in the actual Porsche 962 that had brought him success at Sebring and Daytona. Bob Akin Jr. piloted his father's old Coca-Cola liveried Porsche 962 to 17th.

Final thoughts
As requested by us last year, the organisers have slightly scaled down the event. Gone are the Ferrari Historic Challenge races and the Toyota Legends race, which have allowed visitors a little more time to enjoy the hundreds of fabulous machines that were found on track and in the paddock. This year's program of fifteen races felt just right. It may all change again next year as the 37th Monterey Historic Automobile races will for the first time not be organised by Steve Earle's General Racing. There will be some continuity as Earle will be part of the committee that picks the entries. Hopefully the changes will be minimal as under Earle's guardianship, the Monterey Historics have grown out to be one of the absolute highlights of the racing calendar. To help you ease the wait until next year's event we invite you to explore our exclusive 200-shot gallery.

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Report by Wouter Melissen and images by Wouter Melissen and Pieter Melissen for Ultimatecarpage.com.