A historic setting
Created in 1956 as a permanent alternative to the circuit on public roads in nearby Pebble Beach, the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is one of the few remaining classic motorsports venues. During the past 60 seasons, the track has been run for the Monterey County by the non-profit Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), who have made accommodations to improve safety but at the same time retained Laguna Seca's unique feel. Changes may be afoot but we sincerely hope, the control of the track remains in the hands of SCRAMP, who also stage the annual Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. At this year's edition, the Ford Shelby Mustang GT350, exactly 50 years old today, took centre stage. Further highlights included special races for Formula 1 and Formula 5000 racers.
Our photographers were on hand for both the Reunion and the Pre-Reunion a week earlier, which has resulted in these action-packed 300-shot
Shelby Mustang 50th anniversary celebration
In order to increase the sporting credentials of the newly introduced Mustang, Ford tasked Carroll Shelby to create a competition version. Dubbed the Shelby Mustang GT350, the new GT racer was readied for the 1965 season. In order to homologate the GT350, a road going production version was also created. While only 37 examples of the 'R' competition version were built, close to 3,000 road cars were produced. Among them were also specifically prepared examples sold to Hertz. These were often rented by amateur drivers, who took the 'rent-a-racers' to the track during the weekends. To celebrate the now legendary Shelby Mustang's 50th anniversary, a dedicated race was staged for 1965 and 1966 GT350s only. Among the 35-strong field were a pair of Rs and also one of the Hertz 'rent-a-racers'. The pair of races were dominated by Columbian Tommy Steuer and Australian Terry Lawlor, who won one each. In addition to highlighting the original Shelby Mustang, Ford also showcased the latest GT350 R, which features an all-new flat-plane, naturally aspirated V8, good for 500 bhp.
The development of high-performance, small-block Ford and Chevrolet V8s during the 1950s spurred the construction of a wide variety of highly competitive specials, often built by their creators in their proverbial backyard. Some of the finest of these were present at the 2015 Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Among them was Ernie Nagamatsu's fabulous Old Yeller II, which was named after Disney's cartoon dog by builder Max Balchowski after others referred to his creations as 'junkyard dogs'. Old Yeller was joined in Group 5A by other specials like the Hatch Park Special, a Dailu, a Bocar and a pair of Echidnas. Our attention was particularly grabbed by the freshly restored Sadler Mk4. Not only was the restoration conducted by original creator Bill Sadler, the multi-talented Canadian was also behind the wheel during the weekend, despite his respectable age of 83. This was one of the absolute highlights of the weekend, and underlines why the Motorsports Reunion is such a great event. The Group 5A races were dominated by Derek Hill in the sole-surviving Maserati Tipo 151.
Many of the cars on track over the weekend were once owned and raced by works teams, who would relied on selling them at the end of the season to fund the racing efforts. In more recent years, factory-backed campaigns no longer require the year-old competition cars to be sold and instead they are simply retired to ever expanding museums. Instigated by Mazda, who bring three sports racers every year, more and more manufacturers bring out cars from their respective collection not just for demonstrations but to actually race them. This year, Mazda was joined by BMW, Nissan and newcomer Acura. The Japanese manufacturer rolled out one of their GTP Spices, which won the IMSA GTP Lights championship three seasons in a row between 1991 and 1993. Tasked to drive the car was Parker Johnstone, who was one of the original works drivers and still easily fitted in his contemporary race suit. He placed second in both races, behind the altogether more powerful Porsche 962C driven by his compatriot Bruce Canepa, who also snatched a victory in the Porsche 935 that he has owned from new.
Single seater stars
Single seaters are not a set fixture at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion but this year the program included races for both Formula 1 and Formula 5000 cars, which concluded the Saturday and Sunday running respectively. The cars' owners clearly jumped at the opportunity and both fields consisted over 30 cars. The F1 races were dominated by Charlie Nearburg in one of the Williams FW07Bs used by Alan Jones to clinch the 1980 World Championship. For the first ever F5000 race during the Motorsports Reunion, cars were assembled from all over the world including New Zeeland where F5000 is particularly popular. The colourful grid consisted of a host of Lolas but also boasted rarer McRaes, McLarens, a Shadow and also the very Chevron that is the only F5000 car that won a contemporary Formula 1 race. Scoring the much sought after victory in the final race of the weekend was the ex-Mario Andretti Lola T332, which was driven by Richard Dean, whose father raced F5000 machines in period.
If anything the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion underlined why SCRAMP should continue to run the track in general and this event in particular. With a wide variety of machines on track, ranging from early horseless carriages to fire-breathing prototype racers, the Motorsports Reunion provides something for all enthusiasts. All of the action of the two weekends have been captured in these galleries from the Reunion