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2017 Monterey Motorsports Reunion
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Track action
In a week dominated by auctions, concours d'elegance and fancy parties, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion stands out with four days of non-stop track action. Staged at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the annual event attracts over 500 racing cars from all over the world, which are split in 15 separate race groups. This year they ranged from early Ford Model T based specials through to the fire-breathing GTP cars of the early 1990s. Among this year's celebrations were the 60th anniversary of the track itself and of the popular Formula Junior class. Additionally there was a separate race for the mighty IMSA GTO and GTU silhouette racers of the 1980s and 1990s. Two-time World Champion Mika Hakkinen also made a special appearance, demonstrating the very McLaren M23 driven to the 1974 World Championship by Emerson Fittipaldi.
As always, our photographers were at the track whenever the week's busy schedule permitted. The result is a class-by-class, 200-shot gallery of all the action.

Many happy returns
On November 9th, 1957 Pete Lovely scored the very first victory at the freshly built Laguna Seca Raceway. Created as a safer alternative for the street circuit through Del Monte Forest used for the Pebble Beach Road Races, the purpose-built track includes the legendary 'Corkscrew' corner. Since its inception, the track, now known as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, has been the host of many major races both for modern and classic cars. While original race winner Pete Lovely was still around to take victory at the 2007 Monterey Historic Races to celebrate the 50th anniversary, this year's 60th celebration was highlighted by the participation of Dr. Lee Talbot, who had also competed in that very first race. The track's diamond jubilee was marked with a marquee that boasted some of the great machines, cars and bikes, that scored victories at Laguna Seca. Among them were the Ferrari 500 TR used by Lovely to win the opening race and also the McLaren 650S that scored the track's last major sports car win.

Formula Junior at 60
Visionary Italian Count Giovanni Lurani recognised the lack of an affordable, entry-level class to groom young talent for top level racing. In 1957, he conceived the aptly named Formula Junior category for small single seater machines, powered by production car derived engines. The earliest, front-engined cars were built predominantly in Italy and England and featured Fiat and Ford engines respectively. During this time, the sport quickly developed and by the early 1960s, the cars were a lot more sophisticated with the monocoque chassis'ed and all-conquering Lotus 27 as the ultimate development. Formula Junior was not only popular in its day but still is and the category's 60th anniversary is celebrated with a world tour. The Motorsports Reunion was one of the stops and featured two Junior races; one for drum brake cars with either front- or mid-mounted engines and the other for mid-engined machines with disc brakes. Among the fabulous examples on track were early Stanguellinis and Huffakers and later Lotuses and Coopers, while there were also oddities like the very rapid Gemini Mk IV and a front-engined Jocko Special.

IMSA's Silhouette racers
With the introduction of the Group 5 class for production-based GT cars during the 1970s, a path was opened that would eventually lead to some great silhouette racers. While the rules suggested that the competition car had to be based on a road-going equivalent, a more careful read revealed that only very little of the original had to be carried over; not much more than the shape of the cockpit including the roof and the doors. Among the first cars to exploit these regulations was the Porsche 911 Turbo based 935 of which wilder versions appeared every year. The most successful of these was the Kremer-built 935 K3, which won Le Mans outright in 1979. This generation of silhouette racers featured in Race Group 4A, which featured a startling number of 935s but also BMW CSLs and the mighty DeKon Monzas, which were really Chevrolet Monzas in name only. The second generation silhouette racers starred in group 7B for IMSA GTO and GTU cars. These were really purpose-built cars with only the body panels needed for homologation grafted to a bespoke tube-frame chassis. Among the cars in this new group were a choice of Mazda rotary engined cars including the all-conquering GTU RX-7 and also one of the Toyota Celicas developed for the Japanese manufacturer by Dan Gurney's All American Racing.

Further highlights
Traditionally oversubscribed, the event organisers can ensure that the field of 500 cars is packed with interesting and important machines. Examples of these were George Wingard's 1921 Ballot, which features the first truly modern four-valve engine and also a pair of very well driven Talbot Lago T26Cs; among the very first new Grand Prix cars built after the War. Additionally, it was great to see a Chaparral and a Scarab go head-to-head with a field of Listers and the very fast Sadler Mk IV, which has been rebuilt by Bill Sadler himself during the last few years. Complementing the Chaparral and Scarab, be it in a different class, was a mid-engined racer that was also built by the shop of Troutman & Barnes, who were also responsible for the two front-engined cars. We have a particular soft spot for the GTP and Group C cars of the 1980s and early 1990s. Usually running together with the GTO cars, they were now found in a separate group that formed the finale of Saturday's track action. While it was not the largest, the field included a choice of Porsche 962s, including one of three all carbon-fibre Team Schuppan cars, a Group 44 Jaguar, several rotary engined machines and two of the Toyota-Eagles that dominated the IMSA GTP class in the early 1990s.

Final thoughts
One of the founding events of car week on the Monterey Peninsula, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion never fails to impress. Set fixtures on the roster are complemented every year with special races and this year's GTO and GTU group was particularly impressive. All the aforementioned and many other highlights are all included in our group-by-group 200-shot gallery.

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