Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
Nissan and Datsun history is being celebrated with Nissan honored as the featured marque of the Roelx Monterey Motorsports Reunion.
I was extremely happy with the choice of Nissan/Datsun as Feature Marque for the 45th Rolex Monterey Historic Races this year, as it probably is the only time I will be able to actually drive one of the featured marques to the race. Yes I have a Nissan Xterra, but I still can claim it is a kickass Nissan on or off the road. Of course off the road in not on a track, but who is checking? It also was the 35th anniversary of when my parents took me to the Vintage races at Laguna Seca for the first time.
The choice of Datsun meant we got to see many cars we could actually own and maybe even had owned. This meant that camping on the track we got to meet tons of fellow fans that also had owned Datsuns back in the day. There was a parade lap that was astounding unless you were in the back of the pack in a Skyline and got busted for passing many cars on the second lap.
I drove down with my 23 year old son and my Brother. This possibly was the last chance for my son as he is off to Regina for training and we are not sure where he will end up working. We went to 15 car events in 9 days and even checked out the air museum in McMinnville Oregon.
No car show or race can touch vintage car racing. The excitement of cars on track that were built when your Grandpa was learning to drive is awe inspiring. To see an old guy with a handle bar mustache “on” a Ford Model T racing around Laguna Seca Corksrew in a 103 year old car is certainly a crowd pleaser.
Watching the riding mechanic of a 1911 National Speedway Roadster hang on for dear life as they exit from the corkscrew does not go as planned and it careens through the dirt on the side of the track before getting back on the “black Stuff” The 1911 National Speedway Roadster was driven by Charles Test…but for my money the real hero was the riding mechanic.
The oldest car in Group 1 a was the 1911 National Speedway Roadster followed by a 1912 Packard 30, 1914 Mercer 45, 1916 National Roadster, 1916 Sturtevant Romano Special1917 Hall-Scott A-7-A while the newest car was a 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C 2500. It’s best lap was 2:12.503 and compare that to the winning 1934 Alfa Romeo Tipo B (P3) with a 1:57.913 and the 1915 Model T of Mac Archer running a 2:33 or Gary Lucas of Tiburon California similar model T running a best lap of 2:51.661. There was a 1952 HWM Grand Prix Tasman also in the group but it was the oddity.
Group 2A had the big thunder a number of V8’s assaulted the track on little skinny tires. All the power sounds great but Dave Zurlinden’s winning car was a 1953 Tatum GMC Special with a 6 cylinder GMC truck engine and a best lap time of 1:51.9 not too far off the Group A winning 1934 Alfa Romeo! This was the race that had Allards, Jag Specials, Jag C Types, XK-120, Austin Healey Sprites, Mercedes Benz 190 and even 300SL Gullwings!!!
The Group 3A race was much more intimate with only 20 entrants compared to Group 2A’s 47 entrants.
This race featured a number of specials including the fan favourite Old Yellar II Mark II Buick Special. The Gene Winfield designed Piranha racer came in 4th and first place was won by Greg Myer driving a 1959 Sadler Mk4 built in Canada! This race also had a 1960 Maserati T61, a 1957 450S, 1955 Aston Martin DB3s, 1957 Ford Thunderbird, a smattering of Devins a couple of Listers and a 1961 Ferrari TR 61 Spyder.
Group 4a was 1967-1984 Formula one cars that produce the sweetest sounds ever to attack a racetrack.
Matteo Ferreraza won in his 1979 Ligier JS11 with abest lap of 1:22.5 seconds. The 1978 Wolf WR6 came 12th out of twenty with a best lap time of 1:30 seconds but glorious memories of how one Canadian getting rich selling widgets to the oil fields decided to have a go at Formula one!!! Here’s to Mr. Wolf!
Group 5 A was another massive field with over 50 entrants. 1972-1981 FIA, IMSA, GT,GTX GTU and AAGT comprised of lots of Porsches, 20 and 18 Nissan/Datsun race cars. There was 10 BMWs as well as one 1976 Chevrolet Greenwood Corvette, but the one lone Pantera stole the show for me! This was a great race for Datsun fans but those pesky Porches and a Dekon Monza have been honing their skills on this track for years so the best a Nissan could hope for was 8th.
Big Thunder racing has to go to group 6a with the heavy hitter Trans Am cars. These cars are still the most popular old classic cars on the road today and at cruis-in’s across North America, but they really shine at Laguna Seca. The best lap times are all very close from 1:44 to 1:53 so there is lots of competition. Out of the 32 cars, 2 AMC Javelins held off an onslaught of 15 Mustangs, 11 Camaros a Dodge Challenger, a Pontiac Trans Am, a Ford Falcon and third place went to a 1964 Pontiac GTO. Not just any GTO this was the “Gray Ghost”, a 1964 Pontiac Tempest that hit the Trans Am circuit in 1971.
Saturday ended with a group of FIA Manufacturers Championship cars ranging from the winning 1970 Porsche 908/3, 1966 Shelby GT 40 Chevron B16’s, Lotus 23C Porsche 910,Bobsy SR2 and SR3, Elvas, Brabhmas and a 1971 Ferrari Sparling Special! These cars were quick with lap times of the minute and a half range Trans Am cars could only dream of! Gregory Campbell of Salt Spring Island BC placed 18 out of 45 in his Elva Mk7s one place ahead of a 1972 Ferrari 312 PB!
Sundays races started with 1955-1962 GT Cars with again some cool “specials” including a 1962 Turner Mk II 1600 winning the race with a best lap of 1:45.4 beating two C-1 Corvettes a 1962 and 1959 that were followed very closely by a 1958 Morgon+4 that placed forth.There wer 13 Porsches of all types in the race and another Turner, a 1959 950S placed 7th just ahead of a 1962 Sabra Sport, a British Built sports car that was assembled in Israel.
The who’s who of sports cars from the 50 and early 60’s were in this race and Ivan Lessner from White Rock has been racing his 1958 Austin Healey 100-6 since the late 80’s.
Group 2b was comprised of 1955-1961 Sports Racing under 2000cc with the usual mix of Lotus,Porsche, Devins, Elva, Rejo, Genie Huffaker, Porsche RSK, 1961 Dolphin America Abarth and of course everyones favourite a 955 Pupulidy Spyder Special that only ran two laps. SO many “specials and rare racing cars, this was really a great race to snap photos of cars I had never seen before.
The Group 3B -1961-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc was what teenage dreams are made of and the mix of Datsun 510’s Fairladys, 240Z’s, Alfa Romeo’s and a few other Italian, German and British cars had something for everyone.
Lotus dominated the field of the Group 4B 1958-1963 Formula Junior race but it was won by a 1962 Gemini Mk IV. To confuse things a bit, the 5th race was Group 8a, 1968-1976 Formula 5000 cars which predominantly were from down under. Honouring the 50th anniversary of Formula 5000, 17 of the 32 cars that competed were Aussie or Kiwi. Interestingly of the 44 cars on the list only 31 completed at least one lap in the final race, either having problems in one of the earlier qualifying sessions of the mornings race.
The last race of the weekend was a super race to watch with big powerful cars raced by some very talented drivers. The Group 6B 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc was won by Lorne Leibel from Ontario driving a 1965 AC Cobra with a solid 1:40 lap time. Only one other car was as quick, the second place 1966 Corvette. This race had 23 cars built by Mr. Shelby and another two dns. There was even a Daytona Coupe, but the other big player was Corvettes, along with Jag E-Types, FIA Mercury Comets, Iso Rivolta Ford Falcon Sprint, Sunbeam Tigers and one lonely Camaro.
The action was on the track but other highlights included wandering the pits and meeting the owners and drivers. With 550 cars competing in 15 race groups, it was impossible to meet everyone, but the drivers I did meet were very informative about the history of their cars. There were 1,000 entrants so the cars here were vetted very well for racing history and significance.
This was the first time a Japanese manufacturer had been selected as feature Marque and one has to wonder if it had anything to do with the track being sponsored by Mazda for the last number of years.
Datsun legends on hand were John Morton, Peter Brock, and Steve Millen.