The annual Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion rolled into action again at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on August 18-21. Over 70,000 fans came to take in the racing and admire exhibits during the four-day event. Greater than 500 race cars from virtually every automotive epoch came to participate in 15 race groups on the 2.2 mile road course during the annual Monterey Classic Car Week. Every race car participating was approved for its authenticity and mechanically correctness for its original era.

Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion 2016
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This year is very special to BMW fans as 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the acclaimed Bavarian auto producer. BMW is headquartered in Munich, Germany and also produces motorcycles as well as parenting Rolls Royce. The Motorsports Reunion recognized the anniversary as over 60 BMWs participated in the races. BMW brought its Living Legends Garage to the Reunion under a large tent which helped relate the history of the Bavarian car maker with meaningful race and street BMWs on display along with their narratives. Also in the Garage was the latest and 17th BMW entry in the Art Car Project, in which noted artists actually use the car for their canvas, so to speak. Jeff Koons designed the spectacular finish on the Art Car, a BMW M3 GT. The car had competed in the 2010, 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.

Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion 2016
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The Motorsports Reunion celebrated another anniversary at the event. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Can-Am (Canadian-American Challenge Cup), which competed in 1966-74. I like to refer to the Can-Am as the “race without rules”, or simply “muscle cars on steroids”, because the regulations are almost nil, and permit virtually unregulated machinery. Back in that era the Can-Am cars raced at the then-called Laguna Seca Raceway. The exhaust echoes of their unlimited engines blasting down the Cork Screw so long ago never seem to die out here. The exhausts of those very same race cars roared again at the 2016 Reunion. I often position myself behind these cars in Pit Lane, as I did this weekend with my ear protectors stuffed well in, and listen to the blast as they ignite and prepare to take to the track under the bone-wrenching acceleration their power plants generate.

Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion 2016
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Saturday’s race had some impressive Can-Am entries, including Richard Griot’s #4, a 1967 McLaren M6A-1. The car had won here on October 15, 1967 when Bruce McLaren, the founder of the McLaren racing team, was driving. Another high profile driver, Mark Donohue, also had success with the car winning the United States Road Racing Championship here in 1968. When award time came, the Can-Am Spirit Award designated for the competitor who showed the most persistence and performance, was presented to Johan Woerheide with his 1965 Lola T70 Mk II in Group 5A.

Formula One outdid itself with a stellar list of entries at the Reunion. Top marques from Formula One’s enthralling history included Lotus, Brabham, Tyrrell, Penske, Hill, Williams, March, Ferrari, and Shadow. Entries came from as far away as Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Tokyo. Gregory Thorton’s 1975 GH1 which Graham Hill once piloted was at the track, and even Lotus 79 was present, the car that Mario Andretti drove winning the World Championship in 1978.

As I watched practice on Friday I was pondering the speeds the Formula One cars would attain as they passed through the speed trap on the straight near the bridge and media center. I estimated about 135 mph, and as the cars passed by I was nearly confirmed seeing a maximum of 133 mph appear several times on the illuminated display on the bridge. But after a half hour passed, I was surprised to see the speed advance further to 156 mph while I was watching.

Another racing series is also celebrating its 50th anniversary, notably the Trans-Am Series (Trans-American Sedan Championship) founded in 1966 by John Bishop, then President of the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America). Although formerly a championship for manufacturers with modified racing sedans, it has become a championship for drivers with GT-type cars. There were a large number of entries on track, including Terry Lawlor’s 1967 Shelby Mustang, Chad Raynal’s 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, and Ken Epsman’s winning 1971 AMC Javelin.

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Some of the very early cars in automotive history were also at the Reunion. Many were quite showy in their vivid paint colors and well prepped condition. James Putnam’s blue 1911 National sported a huge 450 cu.in. engine, but with only four cylinders, and the 50 hp produced was not comparable to big blocks today. Brian Blain’s 1916 Sturtevant Romano Special caught my attention listing 220 hp at only 2,000 RPM. Its supercharger helped reach that output. Many of these relics were on the race track, including Gary Lucas’ 1915 Ford Racer, and George Wingard’s 1914 Mercer 45. The award for the “Most Period Authentic” car (Stand 21 Award), was presented to Ed Archer’s 1915 Ford Model T, in race Group 1A.

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Michelin continued its trend of placing a rare and exciting car on display for fans to admire in Automotive Alley, which is located under the luxury seating and dining area. The car was a Porsche, and it was the 919 racing model, fresh off its overall victory this summer at the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the second year in succession! The car really looked great in its red and white paint, but would probably look good in any color.

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A Ford GT was on also display in Automotive Alley. This car won its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. When I first viewed the new model last year I thought I might see some smaller changes from the previous model. What I saw was a car that had been extensively restyled, such as the struts going from car top to the rear wheel enclosures. Later I learned that the lines of the bodywork are functional, and in the best interest of the car’s aerodynamics. Those struts actually transport cooling fluid. Knowing that, I have come appreciate the car’s lines even more – it is a beauty.

Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion 2016
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Among the many interesting displays for the event, I noticed a Weather Tech racing Porsche. I found the paint was utterly fascinating. It was a mottled, dotted mixture that reminded me of a well decorated Easter egg.

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The 2016 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion was another success. The multitudes who came were able to peer into the past epochs of motorsports. Over the four-day span of the event, the fans not only got a glimpse of motorsports history, but they saw the actual cars, in great condition, actually race on track in competition. They could see the cars being prepped, view them cool don after their time on track, and learn and appreciate from the myriad of displays and exhibitions. Thank you once again Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion!

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