“It was an amazing celebration of the 50th anniversary of the mighty Shelby GT350 with 38 cars in one group being paced by Henry Ford III and taking the green flag from Carroll Shelby’s grandson Aaron Shelby,” said Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “Add into the mix remarkable pre-war cars, Formula 1, Formula 5000 and historic Trans-Am cars, and you have a stunning array of sights and sounds.”
The centerpiece in the paddock was the enormous heritage display presented by Ford Motor Company that featured the most famous of the Shelby GT350s. The continuously packed display looked back in time when these GT350s were being raced in true anger and winning worldwide.
Contributing to the week’s glamour were countless legendary drivers who enjoyed soaking in the environment and reminiscing about their former cars. “I love it when I see my former cars racing here,” said three-time Formula 1 World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart. “They may not go as fast as we did in the day, but it is wonderful to see them.”
Though last year was his first time coming to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, Scott Pruett, a five-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner, says it’s now one of his favorite things to do. “There is eye candy everywhere. It’s overwhelming to all your senses – sight, sound and smell. For any racer like me it is wonderful to come here and see these great cars and the passion among the car owners and drivers. The event is a great fit for Rolex, and Monterey is a great fit for the event; there is no better place for these drivers to come to race their cars.”
Visitors enjoyed the friendly interaction with the caretakers of racing automobiles in between sessions while wandering through the open paddock. And in Automotive Alley, auto enthusiasts could see some of the newest offerings from BMW, Porsche, Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Chevrolet, Acura, Nissan and Michelin.
The 15 race groups were comprised of some of the most recognizable marques in motorsports. There was Bugatti, Alfa Romeo, Talbott, Delage, Lotus, McLaren, Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Lola and so many more. Some of the most dramatic and entertaining racing was within the Formula 5000 group, whose last appearance in Monterey was in 1975 when Mario Andretti won the final professional F5000 race. That same car made a triumphant return home.
Prizes are presented not for winning, but for how well the cars are driven, preserved and the drivers’ overall spirit of the weekend. In the end it was Californian Dick Deluna and his 1917 Hall-Scott The Four-A-7A racing in the pre-1940 Sports Racing and Touring Cars group that stole the show. He was awarded the most coveted “Spirit of Monterey” prize, determined by an independent panel to honor the single driver who most “excelled in the spirit of the weekend.”
“This 1917 Hall-Scott The Four-A-7A is just a hoot to drive and it’s a crowd pleaser,” said Deluna, after receiving a specially engraved 18k yellow gold and stainless steel Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona. “I love racing, and I love cars. For me the award is the epitome of appreciation from folks who value what I have been doing with cars. I don’t pay homage to any particular car, so I bring out any car that meets the need of any particular venue. Touring, racing or shows. It’s my passion and my love and I feel fortunate that I am able to go all over the world to do this.”
In a similar vein to rewarding participation for the sake of passion, Rolex Awards of Excellence were awarded in each of the 15 race categories, going not necessarily to those who won but to those “most deserving.”
The Rolex Awards gathering concluded with the announcement that Bavarian Motor Works, better known as BMW, will be honored on the occasion of its 100th anniversary as the special marque at next year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, scheduled for August 18-21, 2016.
For visitors to Monterey Classic Car Week that is anchored by the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance and Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, it a magical week of motor cars and social events that serve up big doses of memories.
About Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was established in 1957. The world-renowned raceway has been operated since its inception by the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP), a not-for-profit 501c(4) corporation. Each race season, SCRAMP donates its net proceeds to the volunteer groups that help put on the races.
Photo Credit: Rolex / Stephan Cooper