Checkered Flag Waves, Bringing Magic to a Close
The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion has earned its stripes as the premier historic automobile racing event in the U.S., and motorsports enthusiasts from around the world have taken notice. They come not only by the tens of thousands to watch the sentimental past of car racing come roaring back to life, but also by the hundreds to personally strap into the driver’s seat and test the legendary turns and challenging elevation changes of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where the annual event is synchronized every third week in August with Monterey Peninsula’s Classic Car Week.
This year at the August 19-21 event, 550 perfectly maintained “time capsules on wheels” fell smartly into 17 Rolex Race Groups whose drivers qualified on Friday for their start order on either Saturday or Sunday. And while every group winner was proud at the end of their designated race day, none was more emotional than Terry Larson (Mesa, Arizona), who was deemed worthy of the overall Spirit of Monterey award, given at Sunday’s awards ceremony to the driver who excels in the spirit of the weekend. He not only personally raced two of the three cars he brought with him (a 1954 Jaguar XK120, a C-Type Jaguar and a 1958 Lister Jaguar) but also was instrumental in coordinating the Jaguar C- and D-Type cars featured in the Jaguar Heritage display, which punctuated Jaguar’s presence as this year’s special marque.
“It’s hard to put into words how I feel about this wonderful award; it’s so nice to be appreciated for what you do,” said Larson, who also was presented with a Rolex Steel and Gold Daytona. “I love the marque, especially the C-Type and D-Type Jaguars, and I worked on gathering the cars for everyone to enjoy. It would give anyone who put it together a lot of satisfaction. That’s kind of what a real enthusiast is all about–you don’t need recognition to make it worthwhile, but I sure do appreciate it.”
Appropriately, Larson also received a special giclee print of this year’s poster artwork, which featured a Jaguar E-Type rendered by artist Bill Patterson. Rolex Awards of Excellence were also awarded in each race category, as determined by an independent panel.
More Emotion – Spectacular 1-2 Finish for the Group 44 Jaguars
In motor racing, sometimes things do not go well and days of preparation are for naught. At other times, however, the joy of a brilliant finish creates magic, as it did today when the Group 44 Jaguars of Rick Knoop (Laguna Beach, Calif.) and Doug Smith (Plantation, Fla.) finished first and second, respectively, in Rolex Race Group 6B (1981 – 1989 FIA Mfg. Championship and IMSA GTP cars). It was cause for hugs and cheers, but more important, it was a salute to Jaguar and Bob Tullius, the driver and special guest in attendance at the event who helped establish Jaguar’s name in international racing from the mid-1970s through the ’80s.
“I haven’t seen Bob Tullius in 25 years, and I actually raced against him when he raced this car that I drove today,” said Knoop, adding that “back in the day” he also fought tooth and nail with Chip Robinson, Doc Bundy and the other Group 44 drivers. “Today’s race was so exciting– can you imagine 24 cylinders (between Doug’s V12 engine and mine) coming off the Corkscrew? I tell you, that is what living is all about.”
Doug Smith said that he started second and finished second. “Rick is such an awesome driver, and today’s race was the most fun I have ever had in a race car,” he said. “As I waved to the fans in the stands I got a bit choked up; it was an awesome feeling. My family is a motorsports family, and I grew up watching these cars race, so this weekend has been a childhood fantasy for me. Waking up tomorrow will be a disappointment, because it will mean it’s all over until next year; I really didn’t want this to end. The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is definitely Disneyland for big kids.”
An International Affair
Though its largest contingent came from 27 states across the continental U.S., this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion was decidedly international, with drivers representing 13 countries (USA, France, Monaco, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, England, Switzerland, New Zealand, Germany, Spain) as well as Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
France’s Yves Junne (Paris), who races Porsches in Europe at events such as the Le Mans Classic and Spa Six Hours, drove a Porsche 904 belonging to a good friend and his own Lola MKI, which he keeps in the U.S. “This event is wonderful for us Europeans,” he explained, adding that this is his fourth time here for it, “because it has a lot of flavor and, of course, the association with the other events here in the Monterey area such as the auctions, the (Pebble Beach) Concours d’Elegance, and all the other activity. Everyone loves racing the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and even those who have never been here–they all wish to.”
John Hugenholtz , a Dutchman who now lives in Schilde, Belgium, has been coming to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion since 1984, and this year he raced his Lotus Elan 26R. He commuted from his hotel to the races in his Shelby Cobra, which is just one of the impressive cars from his large automobile collection. “Many of the American racers we have met, they come to Europe to race, and when we come here they invite us to stay at their houses, and we have such a nice time,” said Hugenholtz. “So half of our pleasure is the racing, but the other half is the friends we now have here.”
Andrew Prill (Halstead, England), who first came to the event in 1998 and has missed only two years since, added: “Whether you go to the Le Mans Classic, Goodwood Revival or any of the other great historic events, they all have their own distinct feel. For us who come here from abroad, we’re not accustomed to the same feeling of camaraderie as we get here. The spirit here is remarkable–I’ve had some guys who I’ve had a great dice with come out of their cars after the race and shake my hand. We certainly appreciate all that Rolex has done to keep the sport at the level it is. Cars and watches–those are two of my favorite things. Rolex has become synonymous with first rate motor racing, and we all appreciate that.”