FASCINATING FORMULA 1
Motorsport enthusiasts return year after year to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion (RMMR), because it never gets old. One can always count on a special marque being rotated in (for 2015, it is the Shelby GT350 Mustang, celebrating its 50th anniversary), an arrival that creates a splash from which ripples – both fleeting and magical – emanate.
At the 13-16 August event, Rolex’s close ties with motor racing and speed, in particular its partnership with Formula 1®, will be uniquely reflected in what is sure to become one of this year’s most unforgettable Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion moments: Saturday’s Group 8A race where 37 Formula 1 race cars will shriek at full revs down the front straight at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, their sound echoing through the hills of Monterey and stirring up memories of glory days when speed, glamour and extreme competition were synonymous with constructors’ names such as Lotus, Ferrari, Tyrrell, Brabham, Shadow, Hesketh, March, Surtees, Williams and Wolf and driver’s names such as Lauda, Hunt, Revson, Hill, Peterson, Andretti, Fittipaldi,Villeneuve and, of course, long-standing Rolex Testimonee Sir Jackie Stewart.
The Formula 1s are from the three liter era between 1967 and 1984, and they are organized by FIA Masters Formula One Championship. The series, founded by Ron Maydon in 2004, travels annually to eight countries across Europe and to the USA.
“Of the 37 Formula 1 cars entered in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion there will be eight or nine of our cars coming from Europe, and at least five of them have not raced in America since their last active year,” said Maydon. “The film industry has definitely added value to our Masters Historic Formula One Championship with films like Rush, Weekend of a Champion and 1. I spent three days during the filming of Rush driving the Shadow that Tom Pryce raced in the day. Rush is a great mix of storyline for those interested in the James Hunt/Niki Lauda drama, and it also gave the viewers a look at what we do with Historic Formula 1 racing.”
Maydon says his group’s support races at several of FIA Formula 1 Grand Prix events have elicited telling comments from current drivers. At the Canadian GP, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso reportedly said to one of the Master’s Ferrari drivers, “That car looks dangerous just standing next to it, but I sure would love to have a drive in it.” At last year’s Singapore Grand Prix, two-time world champion and current championship points leader Lewis Hamilton watched the Master’s Formula One Championship race after his qualifying session and told a newspaper reporter, “It was one of the coolest battles I have ever seen. I like it because they look like they have more mechanical grip with those big tires . It looks like a lot of fun. Those cars are pretty dangerous, though. In ours, if you go head-on into the wall you can get out, but in those cars you might not be able to.”
In further comparing historic Formula 1 racing with the modern-day version, Maydon said, “The old hands look at us and remember the good old days, and the young drivers and crew members look at us and ask ‘how the heck did they ever race these cars?’ I think there is a passion for our historic Formula 1 cars that is totally different from how the enthusiast regards today’s Formula 1 cars. For example, when our cars are in the paddock, fans can come close to look at them and talk to the drivers. The modern Formula 1 races are so huge and commercial that you can only see the cars when they are out on the circuit.”
Indeed, getting up close and personal with drivers in the unrestricted paddock areas is another one of those organic, ripple-effect elements that make the larger ecosystem of RMMR so special. The event starts with practice on Friday,14 August followed by full-on racing over the weekend for 550 period correct racing machines in 15 different groups. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s challenging 2,238 mile circuit has drivers negotiating its undulating twists and turns while spectators freely roam to watch from whatever perch they prefer, whether it be in a particular grandstand or on a certain patch of grass. And there are non-racing options such as enjoying a multitude of exhibits, including Automotive Alley; shopping or cheese- and wine-tasting in the Marketplace; and attending various special events, including Friday’s popular Picnic in the Park with notable guests and legendary drivers, held throughout the venue’s 542 acres.
The Shadow Knows
There have only been a handful of American drivers in Formula 1 over the years and only three American constructors who have raced more than a season or two. One of those three American teams, Shadow, competed in F1 for ten years beginning in 1973. In the 112 Grand Prix events the team entered during that time it scored one victory, three pole positions, two fastest laps and six podium finishes.
Within earshot of the racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca lives the American icon, Don Nichols, who founded Shadow Cars and whose race teams were among the most recognized of the 1970s. (A 1975 Shadow DN6 is entered in Saturday’s Formula 1 race by Craig Bennett and will be driven by David Arrowsmith.)
“I wanted to compete at the very highest level, so when I decided it would be motorsports I went for the top,” said Nichols, a World War II veteran who formed the company Advanced Vehicle Systems in 1968, naming the cars he would race after his favorite childhood radio show “The Shadow.” “Our goal was to compete internationally, so in 1973, with UOP sponsorship, we entered Formula 1 with George Follmer and Jackie Oliver as drivers.” (Graham Hill also famously drove a Shadow DN1 with Embassy sponsorship.)
Stunningly all-black with white UOP graphics, the Shadow DN1 Formula 1 was designed by Tony Southgate and was out-of-the box fast. “George finished sixth in the car’s first race, and later in the season both he and Jackie had podium finishes,” said Nichols. “These were great results considering it was our first year in Formula 1.” Then, on August 14, 1977 at the Osterreichring in Austria, all of Shadow’s efforts paid off when Alan Jones came from 14th on the grid to win that Grand Prix in the UOP Shadow DN8. “This is what our team was waiting for and it was a truly rewarding experience.”