Perhaps most fascinating about the exchange between Moss and McNish was the comparison between then—1948 to 1962 when Sir Stirling was racing—and now in terms of the technology available. Moss would have given anything for a data stream to analyze not just elapsed time and top speed but how the car performed at every juncture and what problems might be arising. “Having the intercom on between the driver and the pits is fascinating to me,” said Moss, who talked about many “frightening” moments he had to face alone in his cockpit. McNish knowingly countered, “It’s always risk vs. reward, but it’s a different kind of bravery now.”
Another folk-hero driver, Derek Bell, drove a 1957 Maserati 300S in today’s races, which hosted seven groups of historic automobiles determined by era or class. (Tomorrow, eight entirely different groups will have their turn.) Bell made his mark in motorsports by winning Le Mans five times, The World Sportscar Championship twice, and the Rolex 24 At Daytona three times.
Bell, who relishes driving “some of the lovely cars I raced in the day,” couldn’t be more pleased about vintage racing’s popularity. “There are plenty of great private vintage car owners out there who have plenty of money to buy the cars and the spare parts; they drive them and enjoy them and then sell them to other people to enjoy. Rolex has done an amazing job of supporting the sport and getting everybody excited to be a part of it.”
Not all the professional drivers at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion are retired. Marino Franchitti is currently competing in the Tudor United Sportscar Championship but also races in select vintage races. Although most of the vintage cars raced in anger before he was born, he appreciates the history they represent.
“Actually I have raced a good number of cars older than me, including a Birdcage Maserati,” said Franchitti. “I like to put myself in similar situations to my heroes and be able to experience that.”
Franchitti’s friend Harley Cluxton only recently bought the car Franchitti raced this morning, a 1975 Gulf Mirage GR8, and it arrived in this country a short while ago. “We’ve had a few issues, but to drive a DFV powered Le Mans prototype from the 1970s is outstanding. This morning we ran out of gas, but while it was running I had such a blast. I’m used to jumping in and out of all different kinds of cars, so I deal with what I have at the time. I never drive these cars 10/10ths; I leave more of a margin than I do in my modern stuff. This whole experience is as much a show for the fans as it is for us, so you have to have a different mentality going in and a different way of approaching it.”
From the Other Side of the Fence
Like the drivers, vintage racing fans like the cars when they are as close to original as possible, obviously with safety improvements within that.
Sometimes spectators are surprised to see a rare car, which they thought was only for display, come alive. Today when Brian Blaine’s (Visalia, Calif.) minimally restored1923 Ford Model T took a rumbling spin through Pre-War Alley, it almost seemed as natural as having the oldest running Maserati in the world, a red 1928 Tipo 26B that was center stage in the Maserati Heritage Display, join in for a special lap around the track with two faster, sleeker Maseratis: a1955 300S and a 1958 250F that were raced here today.
Rolex enjoys an historic and privileged bond with motor sport and has been Title Sponsor of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion since it was renamed in 2010. (From 2001-2009, Rolex sponsored the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, which originally began in 1974, at this venue.)
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was established in 1957 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.