Tag Archives: Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

RMMR

THE ROLEX MONTEREY MOTORSPORTS REUNION…

Even though the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is feverishly busy celebrating Shelby Cobra’s 50th Anniversary, it is simultaneously revealing the rich heritage of historic automobile racing as a whole with 17 different period-specific race groups running the road course at Monterey, California’s Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.  The event, in its second day of well-attended qualifying rounds, will swell with even more spectators come tomorrow, when weekend competition begins and the natural rhythm of Monterey Peninsula’s Classic Car Week swings attention from today’s champagne receptions at The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering to the only driving-at-speed event in Car Week’s richly-stocked smorgasbord of offerings for vintage automobile lovers.

While serving in Europe during WWII, many American soldiers learned to appreciate the two-seat roadsters they saw there.  As they returned home, they began importing one of the especially coveted makes, the legendary MG, thus setting alight the sports car craze in America.

It is in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion Pre-1940 Sports & Touring Car group that Peter Thelander (Orange County, Calif.) will drive his 1934 MG NE Tourist Trophy Magnette.  He and his wife Frances embody the love of MG sport cars having “raised their family” on MG T series cars, MGAs and MGBs.  “This car is one of seven that was specially made for the 1934 Irish Tourist Trophy Race,” said Thelander.  “MG won the race in 1933 with the MGK3, which had a supercharger, but superchargers were banned for 1934, so the company had to quickly come up with a car to compete that year.  This car is one of them.  For 70 years old, it handles very well around this course.” 

The modern era of Formula 1 began in 1950, and great names like Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Cooper and Talbot Lago were the marques of the day.  At this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, several cherished cars from this period occupy the field in the group for 1927-1951 Racing Cars.  One of them is the pristine 1949 Talbot Lago T26 owned by David Duthu (Houston, TX).  It is the very last of the Talbot Lago Grand Prix cars to be built, totally restored and with an extensive racing history. 

“It was a factory team car in 1950 when the company went into receivership, and after the South American Grand Prix, all the cars were sold off,” said Duthu.  “That year, Juan Manuel Fangio and José Froilán González drove this car and another Talbot Lago car, and what is interesting about that is nobody knows which one drove which car.”

Duthu, who also has a 1956 Jomar Mark II entered in the group for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under 2000cc, is typical of the owner and drivers here who not only relish the past, especially relative to their own car collection acquisitions, but also live for the present where it is considered an honor to give an old car new racing life.

“I’ve had this car for four years and it has been wonderful,” said Duthu.  “The car is quite agile, and I think of it as an elegant driving car due to its long wheel base.  It’s not quirky or darty, so you can actually work the car beautifully, put it into a nice drift and hold that drift while keeping up the power and then power out of the turn, which makes it so much fun to drive.”  Duthu added that his Talbot Lago has a lot of torque, is normally aspirated, and even though it is heavy at over 2,000 pounds, it is very well balanced.  The engine has two spark plugs per cylinder and develops 280 horsepower at 5,000 RPMs.  It also has a Wilson pre-selector four speed gearbox and aircraft magnetos.

“Driving here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is fun, but I can really feel it in my shoulders today after driving this car through all the twists and turns of this circuit,” said Duthu.

In its day, Formula Atlantic was the stepping stone for any driver whose desire was to race Indy cars or Formula 1.  Names like Bobby Rahal, Gilles Villeneuve and Keke Rosberg were the star drivers of the day and just a few of the many who had successes in major league racing after a period of time in Formula Atlantic.  The fastest driver on Thursday and Friday in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion’s group for Formula Atlantic Cars was Wade Carter III (Seattle, Wash.) with his 1976 March Formula Atlantic.

“We’re fastest in both practice and qualifying sessions; therefore, so far, so good,” said Carter.  “The car has been a dream to drive, so hopefully we will be able to keep it up front for the rest of the weekend.   In its day, the March chassis was a front runner, always one of the fastest cars in the field.  What I can tell you now is the car is a delight to drive, and I have a smile on my face every time I hop out of it.  As for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, this is the event we look forward to all year; this is the best event going.”

Carter’s Crew Chief Pierre Phillips has been involved in race preparation for Formula Atlantics since the series began in the early 1970s.  “It’s really kind of gut wrenching to see all these beautifully turned out Formula Atlantic cars racing today in vintage race events; it brings back so many wonderful memories for me.  The cars all look great, and the top cars are really flying.” 

So while 18 Cobras from the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion today motored on their “Quail Run” to share their classic brilliance with those attending The Quail Lodge events, several hundred more Cobras stayed behind to be enjoyed by Reunion goers in the paddock and corral areas at the raceway.  And even if these, too, had left, there would have been no shortage of other magnificent historic automobiles to admire.

 

RMMR

INSPIRATION, DETERMINATION, DESIGN, GLORY  

It is said that all things have a beginning, a middle and an end, but that may not be true of the extraordinary Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, which is one of the star cars at this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.  There seems to be no end to the excitement and awe that this car, of which only six were built in the early 1960s, brings to all who know its history and have had the opportunity to experience the magic of its design.  At the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which today held practice sessions for 17 race groups in preparation for weekend racing, vintage car racing enthusiasts will not only find a legendary Daytona Coupe on display in a museum-like setting but also thrill to the sight and sound of another on track as it chases down 44 other authentic competition Shelby Cobras in a highly anticipated race on Saturday.

Inspiration
According to the Daytona Coupe’s designer Peter Brock, who will be a featured guest at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday, both he and the inspiration for the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe were born about the same time. 

“During the late 1930s, Germany was working on low-speed aerodynamics; they were far ahead of us on that,” said Brock, explaining that in the United States, there was no interest in aerodynamics, since all motor racing was on oval tracks.  “The German government set up studios all around their country, and in one of them some automobile prototypes were built with some strange looking forms that were not very well received, so not much was done with them.  At the outset of war, all that material was essentially lost or buried. ”  

Two decades later, however, Brock was working at General Motors for Bill Mitchell, styling what would become the Corvette Stingray Racer, and he found in the GM library an obscure paper written in German.

“As I looked through the pages, there were some funny little scratches, but no photographs or real drawings, so at first I couldn’t understand what I was looking at,” said Brock.  “But as I looked at the CD (drag coefficient) numbers, they were very impressive. I took the information to Bill Mitchell and said we might try to apply some of this stuff to the Corvette.” Mitchell declared the car drawings the ugliest he’d ever seen, and Brock filed the information away until a few years later when he was working at Shelby American.  Carroll Shelby had wanted to go to Europe with his Shelby Cobra Roadsters but didn’t feel they had enough horsepower to compete, so Brock resurrected the German plans as the problem’s possible solution.

Shelby gave Brock his shot, but Brock warned him to expect something very different, and after he drew up his ideas, GM’s chief engineer and others were certain they weren’t going to work.  “Luckily, Ken Miles, our number one driver, knew something about what was going on in Germany in the late ‘30s, since he had been a club racer in England during that period,” said Brock. “He convinced Shelby that we should build a prototype.” 

Using the chassis from a crashed roadster in the shop, Brock layed his lines, “letting the car design itself.”  “We built the buck and then built the car around those shapes,” he said.

Determination
While the Cobra Coupe was being built, Shelby brought one of his old friends, Denny Howard, a top consultant in the aircraft industry, to see it.  “The car was about 85% complete, and Shelby said to me, ‘explain to him how this thing is going to work.’  I felt like a third grader, reciting the alphabet to the teacher, and when I finished, Howard looked at me and said, ‘that will never work; if you’re going to beat the Ferraris, you’re going to need 600 horsepower and you only have 385.’”  When Shelby later told Brock “he thinks we’re nuts,” Brock responded, “he may be the smartest guy who ever designed airplanes, but I don’t think he knows much about automobile aerodynamics.”  Shelby just looked at Brock and said, “You’d better be right.”

Design
“So we finished the car, and the first time we took it out, Ken Miles broke the lap record at Riverside by 3 ½ seconds, and we were immediately on pace with the Ferrari speeds,” said Brock, adding that the Coupe went on to smoke the Ferraris at Daytona in ’64 (a fire in the pits prevented it from finishing, however), win the 12 Hours of Sebring and set lap records at Le Mans and Spa, but not without some necessary adjustments.

At Spa, after driver Phil Hill reached speeds up to 170 mph in the Daytona Coupe, he complained that if he went any faster he feared crashing, since he couldn’t keep the back end of the car on the ground. “At that point, we put the crudest form of spoiler on the back end, because we had very few tools and no material, just a little sheet of aluminum that wasn’t even big enough to go across the back end.” Brock cut the sheet in four parts and screwed them onto the back end of the car.  When Hill went back on course, he now had so much down-force at the back end that when he came into corners he was locking his front wheels.  “So we trimmed off half an inch of the spoiler, and he went out and broke the lap record.  When he came into the pits he said, ‘Don’t touch a thing; it’s perfect!’  That then became our standard spoiler, and from then on the Cobra Daytona Coupe became untouchable.  For a $1.98 piece of aluminum, I guess you could say we did pretty well.”

Glory
The car that Peter Brock designed for Shelby American astonished the world of motorsports with all it achieved, but for Brock, it was Les 24 Heures du Mans that he remembers as the pinnacle of his own achievement. 

“The first time we tested the car at Le Mans, Ford came out with the GT40s on the same weekend, and it was the first time they had ever run.  Roy Salvadori, who paired with Shelby in 1959 when they won that race in an Aston Martin, was one of their drivers, and Jo Schlesser was the other.  Schlesser went out in the morning, but the car was so aerodynamically unstable that it went upside down, crashed into the trees and was destroyed.  When Schlesser came back to the pits, he was pretty discouraged, but when he saw our Cobra Coupe, our chief mechanic was preparing it for our drivers who had not yet arrived.  He said, ‘well who’s going to drive this thing? I would like to.’” 

The mechanic set up the seat and adjusted the pedals, and when Carroll Shelby arrived, he agreed to let Schlesser drive.  Meanwhile, Salvadori went out in the second GT40 and promptly crashed.  

“Schlesser got into the Daytona and broke the lap record; he told us that if the track had been dry, he would very likely have broken the Ferrari prototype times as well.  That was enough to give us a whole lot of confidence, and for me that was truly the high point of my Cobra Daytona Coupe experience. I had gotten so much resistance in building the car–everybody thought it was a dumb idea, it wouldn’t work, and besides, it was so ugly.”

Legend
With Shelby Cobras now celebrating their 50th Anniversary and with the legacy of the Shelby Daytona Coupe as such a sterling example of how perseverance and passion can achieve so much, it is fitting that the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is celebrating the Shelby Cobra as its special marque this year.  “Obviously I am very proud, as any architect or musician would be, or for that matter anyone who does something creative,” said Brock.

The Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe #9 (CSX2286) that will be racing was the last of the six Daytona Coupes built.  It raced at Le Mans in 1965 with co-drivers Dan Gurney and Jerry Grant behind the wheel.  Grant set the fastest time in class during the race, but the car retired in hour 16 with engine failure. 

The Daytona Coupe featured in the Shelby Cobra Heritage Display, was the first Shelby built and the only one made in the USA.  After winning its class at the 12 Hours of Sebring, Les 24 Heures du Mans and Spa Francorchamps, it was clear this car was the car to beat in 1964.  In 1965, the car went on to win the World Championship of Makes.  The current owner of the car, Fred Simeone, is as proud of the car’s history after its official racing career ended as he is of its legendary years racing internationally.  “It went to Bonneville where it set 23 sports car land speed records” said Simeone, “including my favorite, which was 150 miles per hour average speed for 12 hours including stops for refueling.”

 

RMMR

 

Photo By: Rolex / Stephan Cooper

 

THE COBRA CHARM-

 

To millions of motorsports fans around the world, a cobra isn’t a snake. Instead, it is one of the most iconic and replicated cars of all time.  From August 16-19 in Monterey, Calif., the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Shelby Cobra, Ford Motor Company’s now-vintage race car developed by Carroll Shelby, who passed away earlier this year.  The four-day event is not only a cornerstone of Classic Car Week, which draws hundreds of exquisite cars and thousands of car lovers annually to the Monterey Peninsula, but also the only occasion where automobile enthusiasts can enjoy their vintage favorites racing as they were meant to be, wheel-to-wheel in 17 period-appropriate classes, starting with pre-1940 Sports and Racing Cars and representing nearly every era of motorsports history through to 1990 Stock Cars.

 

The Shelby Cobra exudes raw horsepower and elegant design with a racing heritage that is unparalleled, and on Saturday, August 18, an impressive grid of 45 authentic series CSX 2000 and 3000 Shelby Cobras will take to the challenging 2.238-mile road course that is Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, thrilling spectators with a ground-shaking performance that has never before been witnessed.  At this dedicated race, the green flag will be waved by none other than Edsel Ford II, great-grandson of Henry Ford, and fans will watch as entries from the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Canada and across the U.S. finesse their way with precision through 11 turns and 300-foot elevation changes that include the notorious “Corkscrew,” famous for its five-story drop. 

 

The den of Cobras at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion will include two of only six extraordinary Cobra Daytona Coupes ever built by Shelby American in the early 1960s.  One will be racing on Saturday and another will be included in the Shelby Cobra Heritage Display.

 

 

 

THE COBRA CHARM
 
To millions of motorsports fans around the world, a cobra isn’t a snake. Instead, it is one of the most iconic and replicated cars of all time.  From August 16-19 in Monterey, Calif., the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Shelby Cobra, Ford Motor Company’s now-vintage race car developed by Carroll Shelby, who passed away earlier this year.  The four-day event is not only a cornerstone of Classic Car Week, which draws hundreds of exquisite cars and thousands of car lovers annually to the Monterey Peninsula, but also the only occasion where automobile enthusiasts can enjoy their vintage favorites racing as they were meant to be, wheel-to-wheel in 17 period-appropriate classes, starting with pre-1940 Sports and Racing Cars and representing nearly every era of motorsports history through to 1990 Stock Cars.

The Shelby Cobra exudes raw horsepower and elegant design with a racing heritage that is unparalleled, and on Saturday, August 18, an impressive grid of 45 authentic series CSX 2000 and 3000 Shelby Cobras will take to the challenging 2.238-mile road course that is Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, thrilling spectators with a ground-shaking performance that has never before been witnessed.  At this dedicated race, the green flag will be waved by none other than Edsel Ford II, great-grandson of Henry Ford, and fans will watch as entries from the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Canada and across the U.S. finesse their way with precision through 11 turns and 300-foot elevation changes that include the notorious “Corkscrew,” famous for its five-story drop. 

The den of Cobras at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion will include two of only six extraordinary Cobra Daytona Coupes ever built by Shelby American in the early 1960s.  One will be racing on Saturday and another will be included in the Shelby Cobra Heritage Display.