Monterey Auto Week

Both 50th anniversary of Can Am races were won by Kirk Benne (Shadow DN4) from the similar car of Dave Handy

Dan Davis of US Magazine Victory Lane Reports

America’s biggest gathering of historic racing cars takes place in August each year when American owners and drivers from all over this vast country, and many from abroad, converge upon the Laguna Seca race track, and their car-collecting cousins invade the whole of northern California’s Monterey Peninsula for what has become known as Monterey Auto week.

This is when racers, auction houses, dealers, traders in parts and services, organisers of rallies and tours, concours, those attending the many social gatherings, manufacturers’ representatives, enthusiasts and collectors all spend seven days of endless functions and entertainments while throughout two consecutive weekends the track resounds with the noise and smell of a full schedule of races. Think Silverstone Classic that takes over the whole of Northamptonshire for over a week.

BMW was the featured marque this year celebrating its 100th anniversary with its biggest gathering outside of Munich. There were more than 70 BMWs on track, and even more in displays demonstrating their innovative history, and both Can-Am and TransAm celebrated their 50th birthdays.

It is difficult for the non-initiated to have a precise understanding of the race grids – there are races and there are ‘feature’ races, and the races are named things like Group 1A. There were, for example races for 1927-1951 Racing Cars, and another for Pre 1940 Sports Racing and Touring Cars, as well as a race for Pre 1940 Sports Racing & 1927-1951 Racing Cars. The latter of these was an ERA affair, with the race winning Delage ERA of Derek Hill lapping some five seconds quicker than Charles McCabe (ERA R6B) and US domiciled Irishman, Paddins Dowling (ERA R2A), who finished in that order. Amongst other winners was Chris Cox, who took the pre-’63 GT race in his ‘62 Ferrari GTO

Screen Shot 2016 10 03 at 19.54.33Paddins Dowling comes down the famous corskscrew in ERA R2A for a race win. The second race was won by Derek Hill, son of Phil, in the ERA Delage after Dowling ran out of fuel while in the lead  

The first and last of the no holds barred racing series, Can-Am of 1966-1974, celebrated with nearly 50 cars split into two races. As expected, the two well developed 1974 Shadow DN4s of Kirt Bennet, and Dave Handy were 1-2 in qualifying in the 32-car entry of the feature race, but as in previous races in this year’s Can-Am series, the Shadows looked to be challenged by the well-driven Lola T222 of Claude Malette starting in third. At the green flag, it became hold-your-breath excitement, as all three went into corner after corner together abreast.

Belgian Marc Devis, who seems to have acquired a taste for racing in the ‘States in his Lola T70 Spyder, won Race 5A, for 1963-1968 USRRC & Can-Am Cars.

But it was also the 50th Anniversary of TransAm, celebrated with a big field of 5-litre V8-powered cars of the 1966-1971 era, the era of the “Pony Car Wars”, which continue to this day, and a time when the series was supported by all the major Detroit brands. In the feature race, polesitter Ken Epsman (AMC Javelin) went for a lights to flag victory after turning in a qualifying time that was hard to beat.

There were F1 cars too, and Charles Nearburg (Williams FW07) tussled with Eddie Lawson (Wolf WR4), Mike Thurlow (Tyrrell 009) and Katsu Kubota (Lotus 78) in the opening stages of the first of two races, but it was Dan Marvin in the Phil Reilly-owned Brabham BT44 that charged up the order to secure a solid second spot. With Nearburg on pole for race 2, Marvin hustled the inside line and took the lead on the first racing lap after five laps behind the safety car following a coming together between Scott Drnek (Shadow DN9) and Bill Cord (March 761). Despite his best efforts in the Williams, Nearburg had to settle for second and keep fast approaching four-time Motorcycle World Champion Eddie Lawson (Wolf WR4) at bay. 

The auction houses were also in a sales frenzy with $339.7million bucks for 724 cars sold of a total 1,273 on offer. Amongst the top sellers was a Jaguar D-Type offered by RM Sotheby’s, which sold for $21,780,000 and a 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider from the same auction house, sold for $19,800,000.