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After the events of 2020 brought racing and many historic car events to a standstill, Car Week in Monterey was officially back for 2021 and with it, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Car Week’s two cornerstones.  Many of the usual small and large shows were not held.  However, the important ones, on Tuesday Cars On The Avenue in Carmel-By-The-Sea, on Wednesday McCall Motorsport Revival at the Jet Center, on Friday The Quail A Motorsports Gathering,  plus Concours Italiano, Porsche Werks, Little Car Show, and many other significant events were back on the menu.

Monterey Motorsports Reunion – Good to be Back

Celac Colvert Reports From Victory Lane Magazine

Saturday started as a foggy and damp day, though that did not deter the confident racers at the Laguna Seca circuit.  As the fog started to lift, each qualifying race and feature race had its close battles, excellent passes, and above all else, the drivers’ respect for each other and the machinery as they entertained the many fans. 

Photo Jim Rose/Rolex

The Featured Marque this year was not a marque but a category celebrating Ford in Trans-Am and the 55th Anniversary of the Pony Car Wars and there were many on the Group 6A grid for 1966-1985 1996-1972 Trans-Am cars as 36 thunderous racers headed into Andretti Hairpin for the final feature race of Saturday. The Boss Mustang 302s of Jim Farley and Ken Adams were going head-to-head out front until Farley faltered and Adams went on to win the race.  Patrick Byrne (Shelby Trans AM Mustang) and Ken Epsman (Plymouth Barracuda) took second and third.

Also on Saturday was the Group 3A for 973-1981 FIA, IMSA, GT, GTX, AAGT, GTU race, always much anticipated, with big-name drivers such as Cameron Healy, Adam Carolla, Bruce Canepa, and Zak Brown taking to the track.  With the Porsche marque dominating, it wasn’t unexpected to see most of them at the front.  Charles Nearburg in the Porsche 935K3 maintained his first place start ahead of Timothy Pappas in his Porsche 934.5, busy keeping high-flying Ken Epsman, in the “Porsche Killer” 1976 Dekon Monza, at bay.  While Nearburg was never really challenged at the front, behind him there was a great three-way battle between Carlos de Quesada (Porsche 935K3), Pappas, and Epsman.  Patrick Long, in his older 3.5-litre Porsche 911, kept contact and eventually made a spectacular effort to displace Tom McGlynn’s Porsche 934 for sixth place, the pair going into Turn 11 wheel-to-wheel.

Steve Schmidt and Zak Brown in Porsche 935s – Brown retired from the race.  Photo Kurt Borden

The final race result was Nearburg, Pappas, and Carlos de Quesada – a testament to the power and competitiveness of the drivers, and of course the Porsche 934.5 and 935 chassis. 

Fantasy Junction’s, Spencer Trenery, vanquished all comers in the race for 1955-1961 sports racing cars in a Cooper Monaco.  Gregory Meyer in a Sadler, and Cameron Healy in the 1953 Cooper Porsche Pooper 1850, also entertained at the front of a big grid.  From the moment the flag dropped the three were swapping places and trying to out-drag each other out of (and into) the corners, to finally finish in that order.

Hard trier Lynn Park in his Cobra

After all the tribulations, another obstacle hit the event on Sunday morning, when the power was switched off on the whole Monterey Peninsula for several hours due to high winds and the danger of power lines coming down and igniting fires.  It served nicely as a demonstration that, despite the controversy of the recent past, the team at Laguna Seca was up to the challenge of staging a great event.  Schedules were tweaked, the morning races went on, albeit without timing, and, as always, the overcast lifted.  After all they’d been through, nothing much could dampen the spirits of fans, organisers or participants – everyone was just glad to be there.  

Amongst the highlights in Sunday afternoon’s Rolex feature races was the battle of the 26Rs in Group 2B for under 2.5-litre ‘60s GT cars.  The field was dominated by Porsches both in number and on the podium.  lan Benjamin and Alan Terpins, enjoying a clear pace advantage, took first and second places with a clean run from the front row.  The next three in the finishing order were locked into a tight dogfight.  Mike Malone’s Lotus Elan 26R was gridded on the second row alongside Randall Smalley’s 911 with the 26R of Victor Avila a row back.  The 26Rs both got away at the start with the Porsche giving chase and eventually getting by on lap four to initiate what would be a great battle to the finish.  Malone and Avila tenaciously gave chase with Malone making a nice pass after running wide into Turn 10.  Smalley countered by winning the drag race up past the start-finish only to get slightly out of shape through the hairpin, whereupon Malone slid past to take third.  Great stuff.

A small, but aesthetically pleasing and historically interesting grid of 1927-1951 racing cars lined up for Sunday afternoon’s third Rolex race, with Paddins Dowling leading in ERA R2A and Charles McCabe chasing in ERA R6B, the pair quickly running away from the rest of the field.   Nathanael Green resisted a challenge from James Cleary’s Studebaker to take third.  In the same race, the nimble Type 37 Bugatti of Luca Maciucescu caught and squeaked past Richard Morrison’s 1939 Lagonda V12 only to be caught and passed on the run up the hill.  This was a great battle, with each of the two drivers doing what he could to exploit his cars’ strengths.  Maciucescu was finally able to hold the position after a race-long duel.

Best of Show 2021 went to the 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Autobahn Kurier from the Keller collection

Spencer Trenery took another victory in Sunday’s Master Endurance Legends race, bringing his Riley Dp MkXI in at the head of an impressive field of the most modern hardware featured at the event.

Masters also staged an F1 race for their cars of the 1966-1985 era.  Charles Nearburg (Williams FW07) was finally able to break pond-hopping Greg Thornton’s (Lotus 91/5) run of wins in the series in a race in which position changes were rare and cars were spread out.  Cal Meeker finished third in his Tyrrell 009.

After missing 2020, this was a welcome event for Monterey and the historic racing community at large.

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