For four action-packed days, the Mazda raceway Laguna seca hosted the finest collection of historic automobiles, gathered together for the Rolex Monterey motorsports reunion. As the constant heartbeat of the Monterey classic car week extravaganza, the reunion brought 550 vintage vehicles to life in their natural racing environment. Rolex shares the event’s appreciation of motor racing history and authenticity, which underscores why the leading brand of the Swiss watch industry has been title sponsor of the event since 2010.
Every morning the eerie fog hanging over the undulating raceway on the Monterey peninsula cleared to reveal a hive of activity on the infield; owners, drivers and curators enthusiastically tinkering in the garages and pit lane. As the Californian sunshine began beating down on the asphalt and the sound of engines reverberated around the hillside, the cars captivated onlookers as they battled out on track, speeding down the renowned and challenging corkscrew turn, tackling blind crests and tricky apexes, all the way to the chequered flag.
The reunion brought together 15 classes of cars from every era of motor racing history. Each year the event also features a brand, a specific model, a type of vehicle, or even an accomplished racing driver. The featured marque for 2016 was BMW as the German manufacturer celebrated its centenary. An impressive 64 BMWs entered the reunion, from the 1937 BMW 328 to a 2001 BMW M3 GTR, all adding to this distinctive rolling motoring museum.
As the scene of america’s golden years of sports car racing, Laguna SECA has witnessed some of motor racing’s finest moments since 1957, including the thrilling and extreme Canadian-American challenge cup (can-am), which celebrated its 50th anniversary at the reunion this week. Also featured were historic formula one cars from the 3-liter era, 1967 to 1984. While the raceway has never hosted a round of the FIA formula one world championship, many of the greatest formula one drivers have competed here, including Rolex testimonee and three-time FIA formula one world drivers’ champion, sir Jackie Stewart, who attended this year’s event and fittingly was twice victorious in the 1971 can-am, driving the Lola t-260.
After robust competition and exciting racing, it was car 101 in group 7a can-am (1968-1974), the 1971 shadow mk ii, that triumphed, claiming the spirit of monterey award and the ultimate racing driver’s watch, the Rolex oyster perpetual cosmograph Daytona. This timepiece, awarded to the winning car’s owner, jim bartell, was the perfect way to commemorate such a momentous achievement.
Celebrating automobiles from the early 1900s, and racing legends, such as Hurley Haywood and Dario Franchitti, the reunion features something and someone from every generation that has shaped motor racing history, as Gill Campbell, CEO of Mazda raceway Laguna SECA attests: “the reunion is the largest and most prestigious historic race in this country; what we really specialize in and focus on is the authenticity of the cars – they have to be prepared according to their original specifications, in their original livery and almost all the vehicles attending have real racing history. It is incredibly important for us to acknowledge and celebrate the heritage of the automobile – we need to recognize where we came from in order to know where we are going. That is why it is such a natural fit partnering with a brand like Rolex – they understand what we are trying to achieve here – we share the same aspirations and values of preserving the past and celebrating tradition. As much as the reunion is an event, it is also a coming together of friends for four days of entertainment and enjoyment.”