An Intriguing Array of People and Cars
At the 36th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, every fabulous car making its way around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has an intriguing character behind its wheel or responsible for its restoration. That fact couldn’t have been more evident today as participants – making last-minute preparations and practicing for tomorrow’s and Sunday’s races — mingled with spectators in paddock areas that bustled with activity and the sweet cacophony of revving engines.
“We all have our own favorite years and cars,” said spectator Dave Kuhns (Sacramento, Calif.), after collecting autographs from the iconic likes of David Donohue, Vic Elford, John Horsman and Brian edman, “but we really just enjoy it all.” Like Kuhns, many fans return yearly to Monterey during this week to enjoy the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races and a slew of other events that comprise Monterey Peninsula’s Classic Car Week.
Racer/Traveler: Rusty French
Participants, too, feel a need to return after getting “hooked” on the event, and none have more logistically extravagant travel plans than Rusty French, who packs up two 935 Porsches, plus all the gear and spares needed for a weekend of racing, into a container and travels with his family from Mt. Eliza, Victoria, Australia for three weeks of holiday. The container in which his cars and gear are shipped serves double duty as a tricked-out race trailer, custom awning and all.
“I credit Rolex for their support and for making it possible for the purist racer to have an opportunity to race among the kind of machines that are here at the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races,” said French, who won his class last year. “It’s also a lovely time to be here, since back home in Australia it is winter.”
Before he began vintage auto racing, Rusty had a very impressive professional career which included 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1984, where he finished ninth in a 956 Porsche, and the Bathurst 1000 in Australia the same year, where he finished fifth co-driving with Manfred Winkelhock.
A Nod to Bruce Jennings
Bruce Jennings was best known for his many races at Sebring and for having raced in every model of Porsche over those years. He was a gentleman and a great ambassador of the sport. Two gentlemen racing here at the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races are keeping Bruce Jennings’ motorsports legacy alive by entering two of his former race cars.
Robert Newman (New York, N.Y.) will drive his 1969 Porsche 911 LWB and Tom O’Callaghan (Auburn, Calif.) will drive his 1968 Porsche 911S; both cars sport the same beautiful orange color scheme that identified them when raced by Jennings.
Before his death in 1997, Jennings either sold or gave away his race cars, along with the spare parts, to his close friends, resulting in the eventual sales of these cars to the present owners.
Newcomer Christian Zugel
First-time participant Christian Zugel (Holmdel, N.J.), has entered two Porsche 917s, the more famous of which is chassis #21, which raced at Le Mans in 1970. “The other one we recently acquired from a museum in Germany,” said Zugel, “and we have also brought two 962 Porsches of which one is in the Coke livery as raced by Bob Akin. (Bob’s son Bobby Akin plans to race the car here this weekend in honor of his father.)
“It’s a phenomenal facility and Monterey almost looks like Tuscany, Italy,” said Zugel, who raced with the Porsche Club of Germany, where he grew up, before joining the Porsche Club of America about six years ago. “It’s so much fun: the people are wonderful, with many different drivers and so many different backgrounds. I’m psyched.”
Bobby Akin: In Memory of his Father
For participant Bobby Akin, this event has special significance because 34 years ago, when he was just a boy, his family loaded his famous father’s Lotus Eleven on an open trailer, and the whole family drove cross-country to attend the second Monterey Historic Automobile Races.
“My father had a fierce duel with Chris Cord but finished an incredibly close second to Chris’ Birdcage Maserati,” recalled Akin. “My father was very upset that he did not win that race, so he decided to buy the fastest car in that class for the following year. That is when he bought the Cooper Monaco, which so many people now think of when they think of my Dad. He was determined to beat that Birdcage Maserati, and he did the next year.”
Akin also has a strong connection with Steve Earle, the originator and producer of the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, since Earle and Akin’s father raced together in the 1970s at Daytona and Sebring.
“I had to make a decision in the early 90s, while I was a part of the new television channel now known as SPEED,” said Akin, who is Vice President of SPEED Integrated Marketing. “It would be either racing or television, and I obviously chose the latter. However, I really do love to race at any and all opportunities.”
Akin sees his colleagues on-site, since SPEED is televising the event as it has for over 15 years. The premier airing of SPEED Channel’s one-hour special on the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races is scheduled for Friday, October 16 at 8 p.m.
For more information on the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, visit www.montereyhistoric.com.