Steve Earle regarding future of Monterey Historic Races

August 24, 2009 by  
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In response to the press release issued by SCRAMP on August 16, 2009 (dated August 17) regarding the future of the Monterey Historic Automobile Races® at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Steve Earle, President of General Racing, Ltd., has issued the following statement:

General Racing, which has created and produced the Monterey Historic Automobile Races® for 36 years, will no longer be doing so.  In the future SCRAMP, the Sports Car Racing Association of Monterey Peninsula, will organize a new event. 

On September 5, 2008, I was advised that the economic terms for the agreement between General Racing and SCRAMP were no longer
commercially viable for SCRAMP.  I’m disappointed that we were not able to come to an agreement that would allow our event to remain in Monterey. General Racing will allow SCRAMP a one-time use of the name Monterey Historic Automobile Races® for the 2010 event.

General Racing will continue the tradition of the Monterey Historics at the Wine Country Classic at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., in early June 2010.

We are very proud of all that we have accomplished with the Monterey Historic Automobile Races®, and I truly believe that we have brought something special to the community of Monterey as an event of world renown and the generator of substantial revenue for the local economy and the charities to which SCRAMP contributes.

The purpose of General Racing, Ltd., is and always has been to encourage the restoration, preservation and use of historic, sports and racing cars. General Racing events and races are for the enjoyment of participants and enthusiasts alike.

The Cars are the Stars

August 21, 2009 by  
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The Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races concluded today at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca after three days of fabulous vintage racing action, exhibitions, new car reveals and activities for fans. Now 36 years old, the event is often called the most significant vintage racing event in the country, and according to famed driver Brian Redman, who joined the likes of Jurgen Barth, Derek Bell, David Donohue, Vic Elford and Hurley Haywood here this year, it is “one of the top two or three events of its kind in the world.”

That’s a weighty statement coming from a man who has seemingly done it all in car racing, including winning, in the 1970s, the Formula 5000 championship three consecutive times, the 12 Hours of Sebring twice and the Targa Florio once. “It’s the combination of the great circuit at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the weather, as well as the enthusiastic crowds and tremendous entry of cars,” said Redman, who took to the race track on Saturday in a 1971 Porsche 908/3 to win his class by just under four seconds.

To Redman’s point, some very big names in auto racing were on the track, but the cars – mostly driven by gentlemen drivers who, while not necessarily famous are undeniably passionate about their sport — were the main attraction. Of 450 entrants, one-third of those were Porsches, which was this year’s Featured Marque. And unlike other events where spectators might be separated from stars who take the stage, crowds of car lovers milled through the 30 acre paddock area, chatting with owners and drivers; watching mechanics tinker; swapping insight with other enthusiasts and parting like the Red Sea when another engine revved up, on its way to take position on the grid.

“The field of cars is really extraordinary and not just the Porsches but all of them,” said Steve Earle of General Racing, which produces the event. “The racing (for 15 different race groups) was excellent — pretty darn clean — and as long as everybody is having a good time, then I am happy.”

Earle drove his own C-Type Jaguar in a race today. “It’s just sort of an old family friend now.its old reliable,” he said about the car, which he has had for 25 years. “It’s the last race for us here, so we’ll be at the back of the grid having a nice time,” he added, referring to the fact that General Racing will no longer be producing the event after this year. (Later that evening, at the Rolex Awards Ceremony, Earle was presented with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Milgauss by Doug Meine, Executive Vice President Rolex Watch U.S.A., after delivering an emotional farewell speech.)

The Monterey Cup and a Rolex Steel and Gold Daytona Cosmograph were presented to the owner of the automobile judged to have excelled overall in both presentation and performance. That winner was Richard Clark, an Englishman who lives in Monte Carlo.

“As always it has been such an amazing weekend at the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races. It is such an amazing track, and the car we run here, the 1952 Porsche 356 Panamericana.When coming down the corkscrew in that car, you’re just hanging on,” said Clark. “Although racing in Europe is a lot of fun, when I race here it’s lovely, because I race with people who act in a competitive manner but are gentlemanly at all times. It makes for great racing for the spectators. There was a lot of overtaking in my race, but it was all done in a safe manner which is a tribute to the organization.”

Like so many participants here, Clark is in close touch with the people who made history with his car. “It’s very sad that Manfredo Lippman could not come here for this weekend,” said Clark, explaining that Lippman ran the team on which his car raced to win the 1953 Carrera Panamericana. “He did telephone me today to ask how things went; he loves the details.” Clark explained that the accomplishment in ’53 was Porsche’s first victory internationally, “so ever since then when you see a modern Porsche you will likely see the name Carrera written on the back in honor of that event.”

Clark, who flew the car in from Europe, sorted out the paperwork at the airport and then drove it directly from the airport in San Francisco to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, added: “Racing in the 1950s, and especially in the Carrera Panamericana, was completely different from the racing we do today; those drivers were real heroes.”

Notes and Quotes:

One of the most popular features at the event is the Rolex Moments in Time display. Set in a massive darkened tent in the paddock area, historically significant cars and their elaborate storyboards are illuminated like masterpieces in a museum. “The Rolex Moments in Time tent is absolutely fantastic; it’s the best I have ever seen,” said John Horsman, famous for his engineering contributions to the Gulf Wyer Team. “Of course I am biased, because it has two of our cars there, the Ford GT40 and the Porsche 917K, both in the Gulf colors, as well as many photographs from my book, Racing in the Rain.”

Vic Elford, another Targa Florio winner who sat for several different autograph sessions outside the Rolex tent, said, “It’s wonderful to see the fans that come here; they are all so knowledgeable. The cars that I have seen are magnificent. Whenever I see the cars I once drove it always brings back memories, usually good memories. Having some of the original drivers at the event also adds a lot to the overall atmosphere here.”

Stirling Moss, one of the greatest drivers of all time, was happy when he raced his black Lola Mk1 Saturday. “It is a car I never raced before I retired,” he said. “I actually drove it afterward, but I can tell you that it is much faster now than it ever was when it was new. I’m really only using third and fourth gear; it really accelerates well out of the slow corners.”

Endurance racer and Porsche driving instructor Kees Nierop said his first impression of the Monterey Historic Automobile Races is that everyone walks around with a smile on their face. “When I hear some of these cars racing, it kind of brings a shiver down my spine and makes me feel good to be alive,” he said. “You just don’t hear cars sound like this anymore.”

“This is the very first time I have been to this fabulous event,” he added. ” I had the pleasure of driving the Porsche 718/8 which was a hill climb car and is the only one in existence. When Klaus (Bischof, director of the Porsche Museum in Germany) invited me to drive this car I was thrilled. He did say though since it was set up for hill climbs it is geared quite low, so be careful not to over rev the engine. Klaus does an excellent job maintaining these cars and this one, with its six-speed gearbox, is a thrill to drive. The gears actually were tall enough so I really needed to shift down a few times, because in order to really make it work it does not want to go below 4,000 rpm. What an honor to drive a car like this with the air rushing past as you go; pride just doesn’t get much bigger than that.”

As the cars go out on track and for all those who enjoy the thrill of their sound and image, it should be said that the current state of these cars is due to the craftsmanship and dedication of the people who prep, repair and restore them. John Rogers has been a specialist in this field for years and one of the few people in this country known to have the skill and ability to keep his customer’s machines race ready and safe.

“It is so satisfying to see a car that you restored 25 or 30 years ago and it’s still running strong, especially if it is still the way you did it, without somebody else having monkeyed around with it too much” said Rogers. “When you talk to the owner, and he says how much pleasure he has had with the car, and then you kind of drop it on him that you restored that car so many years ago and point out details he may not have known of, it’s rewarding to both of us.

“It’s important to note that when one of these cars is restored, it must be restored as close to original as possible but with an eye to safety. As an example, things like suspension pieces that might look okay but are rusty inside after 50 years, need to be replaced with accurately fabricated new pieces. These old cars killed the best there were in their day.”

The initial 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 and Other Awards given at the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, visit

Looking Back While Racing Ahead

August 19, 2009 by  
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According to David Love (San Rafael, Calif.), no matter how many times he comes to the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races and thinks he has seen it all, he discovers another significant vintage race car he has never seen before. “It is an event you might imitate but you could not duplicate,” said Love, a 74-year-old veteran of automobile racing who is driving here this weekend. In fact, Love has driven his 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa in each of the 36 runnings of the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, which have been held at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for as many years.

“Of course, things have changed quite a lot from the first event (1973) organized by Steve Earle (of General Racing),” said Love. “Back then we may have had 80 cars or so, but today Steve must be turning away four or so cars for every one he accepts, and they are coming from all over the world. (This year, 450 entrants were accepted.)

Love reminisced that back in 1967 a half-dozen of his friends gathered with their old sports cars to have what they called a mechanical picnic. “It was so much fun we decided we would do it again the following year,” said Love. “For that event we rented a local track for $100 and divided the cost between us. Steve Earle heard about it, came out with his GTO to see what we were up to, and that’s how we met.”

It didn’t take long for Earle to envision a proper road race to coordinate with the timing of the Pebble Beach Concourse d’Elegance, but he knew it would not be allowed on the public streets and chose the Raceway Laguna Seca as the ideal venue. Today, both the event and Earle are credited with making historic automobile racing what it is in the U.S. today.

And what it’s all about is passion.

“Some of the people who have this obsession started in a methodical and sensible way, and those are the drivers who really do well in the sport,” said Love, noting he is lucky to have kept his Testa Rossa “the way it is supposed to be” for 45 years. “They would begin with a driver’s school and afterward, perhaps, continue with a smaller SCCA class until they are comfortable racing, and then find the car of their dreams. Also important is to find conscientious and competent people to work on the cars. In tennis if you make a mistake you might sprain your ankle, but in some of these cars if you make a mistake you could get killed.”

In today’s race, while negotiating the notorious Corkscrew, Love missed his breaking points and hit the tire wall but was unhurt.

Still, his passion is wholly intact. “These cars have had such a major influence on my life and I am convinced if I had never raced I would be a completely different person.possibly a bit boring,” said Love.

Porsche Race Car Parade: In Honor of Bob Carlson and Bob Snodgrass

The Featured Marque at this year’s Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races is Porsche, and it is fitting that two people so connected with the legacy of Porsche – the late Bob Carlson and Bob Snodgrass — were honored today in a Porsche Race Car Parade. Carlson was the PR Director for Porsche North America for many years, while Snodgrass was a principal in Brumos Porsche.

As the Porsche race cars lined up on the front straight at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, David Donahue and Hurley Haywood took the front row in Brumos Porsches. (Donohue won the 2009 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in a Brumos Porsche and hopes to repeat the victory next year; Haywood, a Le Mans winner, is a Brumos teammate.) A third car, the Porsche 962 once driven by the late Bob Akin and handled today by Kees Nierop, joined them on the front row. For Porsche devotees, this was a touching moment; the sight of these three cars clearly brought back moments of triumph and brilliance.

Behind the trio were dozens of Porsches of every vintage, neatly lined up and waiting for the signal to set out and pay tribute to those who gave so much to the sport. As Haywood and Donohue completed their first lap, they were side-by-side in a Brumos salute to Snodgrass.

“It’s some of the personal stuff that means more than anything else at this time,” said Donohue, who was close to Snodgrass and, as a celebrity driver here, was honored by Rolex at a special dinner last evening after a full day of signing autographs.

When asked what he made of all the old cars here, Donohue, whose late father Mark Donohue is a racing legend, said: “For me, growing up with my Dad in his era, I have kind of an emotional attachment with a lot of these cars. And now to be able to get into a couple of them and have people know who I am — even though I am not to the scale of Hurley Haywood, Vic Elford or Derek Bell or so many of these other guys here – it’s great to be in their company”

Haywood had his own personal take on the sentiment. “It’s really wonderful to be in a position to look out on the paddock area and see some of the very cars I have raced in my career, which spans over forty years. And when I walk over to one of those cars it brings back wonderful memories. It makes me realize I have been doing this for such a long time and the cars bring flashbacks in time, but it seems like it was just yesterday when I was doing it.”

Haywood added that he had the opportunity yesterday to drive an early Porsche Formula 2 car. “It was a wonderful way of looking at a span from that car to the current Porsche prototypes and the technology that has gone on with the different formats that Porsche has developed — from formula cars to closed wheel cars, sports cars to prototypes, ” said Haywood. “And with each and every venture they have tried, they have done it superbly and have managed to put cars in each of those categories in Victory lane.”

Racing for eight of 15 groups took place today, while special introductions for two new cars – the Devon GTX and the Fisker Plug-in Hybrid — rounded out the action. Spectators may have noticed Jay Leno walking the paddock area, and those in the know caught actor and accomplished driver Patrick Dempsey taking to the raceway in his 1992 Mazda RX792P. After wrapping up filming on his latest project, the actor drove to Monterey, arriving in the wee hours of the morning and registered last-minute.

“I had a blast, these cars are phenomenal,” said Dempsey, who finished fourth in his group. “This is the fastest car I have ever driven and it was exciting. I really appreciate the support from Mazda, as always, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to go racing.especially with the Grand Am and the experience I am getting there, I’m getting faster and faster, and one of these days I am going to win one.”

As for the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, Dempsey said, “It’s very moving when you see the cars that went out before us. You step back in time and you honor the drivers who have done this before as well as the designers and manufacturers. When you see them here collectively racing, its absolutely wonderful for the sport.”

For more information on the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, visit

An Intriguing Array of People and Cars

August 17, 2009 by  
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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

Rolex makes Magic with Rolex Moments in Time Display

August 5, 2009 by  
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Every year at the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, attendees look forward to indulging in Rolex’s award-winning Rolex Moments in Time display, which honors six different historic racing cars and their most significant achievements. This year, for the 36th edition of the famous Rolex Monterey Historics, which run from Friday, August 14 through Sunday, August 16 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the museum-quality exhibit will be more dramatic than ever, theatrically staging amazing cars from the 1960s and 1970s within the context of the history they made.

Perhaps most extraordinary will be the inclusion of the Gulf Ford GT 40 and the 908LH Porsche that famously exchanged leads in the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans until the GT-40 prevailed, with only four seconds to spare, marking the closest margin of victory ever at Le Mans. Porsche had made an all out effort to win that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans with its 917. However, both 917s retired with clutch problems, and it was the Championship leading Porsche 908 driven by Hans Herrman and Gerard Larrousse that battled with the Ford GT-40 driven by Jackie Ickx and Jackie Oliver for the win.

1970 looked to be “The Year of the Titans” as horsepower and extreme speed became the necessary ingredients to win races. Porsche and its incredible 917 were to be challenged by Ferrari and its new 512S, both cars putting out over 550 horsepower. While the two cars were very close in performance, the 917 dominated the Championship. The 512 was always a threat but never able to rise to the level of the Porsche in the hands of the John Wyer Gulf Team.

Harkening back to that time, the Gulf 917K that will be displayed in the Rolex Moments in Time display is the car driven by Pedro Rodriguez in the 1970 1000 km race at Spa, Belgium, where it led until it retired. The Gulf’s stablemate, driven by Brian Redman and Jo Siffert, won at the amazing average of 149 mph. The Ferrari 512S that also will be in the display is the car driven by Jacky Ickx at the opening round at Daytona and Nino Vaccarella at Monza and Targa Florio where it finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

“The cars were as purposeful as their designers and drivers were determined and courageous,” said Steve Earle of General Racing, Ltd., which owns and organizes the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races. “The Rolex Moments in Time exhibit brings to life past eras of racing in a way that lets you feel the presence of these cars and their achievements.”

Rounding out the display will be the 1972 McLaren M20 (on loan from the National Auto Museum, Reno, NV), Team McLaren’s last challenger in the Can-Am Series that the team dominated for seven years, and the 1976 Porsche 936/81, winner at Le Mans in 1977, second place in 1978 and 12th in 1981. This car was the first of the three Porsche 936 cars built and the only one to compete in five Le Mans races. It was driven variously by Jurgen Barth, Reinhold Joest, Hurley Haywood and Vern Schuppan, all of whom will be at the Rolex Monterey Historics.

Autograph sessions with some of history’s greatest names in automobile racing will be held at the Rolex Moments in Time display on Friday morning, Saturday morning and afternoon, and Sunday morning. Instructions for picking up first-come, first-serve tickets to participate will be announced daily.

Porsche is the Featured Marque for the 2009 Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races. Of the 450 vintage cars that will be racing at the event, 145 are Porsches.

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