An Intriguing Array of People and Cars

August 17, 2009 by  
Filed under News

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.

Pre-Event Activities Warm Up at the Raceway

August 14, 2009 by  
Filed under News

For the true motorsports enthusiast there is no event quite like the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, which start tomorrow (Friday, August 14) at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.  Not only are history’s most significant race cars accessible in paddock areas for spectators to admire at close range but also they perform, racing wheel-to-wheel to thrill the crowds, which are expected to exceed 30,000 over the next three days. 

The event is a cornerstone of Monterey Peninsula’s Classic Car Week, a veritable feast of things to see and do for car lovers, and utilizes the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca like no other on the facility’s calendar. With practice on Friday and warm-ups Saturday and Sunday mornings, racing begins after noon each weekend day for 15 race groups that span nearly every era of motorsports history. 

The 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is nestled among the hills between Monterey and Salinas and features among its 11 turns the signature Corkscrew, which drops five stories from its entrance to the challenging hairpin turn that follows it. For those of the 450 participants who are new to the track, a new- driver orientation was held today, previewing the sights, sounds and smells in which spectators will indulge tomorrow.

“This helps to get the weekend off to a good start,” said Mark Hamilton Peters (Lakeville, Conn.), a private driver coach who — working like an energetic traffic cop — orchestrated individual starts for the cars taking to the track. “It helps the drivers who are here for the first time become familiar with the track, so they don’t have to go out cold tomorrow.  It takes away the stress of doing the Monterey Historics, which is a big deal in any vintage racing driver’s book.”

Peters added: “There are drivers here like John Morton and Brian Redman who originally raced these cars that we are now seeing in historic events.  And then there are also participants here who, when they were younger, saw those gentlemen drive and admired them and now have reached a milestone in their lives that lets them live the fantasy of driving like their heroes.”

With Porsche as the Featured Marque this year, pre-event activities today also included “hot laps” for journalists in a fleet of newly unveiled 2010 Porsche Panamera Gran Turismos.  Behind the wheels of the exotic four-door, four-seat sports cars were celebrity drivers Hurley Haywood and David Donohue.  (Haywood, one of the most winning endurance racers ever, and Donohue, the 2009 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona winner, will be racing at the Rolex Monterey Historics.)

Of the 450 vintage race cars competing here, one-third will be Porsches, representing 61 years of the company’s manufacturing legacy. Porsche activities for the public will include its heritage display featuring former and current race cars and a special showing of four cars from the new Porsche Museum in Germany: the 1960 Porsche Type 718 Formula 2; the 1962 Porsche Type 804 Formula 1; the 1962 Porsche Type 718 W-RS 8-cylinder Spyder; and  the Porsche GT1 98LM. The Porsche Club of America expects to have more than 200 Porsches in its Club Corral and will parade all its cars on Sunday.

Between races spectators can visit the award winning Rolex Moments in Time exhibit, which once again has knocked it out of the park with an amazing presentation, including the 1969 Gulf Ford GT 40 that won the 1969 24 Hours of Le Mans race by less than four seconds. And leaving no one wanting for more, Rolex has also included in the exhibit the 1969 908LH Porsche that took second place that year.

For more information on the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, visit www.montereyhistoric.com.

Auto Racing Set To Take Pakistan By Storm

February 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

Pakistan has a widely recognized reputation for two things – cricket and hockey. The people of this country are largely poor and signs of this can be seen everywhere – from the rickshaws that clutter the streets to the rustic living conditions that many deal with. Auto racing is certainly something that most Pakistanis have only ever seen on TV. All that may be about to change as fans get ready to enjoy auto racing events in Pakistan.

Lahore played host to a brand new, exciting auto racing event on Sunday when various flashy, privately-owned sports cars were gathered for the first official auto racing event in Pakistan. Not content to sit and watch the excitement only on international TV, various young South Asian men have decided to break free from old sporting traditions and start racing. Auto racing in Pakistan is not a new idea – it has been carried out somewhat illegally for a little while now. Drag racing has always been discouraged by both local communities and the government due to the dangerous nature of the sport. But now it seems that all that is about to change. Persistent pleading from a few of the country’s racing enthusiasts has led to the government rethinking its stance on the sport. They decided to sponsor a day of drag racing and the result was Sunday’s proceedings in Lahore.

Most of the cars are owned by the country’s elite who have already been gathering in Lahore and Karachi for a couple of years in order to showcase their vehicles and race them in un-sponsored events. Now, with the government’s backing, fans of the sport can make the most of auto racing in Pakistan. Even those who are unable to afford a vehicle can finally experience the thrill of watching from the sidelines with the smell of smoke, rubber and fuel thick in the air.

As the Corollas, Datsuns, Nissan R35s and Mazda RX-8s competed for the fastest time, enthusiastic onlookers decked themselves out with name brands like Ferrari, Honda and Corvette. One of the biggest crowd pleasers was a striking, fire-red Corvette C6, owned by Syed Raza Ali Gillani. Almost sixty men tested their vehicles down the quarter-mile track. Each was allowed two runs in their attempt to clock the fastest time and claim the trophy. The event was a massive success and it seems that now that the eyes of government authorities have been opened to the potential this sport has in the country, it might well flourish under their encouragement. Only time will tell.

LA Auto Show Design Challenge Won by Mazda

November 27, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Whenever the LA Auto Show Design Challenge takes place, motoring enthusiasts keep an eager eye out to see who the winner is. This year it was the Mazda R&D team who has managed to beat some rather stiff opposition with their creative and innovative design.

The theme for the 2008 design challenge was posed in the form of a question, namely: “How will auto racing look in the year 2025?” The resulting entries were amazing, but none quite as impressive as the Mazda entry. The team created a super-skinny, super-slick, three-wheeled vehicle that uses a patented electronic tire system to power it. The system makes use of an electro-conductive road surface from which the tires draw their energy. The concept is not new and has already been proposed for commercial roads as part of the Mazda Blue-Sky initiative. It is capable of enabling the vehicle to achieve speeds of up to 250 mph with absolutely no harmful emissions. Environmentally-friendly, fast and innovative – this is exactly the sort of thing that judges were looking for.

The Environmentally-friendly Mazda Kann definitely takes auto racing to a whole new level. Not only does it propose an entirely new way for a vehicle to be supplied by efficient power, but it also looked into the way that motor racing is typically done. The Mazda Kann team suggested that the sport could possibly change with up to thirty team members racing at the same time instead of just having one or two individuals. The idea is that the team could work together, using certain formations to give them an aerodynamic advantage and increase their speed.

The LA Auto Show Design Challenge saw a number of excellent entries from big auto manufacturers such as Mercedes Benz, Toyota, GM, Honda, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen and Audi. However in the end it was the Mazda concept that won the 2008 design challenge. According to the director of Design Los Angeles and partner in The Design Academy Inc., Chuck Pelly, “The scope of entries this year was very impressive and in the end it came down to which team had the most innovative and artistic design that could go beyond the expectations and challenges of racing today. Mazda’s designers created an optimistic vision of 2025 and ultimately brought unique styling back to motor sports.” When one looks at the finished design, it is easy to see why the Mazda R&D team was the final winner.

British International Motor Show

July 18, 2008 by  
Filed under Miscellaneous

Looking for a great weekend out for the whole family? Look no further than the British International Motor Show. No one in the family can complain that the show is just about cars because, while that is obviously the focus of the event, there is a whole lot more on offer.

This massive motoring show is held every two years in the United Kingdom where it receives a phenomenal response from the public. It is recognized by the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles as being an international event and this premier auto show lasts almost two weeks. The 2008 British International Motor Show is set to take place from July 23 to August 3 and it will be held at the ExCeL Exhibition Center situated in London’s Docklands. This year will see a number of new cars being introduced to the public for the first time. These include the Ford Focus RS, the Opel Insignia, the Nissan Qashqai+2, the Vauxhall Insignia and the soon-to-be-legendary Lotus Eagle. But it doesn’t end there. There will be more than 595 world premieres, hundreds of interactive attractions and more manufacturing representatives than you can imagine.

The heritage enclosure will transport you back in time to discover the legacy of the supercar over the past fifty years in a fun and entertaining way. The marine experience will take the action away from the racetrack to the water where the public can “Try-a-boat”, watch exhilarating boat races and more. The Motor Show Music Festival will provide great waterside musical entertainment in a relatively intimate setting. Expect to hear the sounds of legendary bands such as UB40, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Blondie, Meatloaf with guest Arno Carstens and Squeeze. At the Dreamscape Honda Action Arena you will see plenty of exciting racing action as a variety of Honda cars and motorbikes take to the racetrack to thrill audiences in celebration of the legendary man behind the name. Kids are certainly not forgotten and not only do they get to have fun behind the wheel of their own minicars, but they get to learn about the rules of the road while doing it at the Peugeot Kids Driving School. The Disney/Pixar World of Cars will also give them a chance to catch up with their automobile heroes as these life-sized vehicles will be attending the show.

Those who prefer to kick up the dirt will find themselves at home at the ‘Land Rover’s Ultimate Experience’ zone. With a specialist instructor behind the wheel, you can find yourself in a car doing some pretty hair-raising stunts as its off-road capabilities are tested to the limit. Other exciting facets of the show include the Taster Test Drives, Mazda Zoom Zoom Challenge, the Supercar Paddock, the Shop at the Motor Show, Brownhills Outdoor Living, What Van? Live, Vauxhall VXRacing Village, Westfield Active Drift Experience, Garmin Great British Drives and Karting 4U. Clearly this is a not-to-be-missed event, so book your tickets now and make sure that you are there on opening day!

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