Pre-Event Activities Warm Up at the Raceway

August 14, 2009 by  
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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

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.

Porsche Showcases Special Cars at Monterey Historic Automobile Races

July 20, 2009 by  
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At the upcoming 36th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races, held at Mazda Raceway Laguna
Seca on August 14-16, the sound of the initial stirrings of over 450 race cars will be
complimented by the exquisite growl of the newest, most daring and most advanced vehicle
Porsche has produced to date, the 2010 Porsche Panamera gran turismo.

“This year’s Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races presents the perfect opportunity to
demonstrate that Porsche’s DNA, its competitive spirit and drive for perfection, runs from
the very first 356, Porsche No. 1 up through today’s all-new Panamera,” said Detlev von
Platen, President and CEO of Porsche Cars North America.

“We at Porsche are deeply honored to have been named the ‘featured marque’ on this, the
61st anniversary of the very first Porsche and the North American debut of the Panamera,
the very latest Porsche,” added von Platen.

In addition to the 145 Porsche racers already entered by their owners, or one-third of the
450-plus field, Porsche will showcase the Panamera on the world-famous race track and will
also provide display vehicles on site.

Along with the North American debut of the 2010 Panamera, four special cars with
significant American connections will also be on site — all on loan from the new Porsche
Museum in Germany:

The 1960 Porsche Type 718 Formula 2 racing car, which gave Porsche its first Formula 2 world
title and was driven in 1961 by Californian Dan Gurney, is making its North American debut.

The 1962 Porsche Type 804 Formula 1 racer, which was the car that brought Gurney to his
French Grand Prix win that year. This car has not been in North America since the 1960s.

The 1962 Porsche Type 718 W-RS 8-cylinder Spyder, in which Gurney and Joakim Bonnier
finished second at the Targa Florio in 1961, has also not been in North America for more
than 40 years. In the 1960s, it was raced in the U.S. by Gurney, Bonnier and Phil Hill.

The Porsche GT1 98LM, which helped Porsche finish 1-2 at the 1998 24-hours of Le Mans event.

Porsche-sponsored activities for the fans at Laguna will include a heritage display
including former and current race cars, Porsche’s current showroom product line, and
experts to answer Porsche questions. Porsche Motorsport North America, the racing arm of
Porsche in the U.S., will also showcase its engine and chassis services for both
professional and club/vintage racing, while the Porsche Club of America expects to have
more than 400 Porsches in its club corral and will parade all its cars on the Mazda Raceway
Laguna Seca.

About Porsche Cars North America, Inc.

Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (PCNA), based in Atlanta, Ga., is the exclusive importer of
Porsche sports cars and sport utility vehicles for the United States. It is a wholly owned,
indirect subsidiary of Dr. Ing.h.c. F. Porsche AG. Approximately 200 PCNA employees provide
Porsche vehicles, parts, service, marketing and training for its 202 dealers. The dealers,
in turn, provide Porsche owners with best-in-class service. Throughout its 61-year history,
Porsche has developed numerous technologies that have advanced vehicle performance, improved
safety and spurred environmental innovations within the automotive industry. The company
continues to celebrate its heritage by adding to its long list of motorsports victories
dating back to its first 24 Hours of Le Mans class win in 1951. Today, with more than
28,000 victories, Porsche is recognized as the world’s most successful marque in sports car
racing. PCNA, which imports the iconic 911 series, the Boxster and Cayman mid-engine sports
cars, the high performance Cayenne sport utility vehicles and soon the Panamera gran turismo
for the U.S., strives to maintain a standard of excellence, commitment and distinction
synonymous with its brand.

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

Al Holbert

February 9, 2009 by  
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Al Holbert was born, Alvah Robert Holbert, on 11 November 1946 at Abington in Pennsylvania. This legendary American NASCAR driver, won the IMSA Camel GT series five times. Al Holbert’s father, Bob Holbert, was a racing car driver himself, and he ran a Volkswagen-Porsche dealership, out of Warrington, which is close to Philadelphia.

Al Holbert, during his studies as Lehigh University, worked for Roger Penske, where Mark Donohue started to influence him to drive. His very first victory was behind the wheel of a Porsche, in 1971. Holbert turned professional racing driver in 1974, and walked away with the IMSA title in 1976 and again in 1977, whilst driving a Chevrolet Monza. Holberts’ 19 career races, in the NASCAR series, was raced between the years of 1976 to 1979. He primarily drove for James Hylton during the nineteen races, in which Al Holbert had finished in the top ten, four times.

In 1983, Holbert took the Cam-Am championship title, together with the IMSA GTP title, whilst driving a March83G, powered by Porsche, as Porsche were not able to get the 956 ready for that year’s competition. In the 1984 Indianapolis 500, Holbert took fourth place. During the years 1987 to 1988, he led the Porsche Indy Car initiative. Holbert also took the 24 Hours of Le Mans title in the years 1983, in 1986, and again in 1987. He secured the 24 Hours of Daytona in the years 1986 and in 1987, and also won the 12 Hours of Sebring title in 1976 and again in the year 1981.

By this time, and with so many successes under his belt, Al Holbert headed up the Porsche North America’s Motorsports Division, and was also the racing team owner of Holbert Racing. Holbert had realized, in 1988, that the Porsche 962 had carried him through his early years of racing, and that they had become outdated with the new generation racing cars, like the Electramotive’s Nissan GTP racer and the Jaguar XJR-9. This inspired Holbert’s idea to produce an open top Porsche powered racing car, for the customer teams.

Al Holbert had visited the IMSA Columbus Ford Dealers 500 in Ohio, on 30 September 1988. Just after takeoff, Holberts’ plane started to develop engine problems. He was heading towards residential houses, but managed to steer his plane away, just before he crashed. Holbert did not survive the crash. His team was to be disbanded at the end of the racing season, and his race number, number 14, was to be retired by IMSA. Kevin Doran was recruited as the chief mechanic for Holbert Racing, an later became the team owner.

In 1993, tribute was paid to this brilliant driver, and competitor, who’s death left a gaping hole in the racing community, but also left behind a racing career that is still spoken about today. Alvah Robert “Al” Holbert was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, in 1993.

Mark Donohue

February 9, 2009 by  
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Born in Summit, New Jersey, on 18 March 1937, Mark Neary Donohue Junior was a brilliant American racecar driver. Mark Donohue had a reputation for being able to set up his own car and drive it consistently. The bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering that he received from Brown University in 1959 must have certainly helped him in this regard. He started racing casually at the relatively young age of 22 in a 1957 Corvette – the car which gave him his first win. He started networking with a number of different SCCA drivers and eventually met Walt Hansgen. Hansgen was an experienced race driver who recognised Donohue’s talent and became his mentor. He encouraged Donohue to make good use of both his natural driving talent and his great working knowledge of vehicle mechanics – something which always proved to be an advantage to Donohue.

In 1965, Hansgen invited Mark to co-drive a Ferrari 275 at the Sebring Endurance Race. The team finished eleventh in the race and Donohue was catapulted onto the international sports car racing scene. The following year Donohue was signed up to drive a GT-40 MK II racecar for the Ford Motor Company. His first year with the company was rather unsuccessful and he finished 51st. The following year, he again raced for Ford – this year with much more success. Despite constant disagreements with his co-driver Bruce McLaren, the team managed to finish 4th in the endurance classic. In 1967, Mark Donohue dominated the United States Road Racing Championship in a Lola T70 MkIII Chevy. He was driving for Roger Penske – one of the most influential figures in his racing career. During that year he won six of the eight races he competed in. The following year, Donohue continued to enjoy a superior season – dominating in most of the races despite mechanical problems with his McLaren M6A Chevrolet.

Things continued to go well for Mark Donohue and before long he started his Trans-Am career which was also highly successful. He raced his first Indianapolis in 1969, finishing seventh and taking the rookie of the year award. The following year he finished second and in 1972 he won the race. During all this time he continued to drive for Roger Panske. In 1973, Donohue took to NASCAR racing driving in the Winston Cup Series. During this time Penske had been working with Donohue to help develop the 917/10 Porsche. Donohue offered his extensive enginnering knowledge to help make the Porsche the best car on the track – though not all the choices he made where good ones. Before long the two started working on the 917-30 – the car which came to be known as the ‘Can-Am Killer’. The body was completely reworked to make it more aerodynamic, while the car features a 5.4 litre turbocharged Flat-12 engine which could reach an output of 1500 bhp. The car dominated every competition it entered, except one, and is still today seen as one of the most dominant racing cars to ever be created. Donohue went on to enjoy a short Formula One racing career before his untimely death in 1974 in a racing accident. He was eventually inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.

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