MONTEREY MADNESS: LAGUNA SECA PRE-REUNION!

Mike Matune presents highlights from the race before THE race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Monterey Car Week has grown exponentially and now includes over 40 individual events, but one not often mentioned is the Pre-Reunion. Held the week before the legendary Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, it may have smaller fields and fewer exhibits, but the cheaper tickets and smaller crowds make it really enjoyable for racing aficionados. Some 300 cars show up to compete in 11 groups over two days. Many of the same cars will be featured on the “Big” weekend, while some are exclusive to the Pre-Reunion.

Richard Griot’s McLaren 6A, top, sits at the “intersection” of the Can- Am and USRRC series. In 1967 Bruce McLaren used it to win the Can-Am championship and in 1968 Mark Donohue preformed the same feat in the USRRC. It is interesting to compare the lines of this early small-block racer with the later big-block M8s. As expected for the featured marque, BMWs made a great showing, including “CH” Deehan in David Hinton’s CSL Turbo, left.

No collection of notable BMWs would be complete without an “Art Car”. Dean DeDesantis’ CSL bears the paint scheme of the first such car enhanced by Alexander Calder. It would spawn a collection of living art that is enjoyed to this day. DeSantis’ ride was acquired in the Netherlands after it competed in Europe.  He now uses it in vintage events.

American Peter Gleeson’s BMW 635 CSI shows the international nature of Monterey. It has racing history in Australia’s Touring Car Championship and in New Zealand. At the Pre-Reunion, Adrian Brady of Hong Kong drove it. Such is the draw of Monterey, attracting an international field of cars, entrants and drivers.

There is a lot of racing at the Pre-Reunion. They cram 22 practice and race sessions into two day, comprising some 21 hours of track time. This is Mike Eddy’s Falcon, a veteran of the 1966 Trans-Am finale at Riverside where Shelby American wrapped up the inaugural championship for Ford. Eddy’s car was entered to increase Ford’s car count and thus their chances of taking points away from the rival Chrysler teams.

Another member of the BMW contingent was Australia’s Chris Bowden and his Procar M1. It spent the majority of its competitive life in Japan taking multiple Japanese Endurance Championships as an FIA Group 4 car. After spending time in a private collection, it was restored and returned to the track as a successful vintage racer.

There was more than just BMWs at the Pre-Reunion. A large contingent of USRRC and Can-Am racers showed up to celebrate Can-Am’s 50th anniversary. Duncan MacKellar turns in towards the apex in his ex-Roy Woods Racing McLaren M8E. in period, Vic Elford and Sam Posey enjoyed some success as privateers racing against the all-conquering McLaren juggernaut.

Part of that McLaren show of force in 1971 was this M8F-1, driven by Denny Hulme to three victories and a 2nd place in the championship. Today it is owned and driven by Chris MacAllister. Right behind him is a similar McLaren M8 with Robert Kauffman at the helm.

Jere Clark’s Echinda Special is one of three constructed by a group of Minnesota enthusiasts. They combined heavily modified Tri-Five Chevy passenger car frames and suspensions with Devin fiberglass bodies and Rochester FI Chevy small-blocks.

When Jaguars proved too heavy for sprint racing, Brian Lister built a simple ladder-frame racecar with Jaguar power. Americans were quick to adapt the chassis to Chevy engines. Later, to improve the aerodynamics of the car, Frank Costin, an early advocate of racing aerodynamics, designed a swoopier body. Originally ordered by Carroll Shelby for John Edgar Racing, it was then sold to Dave Ridenour and extensively raced in the USA. At the Pre-Reunion, its owner Erickson Shirley piloted this car.

The lineage of the Iso Grifo and the Bizzarrini both trace back to Renzo Rivolta who hired ex-Ferrari engineer/designer Giotto Bizzarrini to design an exotic with Chevy power. The Iso Grifo was a GT, while the Bizzarrini was a GT racecar. Owned by Chip Fudge, this was the last one constructed. It sat unfinished for almost ten years before it was rescued and completed.

Gregory Johnson’s ‘69 Camaro shows all the tell-tale markings of an endurance racer, including an identification light and additional night-time driving lights. Its legacy includes appearances at Sebring and Daytona in 1971 and use in SCCA A/S through the end of the 1970s.

Words & Photos by M.M. “Mike” Matune Jr.

Our thanks to Dave Hart for his help with credentials and hospitality during the Pre-Reunion, along with all of the Media Center personnel, SCRAMP volunteers and corner workers.

For more information about events at Laguna Seca, please visit http://www.mazdaraceway.com/

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