The pulsating paddock is the heart of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Its function is to create an adrenaline-rush by pumping fossil-fuel-burning machinery into an 11-turn, 2.238-mile arterial adventure. When functioning properly, factory race teams and privateers are able to “live life” in the way we were all meant to – behind the wheels of rare, expensive, and sometimes dangerous racecars, blogs photojournalist Jim Palam.Exploring the paddock is one of my favorite things to do during Monterey Car Week. Sure, there’s plenty of glamour and shiny excess here but there’s also sweat and grease, the intoxicating aroma of racing fuel, plus the opportunity to get up-close to the cars and racing legends of our Car Guy dreams. So let’s harness-in and fire things up, shall we…What better way to start our paddock area exploration than with a friendly send-off into the garages, tents and lanes from the always-friendly Jaguar spokespeople.
Come off the pedestrian bridge by Turn 1, make a left and you’re quickly treated to the latest high-performance offerings from Nissan – like this chiseled 710-horsepower ‘19 GTR.
While you’ll see new and coming offerings from the factories at Laguna Seca, it’s really about rare and storied racecars at the “Historics” during Car Week. This ‘61 Dolphin America Abarth is one of only 16 Dolphins produced in the 1960s.
Wouldn’t you just love to arrive at your local Cars & Coffee in this meticulously-restored 1914 Mercer 45? No. 4 finished 28th in a field of 32 in Group 1A – Pre-1940 Sports Racing, Touring and Race Cars and 1927-1951 Racing Cars.
Did I mention adrenaline-rush? This’ll do it: Porsche 911 (996) GT1 Porsche AG Mobil1, driven to victory at Le Mans in 1998 by Allan McNish.
This is the car some considered the world’s ugliest sports car but, driven by Dan Gurney, Billy Krouse, Carroll Shelby and Bob Bondurant, it consistently made the sleekest imported machinery look slow. Current owner Dr. Ernest Nagamatsu and the Jimmy Shine Workshop team brought Max Balchowsky’s Old Yeller II Buick-powered Special to the track.
This is the real deal: GT40, chassis #1075. Competition History*: Winner of Le Mans 24-Hour in 1968 and 1969. Also, Winner of BOAC International 500 in 1968, Spa 1000-kilometer in 1968, Watkins Glen 6-hour in 1968; Sebring 12-hour in 1969. (*Source: The Henry Ford Museum).
Paddock Toys! Nifty, sometimes-bizarre conversation pieces can be found up and down the paddock lanes. This six-wheel, Indy style high-performance go-cart has a Swiss Cheese metal skin and an elaborate eight-trumpet exhaust system.
Race team members can often be seen scooting around the paddock in search of “O” rings, energy drinks and missing drivers. This fully accessorized, original Vespa 150 Piaggio is a nimble and stylish Go-Getter.
What a surprise! As I raced through the McLaren garage I grabbed this quick shot that, in review, revealed something very cool. I realized that the guy giving me the thumbs-up is the same guy featured in the super-graphic behind him. It’s McLaren racing legend Mika Häkkinen – the Flying Finn – Formula One World Champion in 1998 and 1999!
This slick, silver ‘65 Shelby Cobra, owned by Pierre Mulacek of Houston TX, raced in Group 6B – 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500 cc.
Sticker Price in the paddock is more about dreams, camaraderie and passion then it is about money. This “Participant” sticker array on a lean and mean ’58 Chevy-powered Echidna Special reveals this Minnesota built racecar has recently returned to competition.
1953 MK7 Cooper F3 (# MK7 /5/53) was one of the first mid-engine racecars in the U.S. This curvy car – inspired by Roger Penske’s Zerex Special – was known in racing circles as The Pooper.
Vintage racecar owner and driver Lester Neidell may be getting older but he’s not slowing down – thanks in good part to his racing regimen in his ‘33 Plymouth Speedster. Restored in the mid-1970s, this active Pre-War competitor is period correct and street legal.
Not sure how this J.A.P. powered ‘32 Morgan Three-Wheeler would do in a crash test, but owner Julien Pearl is confident enough to race it in the Historics. Love the re-purposed, vintage Castrol cans!
Jim Gallaugher’s beautifully presented and carefully prepared ’67 Corvette Sting Ray is a winner from any angle. Its 5th place finish in the Group 6B GT Cars class was pretty impressive as well.
The No. 9 Hall-Scott 1917 Racer is a beast of a car. This famous Dick DeLuna The Four-A-7A was built on a REO chassis and is powered by a Hall-Scott 9.9 liter, four-cylinder OHC motor – more commonly used in period boats and aircraft.
Speaking of aircraft, this is not one. This is the rear view of the prototype ‘19 Nissan Formula E racecar that will compete in the all-electric FIA Formula E Racing Series. The motor is an AC/McLaren Applied Technologies MGU delivering 335 horsepower.
Not every vintage car brought into the Paddock during the Historics is there to race. This extremely rare ‘53 Siata 400F coupé was there to impress and it surely did!. The Berlinetta bodywork of the 400 F is credited to Giovanni Michelotti.
Paddock Toys 2. I can only guess what the inspiration for this motorized, laminated-wood mini-car was. It’s small-kid size and apparent lack of doors suggests it might be remote controlled – unless the entire body flips up for entry. Something for you Car Guys to research while I head back out in search of more automotive gems for http://carguychronicles.com/
Words & Photos: Jim Palam, https://www.jimpalam.com/
For more information about events at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, please visit http://www.weathertechraceway.com/