Seeing the hundreds of thousands of people who flock to the multiple events of the 21st century Monterey Car Week makes it difficult to believe that it all started small in 1950 with the Del Monte Trophy clubman’s race held on a couple of miles of local roads.
The original Pebble Beach Road Races took place on a combination of paved and gravel surface on and around the famous ‘17 Mile Drive’ before moving to a slightly longer route near the golf club’s Lodge.
It was a tight and twisty track, much of which passed through the dense woodland typical of the area – but accidents were few, and rarely serious.
Until, that is, racer Ernie McAfee died during the 1956 event after slamming his Ferrari into a tree. The incident prompted the development of the present Laguna Seca track using $1.5m raised from local businesses and other benefactors.
Built in just 60 days on the site of a dry lake bed (hence the name) racing got underway on November 9, 1957 and hasn’t stopped since, with the circuit playing host to everything from Can-Am to Trans-Am, Formula 5000, IMSA GT, CART and IndyCar – as well as motorcycles competing in AMA, WSBK and MotoGP competitions (and even the odd music festival).
Undoubtedly one of the biggest draws, however, is the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion that has been a key element of Car Week since it was inaugurated in 1974 by historic racer Steve Earle.
So popular is the modern-day event that it is preceded by the Monterey Pre-Reunion (happening this year on August 13-14) at which more than 300 cars compete on the circuit – and where the paddock is entirely open to allow spectators to wander around and soak-up the atmosphere. Tickets cost £28 per day, or £48 for the entire weekend.
The main Motorsport Reunion races will take place August 17–20 (Wednesday to Saturday) and will feature a remarkable 500 historic cars competing across a dozen different categories.
Regardless of your favourite racing era, there’s likely to be a group to keep you enthralled, from the Ragtime Racers’ exhibition event for pre-1920 cars to the F1 challenges organised for grand prix cars built between 1966 and 1985, and from the Formula Junior duels to the Formula Atlantic contest revived from the 1970s.
Traditionally the Motorsports Reunion focuses on a different ‘featured marque’ each year – but the 2022 edition heralds the start of the official global celebrations for next year’s centenary of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
As a result, Le Mans cars from as far back as the 1920s and up to 2005 will be battling it out on a daily basis in what promises to be a series of thrilling races.
An equally impressive spectacle can be seen at 4.30pm on Wednesday, August 17 when dozens of blue chip classics will roll in to the grounds of Casa Palmero on the Pebble Beach resort site – having driven more than 1500 miles from Kirkland, Washington, over the course of two weeks.
Described as “the ultimate road trip for concoursworthy automobiles”, the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic is open only to the best collector cars – some of which line-up to compete in the Pebble Beach Concours itself.
At 7am the following day, meanwhile, up to 150 cars that have been selected for the concours take part in the Tour d’Elegance, a five-hour drive along Highway 1 that, if successfully completed, lends an advantage when it comes to final judging.
The route takes in some of the original 17 Mile Drive (the famous road that runs through the gated community of Pebble Beach), passes through some of the region’s most spectacular mountains and valleys and stops for a breather at picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea.
And when the cars arrive back at the 17th and 18th fairways of the Pebble Beach Golf Links at midday, the hard work begins for the teams of specialists employed to clean, polish and detail in order to give their super-rich owners the best chance of winning the coveted ‘best of show’ award that this crazy nine days of automobile overload is really all about.
The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is at Raceway Laguna Seca from Wednesday, August 17 to Saturday, August 20. The vast array of ticket options ranges from single-day tickets at £24 to luxury VIP suite packages costing £1120, all of which can be bought in advance from August 12. weathertechraceway.com