Everywhere you looked there was another Ford GT or Cobra or Shelby Mustang. It was the Shelby Tribute weekend at the Monterey Histories at Laguna Seca, and ‘Ol Shel’ was there, along with Roy Salvadori and their 1959 Le Mans-winning DBR1 Aston Martin, for the highlight of the vintage race season. Aston team-mates Stirling Moss and Paul Frere were also on hand.
Racing began on Saturday with the oldest machinery, David McCarthy winning in a very fast Type 35B Bugatti, with Jan Voboril second in the 1924 Barber Warnock Ford Model T Special. Race 2 was a runaway for Mark Giles’ ERA, before the heavy metal started with group 3, which Phil Hill won with a Ferrari 375 MM.
The cars in the GT350 Shelby Mustang race may have looked alike, but sound gave away those that had been breathed on. The cars were fast and the racing was hard Stirling Moss was black-flagged for driving too aggressively. In a race won by Ken Epsman, followed by Jack Schroll and Tom Georgalos, the lead see-sawed between the front-runners four times.
Six Cobras topped the next race, Phil Gallant leading home the 1965 Daytona of Rob Walton, which bested the 1964 driven by Tom Benjamin. Famed tuner Vic Edelbrock finished ninth in his Z06 Stingray.
After Dan Baker’s Lotus 27 dominated the Formula Junior event, the brave boys came out for the last race, including 3-litre Formula One cars. Mark Mountanos led the first three laps in his ’76 March, followed by Rudy Junco’s ’81 Williams.
Sunday started with a grid right out of a Fifties West Coast road race, including an Amok Bristol, Siatas and Crosleys. Robert Baker’s Porsche 550 dominated the 22.3-mile race, with Don Martine (MG TD Spl) second.
Race 2 included everything from a Lotus Elite, to Corvettes and Sunbeam Tigers. Not surprisingly, the Alfas, Healeys and Elvas were overshadowed by the Corvettes of top finishers Ron Cressey who led from flag to flag and Noel Park, with Tom Salcai’s Tiger in third.
The serious small-bore sports racers were out in earnest for Sunday’s third race. Former Porsche endurance racer Bob Akin held the lead for all ten laps in his Cooper ‘Monaco, followed by Don Orosco in a Lotus 15 and Herb Wetanson in a Lola Mid. Lotus its were heavily represented, with one of the rare Dolphin Americas failing to start.
Sentimentalists must have been pleased by the results of the group 4 race, which Peter Hardman won with the Le Mans winning Aston Martin DBR1. Rob Walton was second in a Maserati T-61, followed by the ListerCorvette ofJohn Harden. With a ’59 Testa Rossa in fourth and a Chaparral I in fifth, there was plenty of variety.
Finally there was a lead change on the track for the Sixties sports racers which ran in group 5. Tom Byrnes took the lead on the first lap in his Brabham BT-8, with the original leader, Barry Brown, retiring his King Cobra. Joe Hish took second in his LaBoa, with Joel Matta in third the first of many Lotus 23Bs. Sixth went to a Merlyn Mk6A, with a pack of Elvas in mid-field.
Serious cars did some serious racing in the sixth Sunday race, which Brian Redman won in a Ford GT-40, beating Mark Leonard’s similar car after a handful of lead changes. Ford GTs also finished third and fourth (Tom Armstrong and David Cohen). A pair of Porsche 906s, a bunch of 427 Cobras, Ford Mk IVs, an Alfa T33/2 and a few Lolas pounded the ground in a serious display of horsepower.
The real Trans Am was back in the group 7 race. As if in a flashback, Pamelli Jones’ Boss 302 Mustang took and held the lead on lap four. Tony Drissi finished second in a ’67 Camaro, ahead of David Leslie in another Boss 302, and former Can Am and Trans Am legend George Follmer followed in fourth. Boss Mustangs and Camaros were the dominant entrants, although a couple of Javelins, a Cougar and Barracuda and a lone Porsche 911 contested the ten-lapper to end the day.
Laguna Seca is a glorious track, with multiple elevation changes, sweeping and tight turns, as well as straight stretches long enough for the big cars to really stretch their legs. As wonderful as it is to see legendary drivers and cars back in action, some of the best sights and sounds are in the paddock, where you can really see the machinery, be it lined up under canopies in front of a well-equipped semi trailer, or in the blazing sun in front of a one or two-man equipe. And, although the odd Cobra or Ford GT is sometimes seen in European vintage events, seeing so many being used hard is just another one of the glories of the Monterey Historic Races.