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The Magic of Monterey

One of the many pleasures of running things at DDC is how old friends pop in and contribute. Gary Horrocks will be a familiar name to anyone who has followed IMSA since Doctor Don revived the show at the turn of the century. Gary was of the stars in the world of DailySportsCar.com – his reporting of the American Le Mans Series was top notch, keeping absentees like myself informed and entertained in full measure. When he offered to give us a flavour of the scene around Monterey earlier this month, I jumped at the chance.

Laguna Seca under any name has always been a favorite track of mine.  I’ve been going there on an off and on again basis since 1984. 

Even after covering the ALMS and Grand Am series from 1999 thru 2016 and being at so many different tracks, any trip to Laguna almost felt like going home. 

When it was announced the featured “make” at the Monterey Historics was to be IMSA, I knew one way or another it was to be on my schedule.  50 years of IMSA sounded awesome.  Well, it wasn’t pretty, but I did manage to take in the sights and sounds for a day at least…

First of all, I opted to not apply for credentials – I didn’t expect to be “working” although eventually I did accomplish some work.  That brought on sticker shock – $90 for a Friday only ticket.  It was an additional $120 for Saturday. 

I’m sure there were packages available and such, but with prices like this, well yikes.  Then on top of that you have the business principle of supply and demand shining thru in regards to hotel rooms.  I saw a particular room I’ve used for the IMSA races at $170 a night up to a staggering $499 per night for this event.  As if the area isn’t expensive enough.  I’ve heard of many that are much better off than I that are staying away simply because of the expense.  This week isn’t for the common folk anymore…

Any trip to Laguna typically includes stops at In-n-Out Burger (a double-double will do just fine) as well as a stop at Canepa Motorsports.  During the week of the historics, their restoration shop is open for viewing and as always, their showroom and museum are open for your drooling pleasure…

This place is staggering.  Again, not a place that I really belong in, especially now being retired, but a great place to see some unique and special cars.  Thru the years that I’ve been visiting I’ve seen the inventory in both the showroom and museum change, but it seems that you can always count on the core being present. 

Gulf 917?  Check.  Mass/Ickx 962?  Check.  Audi R15 plus?  Check… 

What was of most interest to me was the appearance of the John Paul Greenwood Corvette.  This was the last of the line for Greenwood, but this Bob Riley car was the most extreme of a long line of extreme Corvettes.  I’d seen the car in the shop in 2016, stripped to the bare frame and to see it complete now was a sight to behold.  What a fantastic beast.

Anyway, on to the main event  the Monterey Historics.  Before arriving I’d stayed away from the entry lists on purpose – I simply wanted to be surprised.  I guess the car I most wanted to see (and hear) again was a Panoz.  Just one more time to see the beast in action.  While it wasn’t the coupe as I’d witnessed at Laguna in ’97 and 98, it was none other than the full on wacked out roadster I feel fortunate to have witnessed in 1999 and later.  Mags and Brabs could always be counted on to give it their all in the beast.  Even though it was typically an Audi show back then, the Panoz was still something to behold.  Good times…

Another highlight was Tommy Kendall’s RX-7.  If my feeble mind remembers correctly, this car was originally constructed by Jim Downing, raced by Jack Baldwin to two championships and served as Tommy’s entrance into IMSA racing.  All told, the car won 5 championships (Downing 1, Baldwin 2 and Kendall 2) in the IMSA GTU category.  None other than Dan Binks was Tommy’s crew chief back then and thru much of his career.  It was also Dan that was responsible for getting the car back in running order.  Tommy said, “we just wanted to get it running.  Mechanically it is great – Dan did a great job with it.  Cosmetically we didn’t do much to it.  It is as it last ran.  We did vacuum up the cat fur out of the car though.  My cat loved to sleep in the drivers seat when I was recuperating from my injuries.  It was sort of my therapy buddy…”  Dan added that the car is “quite slow when compared to today’s racing, even to a current street car.  We only got a bit over 300 hp in it.  That’s not much anymore.”

Even though there is a featured make, there are also other stunning cars in the paddock.  In this case it wasn’t just IMSA.  There are always an interesting assembly of F-1 cars, from back when the cars were unique and different.  Even if the featured make isn’t your thing, it is still worth the effort.  Just make sure you’ve the funds to make it work.

Anyway, what I was able to do didn’t disappoint.  Sure, I’d have loved to have had more time at the track, but it just didn’t work out this time.  At least I got one day at the track.  Poor Brian Mitchell – he and his lovely wife Linda made the trip, only for her to take a tumble on a pedestrian bridge.  The result of the fall was a wickedly messed up leg with multiple breaks.  He spent more time in the hospital with her than he was able to be at the track.  She faces a long recovery time – sadly she had just retired from many years of teaching.  Keep them in your thoughts…

Gary Horrocks, August 2019

Essen Show

 

John Elwin brings his expert eye to the proceedings at the recent Essen Motor Show, along with a comprehensive gallery, a good way to start the holiday season.

The German authorities might well be trying to dream up plans to ban fossil-fuelled vehicles altogether from the roads of Europe in the not too far distant future, but the fact that some 360,000 visitors poured through the doors of the Messe Essen during the 10-day run of the 49th Essen Motor Show suggests that the German love affair with the motor car is not quite over yet.

Inside, they found the full panoply of motoring, ranging from new-car debuts on manufacturer stands such as Ford and Skoda, to live action drifting. Everything was a little more condensed this year as the Messe is undergoing an upgrade, which meant a couple of halls were unavailable due to building works.

As usual, S.I.H.A. – the organisation responsible for organising the Techno Classica Essen Show in April – took charge of the classic side of things at Motor Show, with many of their regular exhibitors filling one hall with everything from a Heinkel bubble car to a monstrous Mercedes 600 Pullman, the subject of a recent 6,500-hour restoration. It was being shown by Brabus Classic, an offshoot of the company more familiar for its tuning and modification of modern cars. A sign of the times, perhaps? Whatever, the workmanship was very impressive, as was that on the matching blue 300SL Cabriolet and Gullwing models also on show.

Another Gullwing to attract a lot of attention was a black example being shown by Rosier Classic Sterne from Oldenburg. Despite a rather sumptuous tan leather interior, and a roll cage, side-exit exhausts gave the game away that it also had a competition history. There was more intrigue, though. The business was founded some years ago when Thomas Rosier snr. had the opportunity to buy a Mercedes dealership and in the process of raising funds, he sold a Gullwing that he owned at the time.

His son, also Thomas, joined him in the business and over time they built-up a network of companies employing some 800 people. Now in overall charge, Thomas jnr. sold most of the business to concentrate on classics. As part of that plan, he sourced some cars from America, amongst them the black Gullwing. Imagine his surprise when researching the history of the car, he discovered that it was the very Gullwing owned and sold by his father all those years ago!

The VW Golf Mk1 is at the other end of the extreme from Gullwing Merc’s but a very original GTi was attracting a lot of interest on Dutch dealer Potomac’s stand, leading one journalist colleague to excitedly ‘phone a friend’ whom he knew was looking for one. As he pointed out, to find a good original Mk1 Golf GTi is more difficult than a Gullwing Mercedes – there’s plenty of those for sale!

Alongside the GTi sat a 2010 (that’s correct) Mk2 Golf 1.8 with just over 6,000km on the clock, and what’s more it was right-hand drive. It transpired to be a South African-built car and Potomac anticipates selling it in the UK. Asking price is €24,000…

That however was a lot less than the sticker price on the very rare Alfa Romeo unanimously chosen by the jury as ‘Best in Show’. As a member of the jury, I cannot remember an occasion when every single member chose the same car. The car in question was a 1953 Alfa Romeo 1900C Sprint Supergioiello, the last of 18 such cars built by Ghia.

It was sold new to a Spanish owner who rallied it extensively, including taking part in the 1955 Monte Carlo Rally, hence the ‘400’ on the door – it’s start number in that rally.

Having spent most of its life in Spain and Portugal it underwent restoration in Italy and is now with IMBU Classics in Holland, who have it on offer for €599,000. However, it failed to sell at auction in Monaco in May with a lower guide price.

Upholding British honour, DD Classics from London was awarded the ‘Best Coupe’ prize for its Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

 

S.I.H.A.’s themed display this year featured Ferrari, with a fine array of machinery from the earliest days to the very recent FXX and LaFerrari supercars.

A Ferrari display featured elsewhere in the show too, with everything from Alfa Romeo Monza as raced by Ferrari before building his own cars, to more recent Grand Prix cars.

As befits a show that has its origins as The Jochen Rindt Show, motorsport plays an important part – that hasn’t always been the case in recent years. Live action, mostly of the Drifting variety, filled one hall.

The adjacent hall was host to a variety of event organisers, car builders and preparers and suppliers, catering for everything from karting to NASCAR.

 

Meanwhile the major manufacturers – Audi, BMW, Mercedes – concentrated on displaying their current DTM machinery, backed up by a display of cars from earlier years. Great to see those mighty Audi V8’s, Sierra Cosworth’s and Merc 190’s again!

Curiously, whilst you could inspect an ex Keke Rosberg Opel Calibra, there was seemingly no evidence anywhere in Essen that his son Nico had just won the World Championship for Mercedes. Likewise, you’d never know that VW had just won the World Rally Championship, or that Audi and Porsche had dominated endurance racing. With Audi bowing out of the WEC, what a great opportunity it would have been to mount a display of the cars that have brought the company so much success since 1999. Opportunities missed? And on another front, whilst a prominent feature displayed electric cars, why on earth are not the likes of Mercedes and Audi shouting from the roof tops about the amazing advances in engine technology they are making through motorsport?

Needless to say, some very different forms of motive power were on display amongst the custom car exponents. How about a Ford Econoline truck with four – yes, four! – engines mounted on the back.

And if that wasn’t enough for you, alongside it was a VW pick-up sporting a jet engine. Not much good for load-lugging but it would have got you to your destination quickly, especially if the route was a straight line.

Essen Motor Show was for long the bastion of the powerful German tuning industry. That is less apparent now, but the likes of Brabus and AC Schnitzer with their take on the latest offerings.

There’s always plenty to see at Essen, so why not go and have a look for yourself? With next year being the 50th show, there are bound to be some extra treats too.

02-12 December 2017    www.essen-motorshow.de

Before that, we have Techno Classica Essen, not to be missed by any classic fan.

05-09 April 2017   www.siha.de

John Elwin, December 2016