The field for the 36th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races is complete, with 450 entrants for the 36th running of one of vintage motorsport’s most revered racing traditions, set for August 14-16 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, California. Nearly 1/3rd of the field are Porsche cars, helping to celebrate Porsche as this year’s featured marque.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the iconic Porsche 917, and fittingly, four 917Ks will take to the track. Three of those are re-uniting from the Gulf Wyer Team, and their former Executive Director John Horsman will be watching them race along with Brian Redman and Vic Elford, both of whom claimed victories at 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring and are former Porsche factory drivers who raced the 917 at Le Mans. (Elford also was behind the wheel of the 917 for the high speed scenes in the Steve McQueen film “Le Mans.”)
“The Porsche 917K was the greatest race car of all time” said Elford, noting that the “K” denoted aerodynamic modifications made for the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans, helping to give Porsche its first overall victory in that race, followed by another win in 1971. It incorporated Porsche’s revolutionary flat 12-cylinder engine. The long-tailed version could go 0-62 mph in 2.7 seconds and reach top speeds of over 240 mph.
“The first time I drove the 917 was in 1969 (at Le Mans), and that car was a monster,” he continued. “At the end of a straight you couldn’t just go from the brake pedal to the throttle because the back end would want to come around, so you had to kind of finesse it…it was uncharted territory back then and the car was very unstable.” Elford explained that he was three hours from the finish and holding a 50-mile lead when his 917 broke down, taking him and his co-drivers out of the running. John Horsman, who was an engineer as well as the Gulf Wyer Team Executive Director, suggested the “short tail” modification for the car and the 917K was born.
Elford added that in contrast to the 917 of 1969, the 1970 car (the 917K) was easy to drive in the new short form. “At the end of the Mulsanne straight (at Le Mans) in 1969 the 917’s top speed was around 200 mph, but in 1970, the top speed there was 220,” he said.
With practice on Friday and warm-ups Saturday and Sunday mornings, racing will begin after noon on each weekend day for 15 race groups that span nearly every era of motorsports history.
Saturday’s Group 7A (1964 – 1971 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars) is just one example of the extremely rare and valuable cars competing: it features not only 917K Porsches but also two Ferrari 512s and two Ford GT-40s.
“For enthusiasts, the 2009 Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races will be very special,” said Steve Earle of General Racing, Ltd., which owns and organizes the event. “You’ll be going back in time, not just standing around admiring these cars. They are racing, and the sights and sounds are the real thing.”
Notable drivers include England’s Sir Stirling Moss, often called “the greatest driver never to win the World Championship,” driving a 1960 Lola MK I in Group 5A; South Africa’s Desire Wilson (one of only five women to have entered an F1 World Championship Grand Prix), driving a 1952 Glockler Porsche in Group 3A; the USA’s John Morton (lauded for accomplishments in Can Am, Trans Am, Indy Car, and endurance car racing), driving a 1985 Nissan GTP in Group 8A; and Kevin Buckler driving his 2003 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona overall winning Porsche GT3RS in Group 7B. Brian Redman (multiple winner of Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring) will drive the unique 1969 Porsche 917 PA (Porsche’s first Can-Am effort) in Group 6B and a 1971 Porsche 908/3 (a twin to the car with which he won the 1970 Targa Florio) in Group 7A.
Schedule of Racing
Saturday August 15, 2009
Group 1A) 1904 – 1940 Sporting Cars
Group 2A) 1925 – 1949 Racing and Sporting Cars
Group 3A) 1948 – 1955 Sports Racing & GT Cars under 1500cc
Group 4A) 1955 – 1961 GT Cars under 2200cc
Group 5A) 1955 – 1961 Sports Racing Cars under 2000cc
Group 6A) 1955 – 1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc
Group 7A) 1964 – 1971 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars
Group 8A) 1981 – 1991 FIA Mfg. Championship & IMSA GTP Cars
Sunday August 16, 2009
Group 1B) 1947 – 1955 Sports Racing & GT Cars over 1500cc
Group 2B) 1971 – 1976 FIA Mfg. Championship Cars
Group 3B) 1961 – 1966 GT Cars under 2500cc
Group 4B) 1959 – 1966 Sports Racing Cars
Group 5B) 1963 – 1967 GT Cars over 2500cc
Group 6B) 1966 – 1974 Can-Am Cars
Group 7B) 1973 – 1980 IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT Cars