American race driver Derek Hill, son of World Champion Phil Hill, will strap himself behind the wheel of the lone surviving Maserati Tipo 151, of which only three were ever constructed, to race in the 2014 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, to be held August 14-17 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. Maserati is this year’s featured marque and will officially celebrate its 100th anniversary at the motorsports gathering.
Entered by Fratelli Auriana Racing from the collection of Lawrence Auriana, the Tipo 151 has been fully restored. Since its restoration, chassis 151.006 has competed in three successive Goodwood Revivals and last year in the 2013 Le Mans Legend. This will be the car’s first visit to Monterey and the challenging 2.238-mile road course.
The Tipo 151 will complement Maserati’s centennial display and provide a dynamic addition by having its pit crew working on the car throughout the weekend to keep it in race-ready condition.
According to Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, there are 550 entries for this year’s event, making it a rolling museum. “Fans will enjoy seeing Derek Hill pilot this very rare Maserati on the track. This is what makes the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion so special, seeing cars in motion that are normally housed in museums.”
Tipo 151.006 History
In 1962 the FIA modified the World Sportscar Championship by shifting its focus to production based GT cars, abandoning the traditional open-cockpit sports prototype. This forced Maserati to stop the development of the V12 Tipo 63 and 64 rear-engine Birdcages. Organizers at Le Mans were concerned that this new GT class would not draw large enough crowds, so they created a GT prototype and experimental class with an engine capacity up to 4 liters.
U.S. Maserati importer and well-known Le Mans entrant, Briggs Cunningham, asked Modena to produce a Maserati prototype for Le Mans. In a relatively short period of time, Giulio Alfieri designed the Tipo 151 coupe. Only three were built; Tipo 151.002, for Maserati France sponsor Colonel John Simone, and 151.004 and 151.006, which went to Cunningham.
Tipo 151 borrows heavily from the one-off 1957 Maserati 450S coupe. It had a front engine 4-liter V8 engine that was good for 185-plus mph.
At the 1962 24 Hours of Le Mans, Walt Hansgen and Bruce McLaren drove Cunningham 151.004 and Bill Kimberly and Dick Thompson in the Cunningham car 151.006, while Maurice Trintignant and Lucien Bianchi drove Maserati France car 151.002. All three 151s were easily the fastest cars in a straight line, but the tricky and complicated rear suspension prevented them from placing higher than third on the grid.
After five hours of racing, the Kimberly/Thompson car, retired after its brakes failed, and five hours later 151.002 withdrew with suspension problems. The McLaren/Hansgen car was the last to retire after 13 hours of racing due to a blown engine.
Cunningham took his coupes, Tipo 151.004 and 151.006, and raced at the Road America 500 and at tracks across the country before selling it to San Francisco car dealer Bev Spencer who raced it once at an SCCA event. Spencer then sold it to Chuck Jones, a well-known drag racing owner who was starting a road racing team, Team Meridian, with driver Skip Hudson.
Team Meridian raced 151.006 only three times in 1963 at Cotati, Road America and Bridgehampton. Jones retired the Maserati, painted it red and registered it as a California street car. Two years later, he sold the Maserati to a San Francisco resident for cash and a Lincoln Continental.
The car was held in private hands until 1983, until Maserati enthusiast, Peter Kaus, purchased the car and returned it to its original Cunningham colors to display it in his Rosso-Bianco museum in Aschaffenburg, Germany.
In the winter of 2006, Maserati 151.006 was sold to Lawrence Auriana, who undertook a full restoration to make it race-worthy once again, a condition it currently is in for Derek Hill to drive in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.
Visitors may see the Maserati Tipo 151 and hundreds of additional historic cars August 14-17 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Advance tickets for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion are on sale and range from $50 for a Friday ticket to $130 for a three-day ticket. VIP hospitality packages and car corral passes are also available. For information, call 800-327-7322 or visit www.MazdaRaceway.com.
[Source: Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion; photos: Tim Scott, Julien Mahiels]