Laguna SecaMonterey Historic Automobile Races Northern California has the distinct pleasure of hosting two vintage car races. The first one is held at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma and the more famous one held down in Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway. Laguna Seca Raceway has been operated by the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula since its opening in 1957. SCRAMP is a non-profit organization chartered to benefit local charitable and non-profit groups and to promote economic vitality in Monterey Peninsula and Central California area.

The Monterey Historic Automobile Races have been held for the last 25 years and now rank as one of the premier events in the United States for vintage motorsport. Founder Steven Earle's idea of creating an "automotive weekend in Monterey" became a reality in 1974 with 60 participants, and 1,000 spectators. The races actually are a part of a week long series of events that include various important auctions and the Pebble Beach Concours d' Elegance. The races are held at the Laguna Seca road course located just north of Monterey. The track is 2.238 miles / 3.602 kilometers in length and the current course record is held by Brian Herta (Indy Car) at 67.895 (118.666mph).

In 1999 the event featured the Silver Arrows from Auto Union. Formed in 1932 when four struggling German automakers - Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer - were molded into one company. This company became known as Auto Union. The adjoining rings symbolized the unbreakable bond shared between the four automakers. Uncertain economic conditions plagued Auto Union during its inception and the board of directors realized that the new company needed to distinguish itself with a special project that would assert its dominance in the automotive arena. The directors decided that their best course of action was to produce an unprecedented racing machine that would take the world by storm. For this they turned to legendary automotive engineer, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, who just happened to have designs for a mid-engined racing car that would be adapted to the new regulations of 1934. Porsche was brought aboard to build a Grand Prix car for the new company.

The weather was great the whole weekend even though there was some early morning fog this only added to the natural beauty of the Monterey Peninsula. Nearby attractions include Carmel, 20 championship golf courses including those at Pebble Beach, Monterey Bay, Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey Bay Aquarium and historic Cannery Row. The highlight for me was of course getting to see the Auto Unions on the race track rather than just at the Deutsche Museum. When not on the track they were displayed inside a large tent. A short film was also shown describing the history of these great cars. For icing on the cake I was able to meet Stirling Moss, Dan Gurney and Michele Albereto.

In 2000 Maserati was the featured marquee. The name Maserati comes fro the famous Maserati brothers. There were seven Maserati brothers (born to Rodolfo Maserati and Carolina Losi) Carlo b 1881; Bindo b 1883; Alfieri b 1885 (he died in infancy and his name was given to the next son) Alfieri b 1887; Mario b 1890; Ettore b 1894 and Ernesto b 1898 Each brother helped contribute in some way to the company that still bears their family name.

2001 saw Bentley as the featured marquee and while not a firm that was involved in Grand Prix racing during any significant part of their history they did race at the highest level of sports car racing specifically Le Mans. Now owned by Volkswagen a fact altogether ironic as you have an icon of frugality owning one of the premier brands at the other end of the automotive pedigree. Such is the results of modern commerce and the ability of one group to stay on top of things. 

As modern day marketing operates a new race car designed by an outside firm has been given the legendary badge and told to go forth and conquer the world or at least that part than recognizes the circuit near Sarthe as its sporting battleground. While the last three marquees featured at the Historical Auto Races were part of separate worldwide promotional blitzes they at least had significant sporting resumes on the international scene. Luckily we have been spared similar attempts by Cadillac to demonstrate their "racing heritage". This to me seems to mark the main difference between this event and similar events in Europe that feature some historically significant event. True you need the history first and this may be an unfair charge. It has been observed that the crowds have gone down in recent years. Might I suggest an auction similar to that held at Pebble Beach but conducted at the circuit may turn things around. Interestingly Saturday seems to have become the favorite day at the event.

More than just a car the name Ferrari represents the ideal expression of speed and sublime style. A Ferrari never drives in the slow lane unless of course if the authorities are about. Traffic parts and envious glances are the norm. “This past year we celebrated Ford during its 100th anniversary as both an automaker and an auto racer,” said Steven J. Earle, president of General Racing Ltd. and event founder last year. “And next year will honor Ferrari, Ford’s nemesis in the 60s for racing supremacy.”

The new year has arrived and the track just off the Monterey coast played host to more than 20 million dollars worth of Ferraris not including a 12-man, two-car team from Maranello running exhibition laps. Unfortunately they brought their Formula One attitude with them as the cars were hidden in an inaccessible part of the pits when not on the track.

Factory test driver Andrea Bertolini had a mission to set a new track record. He made several tries using both cars, a 2003 GA and a 2002 model. In his last attempt on Sunday afternoon, pushing the ’02 to the ragged edge on tires that had seen better days, he was clocked at 1:09.185 which was still a good bit short of the record lap of 1:07.722 set by Helio Castroneves in 1999 driving a  Penske Reynard Honda. Not surprising really but outside of new tires and a chance to lay down some rubber maybe an indication that the 1999 Reynard Honda was not such a bad machine.