Pebble Beach Week 2007: Monterey Historics preview

Thanks to Richard Owen of for the photo.

This year's Monterey Historic races are featuring Indy Cars. Well, Indy Roadsters, in particular. As Laguna Seca itself is celebrating its 50th anniversary, cars and stars from 1957 are being highlighted in every class, but the Indy Roadster era is being given top billing.

The (long breath here) 34th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races presented by Toyota, will again descend upon the Monterey track showcasing about a dozen classes of classic and vintage racers of every imaginable configuration. Spanning nearly 70 years of racing machinery, the oldest car this year is a1914 Mercer, while the youngest is a1981 Porsche 935K4. A quick scan of the entries reveals a lot of familiar names, like Porsche, Ferrari, Lotus, Corvette, McLaren and Shelby. There's also a group of nine pre-war Bentleys on the schedule.

Title sponsor, Toyota, is also celebrating its 50th this year (as well as the 40th of Toyota Motorsports) so some special vehicles from that Japanese marque will also be making their mark at Laguna Seca this week. Not to be outdone, Ferrari will be celebrating its win in the inaugural race at Laguna Seca 50 years ago by running two Ferrari Historic Challenge races on Friday. There will also be a display of the Ferrari Classiche program and a (drum-roll please) parade of F40s. Believe it or not, but this iconic supercar turns 20 this year!

More details from the press release are after the jump. We'll be at the track this week to get you some great photos of all the action, as well.



Race of Legends and Historic Vehicle Displays Join Roadster Commemoration

MONTEREY, Calif. – A touch of Indianapolis will descend upon California's coast, where the Indy Roadster will be this year's featured vehicle at the 34th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races presented by Toyota. The event, which takes place August 17-19 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, will honor the legacy of Indy's "Roadster Era," as well as champion drivers and the host racetrack, which was established in 1957. The official race organizer is General Racing Ltd.

Racing has been a large part of Monterey's identity. In 1957, the Laguna Seca track was built to accommodate a growing fan base. This year, more than 400 vintage racecars, representing a wide range of makers, will compete in a series of challenging and highly competitive races.

As part of its tradition of showcasing and preserving motorsports history, the 34th Rolex Monterey Historic will also feature historically significant vehicles, including Historic IMSA and Can-Am vehicles, which reflect a dream of many enthusiasts to witness these cars at the track.

"The Monterey Historic Races are a proper way to honor and celebrate the beauty of these vehicles and the legacy of motorsports at a premier racing venue," said Steven Earle, president of General Racing Ltd. "The anniversary of the raceway and seeing these remarkable Indy roadsters take the track will make for a truly special weekend."

The 400 cars are divided into 14 groups based on age and engine size, selected for their history, interest and current state of presentation. The oldest car dates from 1914 (Mercer) and the newest from 1981 (Porsche 935K4). Porsche, Ferrari, Lotus, Corvette, McLaren and Shelby lead with the number of entries. A team of nine pre-World War II Bentleys also will be arriving from England to try and master the track.

Well-known drivers that will be competing include John Morton, Andy Porterfield, Chuck Daigh, Pete Lovely, Bobby Rahal and Brian Redman. The 14 races are split with seven groups racing Saturday and seven on Sunday. Qualifying practice sessions will be held on Friday along with two special Ferrari Historic Challenge Races.

Indy Roadster History

In 1946, Frank Kurtis began designing cars specifically for Indy 500, the Ross Page special being his first. The Indy Roadster was introduced in 1952 and was specially designed to accommodate the repetitive turns of the 2.5-mile oval by placing more weight on the inner left-hand of the vehicle. In addition, the Roadster was much lighter and quicker. The Kurtis Roadster dominated the Indy 500 lineup for several years.

In 1955, a mechanic named A.J. Watson arrived at Indy and took the "roadster" to a new level. He modified a Kurtis-built roadster for the John Zink Team and won the race. Overall, Watson built some 23 roadsters, including the cars that won the 500 in 1959-60, 1962 and 1963. When A.J. Foyt, Jr., recorded the last 500 victory for a front-engine car in 1964, he, too, was driving a Watson roadster. Watson-built cars won the race seven times, which leaves him tied for the record for most wins by a builder. Watson, a legend in motorsports, will be honored in person at the Rolex Monterey Historic.

Overall, the Indy Roadster won the Indy 500 twelve consecutive times (1953-1964).

"By conquering the great challenges of the Indy 500 races, the Roadster left an innovative mark in the history of automotive engineering," said Earle. "Our event will not only honor the various Roadster models but those who participated in the entire Indy Roadster Era, including drivers, mechanics and team owners."

Race of Legends

Fans can see some of their favorite drivers from past eras behind the wheel, as Toyota will host the inaugural "Race of Legends," in which drivers holding championships from nearly every level of racing, including Formula One, the Indy 500and the 24 Hours of LeMans, will compete in an eight-lap charity race on Saturday driving 215 hp Scion tC sport coupes. The field consists of names such as Bobby Unser, Al Unser Sr., Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Rahal, Parnelli Jones, Vic Elford, Emerson Fittipaldi, Ove Andersson and Derek Bell. Autograph sessions will be scheduled with the drivers on Saturday and Sunday of race weekend.

Moments in Time

In accordance with the raceway's 50th anniversary, Rolex will present their Motor Sports History "Moments in Time" display with a selection of six significant cars with a focus on the year 1957. The racetracks at Laguna Seca and Lime Rock Park both opened that year, and the winning cars will be represented with the winners from the Indy 500 and the Sebring 12 Hour Endurance Race, along with the winner of last year's Monterey Cup, awarded to the car judged to have excelled overall in both presentation and performance during the event.

The Indianapolis 500 "Roadster Era" Display will offer a unique look at some of the most significant cars from this great era. Delivered directly from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum will be the Indy winners from 1955, 1963, 1964, and the Monza winners from 1957 and 1958.

The celebration of the Indy Roadster era will continue as more than 30 cars of the period take to the track Saturday and Sunday bringing to life the sites and sounds of a golden age in American racing. The cars of builders Kurtis, Stevens, Kuzma, Watson, Epperly, Lesovsky, Christiansen, Curtis, Meskowski, the names "Bowes Seal Fast Special", "Bardahl Special", "Leader Card 500 Roadster" and the sound of the mighty Offy engines will be a highlight of the Monterey Historic weekend.

Ferrari Anniversary at Laguna Seca

Another anniversary this year will be celebrated by Ferrari, which was the winner of the first race at Laguna Seca, the "8th Annual Pebble Beach at Laguna Seca – National Championship Sports Car Road Races". There will be two Ferrari Historic Challenge races on Friday, which will include historically significant Ferraris, Maseratis and Alfa Romeos that have contributed to the racing heritage of Ferrari cars today. A display by Ferrari Classiche and a gathering of Ferrari F40s, celebrating its 20th anniversary, will highlight event activities, along with honoring Pete Lovely, winner of the first main event at Laguna Seca in November 1957, driving a Ferrari 500TR. Pete will race his Lotus 11 on Saturday and then be inducted into the "Legends of Laguna Seca."

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