Historic race cars ran at Laguna Seca last weekend.
Let me explain. There are a number of traditional Monterey Car Week events that will take place online this year because of concerns about COVID-19. But not all of them. What had in the past been called the Pre-Historics, the weekend warmup to what also used to be called The Historics, and was up till last year called The Monterey Motorsports Reunion, was sort of held last weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
If you were watching it from space, or maybe from the Goodyear blimp, Driver Appreciation Weekend might look like the Pre-Historics: there were grand old classic race cars divided into eight classes battling it out in real, live action on the track; there were happy drivers talking excitedly about their races, hands moving through the air as they described their last great pass; and there was WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in all its glory, sunny all day both days, no morning fog and no mid-day heat, just perfect weather (perfect WeatherTech???).
But there were no fans. This is still COVID-19 time, remember? How did this come about?
“A number of the guys wanted to still run, regardless of what restrictions were placed on physical distancing and all the COVID-19 stuff,” explained track spokesman Barry Toepke. “So several of us were sitting at the table, and I thought, let's see if we can put together a driver appreciation weekend just for the people who really want to race or run their cars, let's give them a chance.”
The track had the support of the County, which owns the facility, and which was convinced that the event would be a “private track rental event” with appropriate limitations on social distancing, face coverings and crowd size. Once that was done, HMSA (the Historic Motorsports Association) went to work on making it all come together, with the eight different classes and paddock space separated by just the right amount of distance, and no crowds. Well, almost no crowds.
Technically, if you were just visiting the county park at Laguna Seca, you could pay your five dollars and waltz right in. If you happened to see a good race between a Corvette and a Cobra, good for you. But organizers had to be careful that not too many people showed up. And, it appears, not too many did. So the weekend went off. Without a hitch.
“The weather was terrific,” said HMSA president Cris Vandagriff, longtime vintage racing organizer. “Obviously, it was a much smaller car count than the pre reunions. But you know, it's a good, good group of people, very enthusiastic, very appreciative, good cars, been a nice weekend. The only thing that is missing is the social aspect. But it was really good racing, they were all having fun.”
There were 179 cars entered, less than half what would normally be on hand, but they were good cars:
Class 2 was all Formula Atlantics, two driven by IMSA Camel GT champion Chris Cord’s sons, Bill and Stephen, who drove a Chevron B-39 and a March 76B, respectively.
Class 4 saw slightly more purpose-built race cars like a few Lotus 23/23Bs, a Porsche 910, a McLaren M1C and a Cooper Monaco.
Class 6 was all ‘60s muscle cars like Corvettes, Mustangs and Cobras. Lynn Park brought three Cobras and he raced one while his sons Tim and Steve raced two others. Newly minted Ford ceo Jim Farley drove his blue ’65 Cobra.
Class 7 was back down a decade to a Lola T204, Lotus 61M and a Van Diemen RF80.
And Class 8 was crawling with Datsun 510s, one of which was driven by racing great John Morton.
It was all pretty good, by all accounts.
“Hey, it's August, we’re where we're supposed to be, in Monterey at the racetrack,” said Vandagriff. “It’s so nice to have, even for a moment, just some normalcy in our world, even though it's just a moment.”
Maybe by this time next year everything will be back to normal. Who knows? In the meantime, savor these few moments of normalcy. Then go wash your hands again.