The Year of the Rising Sun: The 2018 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Mazda was a long-term headline sponsor of Laguna Seca Raceway and a strong racing presence at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.  We enjoyed the likes of its 787 and IMSA GTP competition cars for years and hats off the Mazda for its involvement. Now WeatherTech headlines the race track. With that, Nissan jumped in and became the first Japanese automaker to be the honored marque in the 44-year history of the vintage race car event.

They pulled out all the stops. On display was a pair of rare Nissans – a R390 GT1 and R382 Group 7 race car – brought all the way from Japan. The automaker gathered an impressive lineup of race machines from its Datsun and Nissan brands, from the early 510 sedans plus 2000 and 240Z race cars to the likes of Steve Millen’s early 1990s IMSA championship 300ZX. Racing group 5A had a total of 16 Nissans or Datsuns, out done by group 3B, which counted 34 race cars from the automaker.

Consider, of course, that the total field at this event is around 550 race cars, ranging from a 1911 National Speedway Roadster to the 1992 Mazda RX-792P IMSA GTP machine. Spread out in between are race cars from Formula 1, Trans-Am, Can Am, little H Modified sports racers, howling Formula 5000s and Porsches of all sorts.

Revs had two important cars in the mix.  One was a product of Carlo Abarth, who often worked with Fiats. In this case he was contracted with French automaker Simca, which was trying to add pizzazz to its line of economy cars. This 1964 Abarth Simca 2 Mila Corsa from the Miles Collier Collections has a 1946-cc, 204-horsepower twin-cam four mounted well out back in the chassis. Around this is a small, smooth aero shaped body with a kick-up spoiler at the rear.

The second Revs’ machine was created by Colin Chapman, a low red Lotus 23 and was a recent donation to Revs Institute. Weighing a mere 1100 pounds and rushed along by a twin-cam four out back, the 23s were famous for outrunning larger, more powerful machines. Its 1962 debut at the Nürburgring is legendary as Jimmy Clark “ran away and hid from the rest of the field.”

Gunnar Jeannette again did the driving honors for Revs proving again he can drive anything quickly even while stuffing his tall frame into these two rather small race cars.

Besides the racing, this year’s event saw Mika Häkkinen do hot laps in the 1995 Le Mans-winning McLaren F1 GTR, Audi launch its PB 18 e-tron electric supercar concept and Ford unveil a version of its GT sports car done up in the Gulf colors of the 1968-1969 Le Mans-winning GT40.

We were proud that at the prize giving Revs’ Dave Klym, who created the famous Fabcar race cars, was presented with the Phil Remington Award. Remington was a legendary fabricator and race car fixer, and the award is given each year to a mechanic who demonstrates exceptional skill. Remington also worked for many years at Dan Gurney’s All American Racers, which just happened to create the beautiful award.

We also found out that the “featured marque” for the 2019 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is not an automaker, but a celebration of 50 years of IMSA racing. Don’t forget your earplugs.

Accelerating out of the Corkscrew, Gunnar Jeannette rushes the 1455-pound Abarth, which was based on the Simca 1000 economy car, down to Turn 9. Photo: John Lamm
Powering the little Abarth is an aluminum 1946-cc twin-cam four with 204 horsepower at 7200 rpm. Photo: David Santiago
In the paddock, the Abarth Simca’s engine is brought up to temperature in the pits before heading to the grid. Photo: David Santiago
Gunnar Jeannette powers past a flag stand and into the Corkscrew with the 1962 Lotus 23 from Revs Institute. Photo: John Lamm
Gunnar Jeannette in the Lotus 23 halfway down the Corkscrew. Photo: John Lamm
Using every inch of race track, Gunnar Jeannette accelerates out of Turn 11 in Revs’ Lotus 23 leading a Brabham. Photo: John Lamm
Mike Ellis & John Arsenault make routine checks and adjust the car’s setup per Gunnar’s feedback from the previous session. Photo: David Santiago
Pedro Vela mounts a wheel on the Lotus 23. While fresh rubber will always make for a faster lap, the nature of vintage racing and the short sessions makes it possible to use the same set of tires for multiple outings on track. Photo: David Santiago
Dave Klym, John Arsenault, Tim Bair and Bill Blume attend to the Lotus 23 to ensure all the fluids are up to temperature and everything is running smoothly before the car heads out to the track. Photo: David Santiago
This year’s group shot of the honored marque, Nissan, with famed racers (from left) John Morton, Peter Brock and Steve Millen. Photo: John Lamm
New Zealander Steve Millen – all-time winningest driver in IMSA GT history – hustles his championship-winning 1990 Nissan 300ZX through the Corkscrew. Photo: John Lamm
Datsun wasn’t reluctant to compete with its coupes and sedans. This one driven by Dave Stone is a 1972 Datsun 610 originally prepped and raced by the automaker’s east coast team, Bob Sharp Racing. Photo: John Lamm
A hero driver in a hero car, John Morton behind the wheel of a 1970 Datsun 240Z he raced for Peter Brock’s team, which led Datsun’s racing efforts on the West Coast. Photo: John Lamm
A rarity in the U.S., a 2-liter 1972 Nissan Skyline GTR, here driven by Alex McDowell. Photo: John Lamm
Butch Leitzinger was a prominent Nissan racer and at this year’s event, Phil Mendelovitz drove a 3.0-liter 1989 Nissan IMSA GTU 240SX once raced by Leitzinger. Photo: John Lamm
Adam Workman in a 1970 Datsun 240Z leads Axel McDowell’s 1967 Nissan Bluebird and David Hinton’s 1969 BMW 2002 over the top of the Corkscrew. Photo: John Lamm
This ex-Bob Sharp 1984 Nissan 300ZX was driven by actor/comedian Adam Carolla. Photo: John Lamm
Not content to just be track racing, Datsun had Peter Brock prep this 510 to be raced off road in the Baja 1000, which was quite a popular event at the time. Photo: John Lamm
At the heart of much of Datsun’s racing was the 510 sedan, the sort that won the under-2.5-liter Trans Am title in 1971 and 1972. Here Howard Swig is in a 1969 510. Photo: John Lamm
Nissan created the R382 Group 7 race car to compete against Toyota and Porsche in the Japan Grand Prix. They won in 1969 thanks, most likely, to the car’s 6.0-liter V-12 with 600 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. Photo: John Lamm
You want unique automobiles? This is the one, the only, Nissan R390 GT1 street machine with its twin-turbo V-8. Nissan had to build at least one road-car so the model could be homologated for racing. This is the one, though there were eight race R390 GT1s built to compete in 1997. Photo: John Lamm
Here is the McLaren F1 GTR that won the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans. Mika Häkkinen took it for hot demo laps around WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo: Johnny Miles
A rare Can Am car, Carroll Shelby’s Len Terry-designed, Ford-powered 1967 T-10 King Cobra piloted by Scott Drnek. Photo: John Lamm
Famed woman driver Lyn St. James wanted to get a sense of what it was like for the women who drove Bugattis in the 1920s, so she raced a 1925 Type 35C and loved it. Photo: John Lamm
Always a pleasure to see the 1959 Old Yeller Mark II and hear its Buick V-8, driven as always by Ernie Nagamatsu. Photo: John Lamm
A crowd favorite, the Formula 1 grid included Chris Farrell’s 1982 March 821, here followed closely by Chris McAllister racing a 1976 ex-Niki Lauda Ferrari 312 T2. Photo: John Lamm
A beauty and a winner in its day, Ferrari’s 1972 312PB, this one driven by Gregory Galdi. Photo: John Lamm
An uncommon-in-the-U.S. 1971 Mallock Mk 11B that was racing against the Porsches and Lotus in Group 7A. Photo: John Lamm
During the 1976 Formula 5000 season, Jackie Oliver raced a Shadow DN6 like the one Craig Bennet drove at the Reunion, here coming down the Corkscrew. Photo: John Lamm
In 1982, this Mirage M12 was to be raced at Le Mans by Mario and Michael Andretti, but was pushed off the grid just before the start. Photo: John Lamm
Originally a Ferrari 312 P Berlinetta, Luigi Chinetti had Wayne Sparling convert this car into a spyder that raced at Sebring and Daytona, where it won the prototype class. Here it is driven by John Goodman. Photo: John Lamm
This is the first of Bruce McLaren’s line of Can Am race cars, a 1967 M6A1 now raced by Richard Griot. Photo: John Lamm
Audi’s Quattro 200 was the Trans-Am champ in 1988. This example, driven by Richard Dean, is owned by McLaren Formula 1 CEO Zak Brown. Photo: John Lamm
Among the famous drivers at the Reunion were Audi Le Mans winners Alan McNish (left) and Tom Christensen. Photo: John Lamm
In the foreground, Ford GT40 #1075, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1968 and 1969. Beyond are its Gulf colors on the newest Ford GT, a paint treatment that debuted at the Reunion. Photo: John Lamm
Dave Klym, a member of our team, received the Phil Remington award on Sunday. The award, named after engineer and fabricator Phil Remington, recognizes a mechanic who demonstrates exceptional skill. Photo: Bill Blume
Oops, I think he wants to pass. Terry Sullivan’s 1936 MG PB Q Type Special tracks Eric Ramos’ 1912 Packard 30 through corner 5. Photo: John Lamm