The 2012 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion

By D. Brian Smith
Photography: D. Brian Smith

The promise of a plethora of original Shelby Cobras, all conquering the demanding Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca road course, is enough to get any car enthusiast up, down and/or over to the Central Coast of California during Monterey Car Week. We're happy to say that the reality of seeing these 1960's era racecars in action delivered even more than we anticipated. In fact, Carroll Shelby's life was celebrated throughout this year's Monterey Car Week at every venue that Redline Review covered. 

On perhaps the most harrowing section of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course, the infamous Corkscrew turn at the top of the track, a 289 Cobra driver went into the runoff. After doing a full 360-degree circle, the #5 Cobra was back on course. Thank goodness!

Since Carroll Shelby made his greatest impact in the automotive world at racetracks around the planet, it's only fitting that Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca commemorated all of his accomplishments and that of his very talented Shelby American Racing Teams, with a spectacularly well curated exhibit of some of his most noteworthy Shelby vehicles. Of course, there were also several thrilling races that involved Shelby Cobras, Shelby Mustangs, Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupes and the sensuous Ford GT40s that dominated the 24 Hours of Le Mans from 1966 through 1969.

Vintage racing offers more variety than any other form of auto racing, including the Le Mans and American Le Mans Series of competitions. No matter when you were born or what era your favorite automobiles come from, you'll be able to see the cars that you grew up with and/or appreciate the most. What's more, those vehicles will really be going fast, regardless of the fact that many of the racecars are worth into the millions of dollars. Even more compelling, within every race group there are vehicles with varying amounts of horsepower, torque and handling capabilities, which makes for some very interesting spectating. It's very common that you'll see some nimble little British or German sports car with a four-banger mill that's competitive with an earlier era, but V-8 powered racer. The V-8 powered brute will command the straights, while the four-cylinder equipped car will catch up and overtake in the corners. 

While photographing the Shelby GT350 racing by another GT350 came right off the track and passed the photo hole in the fence that I was shooting through by mere feet. If you don't believe me, check out the next photo. The Shelby's even closer to me. Yikes!
As it happens in all forms of auto racing, sometimes racecars get into a bit of trouble with stationary objects. Later in this very race, the #9 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe was balled up into a wall. Mind you, only six original Daytona Coupes were ever constructed, so that was an expensive collision. Still, these cars were built to race, not just sit around in museums. We hope to see #9 in action again soon.

Does BMW have a marketing deal with Rolex Timepieces? Rolex watches and the BMW M1 are both timeless machines.

A line of Porsches fill the turn, with a BMW M1 thrown in for good measure. Deutschland uber alles (at least in this photo).
With all the Trans Am Mustangs and Camaros doing battle at Laguna Seca, we could almost be back in the late 1960s and 1970s, at least for a weekend.
The driver of this stunning 1966 Shelby GT350R Mustang seems to be telling the drivers behind him to slow down. Or, is this simply a tricky ploy to keep them from passing him? We wonder.
Would you buy a new or used sports car from this man? We would, if we only had the money and were born in the right era.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the car that started it all. Put together in Dean Moon's shop in Los Angeles, CA, Carroll Shelby and Dean Moon stuffed a Ford 260-cubic-inch V-8 mill and a Ford Toploader 4-speed manual transmission within the engine bay of a 1962 AC Ace roadster and created the first AC Cobra, which later became the Shelby Cobra. Serial number CSX2000 is the first prototype Cobra and is/was owned by Carroll Shelby from its birth. Other than having several paint re-sprays during its illustrious life, the Cobra is in survivor condition, including its original interior, brakes, engine, trans and the born with aluminum AC Cars Ltd. produced body.
If you were wondering where James Bond was vacationing after pushing the Queen of England out of the helicopter during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, now you know.

Grid Girls are always a welcome surprise, when auto racing enthusiasts visit the track.
In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Bentley roadsters tore up European racing circuits and won many victories.
Number 16 is the third Shelby Cobra built and the first Shelby American racecar. CSX2002 was driven by Ken Miles, Peter Brock, Billy Krause and Dave MacDonald. The car was a rolling testbed for all future street and racing Cobras (#16 Courtesy of the Larry H. Miller Total Performance Museum, Miller Motorsports Park, Utah) Number 33 is CSX2026. Driven by Fireball Roberts, Lew Spencer, Dave MacDonald, Jerry Grant and Bob Johnson, it's the first Cobra to win a race and a national championship. (#33 Courtesy of the Shelby American Collection, Boulder, Colorado)
Known for obvious reasons as the Fliptop Cobra, CSX2196 is the first big-block Ford V-8 powered Cobra. Shelby American's talented driver/engineer, Ken Miles, fitted a 427 ci Ford V-8 into the Cobra's 289 chassis to beat Chevrolet's Grand Sport Corvette, which he and Shelby American did, repeatedly. The innovative aluminum flip top in the front and the rear was an experimental racing prototype, which led to the development of the 427 Competition Cobra. (#98 = CSX2196 = Fliptop Cobra Courtesy of Chuck Ungurean, Columbus, Ohio)
Stanford University offers a new Automotive Racing and Technology curriculum for qualified students. This original Ford GT40 is being campaigned at various vintage racing events across the U.S. What we want to know is, does Stanford University need another professor? If so, Redline Review's Chief Editor is available.
Number 15 is yet another famous Cobra racecar. It was the subject of the hit rock song of the 1960s, "Hey Little Cobra." Dan Gurney, Ken Miles, Allen Grant, Lew Spencer and others all campaigned CSX2128 to many victories and high finishes. The Cobra was one of two built for the 1963 Sebring race and once wore a livery designed by movie mogul George Lucas. (#15 = CSX2128 Courtesy of the Larry H. Miller Total Performance Museum, Miller Motorsports Park, Utah).
The two images that succeed this one show an adept driver, who brought the car all the way back on course without incident. Well done!
Vintage racing action in the ever-popular Trans Am class always seems to be fender-to-fender and nose-to-tail.
Anyone who knows yours truly is aware how fond Redline Review is of the BMW 3.0 CSL and CSI vehicles of the early to mid-1970s. They are Teutonic terrors to be sure.
Just as they did back in the days of the famous Trans Am series, AMC AMX's, wearing red, white and blue paint, competed with panache at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion.
o paraphase a line from the movie, "Field of Dreams," are we in Heaven? No, we're in Monterey. Amen to that.
CSX2299 is the most significant of the six produced Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupes. It won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 12 Hours of Sebring, Daytona Continental 24 Hour and the 1965 FIA GT World Championship. Bob Bondurant, Dan Gurney, Jo Schlesser, Jack Sears and others drove CSX2299. (#13 = CSX2299 Courtesy of the Larry H. Miller Total Performance Museum, Miller Motorsports Park, Utah).
Number 5 is the only "Stage III" factory-built customer campaigned Dragonsnake Cobra. To match its tow vehicle, when raced in the 1960s, it is painted "Thunderbird" yellow. CSX2427 is the only Weber equipped customer Dragonsnake ever sold. (#5 = CSX2427 Courtesy of Steven Juliano, Pelham Manor, New York).
Formula Atlantic racecars up to 1979 were allowed to compete at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion for the first time this year.
You're looking at the epitome of a perfect vintage racing machine, a 1966 Shelby GT350R.
While covering the Monterey Pre-Historics vintage races the weekend preceeding the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, we saw this 289 Shelby aluminum body on a small enclosed trailer. We thought someone was manufacturing new aluminum Cobra replica bodies. As it turns out, the body was part of this wonderfully curated Carroll Shelby exhibit in the Paddock for the Motorsports Reunion. Cool stuff.
That Camaro song from the mid-'60s seems to be tumbling around in our heads again -- "Camaro, racing to the sun..."
We know the driver/owner of the Jaggermeister BMW 3.0CSL. That's Steve Walker. We wrote a full feature article on his stunning vintage racecar for Redline Review. Check it out, if you haven't already.
`The corral of Cobra replicas was impressive and included several manufacturers cars. The replicas were on display and enjoyed several parade laps on the Laguna Seca circuit throughout the three-day tribute to Carroll Shelby.
In the Paddock area for the 2012 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, there were original Shelby Cobras ready for racing action everywhere. Glorious!
The owner of this Sunbeam Tiger is quite the vintage racing competitor. Redline Review first photographed #65 back in 2006 on Coronado Island in San Diego for the Speed Week celebration on the Naval airport's tarmac. Splendid!
What's so intriguing about these vintage racing machines is that they have such a high center of gravity and such antiquated "horseless carriage" buggy suspension systems. The driver and mechanic have to lean into the turns, as if they're racing motorcycles with sidecars.

We arrived on Saturday before our 7:30 am Media Meeting, which is mandatory for any journalist who will be granted an orange photo vest for on track photography. Once we grabbed our photo vests and hot pits bracelets, we began firing our digital SLRs, in search of the best action racecar photos. You'll be pleased to learn that Redline Review took so many shots, we ran out of memory flash cards. Fortunately, a nice guy who works for Toyota came to our rescue by giving us a spare card -- what a gracious thing to do!

Admittedly, this was a bittersweet day for yours truly. Throughout my time at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion for 2012, I kept thinking that this is the most prominent celebration I'll ever experience for automotive racing legend Mr. Carroll Shelby. His legacy will live on forever. I was beginning to think that he'd outlive all of us automotive enthusiasts. Death and paying taxes are two certainties in life. A third absolute is the fact that there will never be another Carroll Shelby. He was a definite original, just like any of his just over 1,000 constructed Shelby Cobras. Whether you see an original or a replica Cobra at any time in your future, will you do this one simple thing? Think of the man that made it all a reality and thank him for his larger than life accomplishments. 

I've been fortunate to witness the vintage races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on several occasions through the years. For all the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the celebration of Mr. Shelby's life and times, this Monterey Motorsports Reunion will probably be the most memorable for me, unless of course, I someday get to drive Laguna Seca in a vintage sports car of my own one day. We shall see. Until that time, thank you Mr. Carroll Shelby, for all that you've done in your life for auto aficionados and for heart transplant recipients. We owe you a debt of gratitude. 

Each year, the famous Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca racing circuit is transported back to the glorious days of auto racing. Sports and racecars from the early 1900's all the way up to Stock Cars with disc brakes of 1990 vintage competed in their own rather eclectic classes of race groups for three glorious days, Friday, August 17, Saturday, August 18 and Sunday, August 19. What with the many other commitments to our time during Monterey Car Week, Redline Review was able to cover all the action on the biggest day, that being Saturday. There were nine race groups that competed on Saturday, which included two runnings of the glorious Shelby Cobras.

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