Rolex Motorsports Reunion – Worthy Custodians

At first glance the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion seems as far removed from The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance as one could imagine. It is by no means a pristine showground location; it is raw, functional, and noisy. Yet beneath the respective veneers of these two strikingly different types of automotive event there is a common bond. The Reunion is just as much about passion, enthusiasm and respect as its more elegant siblings within Monterey Classic Car Week. Its success stems from exactly the same catalyst; it is driven from the heart by the organizers, participants and spectators.

1928 Maserati Tipo 26B

Joining the seemingly unconnected dots between The Quail, the Pebble Beach events and the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is simple once in conversation with the participants. Take Tom Price, for example. Yesterday in elegant and convivial surroundings he drove his immaculately presented 1933 Talbot Lago onto the ramp at The Quail to receive a Rolex timepiece and the Best of Show Award from Sir Jackie Stewart. Today, he was to be found sitting at the wheel of an equally flawless Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta, dressed in drivers’ overalls and hurtling around the demanding Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Two immensely valuable cars. Two contrasting venues. One passionate individual.

1938 Talbot-Lago T150 C SS

Price sees nothing odd in this situation, both indulge his enthusiasm for classic cars: "The concours-type event provides an environment to spend time with our friends and to share cars with the world that I am very lucky to have access to. But I have always been first and foremost a racer, so this event is perfect for that."

The talk around the Monterey Peninsula for much of this week has been about the $38 million auction value achieved by a 1962 example of a Ferrari 250 GTO. Price appears disarmingly unaffected by this: "I’ve owned the GTO since 1983 and will own it while I am alive so its value isn’t an issue for me." As a racer he sees far beyond any potential price tag: "This is a phenomenal car to drive; it’s balanced, it slides and it has the V12 sound. It’s the epitome of a Ferrari." For him there is no worthwhile reason not to race it.

1963 Ferrari 250GTO Berlinetta

Tomorrow Price returns to the more sophisticated environs, exhibiting his 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa Scaglietti Spyder on the 18th fairway during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, which he considers "the ultimate concours in the world."

Price is not the only owner to cross the boundary between presenting pieces of vehicular art in a gallery setting and in motion. Both Shaun Halverson-McClenahan and Jim Hull were racing at Rolex Monterey Motorsports Renuion having exhibited cars at The Quail yesterday. In a twist on the Price scenario, both were racing their exhibition cars.

Hull, driving a magnesium-bodied 1935 Bugatti prototype 57S, has been a judge at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance for some 27 years and is an authority on that style of event as well as the Reunion. He loves sharing his cars in the show environment but his personal preference is racing: "I love driving." His affair with Bugatti and other pre-war French cars began in the 1980s. He spares no thought for the value of what he is racing, remarking: "Life has its challenges and one of mine is racing cars on the track."

1935 Bugatti Type 57SC COMPETITION Electron Torpedo

According to Hull to repair a simple scratch on the nickel-plated magnesium bodywork of his Bugatti requires removal of the damaged panel, which then needs to be completely stripped and re-plated using a process of electrolysis. When restoring the car, only one of the four companies in the world capable of this process would even discuss how best to undertake it. The risk of damage and the associated cost is no deterrent to racing for Hull: "It’s not about the car’s value, it’s about the experience of using it."

1935 Bugatti Type 57S

More measured in her approach, Shaun Halverson-McClenahan, owner of a 1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport Zagato, is no less a passionate enthusiast: "This car is amazing, it handles so well and is such a fun car to drive. It is from a very successful period in Alfa Romeo’s history and I am honoured to be carrying on a little bit of the participation and tradition that surrounds it."

1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport Zagato

Halverson-McClenahan appreciates both types of occasion, for the collegial atmosphere and gathering of like-minded souls celebrating automotive history: "For me this is the best event of all time and this is the best track in the world. Everybody here is part of a big family. The Quail is like that too. It is also all about the car, the people and the passion."

1930 Alfa Romeo 6C 1750 Gran Sport Zagato

Harley Cluxton is owner of a 1975 Gulf Mirage GR8 that secured three podium finishes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – two of which were as part of his team. Cluxton defines an enthusiast as: "someone who lives, breathes and has the passion for the car." Cluxton is the embodiment of this person. Having returned the Mirage to his ownership, he was adamant it had to participate at the Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion: "It was hugely important to get the car here and to race it. This event is racing history. People here care about these cars, about the value of the tradition and heritage; about the value of driving an important car that did something in its period and reliving it."

1975 Gulf Mirate GR8

Cluxton equally understands the importance of concours-style events and has even exhibited at Pebble Beach. As a former Ferrari factory-driver he clearly identifies more with the racing fraternity. There is no disrespect intended, but for him the soul of a racing car is on the track, not on a lawn: "This is an iconic race track, a great venue that allows spectators to mix with their heroes, Sir Stirling Moss, Sir Jackie Stewart, Allan McNish… and to see the cars of their past. It encourages passion."

While starkly different, it is clear that the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion perfectly compliments its more glamorous siblings. The execution may be different, but the ethos of the owners is the same: preserving the past for future generations.

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