The sweet smell of spent fuel lingered in the cool morning air; my ears tingled with the cumulative rumble of thousands of horsepower.
Picking up where I left off at the Trans Am SpeedFest, it was right about time for the track to go hot at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
It was the perfect weekend to have a picnic and take in a few days full of racing. Although the name of the event implies an American leaning, which there was, there were plenty of interesting cars from around the world taking to the track as well.
As a quick aside, the Trans Am SpeedFest was round three of the Trans Am series, and I’ve already shared a quick look at the modern classes in a separate story. I didn’t waste too many film shots of them, though, as the older cars were much more fitting for the two rolls of Kodak Portra 400 I shot over the course of the day.
The different groups included cars which spanned generations and continents, and during the early stages of the weekend multiple groups were on track at any given time for practice laps. It was interesting to see the different lines the various cars took, and the format presented some interesting results in terms of lap times, too.
Lap Times From Abroad
The most prominent Japanese car on track was the Datsun 510, which could be found racing against BMW 2002s, Porsche 911s, 914s, and the like. Taz Harvey, pictured, managed a 1:44.974 during his races and finished in fifth and six (each group races twice), although the fastest lap for the class was a blazing 1:41.376 set by Troy Ermish who handily took the win in both.
Although I didn’t manage to get a photo of Troy on the Portra 400, if you’re familiar with the 510 platform you’re likely familiar with this man’s work. Either way, I recently paid a visit to Troy’s shop and that feature will be along soon.
Also hailing from Japan, the ’89 Nissan GTU was good for a 1:39.242 lap, but I think it was fairly clear there was a lot left in the car. While vintage race weekends are certainly competitive, there’s a certain dilemma at play — many of the cars which are capable of going a good deal faster end up being slower. In order to take advantage of all these cars have to offer, it would require a seasoned professional and a lot of courage, especially given that the particularly quick cars are also the most brutal on the limit.
This 1976 March 76B was probably leaving a good few seconds on the table and clocked in a 1:38.702, although an updated March F2 car was able to break through the 1:30 barrier during the same race.
Another example of a car not being driven at its limits was this Repsol Porsche 962, which was good for a 1:38.438 during its races.
I’ve seen 962s in the 1:26s at the track in the past but, again, that isn’t necessarily the point at a historic race weekend. Just seeing these cars on the tarmac decades after racing around the world is more than enough for me.
On the topic of iconic cars, this ’74 BMW Schnitzer 2800 CSL was out on track as well. Under the bodywork, a 3.5L power plant howled away as the Coupe Sport Leichtbau flew around the course.
Clocking a time similar to a ’90s Miata was this 1965 Alfa Romeo GTV; I can only imagine the amount of work behind the wheel it would take to get a lap in the 1:50s in a car like this, though.
Separated by nearly 20 years, this Lotus 23B and this 911 SC set fastest laps of 1:40.121 and 1:41.670 respectively. It just goes to show how quick a dedicated race car can be.
Meanwhile, this 1986 E30 M3 Evolution III went just a couple ticks faster with a 1:39.151. Like with some of the other rare cars on track, I imagine there’s a good few seconds on the table, but no one wants to see this car have an off.
No matter the event, historic racing at Laguna Seca always brings a wild variety, be it a Kremer 935 or a ’69 TVR Vixen S2.
In the actual Historic Trans Am races, Jim Hague won the first race in his ’71 Boss 302 Mustang, with Jim Halsey taking the victory in the second outing. In this class, cars were lapping in the mid 1:40s.
Perhaps it was my imagination — or maybe just the sheer difficulty of driving cars from the ’60s wheel-to-wheel on the limit — but it seemed like the vintage American cars were being pushed harder than the cars in other classes. They’re a whole lot louder, a whole lot more intense, and I’d urge you to head to a similar event if you’ve never been.
The cars are just so cool, and you never know what’ll turn up. Case in point: this happens to be one of just a dozen Dekon Monzas ever built, recently restored by Impeccable Inc. to period specification.
Beyond that, I could endlessly wax lyrical about how much I love historic racing — and muscle cars in particular — but I’ll save that for the final roll I shot at the Trans Am SpeedFest.
In the meantime, enjoy the gallery of unadulterated American bad-assery below.More stories from Laguna Seca on SpeedhuntersMuscle Cars Only