EVENTS: Monterey Historics, Part 03 — Motorsports Reunion

44_Nissan Skyline C10

Perhaps the only thing more heavenly than hearing a cacophony of uncorked engines at full tear is actually witnessing a fleet of irreplaceable metal come screaming over the hills. The Rolex Motorsports Reunion is one of the highlights — possibly the highlight — of the Monterey Historics

17_Datsun 240Z Camel GT

The Motorsports Reunion is a rare opportunity to see some of the world’s greatest race cars fulfilling their destinies. The rules state that only historic race cars that have seen battle at sanctioned events are eligible to put tire to tarmac. Thus, incredibly valuable machinery that should be sitting in a museum gets driven in a very angry manner. That the entire event takes place at one of the world’s great circuits, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, is simply icing on a very tasty cake.

Even a simple crawl around the paddocks is a feast for the senses. Spectators part like the Red Sea as racers rumble through the infield. Crews tinker away as cameras click. The smell of gasoline and hydrocarbons float into your nostrils. The sheer heat of the sun bakes you from above, and below, reflected off the asphalt. And then there’s the cars.

11_RS5885_Datsun 240Z

With this being a US event, Nissan’s early strength in American motorsports meant Datsuns made up a large portion of the Japanese cars.

Perhaps the most famous present was Bob Sharp Racing‘s Datsun 240Z, once driven by Paul Newman, underwent a fresh restoration a few years ago. It is currently owned by Dave Stone, who won the Rolex Award for Excellence for his piece of racing history. Considering there are multi-million dollar, 100-year-old Bugatti race cars around, this is quite an honor.

01_AG8270_Nissan Z32 300ZX Le Mans 03_Nissan Z32 300ZX Le Mans

Nissan USA’s official entrant was the Le Mans-winning Z32, currently owned and maintained by Stillen Motorsports. In 1994 this very car won the IMSA GTS class of the famed 24-hour French enduro. Its identical sister car won the 24 Hours of Daytona, leading Nissan to capture the overall GTS championships that year.

The engine is based on the 3.0-liter V6 found in a street legal 300ZX, but built to a whopping 800hp fed by two massive turbos. Nissan brought Steve Millen and most of the original pit crew back together to run the car. It still wore its 20-year-old Le Mans entry sticker inside the cabin.

48_Toyota Celica IMSA

The AAR 1986 Toyota Celica competed in IMSA GTO and in a span of three years took seven first place finishes. It had little in common with the roadgoing Celica, which by then had switched to an FF or AWD layout. The race car was built to be RWD from the ground up in order to compete with Mustangs, Corvettes, Porsche 911s and Mazda RX-7s.

Furthermore, whereas the street legal Celicas were equipped with Toyota’s S-series motors, the race car employed a built 4T-GTE twin-cam, the same used in legendary Group B rally cars. The 2.1-liter inline-four made 600hp, propelling the 2,000lb car to 175 mph. After retirement, Toyota gifted the car to driver Chris Cord.

Mazda also showed up with some cars that should be familiar to long time readers of JNC, the IMSA GTO FC RX-7, 787 Le Mans sister car to the winning 787B, and the RX-792P.

We already saw how JNCs have made an impact on Monterey’s auction scene this year, but it was also the first year a couple of landmark JDM cars made their presence known at the Motorsports Reunion.

Jim Froula’s hakosuka Skyline, done up in the livery of Motoharu Kurosawa’s famous Works GT-R, is as far as we know the first C10 to ever race at this important event. It must be stated that this is not an actual Nissan Works GT-R, but a stunningly built replica with a stroked 3.1 L-series. To see it dicing it up with vintage Porsches, 240Zs, and Mustangs paints a beautiful picture of what could have been if Nissan had imported them to the US.

This year also saw the first ever Toyota Sports 800 to be invited to the Motorsports Reunion, according to Club4AG. The Dainichi yotahachi‘s owner, Mr. Tamaru, spent approximately $100,000 on restoring his car, and driving it at the Historics fulfilled a life long dream of his.

18_Nissan 300ZX Z31 Paul Newman

Another ex-Paul Newman car, the Bob Sharp Racing Z31 300ZX, is now owned by comedian Adam Carolla. The car underwent a full restoration and is featured prominently in Carolla’s upcoming Paul Newman documentary, Winning. We were invited to a small screening showing about 15 minutes of the film (Carolla’s team is still editing the final cut), but from what we saw the film looks to be a fantastic peek into the life of a man most know as an actor.

52_AG7980_Nissan 240SX S13 IMSA

Behold, a race S13 that is not meant for dorifto. This Nissan 240SX hails from 1991, a good decade before most in the US knew about drifting. It was campaigned in the IMSA Camel GTU class by Leitzinger Racing, among others. Bob Leitzinger was the most successful of S13 racers, however, and the S13 won IMSA GTU’s manufacturer’s championships for four years straight starting in 1991. How does your drift missile like them apples?

21_Datsun Fairlday Roadster

This Datsun Roadster was built as a tribute to Floyd Link, part of the BRE crew in 1970. It is finished in the livery of the 1970 SCCA D Production class winning car of Jim Fitzgerald. Again, it must be pointed out that this is not the original, but a loosely based replica. The engine, a Rebello-built 2.0-liter unit, puts out an impressive 229hp in a chassis weighing just 1,880 lbs.

Beyond the Japanese marques, however, was a number of non-Japanese that might be of interest to JNC readers.

Ray Langston’s Porsche 962 raced only three times in the 1987 IMSA GTP season. Its red and black Yokohama livery should be familiar to any observer of Japanese motorsports, but in this case it was campaigned in the US and is paired rather nicely with fellow sponsor Coca-Cola. It never won a race, but the fact that it was actually raced in period qualifies it for the Motorsports Reunion.

The Nisseki Trust Porsche Typ 962 Group C racer’s claim to fame was winning the 1987 Norising World Sports Prototype Championship. After that, it was purchased for use in the Japan Sports Prototype Championships where it landed on the podium in several races but never achieved an outright win. Its livery colors are unmistakably late 80s Japanese, though it should be pointed out there are two identical cars with this livery — the original one with racing pedigree, which last sold for about $500,000, and a replica built from spare parts that last sold for $180,000.

Last but perhaps most important is the pink-on-white Porsche 935 K3 of Gozzy Kremer Racing. Though it blew a head gasket and could not finish at Le Mans in 1980, it is notable for the fact that one of its drivers at Sarthe was Tetsu Ikuzawa. Ikuzawa famously overtook a Porsche 904 with a Prince Skyline 2000GT at the 1964 Japan Grand Prix, a moment that many consider the dawn of the Skyline legend.

47_Honda Cub EZ90 51_Honda motorcycle

The infield at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a large place. One of the best ways to get around is by motorbike, and JNMs are a common sight. Unfortunately my two-wheeler knowledge is rather limited, so aside from the fact that the Honda Cub EZ90 looks like a barrel full of fun and the other Honda is achingly beautiful, I can’t tell you much more.

35_RS5920_Datsun 240Z 46_Datsun 240Z S30

Lastly, we were able to catch Joel Anderson flogging a Datsun 240Z along the circuit’s infamous corkscrew. The car was recently restored to 1970s IMSA spec by our friends at Z Car Garage of San Jose. We’ll have an in-depth look at this Z in an upcoming story, but for now, memories of Monterey will have to suffice.

In case you missed it here are some other sights from Monterey: Part 01 — Bringing a Skyline GT-R to the NISMO booth, Part 02 — The Auctions, Toyota FT-1 Graphite debut.

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23 Responses to EVENTS: Monterey Historics, Part 03 — Motorsports Reunion

  1. Jim Daniels says:

    It was a great extended weekend, that for me began with driving my 240Z to Monterey on Thursday. Then heading to the Bonham Auction meeting up with Tom Knewtsen and the boys from Japanese Nostalgic Magazine. Having dinner and talking cars and plans for the event.

    Saturday getting to be at the track with all the car nuts, the sounds, the smells, and the views, it was a great experience. I had parking in the Nissan parking corral and my Z was one of only two Nissans in the parking area. Not very well represented on Friday. However, it was a different story in the pits and track as you can see from the above photos.

    For those that have not attended Friday is a great day to attend the Motor Sports Reunion. The crowds are much smaller that on Saturday.

    Saturday it was on the The Concorso Italianiano. Parking was horrible. There was some dirt dumped over a curb and about 50 yards of talcum powder dirt that had to be driven threw to park on a beautiful golf course of Black Hawk. Nice event of mostly modern cars with some classics of all Italian brands.

    After the show it was off to the Portola Hotel for another auction. First I drove threw the tunnel, dropped the car into second gear and let her scream. The sounds were amazing. Then on to the auction. We looked at great cars and talked with interesting people. As the evening went on we had dinner again with the crew from JNC. Sunday the event was over for me. Needing to head back to Northern California and back to home life, but boy what a weekend. Thanks to JNC for being a big part of a great weekend.

  2. Invinciblejets says:

    Wow amazing

  3. Nigel says:

    Looks like many great Nissan machines where there.
    I know there are some more Mazda’s and Toyota’s that need to be invited to this great event.

  4. JHMAB2 says:

    Man, I need to move back to California. That’s where all the action is regarding old Japanese cars.

  5. John M says:

    All agog!!! Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…

    That Z in the Caldor livery (Go UConn) is one of the coolest cars I have ever seen. They had a short video of it starting up at a ZCON event.
    I’m still waiting for the day I can click on a car and hear it running.

    I was wondering about the Newman documentary, so glad to hear it is getting close. Winning!

  6. xs10shl says:

    I’ve been going to Monterey week for 15+ years, and for better or worse (depending on your state of mind), this felt like a seminal moment for Japanese cars here. It’s still just a teeny tiny part of the whole weekend, but there was a sense in my mind that many show regulars had dropped the notion that the cars “just didn’t belong” ( although the lack of a single Japanese representative at Pebble Beach still shows the old-school way of thinking). Time will tell if it has staying power, but I’m feeling that it will. I would not be surprised to see a Japanese-Specific class being a semi-regular thing at some of the other shows.

    It is still very much Ferrari’s week to shine, and that won’t change anytime soon. But what has changed in the past few years is that fans of other Marques (most notably Porsche) now have a place where they can show and use their cars. That may never happen for Japanese cars (it hasn’t happened for British or American cars, either), and that’s OK- we’ve got plenty of other shows throughout the year to show and enjoy our cars.

  7. Alan T says:

    “The rules state that only historic race cars that have seen battle at sanctioned events are eligible to put tire to tarmac.”

    Rhetorical question: A 3.1litre L-gata engined KGC10 Skyline GT/GT-X fits into that, how…?


  8. alvin says:

    Great coverage and thanks for giving Z Car Garage a shout! We had a blast and Joel definitely enjoyed driving his IMSA Z 35 years later on same track!

  9. Censport says:

    Having rebuilt the engine (and transmission, and brakes) in our Sports 800 last year, I’m stunned by the engine bay in Tamaru-san’s Yotahachi. That is a work of art. 70 horsepower? I believe it. Bet it sounded and went great.

  10. RainMeister says:

    I don’t recall the BSR 240Z having been raced by Paul Newman, as he was still getting his feet wet racing a non-descript TR6 and then a BSR prepared silver and black 510. That early Z was raced by Bob Sharp himself, an underrated racer if ever there was one.

    I can still remember going to Lime Rock Park (BSR’s home circuit near his Danbury Datsun dealership) watching Bob dicing with the likes of Bob Tullius in his Group 44 TR6, and Horst Kwech in his Wetson’s liveried Alfa GTV, usually coming out on top.

    I have sitting on my book case two of Bob’s trophies from his early successes in SCCA racing. Long live BSR!

  11. Raleigh says:

    Great coverage as always. The second motorcycle looked to be a late 60’s Honda Dream 250 or 305.

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