The entirety of motorsport evolution makes for some moving images.
What the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion has never shied away from is the real competition that takes place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, between some of the rarest, most historical, most extravagantly expensive race cars on the planet. There are always thrills, chills, and yes, the occasional spill. But the risk is worth it to watch these cars run at top performance.
There’s the old and the oldest, from the 1912 National Speedway Roadster that won the Indianapolis 500, to the 1991 Mazda RX-7 that fought hard in IMSA’s GTU class. There’s race cars you’ve only read about, like the 1985 Porsche 959 Paris-Dakar—still covered in its original, numbers-matching, period-correct dirt. There are cars that exceed expectations, like the Can-Am cars that sound like hellfire coming down the hill. There’s rarities you’ve never heard of. For example, did you know Buick campaigned in IMSA’s GTO class in the Eighties with a resembling a piddling N-Body Somerset?
It’s the entirety of motorsport history, encompassing everything wild and weird and wonderful from start to finish. Here’s some of our favorites, all running way harder than you’d ever expect.
FIA's Group 5 sports car won the 1973 Spa-Francorchamps 1000km.
Entered by Porsche Salzburg, this 908 won the 1970 1000 KMs of Nürburgring with Kurt Ahrens and Vic Elford.
Like all Lotuses, the tiny sub-1000cc Lotus 23 was a giant killer but was infamously banned at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Colin Chapman swore: "We will never race again at Le Mans!"
Porsche raced this evolution of the 906 for just one year, with both 6- and 8-cylinder engines. At the 1967 1000 KMs of Nurburgring, it took all three top spots.
Luigi Chinetti founded the North American Racing Team to drum up business for his first American Ferrari dealership. This Group 6 prototype took on the 1971 World Sportscar Championship alongside its 512 and 512M siblings.
The Whittington brothers entered this Porsche in 1977, which had originally began life as a 934 before a conversion by Andial.
Jaguar's return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans after over two decades failed to finish in 1985 but won its GTP class the next year.
Brun Motorsport prepared these Repsol-sponsored 962s, and its best-ever finish was 2nd overall at the 1990 24 Hours of Le Mans.
With the father-son duo of John Paul Sr. and John Paul Jr., this car won both the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1982. The year before in IMSA, it had placed 1st seven times in a row.
Sponsored by Japanese fashion house La Moda Goji's Italiya bran, this 935 failed to finish the 1980 24 Hours of Le Mans competing the same year as the beloved . It also goes to show that Millennial Pink never went out of style.
The car we all know and love as the "Batmobile" dominated Touring car racing, winning the European Touring Car Championship and its class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans upon its debut. It would win the ETCC every year from 1975 to 1979.
This 400-horsepower Datsun 240Z won the IMSA GTU championship in 1976, with Brad Frisselle driving. In 2013 it was .
One of Mazda's earliest rotary race cars was restored by the company itself, and this weekend Mazda North America's vice president Robert Davis had the honors of driving it around their namesake racetrack.
Sponsored by Hawaiian Tropic, this 935 won the 1978 24 Hours of Daytona.
Owner Dean DeSantis paid tribute to BMW's very first Art Car by replicating Alexander Calder's vivid colors on his own CSL.
Alba built first carbon-fiber prototypes for GTP in 1983 and combined that technology with a twin-turbo Buick V6 good for over 700 horsepower.
Mazda spent two years restoring its 767B, the earliest predecessor to the champion 787. It debuted on track with design manager Ken Saward driving.
Dan Gurney's All-American Racers were so successful with the Toyota-engined Eagle MkIII—winning 21 out of 27 races over its three-year career—that many cite this car for shutting down the whole IMSA GTP class. Back in 1991, it debuted right here, in Monterey, with Juan Manuel Fangio II leading by over a minute.
A racing Rivolta is not revolting. Not at all.
This may be one of nine Shelby Cobras that raced, but that number fails to diminish how wonderful, rare, and wicked-sounding they still are.
As fast as a comet and just as loud.
The essence of speed, right here.