As most of you know by now, the featured marque at this year's Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races is Porsche, and it is fitting that two people so connected with the legacy of Porsche - the late Bob Carlson and Bob Snodgrass -- were honored in a Porsche Race Car Parade. Carlson was the PR Director for Porsche North America for many years, while Snodgrass was a principal in Brumos Porsche.
As the Porsche race cars lined up on the front straight at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, David Donahue and Hurley Haywood took the front row in Brumos Porsches. (Donohue won the 2009 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in a Brumos Porsche and hopes to repeat the victory next year; Haywood, a Le Mans winner, is a Brumos teammate.) A third car, the Porsche 962 once driven by the late Bob Akin and handled today by Kees Nierop, joined them on the front row. For Porsche devotees, this was a touching moment; the sight of these three cars clearly brought back moments of triumph and brilliance.
Behind the trio were dozens of Porsches of every vintage, neatly lined up and waiting for the signal to set out and pay tribute to those who gave so much to the sport. As Haywood and Donohue completed their first lap, they were side-by-side in a Brumos salute to Snodgrass.
"It's some of the personal stuff that means more than anything else at this time," said Donohue, who was close to Snodgrass and, as a celebrity driver here, was honored by Rolex at a special dinner last evening after a full day of signing autographs.
When asked what he made of all the old cars here, Donohue, whose late father Mark Donohue is a racing legend, said: "For me, growing up with my Dad in his era, I have kind of an emotional attachment with a lot of these cars. And now to be able to get into a couple of them and have people know who I am -- even though I am not to the scale of Hurley Haywood, Vic Elford or Derek Bell or so many of these other guys here - it's great to be in their company"
Haywood had his own personal take on the sentiment. "It's really wonderful to be in a position to look out on the paddock area and see some of the very cars I have raced in my career, which spans over forty years. And when I walk over to one of those cars it brings back wonderful memories. It makes me realize I have been doing this for such a long time and the cars bring flashbacks in time, but it seems like it was just yesterday when I was doing it."
Haywood added that he had the opportunity yesterday to drive an early Porsche Formula 2 car. "It was a wonderful way of looking at a span from that car to the current Porsche prototypes and the technology that has gone on with the different formats that Porsche has developed -- from formula cars to closed wheel cars, sports cars to prototypes," said Haywood. "And with each and every venture they have tried, they have done it superbly and have managed to put cars in each of those categories in Victory lane."
Racing for eight of 15 groups took place today, while special introductions for two new cars - the Devon GTX and the Fisker Plug-in Hybrid -- rounded out the action. Spectators may have noticed Jay Leno walking the paddock area, and those in the know caught actor and accomplished driver Patrick Dempsey taking to the raceway in his 1992 Mazda RX792P. After wrapping up filming on his latest project, the actor drove to Monterey, arriving in the wee hours of the morning and registered last-minute.
"I had a blast, these cars are phenomenal," said Dempsey, who finished fourth in his group. "This is the fastest car I have ever driven and it was exciting. I really appreciate the support from Mazda, as always, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to go racing.especially with the Grand Am and the experience I am getting there, I'm getting faster and faster, and one of these days I am going to win one."
As for the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, Dempsey said, "It's very moving when you see the cars that went out before us. You step back in time and you honor the drivers who have done this before as well as the designers and manufacturers. When you see them here collectively racing, its absolutely wonderful for the sport."