California has a special passion for beautiful cars, and the August week, which is held in Monterey every year and culminates with the famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, is an unmissable event. Ferrari models have been part of the event since the very beginning, both with GT cars and with the rarest racing models
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California is a place that has always embraced car culture. Nowhere more so than in the small town of Monterey, on the Pacific coast. Each August sees a number of concours events, auctions, functions, both private and corporate, staged by major manufacturers, and historic racing at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Monterey first became synonymous with the automobile back in November 1950, when the Pebble Beach Road Races were first held on a road course in the Del Monte Forest, just inland from the Del Monte Lodge. That same year, on 5 November, the first Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance took place. Now, 64 years after this original event was staged in an area of California lined with luxurious villas and where golf is an almost obligatory pastime, Laguna, Pebble Beach and Monterey have established themselves as unmissable dates on the calendar of anyone who loves cars.
Ferraris have been entered in the Pebble Beach Concours since the very early days, and currently occupy two classes on the Concours field each year, one for road cars and the other for race models. It is not unusual to find examples in other classes, like the preservation class, or for there to be a special class for a significant model’s anniversary. Over the years there have been some spectacular and unique examples gracing the fairways, far too many to list, but including King Leopold of Belgium’s 342 America Cabriolet, chassis # 0234 AL, Gianni Agnelli’s 375 America Coupe, chassis # 0355 AL, and the wildly finned Ghia bodied 410 Superamerica, chassis # 0473 SA. There have also been many highly desirable competition examples shown, like the 166 MM Barchetta, 250 Testa Rossa, 250 LM, 330 P4 and, in 2011, 19 of the 36 Series One 250 GTOs produced, together with two 4.0-litre examples.
The history of the actual races began in 1950, initially on the roads of the peninsula, before moving on to the Laguna Seca circuit. It would be nice to be able to say that a Ferrari won the first
race, but we can’t… However, it was won by Phil Hill driving a Jaguar XK120 and, as history shows, he went on to have much success driving Ferraris, including three Le Mans 24 Hour Race wins, three 12 Hours of Sebring victories and the 1961 Formula One Drivers Title. He also drove wins for Ferrari at Pebble Beach in 1953 and 1955, when he won the main event, the Del Monte Trophy, respectively in a 250 MM Vignale Spider, chassis # 0260 MM, and a 750 Monza, chassis # 0510 M. The first Ferrari to race at Pebble Beach was the 166 MM Barchetta of “Gentleman” Jim Kimberly that participated in the 1951 main race, but that rather inauspiciously rolled out on the 27th lap, fortunately without injury to the driver. Aside from Hill’s main event victories in Ferraris in 1953 and 1955, Sterling Edwards won in a Ferrari 340 MM in 1954, and Carroll Shelby, in the same 750 Monza that Hill drove to victory in 1955, won the final race at the track in 1956. Ernie McAfee’s fatal accident in his Ferrari 121 LM signalled the end of racing in the forest and the birth of Laguna Seca. The continuing popularity of racing in the region and the financial benefits an influx of visitors brought to the area prompted the organising body, the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula, to seek an alternative venue in the region to satisfy competitors and public alike. Laguna Seca was a purpose-built facility, on leased military land a few miles inland from the original Pebble Beach track. The new venue was, incredibly, constructed in just 60 days and attracted 35,000 spectators and 100 race entries to the first meeting held in November 1957, thus totally justifying the faith the organisers had in their venture. Since that date, the track has hosted many
prestigious race series, including Trans Am, CanAm, IMSA, NASCAR, Formula 5000, CART, ALMS and World Motorcycle Championships. One of its most famous gatherings is the annual historic race meeting, part of the renowned Monterey Car Week, held each August. The historic meeting was the brainchild of Steve Earle, one time owner of Ferrari 250 GTO chassis # 4293 GT, who organised the inaugural historic reunion in 1974. Since then it has become one of the leading classic car race gatherings in the world, attracting international entries and audiences, drawn to an almost natural amphitheatre, which offers great viewing facilities. Mention Laguna Seca and one probably thinks first of cars dropping through the famous “Corkscrew” series of bends, one of the best known circuit points, along with the likes of the Eau Rouge at Spa, Tabac at Monaco, the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans and Parabolica at Monza. However, the circuit is much more than that exciting series of dropping bends, with many other challenging turns for the drivers and plenty of things to see and do in the paddock area and trade village during the historic racing weekend.
The event is so popular that in recent years a prehistoric weekend has been added to the calendar, a lower-key, competitor-orientated gathering, which now kicks off the whirlwind of activity that is the Monterey Car Week. Over the years, other events have been added to the week, the longest running being the Concorso Italiano. This celebration of Italian cars and lifestyle started in 1986 at The Quail Lodge, before moving to Fort Ord in 2003, and subsequently to other nearby venues. The show always has a large array of predominantly more contemporary Ferrari models, and features a Ferrari Concours organised by the Ferrari Club of America’s Pacific Region, with judging that follows the same criteria as the Pebble Beach Concours. The change of venue came about after the owners of The Quail decided to host their own upmarket Concours, which has grown in status and also attracts many significant automobiles, always with at least one Ferrari class. A more recent addition is the Concours on The Avenue in Carmel, ranged along the city’s tree-lined main street, which first hosted the event in 2007. Ferraris have fared well there since its beginning, with five Best of Show awards. Apart from the pleasure that all these events give to many thousands of people, both participants and spectators, they also give a boost to the local economy and, at the same time, raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a number of charities. Each August, classic car culture is alive and well in Monterey. Long may it continue.