When a group of Mustang racers from Australia descended upon the United States’ biggest Historic motor racing festival, the Monterey Motorsports Reunion, AMC tagged along.
A large and varied contingent of Australians descended on Laguna Seca for the Monterey Motorsports Reunion – so did AMC. Back home, we ponder HRT’s new ownership and Supercars in 2018.
The fact that the only three non Americans in the 34-car Historic Trans-Am field at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion were all Australians says something. A few things, actually. Firstly, it is evidence Aussies love their Mustangs, particularly Shelby-built examples. Next, the United States’ premier Historic race meeting is increasingly a lure for competitors from this side of the Pacific. Then there’s the fact the Historic Trans-Am (1966-72) series is starting to gain a profile here and that Australians can mix it with the best US racers on their home soil in this illustrious category. Plus competitors and their crews can have a bloody good time at Laguna Seca at the ‘Pre-Reunion’ and the main ‘Motorsports Reunion’ race meetings, held on consecutive weekends in August, and at the countless Monterey Car Week activities.
The Pre-Reunion allows drivers to gain experience of the tricky and undulating Laguna Seca track before the main event a week later.
All three Aussie drivers competing in the Historic Trans-Am races – Don Dimitriadis, Chad Parrish and Terry Lawlor – were part of the same nine-strong group of enthusiasts that put a trio of ‘Stangs on track. A fourth Shelby Mustang, #15, was entered by Dimitriadis for Glenn Seton in races for 1963-1966 GT Cars (over 2500cc). Seton drives a Hertz-liveried Mustang for Don here in the Touring Car Masters.
Seton, as the only Laguna Seca first-timer, was required to do the Driver Induction which involved walking the circuit pre-event. We wonder if the officials conducting the track walk had any idea of his accomplishments in his home country. Not that going unrecognised would ever faze the understated two-time Australian Touring Car Champion, who happily wielded spanners on Parrish’s car when not in the driver’s seat.
It was a big undertaking for Dimitriadis’s Thunder Road Racing Team Australia to run a fleet of ultra-valuable and historically significant Mustangs on consecutive weekends on another continent. Thus, local prep came from Mustang specialists Cobra Automotive Inc.
Dimitriadis’s mount for both Laguna Seca weekends was the prototype Boss 302 Trans-Am Mustang built ahead of the 1969 Trans-American Sedan Championship, to give the famous series its full name. The car wasn’t earmarked for competition, but had to be pressed into service when the Shelby team’s designated racing chassis were badly damaged in early season rounds. Don’s car was raced by Cooma NSW-raised Horst Kwech, plus fellow Shelby team drivers Dan Gurney and Peter Revson. The blue Fastback today carries Gurney’s name above the door, but Don had to change to #21 from its regular #2 for the weekend.
Only genuine cars from the legendary series are eligible to race in Historic Trans-Am today and both Parrish’s and Lawlor’s Mustangs came from the privateer ranks. Parrish’s ride, #28, was campaigned by Dean Gregson in a handful of rounds each year between 1969 and ‘71.
Lawlor’s #63 Ford was No.24 of 26 Shelbybuilt 1967 Trans-Am Mustangs. It originally contested ‘production sports car’ events with first
owner Fred Sutherland. It had a solitary TransAm Series outing, at the magnificently-named Donnybrooke International Speedway, Minnesota, in the hands of Jim Whelan.
All three Sydneysiders raced inside the top dozen across the two weekends, with Lawlor finishing as high as second in Saturday’s race at the Reunion. His fine overall performances on category debut – and in foreign territory – in the off-white and orange machine earned him the Rolex Award for Excellence in Historic Trans-Am.
“To me, both weekends focus on the cars and the need to respect their heritage while still showing their ability on the track – as it was back in the day,” Lawlor explains. “This means good, fair and clean races, as well as presenting the cars as they were in the day. The Australian Historic racing scene should take note and enforce this attitude more seriously.
“Winning the award was very humbling. It is judged on overall performance, fairness and consistency on the track as well as car presentation and the spirit of historic racing. Another note for the Aussie Historic racing scene!
“The fact that Laguna Seca is also one of the best tracks in the world is also a bonus and everyone wants to race there one day in their life.”
Lawlor’s performances certainly put his recently acquired ’67 Mustang in the spotlight. So much so, he received an offer too good to refuse and the car now has a new owner.
As to Seton, he nipped at the heels of the 1963-66 GT Cars category’s top three throughout. This is nothing to sneeze at as he was the fastest of the Mustang runners in the big 41-car field and competing against much lighter Corvettes and Shelby Cobras.
Thunder Road’s entourage included Heritage Touring Car racer Carey McMahon, Kevin Luke, Doug Westwood, Laurie Sellers and AMC’s Bruce Duncan. The trip wasn’t just about racing though, as Monterey Car Week provides a range of motoring-based attractions in Carmel and Pebble Beach. These include Concours on the Avenue at Carmel-By-The-Sea, Gordon McCall’s Motorworks Revival (combining cars and planes) and auctions at Russo and Steele and Mecums. There are more auctions, concours and cruises than you can poke a stick at, each with their own flavour.
Then there were catch-ups with the many Aussies at Laguna Seca either racing (see following pages) or soaking up the atmosphere of what is effectively the US’s answer to Goodwood.
More images at www.musclecarmag.com.au and www.thunderroad.com.au