MMR Blog

Sandy on Assignment: At the start... of the Mille Miglia

Posted on June 19, 2014 Comments (4)

By Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

The 2014 Mille Miglia winners at the start to reclaim their 2011 title, Giordano Mozzi and Stefania Biacca driving an original Mille Miglia car, the 1928 Lancia Lambda tipo 221 spider Ca.Sa.Ro.

The 2014 Mille Miglia winners at the start to reclaim their 2011 title, Giordano Mozzi and Stefania Biacca driving an original Mille Miglia car, the 1928 Lancia Lambda tipo 221 spider Ca.Sa.Ro.

Who wouldn’t want to go to Italy… to watch the start of the Mille Miglia? When the opportunity presented itself to rendezvous with my daughter, I was thrilled with the timing. I was about to repeat last year’s adventure concept… motorsports bookends... the Mille Miglia on one end and Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the other.

Today’s Mille Miglia is on many a bucket list. As a spectator verses entrant, there are huge differences in approaching this event, as one would expect. All the same, it was still exciting and a thrill to watch the field of this year’s 435 official entries go through the scrutineering and start day fanfare, before they actually took off on their four day adventure, the third weekend in May.

Brescia’s Piazza della Vittoria maintains its historical significance to the Mille Miglia.

Brescia’s Piazza della Vittoria maintains its historical significance to the Mille Miglia.

It all starts in Brescia, about an hours drive east of Milan, Malpensa being the airport of choice. Everyone discouraged me from renting a car in Italy, including my native Italian friends. Forget it! I had a blast driving the narrow hilltop roads and autostrade, during our two-week stay.

Brescia has a rich motorsports history starting at the beginning of the 19th century, as a hub for auto manufacturing and its Brescia Motoring Week and Florio Cup. Originally, hometown to the first Grand Prix of Italy in 1921, it was that event‘s organizer who pulled the rug out from under Brescia, quickly moving the event the very next year to a newly built circuit in Monza, establishing the Italian Grand Prix, as we know it today. The betrayal is what ignited the imagination of a small group of young sportsmen referred to in the history books as the Four Musketeers, Giovanni Canestrini, Aymo Maggi, Franco Mazzotti and Renzo Castagneto, to put together the Mille Miglia, in less than three months time.

Overlooking scrutineering at the Fiera di Brescia.

Overlooking scrutineering at the Fiera di Brescia.

First, for those of you who want to check this off your bucket list, here are a few travel tips. Arrive Wednesday morning, before Thursday’s start, and head directly to scrutineering at the Brixia Expo-Fiera di Brescia, a large exhibition venue, on the outskirts of Brescia. Bring, and I emphasize, bring your GPS from home, downloading Italy’s roads beforehand. A GPS is invaluable and costly, if you rent it at the airport, as we did. We walked right into the Expo and there before us were many of the classic and historic cars, plus a section of newer cars, all going through the paces of registration and technical inspection. I found it fascinating, a sort of history lesson, as all the cars were examples of those raced during the span of the event from 1927-1957.

A walk back in time, during registration and tech checks.

A walk back in time, during registration and tech checks.

Moving through scrutineering.

Moving through scrutineering.

This year’s official registration list noted 71 cars that had participated in the original races. Sixty four different marques would be arriving from 34 countries around the world, with the most, 113, from Italy. From the total 435 teams, 62 were composed of members of the same family, father and sons mostly. Thirteen female teams were listed, in addition to quite a few husband and wife teams counted in the family total.

Jay Leno and Ian Cullum at the start in a 1951 XK120 Sports Ecurie Ecosse

Jay Leno and Ian Callum at the start in a 1951 XK120 Sports “Ecurie Ecosse”.

We got to meet and talk with a few owners; otherwise most of the cars were unattended. This was the best opportunity to take time and look over the cars without competing crowds. Outside the hall, Jaguar Heritage Racing with their ten celebrated 1950s models and celebrity drivers were milling around. Jay Leno, who commented that he favors the XK120 era and his co-driver, Ian Callum, Jaguar’s design director, would drive one of the Ecurie Ecosse race cars. Andy Wallace, ex-Jaguar Le Mans winner, whom I cheered on at Goodwood last fall, was there to drive a famed 1952 C-type. The celebrity list of Jaguar drivers was impressive.

This first early afternoon, at the Expo, was also an excellent time to make souvenir purchases, without crowds. At this point, I will mention that the Mille Miglia, like my recommendation for the Goodwood Revival, is an excellent trip for spouses. There are so many opportunities for shopping, eating, sightseeing, and wine tasting… after the car enthusiast gets his or her fix of the cars.

The Bentley Driver’s Club in Sirmione, a favorite stop for car club rallies during the Mille Miglia.

The Bentley Driver’s Club in Sirmione, a favorite stop for car club rallies during the Mille Miglia.

Accommodations for the Mille Miglia were tricky, yet they need not be. I asked friends who had participated in prior years and got an excellent recommendation to stay at the Best Western Master in Brescia. Jaguar thought so too, as the Jaguar Heritage team was also staying there! Unfortunately, the prices are so inflated that it’s hard to recommend actually staying in Brescia. Like the original races, promotion and tourism are still key objectives of the event.

Following the start and a spin through the streets of Brescia, the cars work their way up to Lake Garda and the quaint touristy town of Sirmione, no more than 45 minutes north. They drive through the entire town and historic section. It would be my recommendation to find a hotel in Sirmione. We followed our two-night stay in Brescia with another two in Sirmione with rates about two thirds less, and directly on the lake.

Thursday morning, we noticed cars beginning to park near the race start, so heading back into Brescia from Sirmione for the entire day may be just as realistic as staying in town. You may not even feel the need to be at the start, which for spectators means lining the streets and watching the cars zoom by. Heading back to Sirmione around 3pm, in time to line its streets, might be just as exciting.

We were told that Thursday before the start, the museum, Museo Mille Miglia, hosts a pre-race diner for competitors. Knowing this, we adjusted our Thursday itinerary to arrive at the museum shortly after it opened at 10am and took our time. If you are driving to the museum you will have to be creative in parking. We saw a line of newish Ferraris parked along a chain link fence across the street from the museum and tucked right in. In hindsight, they were probably part of the Ferraris doing drives as a Tribute to the Mille Miglia!

The museum is situated inside the Monastery of Saint Eufemia, a beautiful building with historical significance itself, built in 1008. Opened to the public in 2004, you step back in time, not only into the history of the original Mille Miglia but the entire Italian social and political culture of those years, with multi-media displays and historic cars creating a sense of being there. Written in Italian with English translations, the museum book is an excellent walk through each individual year with a concise summary of the road infrastructure challenges and petrol and tyre rationing, facing the 1947 start up after the war and seven year pause of the event, as well as the final demise due to a tragic accident and unsuccessful attempts to sustain itself afterwards.

Italians Francesca Grimaldi and Lucia Fanti in their XK120 OTS Jaguar maneuvering the narrow streets off the Piazza, before they take off to victory in the female team division.

Italians Francesca Grimaldi and Lucia Fanti in their XK120 OTS Jaguar maneuvering the narrow streets off the Piazza, before they take off to victory in the female team division.

German’s Peter and Dr. Claus-Peter Amberger in their 1928 4.5 Bentley fight the crowds out of the Piazza towards the start.

German’s Peter and Dr. Claus-Peter Amberger in their 1928 4.5 Bentley fight the crowds out of the Piazza towards the start.

I find the tidbits of history fascinating for this event. Initially it was meant to be a one-time race. More of a shot in the arm for the Italian people, especially Brescians. A sporting event on local roads which would not only capture the spirit of sports car enthusiasts, but would hopefully inspire technological innovation from the auto industry and road improvements. The route was determined to be half of Italy, Brescia to Rome and back… 1600km, or 1000 miles, thus the title, Mille Miglia.

This event spawned the pleasures of grand sports motor touring that many of us enjoy today.

At high noon on Thursday, the itinerary calls for the cars to congregate in the Piazza della Vittoria, the location where pre-checks were moved to in 1932. One must keep in mind, the original Mille Miglia was continuous. Stopping only for fuel and repairs. The 1927 first place winner, in a hometown manufactured O.M. (Officine Meccaniche), clocked in at a total time of 21 hrs, 04 mins, 48 secs. Today’s event is actually a four day regularity run.

At the Piazza, you get the same sense of these cars as you do when the Pebble Beach cars end their road tour in Carmel… pandemonium. When you think about it, like Pebble Beach, these are million dollar cars, just parked for mobs of onlookers to see… and admire. That is another very nice thing about this event. It’s approachable for the public at no cost other than getting there.

Another recommendation is to make lunch reservations at one of the local restaurants just off the Piazza when you arrive race day. It takes the edge off things, when everything gets crazy at lunchtime. We actually didn’t do that, but there was a silver lining. While walking out of the city towards Viale Venezia, the start, we remembered friends mentioning they sat at a cafe on the street and watched the cars go by. We caught a late lunch and got to watch them, presumably en route the Museum tour and dinner.

American co-driver Mark Gessler, president of the Heritage Vehicle Association, in an original Mille Miglia Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 GS Zagato accompanies Manuel Elicabe to a stellar 11th place finish!

American co-driver Mark Gessler, president of the Heritage Vehicle Association, in an original Mille Miglia Alfa Romeo 6C 1500 GS Zagato accompanies Manuel Elicabe to a stellar 11th place finish!

About an hour and a half before the 6pm start, we were front and center, a coveted location we were thankful to secure as media guests. We made friends with our media mates on either side of us. Everyone was staking out territory for the perfect shots. To be honest with you, the most interesting shots are more likely back at that little café along the roadside. Every inch of road is a good spectator spot to watch the Mille Miglia, so don’t worry... you’re so close you can do a high five with the drivers if you want!

We admired every driving team for undertaking the journey. It was fun to have spotted the winning teams when they were driving in the Piazza before the start and to have caught a glimpse of most of the cars as they rolled up onto the start stage.

On the lawn at Pebble Beach in 2013 to the start of the 2014 Mille Miglia, Tony Shooshani is all smiles in his 1921 Alfa Romeo G1 with driver Craig Calder.

On the lawn at Pebble Beach in 2013 to the start of the 2014 Mille Miglia, Tony Shooshani is all smiles in his 1921 Alfa Romeo G1 with driver Craig Calder.

And off they all go…

And off they all go…

Mille Miglia logo

When I see the red arrow, a logo they say has been around from the beginning, it will forever draw me in because there has to be a fantastic story behind who’s wearing it or sporting it on their vehicle, even if they were like me… a spectator. It was magical just being there.


Sandy on Assignment:
My Favorite...The Goodwood Revival

Posted on January 9, 2014 Comments (5)

By Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

Adventure Begins - Goodwood House

Another adventure begins…in front of the Goodwood House.

Although it never made my motorsports bucket list, everyone I know who has attended the Goodwood Revival says it’s a must, so I felt compelled to check it out. It was fantastic - my all-time favorite adventure for the year! This is an event for everyone… from the vintage racing buff to the reluctant spouse. You can’t help but have a fabulous time... even in the rain!

Stepping Back in Time

Stepping back in time.

Mods and Rockers

A friendly group of mods and rockers.

Close your eyes and take yourself back in time... England, post war ‘40s and ‘50s, through the early ‘60s… and you have the setting for the Revival. Everyone is dressed to play the part from the golden era of motorsports. Tight skirts and silk stockings, British military uniforms, fedora hats, mechanics’ overalls, biker garb and bell bottoms… if it’s vintage, you’ll see it. Even the concessions are in period, selling absolutely everything to get you into the mood for this three-day event.

West Sussex County, the 2.4-mile circuit sits on the grounds of the Goodwood Estate. During WWII, this area was a key British airfield and home to several Spitfire squadrons. When the RAF closed the base after the war, the landowner, Freddie March, grandfather of the current Earl of March, turned the perimeter road into a racing circuit. Britain’s first post-war motor racing took place here on September 18, 1948. The track was closed to racing in 1966, then re-opened in 1998. In its 16th year, the Revival features 15 races and special tributes over the mid-September weekend. I’ll give you the how-to’s for this event. But first, if you ever think you’ll attend annually, get on the list for membership into the Goodwood Road Racing Club (GRRC). Membership perks are outstanding. I’m on a 24 month wait list!

GTs

The GT’s from the Woodcote grandstands.

Taste of Victory

A taste of victory.

This year, celebrating 50 years of Ford’s GT40 history, an exciting one-make race for GT40s and related models took place. The career of legendary racecar driver Jim Clark was celebrated with 36 of the actual cars he raced, on parade. The Settrington Cup saw younger racers pedaling their way to glory in Austin J40s! Bonham’s auctioned over $23M in cars on Saturday. Tour de France cyclists, celebrating the 100th year running of the world’s greatest bicycle race, were also on parade. One hundred years of Aston Martin was celebrated in the Earl’s Court Motor Show exhibit and spectacular air shows went on overhead daily.... all just for starters!

Air shows and races

Air shows and races … all day long at the Revival.

Since I’m not a costume type person, I was a little apprehensive going into this adventure… easing in slowly. Outfitted in a black turtleneck, white jeans and big square sunglasses, I headed off to the Tampa airport feeling like Jackie O. By Day 3 at the track, I was so into dressing up that I didn’t think twice about wearing my red satin evening coat, long gloves and big sunglasses… in the pouring rain.

Before sharing my adventure, let me say that getting to Chichester, England, which is just up the road from Goodwood, was a snap! British Airways flies direct to Gatwick from Tampa, in eight hours, leaving at 6:15pm and arriving the next morning around 8am. Since tickets for this event go on sale mid-November, I was able to book a flight at a ridiculously low fare. Once in Gatwick, I hopped the train (right inside the airport) into Chichester. I personally didn’t want to hassle with a rental car and succumb to driving on the wrong side of the road. Lucky for me, I booked lodging in town and could take a five minute taxi ride to the Goodwood grounds after the gates opened at 7:30am and catch the official shuttle bus back into Chichester at the end of the day. Friends Keith Carlson and Bruce Murray were meeting up with Brits locally, and drove directly to the Estate in classic cars. The parking lots are a show in themselves!

Sandy in the Paddock

E2A and Sandy in the Paddock.

Paddock - rows of racing

The Paddock…rows of racing history.

It was a given, I would be seeing a lot of British cars, but, I was curious as to what else was in the Paddock. I was also on a mission to track down a Ferrari or two. To my surprise, there was a paddock full of these stallions! Speaking of the Paddock, a special pass, and of course vintage attire, is required to enter. Getting a Paddock pass is difficult, as you cannot buy them. That’s where the GRRC membership comes in handy. Again, I lucked out. After stopping to take photos with a group of bikers, they handed me a pass!

For me, my motorsports adventures sparkle because of the people I meet. Whether it’s a famous race car driver, classic car collector, or just another motorsports enthusiast, like me, each person adds to my adventure. The Goodwood Revival was all sparkles!

Flurry of excitement

A flurry of excitement around Stirling Moss and Jochen Mass.

I checked out the racing line-up and was thrilled to be able to watch legends Derek Bell, Brian Redman, and Andy Wallace, and also Oliver Gavin and Tom Kristensen – whom I had just seen race at Le Mans, all take the wheel of some pretty cool vintage race cars. Stirling Moss was on hand signing autographs, but more special than that, I was able to witness Stirling and Jochen Mass prepare a race history time capsule. It was a treat to run into Garth Hammers from Gooding Auctions and Steve Serio from Aston Martin of New England, who, like me, were there enjoying the weekend festivities.

Max - race car driver

Max… the race car driver.

What made this entire adventure spectacular was following one very special racecar driver through every pace of the weekend. Right off the bat, I thought I recognized a familiar face from the automotive auction world, as I was snooping around the Paddock. No, it couldn’t be, I thought. But on Day 2, while again roaming the Paddock, I ran into my very favorite auctioneer, Max Girado, from RM Auctions. It really was Max whom I thought I recognized the day before. You’ve read my praises of Max, as an auctioneer in previous articles, so you can imagine how ecstatic I was to find out he was racing… the Ferraris!!

Derek Bell

Derek Bell up second in the Corvette Sting Ray.

Besides being offered a Paddock pass at the start of the Revival, I was graciously offered another pass from the mechanic of the 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, which Derek Bell would race on Sunday… a team armband. I hope that gentleman goes straight to heaven when the time comes, as doing such a good deed was amazing. I could maneuver anywhere inside the pits and team areas, wearing the armband.

Ready to race

Ready to race.

Following Max though the paces connected me with the excitement of the races. The owners of both cars he was driving, the 1958 Ferrari 250 GT Tour de France and 1956 Ferrari 860 Monza, told me they had heard Max was a great auctioneer, but obviously admired him for his skills as a race car driver. Max slipped into the cars with ease, all smiles, and graciously took the time to wave before taking off. Watching Max finish third on Sunday, in the No. 22, 250 GT during the Fordwater Trophy race, was a thrill. I even watched him go through the post scrutineering checks. He definitely made my weekend!

Similar to Le Mans, you really have to watch the website (www.goodwood.com) to jump on board for early ticket sales, as they sell out quickly. Tickets are mailed after the first of the year. Here is what my website shopping cart included: A 3-day required roving grandstand general admission ticket, for $206; and, Saturday and Sunday reserved grandstand tickets at $122 each, in the Woodcote grandstands. The grandstands offer a fantastic viewing advantage.

I signed up for lunches at the Goodwood Hotel in the Cedar Suite. Dinners were back in Chichester at a fabulous Italian restaurant, Carluccio’s. Lodging at the Goodwood Hotel is reserved exclusively for guests of Lord March, but you can make reservations, on–line, for the three-course buffet lunch. Hostesses seat guests together, filling up tables for scheduled seatings. The Hotel ended up being my go to place for everything… relaxing, bathroom breaks and all other meals. There was even a fleet of complimentary vintage Jowett taxis and roadsters to take me back and forth to the track. The Hotel experience is definitely my MMR secret find!

Revival

Everyone has fun at the Revival.

Forever one of my favorite adventures, I hope the Goodwood Revival makes everyone’s motorsports bucket list. It’s no wonder Veuve Clicquot is sparkling everywhere during this weekend of excitement!


Sandy on Assignment: On the Road to Monterey

Posted on September 16, 2013 Comments (0)

Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

Three times is a charm and that’s how I felt returning from my third year at Monterey and Pebble Beach. Never claiming to be an expert, but having hit most of the major events and attractions over the past three years, I am both thrilled and eager to share what I know. Like all of my motorsports adventures, the key is to plan ahead, especially if you want to kick Pebble off your bucket list.

Always a winner, this 1912 Packard 307 Passenger Touring still enjoyed by Phil Hill’s family, is a wonderful tribute to a great legend.

Always a winner, this 1912 Packard 307 Passenger Touring still enjoyed by Phil Hill’s family, is a wonderful tribute to a great legend.

What excites me most in sharing is the breadth of activities and experiences one really can comfortably pack into a week. That’s the key, a full week - Monday to Monday.

Some may remember how my motorsports adventures started… a query into Peter on how to approach, or should I say attack, Pebble Beach, a sort of Olympics with classic cars and the Grammy for automobiles. After four hours of discussion, clutching a year old copy of Sports Car Market’s, Insider’s Guide to Monterey, I walked away with two pieces of advice, one you already have - go Monday to Monday. The second was to discover what it is about motorsports that interests you… then build your week around those activities.

Yes, the color is original on this 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Boano Coupe caught rolling off the transporter.

Yes, the color is original on this 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis Boano Coupe caught rolling off the transporter.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I love it all! This year, I grabbed for the gusto, taking time to mingle with people and hear their stories. I also crave the intellectual side, so seeking out the premier automotive museums on the west coast and taking in a SCM seminar satisfies my appetite. My love for sports car racing definitely shines through in my adventures, so meeting the racers and following them on the track at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is a must. Living the week vicariously is exhilarating… especially during the auctions! And then there are the concours cars; so spectacular each receives a personal invitation to Pebble Beach. Over the course of the week, watching them evolve from their vulnerable position early Thursday, to full maturity on the concours field Sunday morning, is magical… for me.

So, let’s get started. This year I flew into LAX and departed out of San Francisco. Call it luck, but I was able to rent a car through Enterprise with no drop off fees. What tickled me most was being asked, “What are you driving?” “The least expensive, fuel economy, compact car available”, was my response. My first year at Pebble, I rented a fancy convertible for the same cost as my lodging for the week... forget that! All you need are wheels, especially those that can squeeze into tight parking spaces.

The real Jay Leno in his garage!

The real Jay Leno in his garage!

My personal 2013 motorsports plan includes museums, so the Petersen, Nethercutt and Mullin Automotive Museums, in the Los Angles area, were a must. All three are doable, using Monday as your travel day. I cheated, flying in Sunday evening so I could visit family. Around 10am Monday morning, the phone rang and the caller said, “This is Jay Leno, is Sandy there?” Yes, I admit it… it just slipped out. “Is this the real Jay Leno?” I asked. Within 45 minutes I was one-on-one with Mr. Leno, walking through his collection and restoration shop. It’s still a blur. I was in seventh heaven and forever grateful to Keith Carlson who recently sold Jay his Bristol 403 and orchestrated my meeting.

Tuesday I enjoyed the Petersen and Nethercutt Museums. Just up from Beverly Hills, where I was staying, is the multi-story, soon to receive a face-lift, Petersen Museum with streetscapes taking you back in time. Open, at no charge to the public, the Nethercutt Museum is just north in the San Fernando Valley, showcasing more than 100 vehicles. Like the Mullins collection, there are several cars that won top awards at Pebble Beach. Wednesday, prior to Monterey week, the Mullins graciously opens its doors to guests. I was extremely grateful, as the collection was superb and one I would have missed otherwise. Where to stay in order to take in these treasures? The Crescent Hotel with only 35 rooms is quite a find, nestled a couple of blocks up from Rodeo drive.

Only two or three of these French roadsters left in the world – the1930 Gar Type B5 from the Mullins collection.

Only two or three of these French roadsters left in the world – the1930 Gar Type B5 from the Mullins collection.

I went on-line to reserve my entrance to the Mullins Collection, as reserved times are both required and limited. Located in Oxnard, less than an hour north of Los Angeles, you’re ready to jump back on 101 after your visit and head north to Monterey or Carmel, both about a 5-hour drive if you switch over to scenic Route 1 at San Luis Obispo. If you like to drive, and why wouldn’t a car person, you’re in for a treat!

What you miss, by visiting the museums, is Tuesday in Carmel for the Concours-on-the-Avenue, a casual jaunt through town, viewing over 175 multi-marque cars lining the streets. Then again, you just saw three magnificent collections! Also, be willing to cut short shopping and browsing at Automobilia Monterey, held only Tuesday and Wednesday, in the Embassy Suites Hotel in Seaside. Keep in mind a much smaller version of Automobilia takes place just inside the main pedestrian entrance to the Pebble Beach Concours called Pebble Beach RetroAuto, the rest of the week.

Speaking of shopping… buy all the Pebble Beach Concours clothing you want the first few days you arrive… or it will likely be sold out on Sunday. Shopping is definitely something to entice the non-motorsports enthusiast to attend! Between Beverly Hills, Carmel and the Concours art galleries and boutiques, everyone’s happy.

I haven’t mentioned where to stay in the greater Monterey area. Anyone already on the list probably won’t! Again, start looking now. If you get in a bind, email and I’ll put you in touch with our 17-room boutique hotel to check for an opening. The advice I received my first year was to stay in a place you enjoy… for me, it was Carmel. This year I joined friends, staying in Monterey, and it worked out beautifully. Getting to the track, auctions, and Pacific Grove was a breeze. If deciding to attend at the last minute, just knowing that 60 days out most B&Bs require confirmation and full payment may help you snatch up someone’s cancellation.

Owners are only too happy to chat with the Hagerty Youth Judges… and anyone else who’s interested, at Pacific Grove.

Owners are only too happy to chat with the Hagerty Youth Judges… and anyone else who’s interested, at Pacific Grove.

I mentioned friends. No surprise that everything in life is more fun when enjoyed with friends, and that is especially true for Monterey week. We are fortunate to have Keith Carlson, a Monterey week aficionado, in our Jag Club. Peter and I took Keith’s advice, discovering the Thursday street show put on by the Rotary Club of Pacific Grove. Don’t be surprised if you see some of the same cars Sunday on the lawn at Pebble Beach! Pacific Grove is one of those places the crowds haven’t fully discovered… yet. We met up with Denise McCluggage for dinner at Aliotti’s and Favaloro’s - two fabulous Italian restaurants on the main street, Lighthouse Avenue.

Up and ready to go.

Up and ready to go.

I hope you’ve found some of the information helpful so far… now for the good stuff! I’m an early bird and for Thursday, you should be as well! Beginning between 5:30-6:00 am, with the fog and the mist, I get to watch the heavy doors of the transporters open and the magic of Pebble Beach commence, as the cars are lowered from their beds and roll down the ramps to make their first debut of the week - the Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance. I just love this adventure. Often, it’s not until the cars are off the transports that the owners appear, some seeing their cars for the first time after restoration! It’s a time when the cars are rather naïve, polished but not primped for Sunday’s big day. The same goes for owners. Some are a bit nervous and unassuming, especially if this is their first invitation to Pebble.

Bought new by the current owner’s grandfather, the 1921 Duesenberg A Bender Coup (chassis 601) is a car of many firsts.

Bought new by the current owner’s grandfather, the 1921 Duesenberg A Bender Coup (chassis 601) is a car of many firsts.

What are the chances of watching the very first Duesenberg ever built, roll out of a small single trailer tucked at the end of the transporter row… next to the porta potties, no less? With no crowds, close to 100 cars leave their transporter guardians and prepare to line up for the Tour… a find, as far as I’m concerned. The cars line up around 7am, leaving in waves with the first section departing at 8am from the equestrian center area across from the Gooding Auction tent. Gradually the spectators fill in around the cars, but nothing like the mobs you’ll experience once the cars roll into Carmel at noon following the Tour.

Onward… leaving at 8am, the Tour ends at noon in Carmel.

Onward… leaving at 8am, the Tour ends at noon in Carmel.

Between watching the cars wake up and a late lunch in Carmel once most of the crowds subside, you have some time for auction previewing. A reservation at Casanova, Keith’s favorite and now mine, on 5th Avenue between Mission and San Carlos, is a terrific choice. You’ll still have time to swing through more auction previews afterwards before heading out Carmel Valley Road for a down home evening at the Baja Cantina Grill and Filling Station. We had a blast at the Baja Cantina during their weekly Thursday car night! An eclectic mix of cars and people was enough to keep us and several hundred others entertained for hours. We got there later than I would recommend… I think 6:30pm would be better, next time.

I love this car! Estimated to go between $125-150,00, the 1972 Porsche 911 “STR II” design by Magnus Walker went for a surprising $302,500 at Gooding.

I love this car! Estimated to go between $125-150,00, the 1972 Porsche 911 “STR II” design by Magnus Walker went for a surprising $302,500 at Gooding.

This year, I focused on the RM, Gooding, and Russo and Steele auctions. Previewing sometimes has a nominal fee while attending the auction is a bit more. I consider auctions a not to be missed attraction. RM with auctioneer Max Girardo is a must for at least Saturday night and Gooding is a nice way to wrap up the week on Sunday evening after the Concours. Besides gaining an appreciation of market values, there are historical moments. Being in the audience when the hammer went down for the highly desirable 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4*S N.A.R.T. Spider auctioned off by the Smith family, in honor of their father, was amazing. All funds from this $27,500,000 sale, and supposedly second highest car ever sold at auction, will go to charity.

I’ve attended two sought after, what I would call lifestyle, events in the past and decided to pass this year, unless someone had kindly offered me a ticket. My first year, I was advised to get into the lottery for a coveted Quail ticket. Three years ago, that ticket was $400. I saved the receipt. This year, I’m told it’s more. Another event I sought out that first year was the McCaw Motorworks Revival. At the time, the ticket was about half that of the Quail for this hanger party - now it’s up to $325. If you are going with a group of friends, where the price of admission doesn’t matter, both are rather interesting events… the people are just as famous as the cars!

So this is how it all starts… the car guy of tomorrow, at the Legends of the Autobahn.

So this is how it all starts… the car guy of tomorrow, at the Legends of the Autobahn.

A first for me this year was the Friday Legends of the Autobahn not far off Route 1 on Carmel Valley Road at Rancho Canada. We went early, around 9:30am, thinking we would stay for about an hour. Six hours later, seriously, we headed out. This free, yes free, event was more of a car show, not a concours-styled event. You saw a little bit of everything German, several historically significant cars, race cars, and a lot of fantastic people. I’m not suggesting spending this much time, but it’s a great change of pace and a stop I would highly recommend.

Last year I waltzed among the red cars at the Concorso Italiano on Friday. If you don’t have the luxury of seeing 800-1,000 Ferraris and other Italian cars back home, this is another one of those events to catch, at least once. For 2014, Concorso will move to Saturday, so it won’t conflict with the Quail, also on Friday. The show moves to Bayonet & Black Horse Golf Courses in Seaside. I personally wouldn’t sacrifice a day at the track for a lifestyle event. Heck, racing is the best lifestyle event I know!

What I would recommend is splitting Friday between the track and the Autobahn event. Taking in the track Friday, would be a good opportunity to get a lay of the land, so to speak. Walking up and down the paddock, you meet the owners who are most likely the racers of these pretty cool vintage cars. Me being me, I asked someone looking official in a golf cart if there was a tour of the paddock area. I thought that would be a great idea. He agreed, yet said there wasn’t such a thing. No problem, he invited me to jump on board and off we went for a personal tour!

These must be the car girls of tomorrow!

These must be the car girls of tomorrow!

Yes, I was really there…perched up in the Starter’s Box!

Yes, I was really there…perched up in the Starter’s Box!

I picked up some tips to share. Start your explorations of the paddock on the periphery and work inwards. Be patient, stay on course, and go up and down the aisles. I jumped around, which meant I missed a lot. Hike up the hill to the corkscrew for a panoramic view of the track. Bring chairs in a bag, if you want to watch for awhile. It’s breathtaking! Visit the car corrals and witness the featured marque for as far as you can see. Most important, watch the races! No kidding! You would be surprised how many people are distracted by the eating and shopping.

This year I high-tailed it to the track Saturday morning, which meant I missed the SCM (Sports Car Marketing) seminar held up at the Gooding Tent. I found the seminars (by paid reservation) very informative the two years prior and was a little sad to miss it this year. Had I split up my track days, it would have been worth arriving a little late on Saturday. The only drawback to arriving after 10am at the track is parking… and that’s a big drawback.

George Wingard, collector of prewar racing cars, heading out to the awards stand on Sunday!

George Wingard, collector of prewar racing cars, heading out to the awards stand on Sunday!

Finally, it’s Sunday and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Be prepared, you’ll be joined by a throng of spectators, also working Pebble off their bucket list. What I strongly recommend, and something I need to do myself, is come up with your own tour of the Concours cars on the field. Everyone gets a handy pocket guide listing all the cars by class location. I arrived late on the field, around 8:30am, once parked and settled. The field was already pretty crowded, to my surprise, even though the general public isn’t allowed in until 10am. The Hagerty Dawn Patrol is early, sometime before 5am, yet a great opportunity for spectators to watch the fog and the cars roll out before the crowds roll in… if you don’t mind getting up around 4:00am!

Watching the judging is a show in itself…and yes, all the lights and signals must work.

Watching the judging is a show in itself…and yes, all the lights and signals must work.

Years past, I’ve been pretty much finished looking at the cars by 10am. This year, I wanted to watch another layer of the show… the judging. It’s fascinating to watch the judges move seamlessly around the cars looking at their particular specialty to judge.

Enjoying the moment.

Enjoying the moment.

This year, I also stayed on the field until the end, walking around just soaking in the cars and their proud owners as they drove by. I’m thinking next year I may even bring a couple of chairs and a picnic to enjoy more of the atmosphere of the day. My suggestion is to enjoy the moment. Yes, it’s all about the cars at Pebble, but as you can see, it’s also about taking away great memories from the week.

And if this isn’t enough car excitement, the Blackhawk Museum graciously hosts Monday after Pebble to attendees wanting to make the short detour on the way to the San Francisco airport. Admission is waved and refreshments are served, but the real prize… another exquisite automobile collection. Just when I thought the week couldn’t get any better… it got better, at Blackhawk.


Sandy on Assignment: Northwest Classic Rally… The Perfect First

Posted on August 8, 2013 Comments (0)

by Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

There could not have been a more perfect rally to be my first… the Monte Shelton Northwest Classic Rally. All I can say to every classic car enthusiast is, “Get out and rally!”

Flagged on by the March of Dimes family, the rally started in downtown Portland. Photo courtesy of Joe Cantrell

Flagged on by the March of Dimes family, the rally started in downtown Portland.
Photo courtesy of Joe Cantrell

Organized by the Alfa Romeo Owners Club of Oregon with the Monte Shelton Motor Company as its long standing presenting sponsor, this is the oldest, still running, classic rally in America. Celebrating its 25th year, this true time, speed, distance rally (TSD) drew a record 102 entries for the four day event, starting out of Portland, Oregon the last weekend in July.

Never far behind, the Healey joins the Benz for a pit stop.

Never far behind, the Healey joins the Benz for a pit stop. 
Photo courtesy of Bring-A-Trailer

I was to be the navigator for veteran ralliest, Ralf Berthiez, so I knew I would be in good hands. Having done the NW Classic twice before with his Dad, Ralf graciously agreed to drive his beautiful light blue metallic 1975 Mercedes 450 SL down from Anacortes, Washington to Portland, before shipping it back home to Virginia.

Entered as vintage we were one of three classes; touring, vintage, and standard. The distinction—special interest cars manufactured before 1981 were within the vintage and standard classes with vintage restricted to the use of original equipment—speedometer and odometer. Touring vehicles, without any age restrictions, simply ran the route without time restraints in a follow-the-leader scenic tour, leaving before the other two classes.

Thursday evening street gathering the night before take off.

Thursday evening street gathering the night before take off.

The weekend started Thursday evening in downtown Portland, with a mix of classic cars lining the streets in front of the Monte Shelton Jaguar dealership. We picked up our registration packets then gathered around Rally Chairman Reid Trummel, and Rally Master Simon Levear for instructions. A show of hands for number of years in attendance was impressive—many 5, 10, 15 year veterans with two having rallied the Classic for 25 years!

This year, participants were given their spiral bound general instructions and rally route books, the night before. Rally book in hand, I headed off to rally school—yes, there is such a thing! The first priority for participants, we were told, is to always remain on course. Sounds simple enough, yet I discovered there is an art to reading the instructions, which are in a sort of rally code. Just one slip-up throws everything off.

I shot my hand up during the Q & A, asking, “How does the navigator communicate all the instructions to the driver, at once?” A fair question, since there were often five pieces of information per route instruction—keeping in mind the TSD format—along with an average of 12 instructions per timed section, or regularity, as it’s called. I knew if I were driving, I would probably forget what was said in a nanosecond. “It’s up to the driver and navigator to get in sync”, was the short answer. After school, I asked Ralf how he would call out the instructions, if he was the navigator—he rattled off the pieces of information he needed to drive the rally… not everything at once… almost like repeating verses in a song… bingo, I knew we would be in sync!

Under the watchful eye of the BOSS, the Benz is ready for an early morning start. Photo courtesy of Bring- A- Trailer

Under the watchful eye of the BOSS, the Benz is ready for an early morning start.
Photo courtesy of Bring-A-Trailer

We tucked the Benz into the Westin Hotel garage for the night. The next morning we discovered a sharp looking orange 1970 Mustang BOSS 302 with a front window sticker, Bring-A-Trailer, behind the Benz almost watching over it. How cool was that, I thought!

Ready and poised for my first rally!

Ready and poised for my first rally!

We all headed off to the Monte Shelton dealership, the start line of the rally. I had my post-its on the dash for quick rally lingo translation! Being car #52, we left at 8:26am the first day, using the rally time formula, although our rally start time was 8:00am in the rally book. Needless to say, we had two watches to keep everything straight! Cars left in 30-second increments at the start, then one minute apart for the rest of the rally… enough space so we didn’t pile up on each other, if we got ourselves into a timing jam!

The Drive Away Cancer Car #51 was our beacon, stealing the hearts of everyone.

The Drive Away Cancer Car #51 was our beacon, stealing the hearts of everyone.

I was so excited! We were off… sandwiched in between a strange looking 1965 Triumph TR4A in front, with names written all over the car in Sharpie and a coordinating sleek blue 1965 Austin-Healey 3000 MKIII behind us. It wasn’t until the final dinner on Saturday evening that I learned the touching story behind John Nikas and his Drive Away Cancer cars… teary eyed, I took the Sharpie and added my parents’ names to the car.

Day 2, the touring group sets off from the Oregon Garden Resort.

Day 2, the touring group sets off from the Oregon Garden Resort.

Sandy joins friends Cindy Banzer and Sue Halton of Portland, for a photo next to their 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider 2000.

Sandy joins friends Cindy Banzer and Sue Halton of Portland, for a photo next to their 1978 Alfa Romeo Spider 2000.

Much of both rally days was spent driving, with a stop for lunch, which gave us a chance to begin meeting the enthusiasts and their cars. The eclectic mix of cars included a 1935 Bentley, 1953 Allard J2X, 1958 Peerless GT and a plethora of Jaguar E-Types, 356 Porsches and of course many Alfas from the 60s and 70s.

Ralf and Sandy join rally chairman Reid Trummel and guest speakers John Nikas and Denise McCluggage.

Ralf and Sandy join rally chairman Reid Trummel and guest speakers John Nikas and Denise McCluggage.

Friday evening, we heard from Tom Kreger about setting land-speed records in his Saab on the Bonneville Salt Flats… quite a venue, to say the least! Ever entertaining, Denise McCluggage shared her competitive rally stories with us Saturday evening, making me think we were on track when it came to getting ourselves out of our own rally jams!

What a beautiful setting to run out of gas.

What a beautiful setting to run out of gas.

This was my first trip to Oregon, another reason why rallies are the perfect vacation for classic car enthusiasts. If it hadn’t been for the rally, I doubt I would have ventured into this beautiful state. The rally, culminating at our final destination only 45 miles out of Portland at the Oregon Garden Resort, took us over a contrast of farmlands and vineyards onto the fringes of the breathtaking Cascade mountain range.

Even though we passed the B-A-T team at this point, they managed to make up time with a fantastic 23rd place finish in the vintage class. Photo courtesy of Bring-A-Trailer.

Even though we passed the B-A-T team at this point, they managed to make up time with a fantastic 23rd place finish in the vintage class. Photo courtesy of Bring-A-Trailer.

The rally book gave the exact time (to the second) and mileage that we should be at every designated turn, sign or landmark. Every timed stage had a mystery check point where two volunteers would record the exact time we passed a certain location. The idea is not to be early or late, to the second. Early on, we missed the SOL (sign on left) for a turn. We circled and circled, looking for it. Finally finding it, we floored the Benz, Denise style, and got back on track. We stumped ourselves again, this time trying to figure out what, “Observe Stop OR Right @ 105th” meant. What it did not mean was to make a right at the stop sign! Thank goodness for the Benz, again. As we were flooring it, we noticed other cars doubling back, with a feeling of relief we weren’t the only ones off course! Day 2 found us in a slight dilemma. After a quick right then left turn from the instructions, we high tailed it down a street that looked like the next instruction, except for an additional word inserted onto the street sign… again, we put the Benz to the test to get us back on course! Fun? You bet!

Teams and cars celebrated with a beer wash at the end of the rally. Photo courtesy of Jim Cantrell

Teams and cars celebrated with a beer wash at the end of the rally.
Photo courtesy of Jim Cantrell

With 80 registrants already signed up for 2014, it’s easy to see why participants look forward to returning year after year. Registration is reasonable, $650 per car which includes the Thursday Welcome Reception, two days of rallying and meals, Saturday Afternoon Beer Wash, along with a Sunday Awards Brunch… all for two! Lodging, gas and travel to the event are additional. I would say there were a handful of participants, from other parts of the country, mostly there because they had a reason to be in the area. All others were from Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Not to say that this should deter anyone from attending. Supporting the March of Dimes, this rally is another motorsports gem I highly recommend.

The Duster! NW Classics first American car rally winner.

The Duster! NW Classics first American car rally winner. 
Photo courtesy of Jim Cantrell

Both in sync after two days of fun and rallying!

Both in sync after two days of fun and rallying!

The overall winning rally car was a 1974 Plymouth Duster, with a score of only 42 penalty seconds… compared to over 40 penalty minutes for the last car! It goes to show it takes three to win a rally—driver, navigator and car… all in sync! Just how I felt after two full days on the road… all in sync, having had a blast on my first rally! 


Sandy on Assignment:
An American at Le Mans

Posted on July 3, 2013 Comments (5)

Sandy Cotterman, Motorsports Enthusiast

Celebrating the race and its memories.

Celebrating the race and its memories.

Pushing their way onto victory!

Pushing their way onto victory!

Roll every American endurance race event into one and then some... voila, you have the 24 heurs du Mans. The Daytona 24 and Sebring 12 are only training grounds for what to expect at Le Mans! No other racing event in the world matches the frenetic atmosphere and strong nationalism for the drivers, pilots as the French call them, and the team cars they drive.

LMP2 second place winner… a crowd pleaser.

LMP2 second place winner… a crowd pleaser.

The Porsches let everyone know they were back.

The Porsches let everyone know they were back.

I was ecstatic to see so many American drivers and sponsored cars. The official guide boasted 19 American drivers and eight sponsored cars, in addition to foreign sponsored American cars—like one of the Corvettes. I definitely had my favorites and sought out the drivers to let them know. To my delight, I discovered it meant a lot to them.

Patrick Long is one of the first drivers I started following.

Patrick Long is one of the first drivers I started following.

Even during pit stops, the paparazzi where hovering over the Dempsey car.

Even during pit stops, the paparazzi where hovering over the Dempsey car.

On the grid, ready for the start. MMR’s favorite. Car No. 93.

On the grid, ready for the start. MMR’s favorite. Car No. 93.

Tommy Kendall meets Sandy on Assignment for MMR.

Tommy Kendall meets Sandy on Assignment for MMR.

Our MMR favorite Tommy Kendall, driving the No. 93 SRT Viper, was honored by MMR’s interest. Driving the Ferrari GT Pro car No. 71, Olivier Berretta, whom I had met in Monaco, was the first driver I saw and hugged, within minutes of arriving at the track on Wednesday. Two of our youngest American drivers, brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor, both Corvette drivers, No. 73 and No. 50, were excited to hear a voice from the States. Number 57 had an early crash during practice and, just like Humpty Dumpty, was put back together for Sunday’s race before retiring early. Owner/driver Tracy Krone appeared touched that a fan had noticed his American sponsored Ferrari 458. Patrick Long was his gracious self, asking me if I was having fun! One of my favorite moments was when Patrick Dempsey gave me a huge hug when I shouted out support for our only all-American team. If only I had a photo! What I do have are more photos of the Dempsey/Del Piero Proton sponsored 911 Porsche, car No. 77, than I have baby pictures of my daughter!

Campers show signs of celebration.

Campers show signs of celebration.

Being a two-year veteran of this event, I am anxious to share what I know. The first year can be a logistics nightmare especially with language challenges. Even buying tickets takes some savoir-faire. My first year, I was extremely fortunate to have been taken under the wings of veteran Le Mans goers Tom and John Brady from my Jaguar Club of New England. Having attended for probably 24 years now, the Brady brothers are experts when it comes to camping logistics… of which I still know nothing. With tens of thousands of gentleman campers, knowing the ropes is essential. The Brits are camped out everywhere and they say percentage wise, there are more Danes at Le Mans than still in Denmark for the weekend. Since Tom Kristensen’s brother owns a travel agency, it’s no wonder the count is high and Tom can be found mingling with the campers. Sightseeing among the campsites is a must!

So here is what I do know. Arrive early. My first year, I slid into town Friday evening which only gave me a taste of race day. This year, I arrived on Wednesday which helped me get oriented with Le Stade and the transit system and it was enough time to enjoy three days of free practice, qualifying, and Ferrari Challenge sessions. If you’re flying into Charles De Gaulle, connections on the TGV to Le Mans are convenient and the ride is just under an hour, with Gares Tram stop right there at the train station. The round-trip TGV fare, just under $100, is reasonable in the scheme of things. Purchasing a ten-ride Tram pass for 12 euros saves you a hassle throughout the week. There is enough signage to tell you to ride the Tram to Antares to reach the 24. If you’re camping, you have your own set of logistics!

The Taylor brothers were both driving the American made Corvettes.

My recommendation, if you have the time, is to arrive Sunday for the administrative checks and scrutineering which takes place at the Place de la Republique in the heart of Le Mans beginning at 1:30p.m… something on my list for next year. Each car has been pre-assigned a time for these tech checks so you can watch for your favorites. I loved following TK’s (Tommy Kendall) daily journal; Sunday sounded pretty cool. Sunday is also one of the only times to explore the historic city center.

The crowds on race day at the start-finish line.

The crowds on race day at the start-finish line.

Before going any further, do what I didn’t do until I was on the plane home. Read the Official Program cover to cover. The Program is what gives you detailed timetables of events and locations along with more personalized commentary on the pilots and cars. What I did take the time to do was practically memorized the Entry List booklet and Practical Guide, both invaluable for maneuvering around the track and learning the cars and drivers. Also, consider buying one of the race radios to hear the race. Again, I did not, thinking there would be enough English. It was limited and muddled. I’m eager to try the radio next year. Also, bring a pair of binoculars, noise blocking headphones and hiking shoes. You’ll be walking for miles, most likely in puddles.

Knowing camping wasn’t an option, I scoured the Internet for B&B’s a year prior to the event. Like everyone else who returns year after year, I’m now on the list! So if Le Mans is in your sights for 2014, start your search now! Tickets for the event are put out for sale in November on the official ACO (Automobile Club de L’Ouest) website. I discovered that anyone could purchase an ACO membership, which gives significant discounts to tickets and the privilege to enjoy the two lounge areas, for lack of a better word. Conveniently located to the grandstands and Dunlop bridge, these centers are a great haven to escape the noise and catch an occasional replay on television and also pick up the hour-by-hour printed time sheets or snacks and a beer. I considered this nominal annual membership the best bargain at Le Mans!

You never know who you will see on Pitwalk.

You never know who you will see on Pitwalk.

Ticket choices will depend upon your budget. A general admission ticket is required by all, but grandstand seating is optional. I highly recommend it, especially covered stands since it always rains at the 24! Even though I wandered around, having a grandstand ticket allowed me access to a seat… and this access is heavily monitored so no sneaking in. I opted for a first time pitwalk pass, which for me was golden. It afforded me the opportunity to walk the paddock, see the drivers, and avoid the crowds. Also, once cars started retiring during the race, it was interesting to watch them transported and laid to rest in the fenced-in paddock area. It’s your call, since the pitwalk is pretty pricey. Again, it’s all relative.

The train got me into Le Mans around noon on Wednesday, my Day One, in time to watch some race practices. You can wander the stands and sit anywhere you like these first couple of days, so enjoy! If you want souvenirs or tee shirts, this is the day to get them, while inventory is high. An official pin is a must… a tip I was given by the guys.

The very first person I met, walking through the entry gates, was Kevin Cantwell, who put so much meaning into my Le Mans adventure. Kevin, a native Britt has been coming to Le Mans for the past 13 years, not only to enjoy the races, but also to coordinate over 350 scouts and 50 leaders representing the Scouts et Guides de France. Guests of the ACO for the past 62 years, it was the Scouts who were first on the scene during the terrible crash in 1955 and will never be forgotten. In return for their campsite just inside the entrance, all meals, and race entry tickets, the Scouts are the behind the scenes workers distributing hourly time sheets to ACO sites, picking up trash Saturday night in the grandstands and assisting handicapped fans to special viewing areas. Several British scouts join the French for this three-day weekend of Christian fellowship and camaraderie. Thousands of race fans walk by their campsite every year, but, I doubt many realize the bond that exists between the ACO and the Scouts. It was touching to learn it myself.

On Thursday, I managed to tear away from the racing and visit Le Musee des 24 Heures, the newly renovated museum within the circuit. It’s a hidden gem with so much history, it’s hard to begin to describe. I loved seeing the Silk Cut Jaguar driven by Andy Wallace. It had been a thrill talking with Andy about that race a couple of years ago when he was at Sebring. To see the car was pretty special. As part of the 90-year celebration, there was another special exhibit in the Village showcasing Le Mans winning cars. Saturday, before the start of the 24, the vintage race cars did a few laps around the track!

There are many opportunities to see the cars and the drivers up close during the week.

There are many opportunities to see the cars and the drivers up close during the week.

Friday at Le Mans is a unique parade day in the Center of Le Mans. Again, I was very lucky to find myself in the front row at the start. Tommy’s journal and my photos tell it all.

Another unique opportunity to get up close to the cars is Saturday mid-morning. Don’t ask me how but I found myself again on the front line watching the cars being pushed onto the grid. Had I been any closer, my toes would have been run over!

The clock keeps ticking as the cars line up after a delay.

The clock keeps ticking as the cars line up after a delay.

Everyone has his or her own way of watching the race. For me, I followed my American drivers plus Olivier. Cars 93, 77, and 71 captured most of my attention. I ran for hourly time sheets to confirm what I was seeing on the big classification monitor. At the end of the day, there was every type of statistic recorded. I had discovered what I’d call a find from where to watch the dusk and night racing... the glass front restaurant to the right of the pits. Just like in Monaco, I was perched about 60 feet above the track with a phenomenal view of pit exits and safety car starts. Le Panoramic takes reservations and again, a splurge well worth the expense. Before start time on Saturday, you have several days to discover where you would like to stand and watch some of the race. Scope it out early.

A rare sight… the final resting place for all the cars.

A rare sight… the final resting place for all the cars.

I know all of us in attendance will remember the moment we learned of Allan Simonsen’s death. The flag of Denmark hung at half-mast and the final podium celebrations were missing some of the special traditions. There were no gold confetti showers. The magnums of Champagne stood in their places, still corked. All signs of restrained celebrations and respect for this tragedy.

Le Mans is the best-kept secret from Americans… and it shouldn’t be. I ran into Don Panoz and he agreed. Where are the American fans? With a little planning you too can live another adventure on your motorsports bucket list. I can’t be the only one waving a 5-foot American flag in the grandstands. Come join me next year!