Time Capsule – 1993 Monterey Historics
Today’s Tuesday Time Capsule focuses on the 1993 Monterey Historics. It was a significant event in that it was the rebirth of one of history’s most powerful race cars (some would argue the most powerful ever) – Mark Donahue’s Penske Sunoco Porsche 917/30. This one car essentially killed the popular 1960s and 70s Can-Am series.
The Sunoco Porsche 917/30 (nicknamed the Turbopanzer) won six of the eight races in 1973 with Donahue at the wheel and finished second in the seventh race that year. Up until then, the series was dominated by a variety of big-block-powered, screaming machines – McLarens, Lolas, Chaparrals, Shadows, BRMs, etc. A lesser-powered 917/10 won a few races in 1972, but the quiet 917/30 – 1,200-plus horsepower of twin-turbo-inducted, 5.4-liter flat 12-cylinder power – outran all of them in 1973.
Consider these performance numbers published at the time: 0-60 mph in 2.1 seconds; 0-100 in 3.9 seconds; and a top speed of 240 mph. A different chassis (#4) set a closed-course record of 221 mph at Talladega Speedway in 1975.
That chassis was sold in 2012 at Amelia Island for $4.4 million.
In 1993 at the Monterey Historic Races’ 20th anniversary celebration, the Porsche 917/30 was brought from Germany to mark the 20th anniversary of the car’s dominant 1973 season.
Donohue won the drivers’ championship that year with 139 points. The second-place driver earned a measly 62 points.
He was killed in a 1975 Formula 1 practice accident, but his son David attended the 1993 historics to take a couple of laps of the famous Laguna Seca track.
According to 1993 reports in AutoWeek, the younger Donohue had never had any seat time in the Porsche, even though he was a professional sports car racer at the time.
That year AutoWeek sponsored its Vintage Motor Racing Challenge that bought more than a dozen Can-Am survivors on that season’s historic-racing event circuit. For the Can-Am event at Laguna Seca, veteran driver Hans Stuck piloted the 917 and easily outdistanced the other competitors.
The 1993 event was much more than Can-Am cars. Each year the Monterey event honors a marque. For this event the famous Miller race cars that dominated Indy in the Twenties and Thirties were honored. In addition to a couple of the inline-eight-powered Miller 91s, the tribute also included a Miller 122 that won Indy once and had a top-speed of 141 miles per hour from a 120 horsepower, supercharged 2.0-liter inline four.
An additional part of the Miller tribute was a recreation of one of the high-banked wood tracks that were popular in the early part of the 20th Century.
The Monterey Historics traditionally feature 14 or 15 racing categories, from WWI-era cars through 40s, 550s and 60s sports cars, Indy cars of all eras and various years of Formula 1 and sports car endurance machines.
For someone like myself, who is more interested in post-WW2 racers, the historic races at Laguna Seca offer a wide variety of vehicles to admire. I was lucky enough to live just a few minutes away from the race track for several years and the 1993 event offered a large menu of rarities to ogle.
Vehicles that caught my eye, besides the Allards, Cunninghams, Trans Am pony cars, Cobras, etc., included:
-The obvious collection of Can-Am cars, in addition to the Porsche, included multiple Lola and McLaren models and others.
-One of the beautiful Corvette SR-2s.
-Vic Edelbrock’s ’63 split-window Stingray.
-A Ferrari 512, the same model that co-starred with the Gulf Porsche 917s in the Steve McQueen movie LeMans.
-A Sixties-era Ford GT40.
-A 1964 Mercury Comet prepared by Bill Stroppe and driven by Ray Brock and Norm Greatorex in the East Africa Safari.
-And a factory racing 1957 Ford Thunderbird. A sister T-bird (car 99) sold in 2010 for $280,500 at one of the Monterey collector car auctions.
The Monterey Historics (now called the Rolex Motorsports Reunion) celebrates 45 years next Oct. 18-19, making it one of the oldest historic racing venues. Vintage racing has grown to now include events at Watkins Glen, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway, The Circuit of the Americas, Road Atlanta, Portland International Raceway and other tracks.