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Historic Motor Sports Association Heads to Laguna Seca for Rolex Reunion

Image: Allan Rosenberg

It’s that time of year again. Each August, some of the most historic and valuable race cars in the country come together and race the 11-turn course at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca for the Rolex Reunion.

HMSA sanctions the event and its President, Cris Vandagriff, said the Rolex Reunion is unlike any other event in North America.

“This event is held in the highest esteem in historic racing in the world,” Vandagriff said. “Every event in the world wants to be like Monterey. I think it’s because our standards are the highest. We certainly get the best cars in North America. We can’t include the world because some cars just won’t travel to the United States.

“Other events get similar types of cars but we get the most unique of all the cars.”

The event starts Thursday before the trophies are handed out among more than 500 committee-selected cars on Sunday.

Cars started arriving Aug. 8 —  the grown-up version of Christmas morning as the cars were unwrapped and unloaded and prepped for racing. Some racers took advantage of the pre-reunion, allowing more track time for racers who aren’t familiar with the famous facility.

“My favorite day of the event is the paddock load in,” Vandagriff said. “You sit there and watch the semis open and you watch these cars come out and they are the coolest cars I have ever seen. There are always cars that I have never seen in person, or cars I haven’t seen in eons. We always have really special cars that have won championships, events or accomplished great things.”

This year some of the featured groups were put in place to honor a milestone celebration — the 50th anniversary of IMSA (International Motor Sports Association). One of the special IMSA groups for 2019 likely not to be seen again at the Rolex Reunion is estimated to have more than 50 Formula Ford entires.

“One of the greatest things about this event is that we are going to celebrate IMSA,” Vandagriff said. “The very first IMSA race was in 1969 at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania and they sanctioned a Formula Ford race. So when we were looking at celebrating IMSA, my first comment was that we had to have Formula Ford. Everyone looked at me like I had two heads. No one on the committee knew that IMSA’s first race was a Formula Ford race.”

Vandagriff’s comment wasn’t haphazardly thrown about just for a fun reaction by his fellow committee members. This comment was made years ago — allowing the Formula Ford racers time to organize, prepare and plan to be part of the prestigious event.

“I went to the Formula Ford group three years ago and explained what they would have to do to participate and they stepped up,” Vandagriff said. “They have really gotten it together and they have a fantastic group of cars with great history, prepared correctly.

“Of course, the preparation for these cars was fairly easy. There were only 13 rules initially. It’s really easy to scrutinize a group with only 13 rules.”

Andrew Wait has been organizing the Formula Fords and working with HMSA for those three years to prepare the racers and cars. A large group of them even participated in the HMSA spring opener in March, just to get more track time.

“I would say the season opener was more intense than we wanted but overall this has just been incredibly fun,” Wait said. “On top of that, we (get) to run Laguna Seca. This is one of the favorite events for vintage racers, especially in California because 90 percent of vintage racers never get to run Laguna Seca. The ability to run Laguna with such a classy and supportive organization is great.”

Wait and more than 50 other Formula Fords will gather this weekend and try to soak up every single minute, every twist, every turn and enjoy the thrill of being part of history honored on a grand stage.

“We are celebrating IMSA and the 50 years of it’s wonderful history,” Vandagriff said. “But it’s a pretty big deal to see so many Formula Fords in one place and we probably will never see this again.”

The 2019 schedule of events for the only sanctioning body in the world that requires period correct race cars can be found at www.hmsausa.com and features some of the longest-running events in the country.