(Editor’s Note: WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca celebrates its 65th anniversary during the 2022 racing season. It is the second in a series the track provides on its history.)
As WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca celebrates its 65th racing season, we take a look back at some of the legendary figures who helped shape the mystique of the now world-renowned race track.
By 1960, Laguna Seca had three years of racing under its belt and was beginning to become an elite racing venue. Its competitions often attracted not only the best pilots from the United States, but from all over the world.
Starting in October, the Pacific Grand Prix introduced an innovative way of racing. The competition was divided into two 200-mile legs, with a 30-minute break in between. This time was used to repair cars that struggled in the first run and to tune those that finished.
Enter Sir Stirling Moss – a London native who was demoting in the twilight of his career to the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in the early 1960s. Moss won 212 races between 1948 and 1962, including 16 Formula 1 Grands Prix. of those 212 victories came in the 1960 and 1961 Pacific Grands Prix, where he went back to back.
Moss would often return to Laguna Seca later in life to compete in the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.
As Moss brought home the trophy in the 1960 Pacific Grand Prix, the man who finished second to Moss in the overall standings was completing his final competitive laps. Carroll Shelby cruised the Laguna Seca course in car #98, a bright red Maserati Tipo 61, in the final race of his storied career, which was cut short due to heart problems. Shelby finished fifth in the first run and fourth in the second to place only behind Moss as the two icons went one-two in the final standings.
Shelby became famous for popping nitroglycerin tablets to relieve chest pain from chronic heart disease. After finishing second to Moss, Shelby complained to the press that he would have won this damn thing if he hadn’t had to slow down to take his heart medication while driving.
here is a link to video footage of this race.
However, the most famous drive of the 1961 season did not happen on the sidewalk of Laguna Seca, but rather at the swimming pool of the Mark Thomas Inn hotel. Yes, you read that right. Augie Pabst, fueled by adult drinks and a bet from Roger Penske and Walt Hansgen, drove his Hertz rental car into the hotel pool.
“I said, ‘Augie, you’ve had a really bad day,'” Penske recalled later. sure Augie stripped down to his underpants, got in his rental car and drove between the diving board and the pool It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen!
The submerged car. Unfortunately for Hansgen, he had first forgotten to take his camera out of the trunk.
The next day, the car was pulled from the pool, and Hertz and the Mark Thomas Inn — which is now the Hyatt Regency — received more publicity than they could have ever dreamed of as a result of the prank.
When the group returned to the hotel the following year, staff had placed a floating “no parking” sign in the pool.
The late 1960s saw high-powered muscle cars take over at Laguna Seca, as the Trans Am Series roars at Monterey in 1969.
Mark Donohue became a fixture on the podium at Laguna Seca, when he won the USRRC’s final race at Monterey in 1968 driving Penske’s McLaren M6A. Donohue would go on to capture the 1968 USRRC title, which was his second in a row.
The ever-popular Donohue also found great success in the Trans Am series. Driving a Camaro Z28 he won the first race over 2000cc at Laguna Seca in 1969, which also won his second consecutive championship of the Trans Am series.
(Check back next month for another episode of 65th Anniversary Laguna Legends.)