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Monterey Motorsports Reunion to celebrate three anniversaries in August

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A circa-1959 Stanguellini Formula Junior runs at Lime Rock. Photo by Mike Bumbeck/Hemmings.

As is often the case with the various events that crowd the calendar for automotive enthusiasts on the Monterey Peninsula in August each year leading up to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion will be celebrating significant anniversaries during its August 17-20 activities.

First up, the event will be played out at the Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway as part of the track’s own 60th birthday celebration. The track opened for the 1957 season after road racing on the streets of Pebble Beach began to become too dangerous as sports cars simply became too fast. The track was originally built with the U.S. Army’s permission, as it was situated on Fort Ord, and the surrounding land is now managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior as the Fort Ord National Monument.

The first race at Laguna Seca, an SCCA National held in November of 1957, was won by Pete Lovely in a four-cylinder Ferrari 500 TR, with a 10-second margin of victory over John von Neumann in a Ferrari 625 TRC. Fittingly, Laguna Seca will also be celebrating Ferrari’s 70th anniversary during the Motorsports Reunion. As Ferraris have been present every year since Laguna Seca opened, in the hands of professional and amateurs racers alike, the famed Italian marque will get its own special place of honor.

The track will also share the 60 candles on its cake with the 60th anniversary of Formula Junior, the entry-level open-wheel racing series that debuted in Italy in 1957 and soon became popular throughout the world. With production-based engines and purpose-built chassis, Formula Junior development mirrored that of the higher-level Formula One of the period. Both engines and chassis became more sophisticated and costs increased.

The brainchild of Italian racer and engineer Giovanni Lurani, Formula Junior was adopted by motor racing’s governing bodies in 1958 as an international formula. Italian racing and engine specialists Stanguellini built more than 100 FJ cars and won the first official title in 1959 when Italian makers dominated the fields. Later, mid-engined cars from Britain took over the scene, with Lotus, Cooper, Brabham and Lola among the many manufacturers. Even Saab got involved with its Formula Junior cars in traditionally Swedish blue-and-yellow livery.

Though we expect Ferrari to be well represented for its birthday party, there are no Ferrari-exclusive classes on the schedule for Monterey. However, organizers have added two Formula Junior classes: one for 1958-1960 front-engined cars with drum brakes and another for 1961-1963 mid-engined, disc brake cars.