“Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting.” And for many, this is the week they wait for all year long. Another August, another
Monterey Car Week, and another Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Laguna Seca. This has been said by many before, but there is little else like historic racing, where you can see your hero cars you grew up watching, and some that you never thought you’d have the chance to see (for us younger folks), race. This is no simple cruise either, with many owners of these vintage beauties thrashing them the way they were meant to.
Garage queen is not an applicable word to the racing of such historic machines. BMW’s heritage is partly built around its racing heritage. Being ‘the Ultimate Driving Machine’ requires a certain degree of pedigree. From the display of racing BMWs in the paddock and on the circuit, it’s easy to see that the pedigree – the authenticity – is intact.
A blitz of howling 3.0CSL Batmobiles made up the majority of the BMW field in the highly competitive GT category, supplemented by M1 ProCars, E21s, and a couple E30 M3s. Seeing them tangle with Porsches, and the many Datsun/Nissans (the featured marque this year) was a true spectacle. They sound rather nice as well. Diving in on the inside under braking into the corkscrew, the action was sublime.
Every year the BMW CCA sets up camp along the straight between turns 4 and 5. A large car corral is assembled as well, being able to spot the many interesting and rare BMWs on the hills of Laguna. Even a Z1 was present (the disappearing doors were closed/up, unfortunately). Inside the CCA tent were several more beautiful and classic examples, as well as dining for members and an optimal spot to watch the racing.
The elevation changes make Laguna Seca particularly fun to watch, with all sorts of hills, dips, and off and on-camber corners. The Corkscrew remains one of the most challenging turns on the planet, with its incredible drop and then down the chute into fast turns 8 and 9.
My favorite moment of the weekend? Seeing Double F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen rip around the circuit in the 1995 Le Mans-winning McLaren F1 GTR. This is no exaggeration when I say that this is the best sounding car I’ve ever heard – it’s aural intoxication. I got right up to the inside fence at the turn 1 crest while he blasted down the front straight. He literally kicked rubber slags into my face. It was awesome.
But the sound of that mystical BMW V12 is on another planet. It can be heard from the Andretti Hairpin while screeching up the Rahal Straight towards the corkscrew. The rifle-crack downshifts, too, send chills down the spine. Onboard video can be seen here from the weekend. Please, turn the volume UP.
Entry into the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion includes full access to the paddock, where every competing car can be seen up close. Most all the drivers, owners, and mechanics are invitingly friendly, too. And while most other events during Monterey Car Week cost hundreds of dollars, the Reunion is only pocket change for a full weekend pass. The variety is immense as well, from 1930s Grand Prix cars, vintage Formula 1 cars, and to Group C prototypes.
It’s that time again. Next month (can you believe we’re in July already?), the Monterey Peninsula will once again play host to one of the largest car gatherings in the world. It’s time for Monterey Car Week. For those that have not been that are even remotely interested in cars, it really is something beyond your wildest imagination. Every street corner hosts a legion of all your favorites exotics from the world over, be it Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Porsche, or our beloved BMWs, they’re all there. Then there are the shows.
So I’ve spliced together some articles from last year’s events as a preview for what is to come August 22-26 in CARmel.
Even in its 68th year, the annual Concours D’elegance, hosted at the spectacular Lodge at Pebble Beach across the 18th fairway, does not need a prescription to keep going strong. Just when you think the show could be dying out with the changing times, it keeps growing and growing. At the 2017 edition, the crowd was one of the all-time largest in the storied history of this event. This trend looks certain to continue into 2018.
What is Pebble Beach Concours? It’s become one of the most renowned classic car shows in not just the United States, but in the entire world. It is a celebration of the automobile, not a eulogy to the past or excessive nostalgia. The prestige carried here is truly world-class. One will struggle to find a better, more exotic, and diverse selection of classics anywhere in the world. And then there’s the atmosphere. Ambience is an understatement. Everywhere in sight are automotive celebrities with their entourage in tow. Nearly all attendee’s are dressed to impress. It’s a bit like the Kentucky Derby. There’s a sense of specialness from just being in the vicinity, a priceless accord of extravagance. Most importantly, you are part of it all.
Every year at Pebble Beach Concours a brand is featured. 2017 celebrated none other than the Prancing Horse from Maranello: Ferrari. Hard to believe, but Ferrari has been a carmaker for 70 years already. Ferrari brought a mammoth display of 70 cars to commemorate plus those that were in the show itself. When Ferrari brings 70 cars of the richest heritage halfway around the world, that’s when you know that this is a serious car event.
2018 will celebrate French manufacturer Citroen. While not sold in America for nearly half a century, their classic DS was a benchmark for luxury and comfort in the 1950s with a hydro-pneumatic suspension system. Classic Citroen’s remain an increasingly elegant proposition, showcasing the absolute best in not only French engineering and design, but in the world.
The Concept car lawn in front the Lodge each year brings the best in future automobiles, from the next great BMW’s, to the latest from Aston Martin. The Pebble Beach Concours D’elegance is an experience not to be missed. Concours represents an escape to a day that you never want to end. The 2018 edition takes place Sunday, August 26th, 2018.
The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering has been an event during Monterey Car Week since 2003, hosted at the eponymous Quail Lodge and Golf Course. This might lack the established pedigree and formality of the Pebble Beach Concours, but it makes up for it in so many ways and, in my humble opinion, even surpasses Pebble. Put it this way: I didn’t want to leave. The Quail is not just about the cars, but everything. It’s a royal tournament and everyone wants to be there. For car people, this is Cinderella’s royal ball.
Let’s see, who was there representing the automobile aristocracy: Sir Jackie Stewart, Jay Leno, Horacio Pagani, Christian von Koenigsegg, John Hennessey, Bruno SENNA, Gil de Ferran, Dario Franchitti, Marino Franchitti, and Magnus Walker. Michael Strahan was walking about as well as boxer Amir Khan and likely many others who were more incognito. I mean, where else would you expect to see and bump into such automotive and racing elite? Maybe Monte Carlo.
Inside the Quail on the beautiful, lush fairway, you’ll find several (I think I counted five?) large tents sporadically about. Your entry includes whatever variety of food you desire and as much as you want. Food from the Far East, to Italian treats, to the seafood, including caviar and oysters.
Oh, and there’s also drinks, the booze: Wine, champagne, cocktails, you name it. And they weren’t mixing with the bottom-shelf specials from Bevmo either. Though it is wise to control one’s self in such an environment, but seeing champagne flutes in ever other person’s hand is enticing.
This is what makes the Quail so special: even if you’re a Nobody there, it makes youfeelspecial.
Oh, so you like Italian cars? Then this is your place. Get prepared for a sea of rosso. Ferrari there, Ferrari over there, Ferrari right in front of me. Ferrar everywhere. This is heaven for fans of La Scuderia. A barrage of Lamborghini’s and Alfa Romeo’s join too, but the almost crimson tide can’t be beat. The car corral plays host to many interesting machines, too. Last year there was an absolutely astonishing M1 parked on display as well as a Z8 and several newer M4’s.
Monterey Historic Races
Besides the usual car shows that engulf the Monterey Peninsula, there is one jewel that seems to grow in popularity each year: The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. What is it? Historic racing at its very finest. All the famous racing cars you read about or see pictures and videos of head to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to prove they’re not just museum pieces. Sure, some do cruise in their prized collectibles, but some truly are there to race.
BMW is built upon its storied racing heritage, so of course a legion of Bavarian bombers take to the Corkscrew. We’re talking 2002’s, CSLs, and M1 Procars. These are simply the best of the best. Seeing them in person, to be brutally frank, is SO much better than a YouTube video. Compressed audio and even HD can’t come close to capturing the magic of one of these beasts. Here in person, the sound alone of the screaming ‘sixes raises hairs all over.
Almost as good as the racing itself is the paddock. Here, no special passes are needed to wander through the garages and racing cars while they’re being prepped. It’s a brilliant chance to see all the legendary cars up close. Owners and drivers are of the utmost friendly nature too. Vendors are out in full-force too with racing memorabilia and apparel. I even bumped into sportscar superstar Marino Franchitti and his wife Holly, a racer of vintage cars herself, at the Nicolas Hunziker tent.
The best part, though, is the price. While events like the Concours D’elegance, Italiano, and Quail run hundreds of dollars, the Historic’s are only double-digits. How’s that for bang for your buck?
The greatest part about Monterey Car Week though is, even if the prices for tickets seem to high, one can still go and have a great time. Why is that? People from all over flock to Monterey and Carmel for this one week. Each street and parking lot becomes a car show of its own, as every Lamborghini and Ferrari passes by. It is an atmosphere and ambience like little else this side of Monaco. If you like cars any small decent amount, trust me, you’ll be in heaven.
Favorite restaurants include: Baja Cantina for the supreme car and racing themed venue, Vesuvio in Carmel, and the Forge in the Forest. The Spanish Bay Inn, also down the historic 17 Mile Drive, is a great place to spot hypercars as well as Cannery Row. If it’s your first time at Monterey Car Week, it won’t be your last.
So it’s been out now for a few months, you might even have seen one out on the road. You know the one, looks like an X1 but shrunken in a science lab, or that it even looks like a lifted wagon/estate. Whatever that new BMW with the roundel neatly placed on the c-pillar looks like to you, that’s the new BMW X2.
What is it? A new crossover SUV that slots in-between the X1 and the X3. Allegedly, it’s the more sporting version of an X1, in the same vein that an X4 is related to the X3. Remember the days when BMW had just the X5 and then the X3? By next year, they’ll have, wait for it: X1 X2 X3 X4 X5 X6 and X7. Some might call it heresy. Whatever you want to make of it, there’s no denying it; this is a good looking car. Great looking, in fact, especially in that pupil-popping blue or orange. Heck, I even like that weird, slightly yellow-but-at-the-same-time-green color.
Imagine an X1 that got pinched in the front and rear, shortening the overhangs, but with a nice tapering to both ends. The M Sport X adds visual drama with extra gills and openings and adornments of metal trim pieces. There are some pretty tasty wheels on option too. Inside, the design theme from the X3 and 5-series carries over, bringing a very nice update to the interior compared to, say, a current 3-series. Materials are top notch, as is the tech inside, with the newest iDrive.
On the road, the BMW X2 feels definitely related to the X1. Makes sense, they really are the same car underneath. Except, it’s not all X1. Steering response is slightly sharper as is the subsequent response from the chassis itself. The perception that this is a sporting car is not awash, but that’s the key word. This is not a sports car, but it is a sporting car, with sports intentions. For the likely buyer, that is more than enough. Engine response resembles that of a naturally aspirated engine much better than most turbocharged engines. Mid-range power is what it lives for. Not rapid, but capable.
As far as crossovers go, this is easily what I think is one of the best looking on the market. The drive is deeply satisfying with a surprising edge to the steering and handling, while remaining comfortable. However, and this is a big but; it’s expensive. Fully loaded with the right color and that M Sport X package will run $50,000. That’s a lot for what is a small car. Which reminds me to point out that the back seat is not the most comfortable. Shrinking it down has had an adverse effect on space, most the rear seat a cargo area. Visibility is hurt too, not helped by the rising beltline in the rear.
I’d call it a lifestyle car, but lifestyle cars do not drive this well. Compromise is present, so it is something you must consider when taking in the price and cargo space (or lack thereof) into thought. You could have a loaded X1 M Sport for far less, with tons more room, too and drives mostly similar. One thing is for sure, your eyes will undoubtedly follow the X2 more closely. Or when someone goes down the road in the X2 you nearly bought. An accessory, a grocery-getter, an adventurer, or a sports-crossover, call it what you want, but it’s an X2.