MONTEREY, Calif. — The stacked intake pipes tell a unique story of innovation, unyielding power and a time when the only rules of racing were essentially the limits of men and women’s imaginations.
The original Can-Am era of 1966-1974 provided incredible thrills and attracted the world’s best drivers to some of North America’s greatest race tracks. These same Can-Am cars will reunite once again for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Aug. 18-21, to honor the series’ 50th anniversary.
Many of the cars competing in this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion can trace their roots back to then-called Laguna Seca Raceway. One car, in particular, has special relevance to Monterey by returning to where it took the checkered flag to win the second annual Can-Am race.
The McLaren M6A-1 was driven to victory October 15 by its namesake, Bruce McLaren, in the 1967 Monterey Grand Prix. McLaren drove the car to an impressive victory over Jim Hall’s Chapparal 2G and George Follmer’s Lola T70, recording a fast lap average speed of 105 mph over the original nine-turn, 1.9-mile racing circuit.
After the 1967 season, the car was sold to Penske Racing and prepped for Mark Donohue, who then drove it to victory at the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC) race at Laguna Seca on his way to capturing the 1968 championship. This historic McLaren is now driven by Griot’s Garage founder Richard Griot.
Another car that harks back to a Rolex Moment in Time in Monterey is the 1971 Group 44 Triumph TR6 that competed in the D Production class of the Sports Car Club of America National Championships. Campaigned by Bob Tullius, the TR6 won in 1975 with John McComb behind the wheel and repeated the feat in 1976 with actor and racer Paul Newman who had purchased the car from Tullius. The Triumph TR6 is now campaigned by Bill Warner, founder of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
The Trans-Am series lost factory participation for the 1975 season and the fields began to diminish, so the series allowed A, B and C Production cars into the mix. An engine change from carburetors to fuel injection moved the Group 44 Triumph TR6 from D Production to C Production and, therefore, eligible to compete in Trans-Am. It went head-to-head with powerhouse teams running Chevrolet Corvettes and Camaros, Porsches, Ford Mustangs, Jaguars, and a Datsun 260Z. McComb was more than competitive in the TR6 and even finished third overall in the season finale at what is now known as Brainerd (Minn.) Int’l Raceway. Some say it was the “little car that could.”