They say you shouldn’t mix business with pleasure. I’m not so sure.
With the Formula 1 season on hold as the sport takes its annual summer break, my bags are packed and I’m off to California. It’s a holiday destination that probably won’t come as a huge surprise. It is, after all, where I was born and raised – and you’re far more likely to see the sun on the west coast of the US than you are in England. But instead of kicking back on the beach with a cocktail in my hand, I’d rather be on the track with my foot to the floor. Just as well Monterey Car Week happens to be during F1’s summer shutdown…
It’s a must-attend event for me and I’ve been going for more than 20 years. I love it. Sure, some might say it sounds like a busman’s holiday, but racing has been my life for my whole life: everything I do is around racing and cars. The Monterey Motorsports Reunion, which is part of the event, is a celebration of the history of the sport and, as someone who is addicted to cars, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.
Monterey Car Week is a great opportunity to meet people and network (pictured here in 2018)
I used to collect model cars when I was a kid. Now, I get to own and drive the real thing. At Laguna Seca Raceway, I’ll be racing my Lancia LC2/0005, Porsche 935/JLP-3 and Williams FW07B/7. All three are fast, very fast, and they come from great eras in motorsport.
Bob Wollek qualified the LC2/0005 on pole for the 1984 Le Mans 24 Hours and the car won the Kyalami 1,000 km in the hands of Alessandro Nannini and Riccardo Patrese. I was a big fan of Wollek and Nannini growing up, so this car really brings out the kid in me.
The 935/JLP-3 won the 1982 IMSA GT Championship. Until 2016, it was the only car to win both the Daytona 24 Hours and the Sebring 12 Hours in the same year – a record that stood for 34 years – and it won an unprecedented seven races on the trot between 1981 and 1982. It also looks absolutely incredible.
As for the FW07B/7, it was driven by another hero of mine, Alan Jones, on the way to the 1980 F1 title – the first for Williams. This particular chassis scored wins at the French and British Grands Prix, plus a victory in the non-championship race in Spain.
They’re three very different cars but they’re all a ton of fun to drive and it’s a privilege to own them. Just don’t ask me to choose my favourite. That’s like asking me to pick my favourite child. It ain’t gonna happen.
I’ve been attending this event for more than 20 years – I love it!
Speaking of things not happening, I was down to drive my Lotus 79 – the F1 car in which Mario Andretti won the 1978 world championship – as part of the Historic Cars 70th Anniversary Demonstration at the British Grand Prix, but a positive covid-19 test meant I had to wave goodbye to driving around Silverstone in front of thousands of fans. Truth be told, I was probably just as upset about that as not being with the rest of the McLaren F1 team for our home race. Needless to say, I can’t wait to take to the track at Laguna Seca.
But just where exactly does business come into my trip to California? Well, Monterey Car Week is a great opportunity to meet people and network. A lot of McLaren’s F1 and IndyCar partners will be in town, along with many McLaren Automotive customers, making it an ideal event to build relationships with both existing and future partners and customers.
The last time I was there, two-time F1 world champion Mika Häkkinen and I turned heads when we put some miles on the McLaren M8D/3 – which really does go as fast as it sounds. This year, Mika can’t make it but that just means longer behind the wheel for me.
Time for the perfect getaway!
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