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The Inaugural Laguna Seca Races… in Cavallino 202

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Pete Lovely on a tight line through Turn 5, the famous “corkscrew“ at the new Laguna Seca. Pete took the chequered flag in his 500 TR, s/n 0650 MDTR.

Excerpt from the text by historian By Andreas Dziedzic

“On November 5, 1950, the SCCA hosted the inaugural Pebble Beach Road Races in a highly casual setting, won by the youthful Phil Hill in a modified Jaguar XK-120 roadster. Pebble Beach was no simple, flat airport circuit like Santa Barbara or Palm Springs. Sterling Edwards and his close friend John B. Morse had selected a 1.8-mile (later 2.1-mile) circuit located above the Del Monte Lodge.

“In the 1950-54 period, sports car racing was something like a family affair – a relaxed feeling of friendly competition existed in the pits. Ferrari came into the winner’s spotlight at Pebble in 1953, with Phil Hill taking the checkered flag in his own 250 MM Spyder, followed by big Bill Spear with his 340 Mexico. In 1954, Sterling Edwards, father of the races, won the Del Monte Trophy in his incredibly fast 340 Mille Miglia Spyder.

“From 1955 on, sports car racing had become more professional, with increasing numbers of highly competitive machines and the fastest drivers available. Again, it was Phil Hill who took the checker in Allen Guiberson’s 750 Monza. In 1956, it was Shelby’s year, winning the main event in his 750 Monza. The race was overshadowed by the death of popular West Coast Champion, Ernie McAfee, who had been one of the race favorites in the 121 LM. After the race it was decided that the Cypress narrowed Del Monte Forest course was no longer safe to continue racing on it. The venue had to find a new facility.

“Only four months after Ernie’s tragic accident, the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce formed a new association called the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula (SCRAMP) to explore an alternative site. Lou Gold, the first president of SCRAMP, negotiated a deal with Major General Gilman C. Mudgett, then Fort Ord Commander, for the use of the Laguna Seca basin (Spanish for dry lagoon) between the Cities of Monterey and Salinas.

“It would have been a near impossible task to put together, in a little more than two months, a National Championship Road Race, without even having built a racetrack yet. But work started September 16, and Wallace Holm and his crew were working against time. Thirty-eight days later on October 23, the grading and paving of the circuit, including all access roads, were completed – a miracle.

“The San Francisco Region of the SCCA efficiently organized the inaugural races, entitled the “8th Annual Pebble Beach at Laguna Seca – National Championship Sports Car Road Races”. On November 9, Major General W.M. Breckenridge cut the ribbon at the opening day ceremonies at the new facility.”

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Source: Historical images from the REVS Institute and the Edgar Motorsports Archive.

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At Laguna Seca 1957, eventual winner Pete Lovely in the 500 TR, s/n 0650 MDTR, follows on John von Neumann in the 625 TRC, s/n 0680 MDTR, at the start-finish line.