|2002 West Coast Lotus Meet - Monterey|
October 24-27, 2002 – Monterey, California
It all started in March. I get an email from fellow GGLC member Myles Kitchen who participates in the USRRC Seniors Vintage Tour. Myles has been in touch with the San Francisco Region (SFR) of the SCCA who annually present a vintage racing event in October at Laguna Seca. Myles has learned that the SCCA SFR Vintage group is planning to honor Lotus in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the forming of Lotus Cars.
My immediate reaction is run the idea of the GGLC reviving the West Coast Lotus Meet (WCLM) to be held in conjunction with the SCCA. I post an email to some of the GGLC officers who respond positively and then present the idea at the April GGLC meeting. “Let’s do it!”, say our members. Time is short, but with the right help we are off and running.
At the April club meeting our course of action was plotted. Scott Hogben would research and secure a hotel in the Monterey area. The list was short of those who had easy parking and banquet facilities and the time was late. Maybe it was a good thing the economy was slow and October wasn’t the peak tourist season.
John Zender would see if a track day was possible by working with the SCCA, SCRAMP and the Skip Barber School. Barry Spencer would work on an autocross.
So, the big pieces were set and a tentative schedule was set. It would be a four day event with a possible track day on Thursday or Friday, an Autocross on opposite day, Concours and banquet on Saturday.
My job was to start the publicity and start working on getting a guest speaker.
Getting the Word Out
Scott got to work on finding the hotel, as the hotel was the cornerstone for all the events and needed for creating a registration form. My early May Scott had located the Embassy Suites and was negotiating a contract with them.
John contacted SCRAMP, SCCA and Barber and learned that a track day was out. Barry had found the contacts for the Marina Airport for the autocross site. Everything was looking good and we began publicizing on the various on-line Lotus lists. Word spread, flyers and registration forms were sent out to the west coast Lotus clubs.
Gordonie, GGLC member in So Cal and president of Club Lotus Los Angeles was incredibly enthusiastic and bombarded the on-line community with his posts.
I contacted Mike Ostrov for suggestions on possible guest speakers and he sent me his list of suggestions. Names like Dan Gurney, Pete Lovely, Patrick Peal, Tony Rudd, Hazel Chapman, Bob Winkelmann and others were on the list. I began contacting them one by one. Gurney was out. As were the Chapman’s. Had difficulty reaching Pete Lovely, but Patrick was up for the trip!
Is It Time to Panic?
We start receiving registration entries within a week or so of the June GGLC meeting when entry forms are first distributed. Pete Richen is the first! They trickle in. In mid-September we are still well under 70 entries and I begin to go into panic mode. I’m budgeted for 150. How are we going to get there with only 6 weeks to go.
Good news, I meet with the SCCA and Victory Lane. They have nearly 300 entries and over 70 are Lotus cars! I’m pleased and believe that we can get some of those Lotus folks to attend the banquet.
Speaking of the banquet, Patrick Peal is confirmed and Mike speaks to Bob Winkelmann who also consents. This is nice, two speakers with differing views, times and places. I get a call from Tupper Robinson via the SCCA. Seems Tupper is running this Lotus 20 F/Jr. and has invited a Michael McKee to drive. He met Michael at the Monaco Vintage GP in May and learned that Mike drove for Team Lotus in 1961. I’m excited and ask if Mike can speak to the WCLM at the banquet. Within a few days he’s received consent from Mr. McKee. Now, I have a problem… Three speakers is too much, so the answer is to go to a Panel format.
A week later I get a call from one Bob Winkelmann’s compatriots, John Bolander, he’s asking if he can join the panel, “Of Course!”, I say, now we’ve got four on the panel. And then a week later I’m having lunch with Dan Davis of Victory Lane magazine and he asks how the guest speakers are going for the Banquet. So, I explain the panel format, he gets excited and asks if he could join in! “Of course!”, say I and now we’ve got five on the panel!
Panic mode has really set in with. I order T-shirts and add 50 extra shirts for those last minute entries. In the final 3 weeks we receive over 40% of the final number of entries! T-shirts are gone and I’ll have to order more post event (turns out we are two dozen short and I order some 46 more!).
Wednesday, October 23rd was packing and stuffing day at the Hamai household after a last minute run to Kinko’s. The final preparations are complete. There’s nothing left to do except load the car in the morning and head to Monterey.
Day 1 – Thursday, October 24, 2002
The morning was hectic, final packing and loading the truck and strapping the Elan on the trailer. Laura and I got on the road a little after noon and stopped in Castroville for lunch, French Fried Artichokes are absolutely to-die-for. We arrived at the Embassy Suites about 2:30 to be greeted by Gordonie, Jon Rosner and Dave Alford.
Okay, it’s trivia time… How many Lotus related patches does Gordonie have on his jacket? I lost count after 25. Anyway, we check in and are shown to the meeting room where the WCLM check-in & reception will be held. A nice large room with tables and a place for the four TVs and Playstation 2s will be hooked up for those who want to practice on Gran Turismo 3.
Promptly at 4:15 pm the 4:00 pm WCLM registration opens. Entrants pick-up their WCLM packets, get badges, meal tickets, event information and schedule, plus their WCLM T-shirt.
Around 5pm Barry Spencer arrives with 4 27” TVs stuff in the crew cab of his pick-up with his Europa in tow. GT3 is up and running a 30 minutes and food and drinks are served as the WCLM reception begins!
Later in the evening the first of three Thursday Lotus Tech Sessions begins with Rich Kamp of Kampena Motors. Rich was just named a Caterham dealer. Rich was followed by Dave Simkin of Lotus Cars USA and then by Ken Gray of Dave Bean Engineering who spoke about Lotus electrics.
Day 2 – Friday, October 25, 2002
Friday started with a big bang, as WCLM registration opened again followed by two Tech Sessions, the first by Barry Spencer of Spencer’s Motorsports about Esprit Turbos and then Woody Harris of Birkin Sports who shared some info on Birkins but also reviewed the laws in California concerning the licensing and registration of home-built cars. Lots of good questions and information shared about how to do this.
Around 11:30 we gathered up in the parking lot for the first driving event of the WCLM, The Coastal Tour, led by Victor Holtorf. The plan was simple, drive down Hwy 1 to Big Sur and have lunch then return up the coast to Carmel. Drive through the downtown area and then to the famous 17-mile drive.
Highway 1 was glorious, clear sunny skies, incredible scenery where every new twist or turn in the road presented yet another vista that was better than the last. We stopped in Big Sur for about an hour, grabbed bite, had a chance to talk, look at cars and such. Then it was time to head back. A vigorous drive up Highway 1 put us into Carmel just as the High School was getting out. Frankly, I’m surprised the Esprit boys weren’t able to fill their cars with screaming teenagers! But, perhaps they are wise enough to understand the laws pertaining to underage and all. Nonetheless the reception was unexpected and added to the flavor of driving down Ocean Avenue of Carmel. I later learned much of the commotion was because Carmel High was having their Homecoming football game and there was a big pep parade scheduled to go down Ocean Avenue just after we’d driven through.
Anyway, the group gathered at Carmel Beach and then headed in to the 17-mile Drive for a more leisurely, but picturesque drive. With frequent stops for photos and such the group finally made it to Laguna Seca Raceway just a little before 5:00pm for the WCLM BarBQue.
The setting was the Track View Picnic Area that overlooked the front straight of the track. The sun was still out with nary a breeze. Nearly 100 WCLMers were present and ate to their fill. Chicken, Ribs and such was the fair with a vast selection of salads. Wine was hosted by Victory Lane magazine, one of the premier publications covering vintage sports car racing in the US. Arnie Johnson, President of Lotus Cars USA arrived in a 340R driven by Bill Simmons of Park Motors (Lotus dealer in Seattle, WA).
Once the sun set it quickly grew cold and while some bundled others elected to head back for the shelter of the Embassy Suites. There at the hotel the competition to see who the fastest driver was on GT3 began. There were no shortage of crumpled fenders and dented egos. In the end the winning driver was Chris Spencer. It was midnight and time to go to bed.
Day 3 – Saturday, October 26, 2002
This was to be a busy day. Laura and drove over to Laguna and hooked up with the SCCA folks. The area they had reserved for us for the Lotus corral had been taken up late race arrivals. So, we had to make due by finding a spot over looking the exit of Turn 4. A nice vista where we could see cars storming off the front straight into turn 2, around 3 and 4 and then brake into 5 and up the hill.
John Zender arrived and along with Scott Hogben helped to direct the Lotuses as they arrived and handed them car placards and Concours ballots. By 11am some 80 Lotuses had gathered. This combined with the over 70 Lotus racecars entered in the SCCA races made for a wonderful Lotus showing.
Down in the paddock was a Lotus tent hosted by Victory Lane and had a beautiful gathering of Lotus racers, an 18, a 47, 340R, Elise S1, Elise S2, Motorsport Elise, Exige, X180R, and much more.
In the Race paddock were Lotus of all ages, Sevens, Elites, 18s, 20s, 22s, over 10 23s, a 27, 47, a 49, 51s, 61s, Europa, 26Rs and Elans and so much, much more!
Back in the WCLM Lotus Corral we were treated to the Lotus Car Costumes, the feature was the Caley’s Elite driven by “Mr. Pumpkin”, who was fashionably holding a “Trick-or-Treat” bag out the driver’s window.
About Noon we gathered up and headed through the paddock and onto the track for noontime Lotus Track Tour. What a glorious sight to see some 70-80 Lotus on the track nose to tail. All too soon the track tour was over, but fun was had. The Tour was lead by a pace truck, but first in the Lotus line was Jon Rosner with a big grin across his face as he was driving the Elise S2!
The afternoon was open for any Lotus activity. There was vintage racing to stay and watch, the WCLM wine tour, or do something tourist. Some elected to stay for the races. There were some really fun groups. One group featured GT350, Corvettes, mixed with the Motorsports Elises, Lotus 23s and Mike Schlicht (GGLC) in his Europa.
Those that opted for the wine tour were led by the Hamai’s now driving the blue Elise S2. This was my first time behind the wheel of an S2 Elise. I’ll cut to the chase. BUY ONE! It’s everything claimed. Our little tour took us out of Laguna Seca and up Laureless Grade. This twisty bit of road was EFFORTLESS in the Elise. The steering is incredibly light and direct. Feeling ever so much like a good well sorted Europa S2.
There was ample power on tap even with the stock Rover engine. The shift throws seemed a bit long, but feel readily at hand. To be picky, the clutch seemed high, but could be gotten used to and the brakes seemed solid, but required a firm foot. I like a heel stop, which was lacking. That’s something I’d have to add when I get mine (hint!).
Bottomline, it’s everything that’s been said in the various pubs. I’m sure it will make a potent Autocross car in the stock classes and with sticky rubber will out handle nearly anything. SOLD!
Anyway, I had to come back to earth and Laura and I left the Wine tourers in Carmel Valley Village and returned to the track to return the car to Arnie. We passed through the paddock, met a few folks that I hadn’t seen in a while and returned to hotel to get ready for the banquet.
I learned later that the wine tour was a success. The group stopped at the Galante Vineyards where they were treated to private wine tour and tasting that included sipping some $50 per bottle wine! Yum!!! The treat was the road that was posted with a sign that read, “Buses and Truck Prohibited – Extreme Turns!” A Lotus road if there was one!
Back at the hotel, Barry arrived around 5:30 and began decorating with yellow and green balloons. The tables were set with yellow and green napkins. Carter Alexander brought some wonder Lotus art (paintings and sculptures) for all to admire.
And soon the crowd gathered for cocktail hour. The banquet room filled and the meal was quite good with excellent service. By 9 we were finishing desert and I made a few opening remarks and introduced Arnie Johnson, who shared a few words with the group. John Zender followed by announcing the winners of the WCLM Lotus Concours.
Best Early Elan
Best M100 or Elise
Best 7, Race or Cortina
Best Giugaro Esprit
Best Stevens Esprit
Best Modified Car
Best of show
Best Car Costume
Gordonie was the highlight of these festivities and dropped a zinger in his “acceptance” speech. He confirmed that the motivation for the thousands of dollars to repair and modify his V8 Esprit to lack of endowment of a certain body part, I put this in a polite interpretation of his more graphic explanation! It broke the place up!
Jon Rosner was introduced as the moderator of the WCLM Lotus Panel. Jon brought up each panelist one by one, Dan Davis, publisher of Victory Lane magazine and former Lotus distributor and Lotus racer was first, followed by Bob Winkelmann. Next came Patrick Peal, ex-Lotus engineer and director of PR, who was followed by Mike McKee, ex-Team Lotus in 1961, and John Bolander, a fellow racer and friend of Bob Winkelmann.
The next hour FLEW by with wonderful stories of how Winkelmann and Bolander would tow together in their Citroen tow cars pulling their Lotus Cortinas to the next race. Seems that Winkelmann and his wife had perfected switching drivers while speeding down the highway. This act would always make Bolander twist in a double take as he could never figure out who was driving.
Then there was another wonderful story of Winkelmann driving a Ford Escort on the Baja 1000. The car was sponsored and prepared by Bolander. Winkelmann finished the race, but destroyed the car. Seems the spot welds gave up and allowed the front strut towers to collapse against the engine. Winkelmann used a come-along wrapped under the engine and hooked to the top of each strut to pull it apart and then stuffed a log between the struts to maintain the spread (a cactus strut bar!).
Anyway, the car was returned to the Bay Area and Bolander was asked to put the car into the annual San Francisco Auto Show in Brooks Hall. Bolander took his wife to the show, who saw the car and said, “The car is just like my car (that’s in the shop)”. Unbeknown to Bolander’s wife he had taken her car which was in his shop and lent to Winkelmann for the Baja race. Even more amazing was that at the very moment in front of the WCLM crowd Winkelmann had learned for the VERY FIRST time that the car he had destroyed in Baja was Bolander’s wife’s car! The look on Winkelmann’s face was precious!
Patrick Peal, not to be out done by these stories shared a Chapman story. Seems that Chapman had gotten close to a hydroplane boat maker just up the coast from Hethel. He invited a number of F1 drivers to go boating and had arranged for Emerson Fittipaldi to get a drive in one of these hydros. The “drive” was to take place on a nearby river. Emmo jumped in and proceeded to haul down the river at break-neck speed. Unfortunately no one had told him of the speed limit and he flew past a police boat. The immediate reaction of the police was to motor to the middle of the river fully expecting to see the crazy man in the hydro to return and blocked the channel. Chapman seeing this motored up to the police boat to watch the ensuing fuss. Up comes Emmo at speed, slams the hydro in reverse and motors up to the police boat where upon one of the Bobbies asks Emmo for his name. “Emerson Fittipaldi”, says the hydro driver. Whereupon one of the Bobbies retorts, “Sure, and I’m Mario Andretti!” To which a voice from Chapman’s boat proclaims, “That’s my name!”
Perhaps the best story came from Mike McKee, who even after his retirement from Team Lotus maintained a close relationship with Colin. He was living in the Norfolk area and received a call from Chapman who said was on his way up to look at some property in Norfolk to put a factory for Lotus. McKee made a few calls and arranged for Chapman to fly and land on a friend’s newly purchased farm, which was formerly a British airfield in Hethel.
After a day of fruitless searching and visits to various properties, Chapman was climbing back into his plane and McKee pointed out that this “farm” with these runways and old hangers might be the “perfect” location for his new factory. Chapman agreed and McKee had a word with the owner the next day and soon the Lotus factory had a new home in Hethel! McKee argued with the new owner that these runways and old hangers would get in the way of making the land a good farm and so an agreement was struck!
The evening ended with a quick raffle and awards for the Trivia Contest with questions like, “When did Arnie Johnson start working for Lotus?” The award for the GT3 competition followed and went to Chris Spencer. It was getting late and the WCLM autocross was starting early the next day.
Day 4 – Sunday, October 27, 2002
Barry Spencer presented the WCLM Autocross. This was nothing short of a miracle. Originally we had scheduled the WCLM Autocross for Friday. But, over the summer the site closed to autocrossing. The site at the Marina Municipal Airport is just that, at a live operational airport. Hence the rules for autocrossing at this site must be adhered to without exception per FAA regulations. Something happened over the summer and site was closed to Autocrossing.
We panicked. Barry continued to stay in touch with the site owners and after a FAA inspection at the end of September consent was given to have the WCLM Autocross on Sunday. The WCLM Autocross was then the first autocross to take place after the closure. Barry is to be commended for this persistence!
Anyway with the help of the SCCA Solo II folks the participants were greeted with a sea of cones. The next few hours were filled with squealing tires and big grins!
Lox Thomson ran his V8 Esprit and Patrick Peal drove the tires off his rental car, a Lotus in a way, since the Pontiac Grand Prix was powered by GM’s EcoTech engine that was designed by Lotus.
I put in a couple runs in the “truck” and got a chance to “try” the Birkin. An impressive car, solid, powered with a Zetec 4-banger with lots of torque and linear power.
In the days after the WCLM the GGLC was overwhelmed with notes of graditude.
“Judy and I had a very memorable time. The Lotus parade around the Laguna Seca track was THE highlight”
“A GREAT variety of cars (Just about everything Lotus had ever made, from Pristine early Elites to Europas, to 7s' to Elans, to Esprits, and more). It was wonderful to be behind 15 or 20 of these great cars, at speed (Got up over 80 in some places, and the passing, oh the passing). This IS the way Lotuses should be viewed.”
“Kudos to Kiyoshi and the sponsoring clubs for a great West Coast Lotus meet in Monterey last weekend. We had way too much fun for anything close to being legal. Organization was splendid and I was impressed at how well the meeting integrated the older and newer cars. I don't think I have ever seen so many splendid Elites together at a single location.”
“Thank you very much for the invitation to the dinner and
the speaking panel on the 26th of October. My wife, daughter and myself had a
great time. It is great to meet and confer with the old timers as we did that
“As one of the many who had a great time at WCLM, I want to thank you for all the work that you put into the event. Even without my Europa, it was a great weekend. The session at Laguna Seca and the banquet were real interesting for those of us new to the Lotus world. I look forward to attending more club events. “
So, will there be a 2003 WCLM? Well, there’s talk of one in Portland. Stayed tuned!!!