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Start Your Engines

You can get in touch with your inner Stirling Moss without raising your auto insurance rates in the next few weeks at the 33rd Rolex Monterey Historic Auto Races at Monterey's famed Laguna Seca raceway.

The Historic Automobile Races are held each August during classic car weekend in Monterey, Calif., where more than 40,000 visitors will watch hundreds of vintage autos race to the finish line.

Sports and racing cars from the early 1900s through the 1980s take part in the weekend's activities, with heats divided into 14 racing groups.

Half will compete on Saturday, Aug. 19, and the rest on Sunday, Aug. 20.

The heats are grouped into categories by car type (commercial sports cars vs. pure racing cars) and production year. So while one of the largest categories consists of sports cars such as '50s and '60s vintage Corvettes, the Jaguar XKE and Porsche 356, some the most interesting heats are the pre-World War I entries and the early Formula One racers.

General Racing Ltd. founded the Monterey Historic Automobile Races in 1974, and has since partnered with Rolex to present the annual event. Each year, a presenting sponsor is chosen; Toyota (TM - Get Report) is this year's pick.

As is the tradition at the Historic, the sponsor provides exhibits and special events, and this year Toyota will present several of its most memorable automobiles, including the 1958 Toyopet Crown and the 1967 2000GT.

Pedal to the Metal

Although no Laguna Seca speed records will be broken over the weekend, the owners are willing to take substantial risk by racing autos that are quite valuable -- and the occasional crackup has indeed occurred.

These cars aren't coddled museum pieces that never touch the road; they are real working antique autos that race the way they were originally intended to. The owners are often ex-racers who enjoy the camaraderie of the fellow drivers and the nostaglia of the glory days of past victories.

While some drivers are content to stay at the back of the pack and wave to the fans, others want to recapture that glory and compete pedal-to-the-metal through Laguna Seca's famous hairpin turns, trying to capture the checkered flag.

It's exciting to see these legendary cars compete once again -- where else could you see a 1913 LaGonda with a team of two goggled operators, scarves and dusters flying in the wind, leaning to the right and left just to keep the ancient behemoth on the track?

And many racing legends have participated in the races, including Jackie Stewart, Parnelli Jones, Dan Gurney, Carroll Shelby, Tom Sneva and Niki Lauda. At several past events, Stirling Moss has asked owners for permission to run a few laps in their exotic beauties -- who could refuse the legendary driver such a request?

Lamborghini Miura

For others, the paddock action is the most exciting part of the event. Spring for the extra bucks for full access, and you can mingle up close and personal with the cars and their drivers.

The owners are eager to talk about their babies, and it doesn't matter if you don't know a bonnet from a boot. You can chat about horsepower with the owner of a pre-World War I Bugatti, review the racing history of a rare C-Type Jaguar or just reminisce about your first sports car.

In addition to the wide variety of vintage autos participating, this year's races will feature International Motor Sports Association LeMans and Trans-Am cars and a select group of historic Formula 1 cars. The Americans are ably represented, with Shelby Cobra, Corvette, early Cadillac, Lincoln and others. And last year, the legendary Chaparral was featured as part of the event's overall tribute to "Great American Specials."

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