I watch a pack of Porsches and Corvettes swarm around a Ferrari 512BBLM that’s holding them up on the way up the hill to the Corkscrew, which happens to be blind. It’s Steve Earle’s last weekend as the Sheriff, and a few hooligans are acting like it. I back off, thinking if this is practice…
I decide to use the session to work on the one thing I couldn’t get comfortable with last weekend: going flat over the high-speed blind kink that is Turn 1. It’s one thing to do so in a modern car with ABS, something else entirely in someone else’s 1974 RSR.
Fellow Dutchman and occasional coach Kees Nierop’s trackside advice (“Don’t worry about getting slowed down and the downshifts, just keep both hands on the wheel and your right foot flat. You’ll have the time you need.”) unlocks the door, and the thrill of going flat over the hill is exceeded only by my admiration for the RSR’s braking, with its 917 calipers and wide, sticky slicks.
The ease of use, the grip over power, and the confidence inspired by 9060 reminds me of another RSR I’ve driven — one that raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2007. As in that 997, you turn in and there’s no need to wait for the slicks to key into the pavement, because they already are. There’s even more grip out back, which makes putting the power down easy. Those fat rears will take all the torque the 3.0 can give.
Back in the paddock, signs of on-track aggression can be seen. One RSR’s fender is being taped over, a move that won’t prevent its driver from being tossed out of the race for making contact with another car. At our trailer, things are heating up for different reasons. David Donohue is climbing out of Edwards’ 934 — and the crowds watch him pull his sweaty helmet off to reveal a big smile. I dive into the trailer, trying to focus on just one thing: how I’ll keep the perfectly patinated 9060 in one nice, big piece.
Sunday’s lunch break presents an unexpected opportunity — a chance to take my father around Laguna Seca. The man who sternly taught me to feel the clutch in a 1964 VW bus, the man who views Porsches as “dishonest Volkswagens,” reluctantly allows me to strap him into the RSR’s flimsy passenger seat. Minutes later, up the hill from Turn 6, I can tell that the engineer in him admires the song of slide-valve injection and six horizontally-opposed chambers. The rest of him probably wonders what, exactly, he helped my mother create in 1973.
Group 7B is the last race of the day. Whistle-blowing stewards wave me past chain-link gates and onto the pre-grid, then help me back 9060 in at an angle. To my right, Porsche Motorsport legend Jürgen Barth is pulling his balaclava on. He’s sitting, door open, in an RSR 3.0 much like the FotoQuelle car only blue with white-stitched Wally’s Jeans livery. Behind me, somewhere, Hurley Haywood is sitting on the same grid in his Brumos 935.
As stewards give the two-fingered two-minute warning, the moment isn’t lost on me. Such moments, when you realize you’re a long way from what you once knew, only come along every so often. In my case, it’s a long way from driving my 914 to the Historics to watch Juan Manuel Fangio and Phil Hill cane famous cars. Framed by the RSR’s windshield, tall flags along the pit wall are flapping. On them, familiar red-boxed “O”s, one each in Monterey and Historics, are flying for the last time at Laguna.
When I hear a long whistle, it’s time to let the clutch out. I follow Barth out watching rocks shoot off his slicks. Entering the course between Turns 1 and 2, 330 horses chuntering behind me finally get what they want: to go. People line the fences, and I can see the 935s of Haywood and Bruce Canepa behind me on the warmup lap, waiting to pounce when the green flag drops.