IN A CLASS OF ITS OWN
Every event during Monterey Classic Car Week is exceptional. Some are more exceptional than others. The Quail, A Motorsport Gathering, founded in 2003 and where Rolex has been the Official Timepiece since 2005, is a confluence of positives that have forged an impressive occasion: a rare moment where an enviable reputation fails to do justice. Each individual part – the organization, the cars, the owners, the cuisine, the location, the spectators - contributes. Which element is the primary catalyst for the potent mixture is hard to identify. Sir Michael Kadoorie, the founder, was quick to highlight the part played by the spectators in his closing remarks: "You are not guests, you are friends; you're passionate, enthusiastic and you love motor cars." Experiencing the event helps understand how this opinion could be formed; talking to a few of the main protagonists offers a wider insight.
The cars are plainly the stars. An eclectic field laid out on the fairway and putting greens in front of The Quail Lodge Golf Club has something for everyone with vehicles ranging from the early 1900s to the present day. A handful of vintage motorcycles are thrown in for good measure. There is competition with a peer based voting system letting the exhibitors decide among themselves who has won each category and, indeed, the overall winner.
Tom Price looked suitably shell-shocked when his 1938 Talbot-Lago T150 C SS was announced as the Rolex Best of Show - the overall winner - and the recipient of a Rolex Oyster Daytona timepiece. With Formula 1® legend, and longstanding Rolex Testimonee, Sir Jackie Stewart on hand to make the presentation it was a fairy-tale moment when Tom and his wife Gwen drove their immaculate car onto the ramp: "It's really wonderful. Being picked by our peers, all the people who have cars here, makes it even more special to me than a normal judging environment. We're just ecstatic."
Victory is plainly enjoyable, but there is so much more. Just being part of the show is motivation for many owners. Take Marianne Plancke, exhibiting a stunning Mercedes 300SL Gullwing. "We've been coming to The Quail since the very first one. We love the eve
nt because it is the most exclusive car event on the Peninsula. To me it's not about winning, I've never won anything, but that's not what this is about. It's a time to get together to tell stories, to enjoy the cars, a good time and share a hobby."
For all owners there is huge joy in meeting and talking to other passionate enthusiasts about their hobby. Jack Thomas, recipient of the FIVA trophy - a preservation award for exceptionally rare historic vehicles that retain much, if not all, of their original mechanical components, body, interior, paint and other finishes - seemed more thrilled with the conversations he had had during the course of the day about his Aston Martin DB4GT: "I'm always honoured to be invited. I've been coming to The Quail for a number of years and was one of the original exhibitors. I was even fortunate to win Rolex Best of Show in 2011. Most of all I love the enthusiasts that come and talk to you. I have probably had no less than a 100 people come up to me today, and ask me about the car. I love being in a position to show it to people who really appreciate it."
Robert M Lee and Anne Brockington Lee own one of the world's most renowned car collections, and have won Best of Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on two occasions. Even so, for two passionate collectors, their participation at this year's Quail with a 1949 Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta was a huge thrill according to Anne: "It's all about the car, the love of the car, sharing with fellow enthusiasts, sharing story: this car was driven by Luigi Chinetti to an all out victory at Le Mans in 1949. Luigi drove for an incredible 23.5 hours and that victory put Ferrari on the map. That Luigi's son Coco is here with us today is amazing."
Steven Read is another recognized and revered collector. His 1957 Maserati 300S was the poster car for this year's The Quail, A Motorsport Gathering. He has tried to put his finger on the pulse of the event for many years: "I think it is part Sir Michael. He has that accueillant (welcoming) personality, he gathers, he is very open. I think this is like a party that has just broken out spontaneously. It is sophisticated simplicity born of a collegiality, a like-mindedness of people that appreciate cars, which appreciate refinement, things that are thought out, but unpretentious."
Whatever the secret behind the success, The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering has grown its reputation over the years and its elevated position is undoubted. The quality of its scintillating concours and the appreciative knowledge of the attendees are critical components, but not the only ones. If the formula was simple to decipher it would have been copied elsewhere. That it has not proves that this event is in a class of its own.
Rolex has been involved in Monterey Classic Car Week since 1997, and the event forms a significant part of its association with the cardinal elements of motor sport: endurance, speed and tradition.
Rolex involvement continues tomorrow (Saturday) with the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion (15 – 17 August) and concludes with the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on Sunday.