‘Prep Shop Boys’ Ready Historic Machines for Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion
Behind the scenes with America's finest
Each car accepted into the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion has undergone intense scrutinizing for authenticity, historical and mechanical accuracy. But for many, maintaining the car at its optimal race performance takes a team.
There are countless prep shops dotting the countryside, but for the caliber of cars running in Monterey, it takes a special set of skills. We asked principals of some of the leading shops for their take on historic racing and what they do behind the scenes to assist their clients and to ensure a safe and sound race car. Below is insight from the “Prep Shop Boys” who are annual visitors to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion: Louie Shefchick of J&L Fabricating in Puyallup, Wash.; Bruce Canepa of Canepa Motorsport in Scotts Valley, Calif.; and Bert Skidmore of Intrepid Motorcar in Sparks, Nevada.
You offer a wide range of services, what are the three most important ones to a driver?
Shefchick: 1) Each of our customers know that we have placed their safety first above all that we do. 2) J&L is there to support each customer at whatever level they chose to compete with their race car. 3) We take all the pressure and frustration that many of them may have experienced in getting their car ready for the track, getting their car transported to the track and then keeping their car prepared throughout the race weekend while at the track.
Canepa: Our services include complete mechanical and cosmetic restoration, testing, driver coaching, track support and hospitality. 1) Pre-race mechanical preparation is extremely important for on track reliability and driver safety. Given that track time is limited, it is important that a participant has the opportunity to drive the entirety of the racing sessions. 2) Personalized team support for the driver gives the participant confidence during the event. 3) Hospitality and fun are critical to the future memories.
Skidmore: Properly prepared race cars, dependability and punctuality. No one wants a crew that doesn’t show up!
Do you evaluate your customers to determine their level of capability in handling a particular car?
Shefchick: J&L supports a wide variety of drivers and cars. Each customer drives their car at a level that allows them to enjoy “The Moment” while at the track. While that level can be different for each of them, our team is experienced and prepared to help them find that level. We help them with car set-up, finding a driver coach that fits their level and supporting them once they have found the level at which they are comfortable.
Canepa: We try and guide customers to cars that will provide them the most fun in line with their level of experience and competitive potential. At the end of the day, it’s all about the driver having a great experience. Nothing better than seeing a participant climb from his car with a big smile on his face.
Once at the track, what are your major roles?
Canepa: The team manager and crew know how to do all the big things, and it is our goal to show up ready – not to have to finish car prep at the track. I basically pay attention to details and spend my time checking on our customers to make sure they are ready and have a clear head before they take the green flag; continually reminding them to spend the first laps warming up tires, getting clear of initial traffic, and trying to relax and stay focused throughout the race.
Shefchick: J&L comes to the track prepared for whatever we may face throughout the race weekend. To do that, we must bring a wide variety of race support equipment. Once at the track we go through a set-up procedure that includes unloading each transporter, setting up our awnings, placing each car in a specific place under the awning so that we may service each one with efficiency and still present an appealing display for the spectator who has come to see their favorite cars. We are responsible for getting each car through a technical inspection and then keeping the car prepared for each session. We have a mechanic dedicated to each customer/car. We also have people that take care of cleaning the cars between sessions and assisting the mechanics.
Skidmore: Managing crew members, helping with setup and tech inspections. But most importantly, keeping the customer happy by paying attention to what their car needs before the next session – if anything.
How is the business changing with the needs of cars and drivers?
Shefchick: We have found that our customer base has remained very solid. The era of cars has definitely shifted to include the ‘80s through the 2010s. I think it is vital that we keep our beginning roots of “Pre-War” and on, but just as important to remember that the demographics are changing and the younger generation wants to see the cars that they have, and are growing up with. It’s the great thing about the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, there is something for everyone to associate with.
Skidmore: It seems like the vintage race car drivers are either retiring or passing away; we need new blood.
Canepa: We are starting to see participants with more interest in newer cars – ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, etc. We also see where new participants are expecting a 5-star experience – team, hospitality, vehicle support, social activities, etc.
What’s your favorite race car?
Canepa: I have been fortunate to experience a number of different cars thanks to my business and our customers. It is really impossible to pick just one. As a racing class and overall group of participants, I have to say the Trans-Am group. As to a specific car, it is the Porsche 935 – especially given I drove this car from 1979-1981 in IMSA and still drive it today in the historic races. I never tire of the sound of the turbocharged engine or the challenges to drive it near its limits.
Skidmore: Would have to say a 1976 Lola T286 (Macumba), followed by the 1978 Lotus 79.
Shefchick: 1966 Ford GT40 Mk2.
Over 500 historic machines with race provenance will be competing among the 14 run groups at this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion on August 15-18. The event celebrates the 50th anniversary of the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) as the featured marque. Activity begins with 10 run groups at the Monterey Pre-Reunion Races on August 10-11. Tickets are available here or by calling 831-242-8200.