Jim Farley bought his first car, a four-speed 1966 Ford Mustang Notchback 289, before he had a license. He rebuilt the engine, and he washed the vehicle everyday. Eventually, Farley drove the car from California to Michigan.
“It was a lot cooler than my parents’ Fairmont Station Wagon with fake wood grain,” he says. ” It was my freedom. It will always be my favorite.”
The child nicknamed “Jimmy Car Car” by his parents (“I always had a car in my hands,” remembers Farley) grew into a teenager who restored auto- mobiles under the guidance of racing legend and 1961 Formula One champion Phil Hill. That job with Hill & Vaughn in Santa Monica further fueled Farley’s interest in vehicles. After studying at Georgetown University and UC Los Angeles, he landed a job at Toyota and successfully launched the company’s Scion brand. As group vice president and general manager of Lexus, he oversaw sales, marketing and customer satisfaction.
Farley then shifted gears again, moving into global sales and marketing at Ford Motor Company in 2007. He climbed the ranks, transforming the company’s Lincoln brand and leading advertising, digital communications,brand development and research teams.In January,Ford promoted Farley to executive vice president and president for Europe, Middle East and Africa. The Carmel resident and his family are spending more time in London these days, and Farley also commutes to Germany on a weekly basis.
But he’ll be back home in August, racing his 1990s’ Ford Mustang Trans Am in this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Farley, who also has raced in the LeMans Classic, Road America and other competitions, calls the Mazda Raceway event his favorite.
“I first attended the Reunion in the early 1990s,” he says. “My wife and I would drive up and stay in the Monterey campgrounds. I’ve been coming ever since, and participating for the last several years.”
Farley will find like-minded company at this year’s gathering, which celebrates 50 years of the Shelby GT350 Mustang.While the event has honored car designer and race driver Carroll Shelby and the shelby Cobra in past years, this is the first time the spotlight shines on the popular GT350.
It’s been six years since Mazda Raceway’s signature Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion emerged from the former Monterey Historic Automobile Races that kicked off in 1974. Today,the owners of approximately 900 automobiles apply to participate in the popular weekend of vintage racing and historic exhibits. An event governing committee analyzes entries to ensure the authenticity, racing history and period-correctness of each car; ultimately, 550 are selected for 15 classes of on-track events.
This year’s entrants compete for the checkered flag August 13 through 16, and about 300 cars will take part in Monterey pre-reunion events on August 8 and 9.The pre-reunion weekend also includes Dining in theVines,a De Tierra Vineyards dinner with special guest Danny Sullivan, the 1985 Indianapolis 500 winner, and an August 7 car show on Monterey’s Alvarado Street.
Gill Campbell, general manager and CEO of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, calls the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion “history come to life.”
“It’s four days of classic cars that are moving. They’re not just sitting still,” she says.“We’ve got everything from pre-war up to the late 1970s and early 1980s, and these cars are doing what they were built to do.The people who are driving them are people who have a real passion for this.”
That museum-on-wheels approach extends, of course, to this year’s featured marque. A class of iconic GT350s will race on the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway course, and a Ford Motor Company paddock display will showcase additional autos and memorabilia. And venue-wide vignettes will channel the spirit of the 1960s, when the car first rolled off the production line.
Also joining this year’s gathering are more than 30 Formula One cars from 1967 to 1984, plus the first Formula 5000 class ever to compete at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. The group of nearly 50 vehicles from between 1968 and 1976 is one of the largest Formula 5000 assemblies to race at once. Highlights include Tony Adamowicz’s 1969 Gurney Eagle, the ex-Mario Andretti 1974 Lola, and other former world champion cars.
Additional festivities planned during the four- day event include autograph sessions, driver question-and-answer sessions, a vendor market- place, wine and cheese tastings, demonstration laps, corral parades and more.
“For the last five years, our goal was to improve the event for the spectator and pro- vide more spectator attractions. We’ve also really streamlined what we believe historic racing is all about,” says Campbell. “Now, we really do want to take it up to the next level.”
To purchase tickets and explore the 2015 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion event schedule, please visit www.mazdaraceway.com or call 831/242-8200. Ticket options range from single- day and multi-day general admission to full-week- end VIP packages. Parking and camping passes are also available.