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Crowds come back to Concorso Italiano at Monterey weekend

Sat, 15 Aug 2009

Organizers of this year's Concorso Italiano didn't know what would happen. New owner Tom McDowell had taken over the annual "Celebration of Italian Style" and moved the whole festival from the rather barren airport location to the sprawling Laguna Seca Golf Ranch just downhill from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Would anybody show up? Would all the cars, sponsors and caterers be there? Would the luxury portapotties arrive in time?

Yes, yes and yes, it turned out.

"It's much better than we anticipated," a relieved but sunburned McDowell said, late in the afternoon of a packed event. "Everybody showed up."

And there was room for everybody, too. The Golf Ranch had more than enough space for all the spectator cars to park, there was plenty of good food and lots of room to stretch out. On grass.

Last year's event had been held on the concrete tarmac of the Marina Airport, 10 miles north of Monterey. That site turned out to be a little too cold, windy and hard on the feet. This year's location was just right, and the weather was perfect.

Ciao to the chow.

"It was important to make a good, strong statement that we're back, we're strong," said McDowell.

And they were.

While the total car count looked to be smaller than years past, the variety of great Italian cars was strong. There were a few well-loved old Fiats, Alfas and Lancias, and plenty of more modern Lamborghinis and Ferraris. There was even a Lamborghini tractor.

No doubt some of the missing cars were a few miles away at a new competitor event, La Dolce Vita, but we heard no complaints about this year's Concorso. The future will decide whether the big Monterey weekend can sustain two Italian car celebrations on the same day or whether the Concorso/La Dolce split will do to Fridays in Monterey what the CART/IRL or Grand-Am/ALMS splits did to open wheeled and sports car racing.

By Mark Vaughn