However, the weekend was not all gaiety and triumph. Driver Pat Pigott was fatally injured in one accident; the Indy "500" champion, Rodger Ward, was badly hurt in another. From Riverside the racers moved northward to Steinbeck country. A core of deep-dyed buffs arrived early for all the practice trials and preliminary racing; they discovered, or rediscovered, a number of diversions from the clamor of the race-coarse.
Although the approaching Gurney vs. Penske rematch at Laguna Seca in the two 100-mile heats of the Pacific Grand Prix was the cardinal topic, these happy wanderers also discussed the quality of the abalone and the prawns at Rappa's on Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey, the exquisite courtesy of kimono-clad Japanese waitresses at the Ginza Restaurant, the loveliness of certain young ladies in the bar of the Casa Munras (who were to appear later in the ubiquitous stretch pants at the racecourse), and the unhappy disappearance some years ago of the great sardine schools from adjacent waters, an event that caused much hardship on Steinbeck's Cannery Row.
They all marveled at the course, which the gifted semipro Ken Miles, who was born in England and is an Angeleno by adoption, described as made strictly for drivers. "You are almost never going straight here. And, though it may not look it, the course is very fast. The fast corners separate the men from the boys."
On Saturday, Miles was among the drivers in six races preliminary to the Sunday finale. Here, for the most part, however, were men who race only for trophies and the exhilaration of adventurous striving. In MGs and Triumphs, Porsches and Alfa Romeos and Sunbeams, in Corvettes and Ferraris, and most of the rest of the world's sports cars, as well as Formula Junior single-seaters, they had a high old time dashing around the course.
"They do it," said Miles, who is 44, lean and articulate, "because the security of a 9-to-5 job is deadly dull. I find that there is a certain pleasure to be derived from doing something bloody dangerous and getting away with it. Understand me, I have a great ambition to stay alive. I try to stay within my limit. But I would hate a life without racing."
As long as he stays in California, he won't have to worry. Except about Roger Penske.