They put my name on it. S-A-M and S-M-I-T-H on the side windows, next to a small American flag. When the pictures hit my email, a few months before the race, they triggered a sort of coming to grips. An internal conversation began looping in my head:

"They're actually going to let me run it at Monterey."

"Oh God, WHAT IF I F*** IT UP?"

"Why on earth would you do that?"

"The car's sideways a lot. People make mistakes. There are spectators."

"Stop being silly. You don't have a history of breaking things. It only makes 220 hp. You'll be fine."

[Momentary silence.]

"LOOK—IT'S DONE IN ALPINA COLORS. WOO! HOW COOL IS THAT?"

"So it's settled."

"Oh my God, WHAT IF I F*** IT UP?"

Months later, sitting on the grid at Laguna Seca, those words still echoed through my head. Never let anyone tell you that emotional connections to cars don't matter.

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There are vintage races every month of the year, but few draw such top-class iron as the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.

This is Sam Smith's story of racing BMW's 1970 Alpina 2002ti at the event last August.

Photos by Chris Cantle / From the May 2015 issue of Road & Track