2018 Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival
As close as I can figure, about 22 years ago a customer of the auto shop I worked at, asked me if I'd be interested in going to some place called Sears Point raceway to see their car race. The shop I worked at had taken care of the mechanicals on a few of this customer's racing Porsches for decades. I didn't get all that excited...I was into muscle cars and customs at the time and had only just been bitten by the Eurocar bug after driving my first couple of 911s #lessismore.
Well, one thing led to another and I ended up at Sears Point with some friends and my boss for what was, at that time, the Molly Stone Wine Country Classic. I remember being impressed with some polished aluminum Lotus 11s...they might as well have come from space. I remember seeing my first Ferrari 275, which wasn't the most desirable or expensive Ferraris at that time. At the other end of the spectrum were a couple of Ferrari 250 TRs, that might also have come from space in the 50s #retro. And of course there were a more than a few 356s in our paddock grouping, flanked by the other cars in our group, Siatas, Maseratis, Bristols, Morgans and Alfas. I had never seen or heard of most of these things before that day, but little did I know, these cars, their histories and their drivers would have a profound effect on my life. In a very real way, this event changed the course of my life by introducing me to vintage racing, auto racing in general, and got the ball rolling that prompted Mark to suggest we create TLP and, well, here we are.
A lot has changed in the decades that have passed. The track has changed names and configurations a few times, and figuratively, Mark and I have done the same. The only thing that really hasn't though, is that we've always had this great vintage event in Northern CA. The SVRA (Sportscar Vintage Racing Association) continues to regale us with some of the greatest street and race cars ever made. From the wooden spokes of the pre-war entries to some modern era Trans-Am thunder, the 2018 Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival delivered the goods, as usual.
At one end of the historical spectrum, this year's event featured what has to be its largest field of pre-war cars (no less than 15 vehicles)...many of which were more than a hundred years old. These cars and the characters who drive them, are the cherries on top of any good vintage event. Linen driving suits, glass goggles, things made of brass and handlebar mustaches abound, and many attendees get lessons in ancient technology and automotive history as the owners are probably the most eager of all participants to engage with the crowds. These cars don't look, sound or leak fluids like anything else in the paddock, and they are hard to walk past. As there were so many and such variety this year, we spent a lot more time in the area, appropriately named "Pre-war Alley," than we ever have before.
At the other end of the historical spectrum are the cars of the Trans-Am series. This event usually features vintage Trans-Am hardware, but this year's event featured some modern equipment from the Trans-Am West Coast Championship Series. Vintage, they weren't, but loud and fast, they were....they were a lot! Far be it from us to squabble over what should and shouldn't be featured at a "vintage" racing event. These things were awesome and hey, everything will be vintage some day, right? These monsters really brought the thunder to the otherwise idyllic and serene hills of Sonoma County. And flogging one of these menaces around the track was former Trans-Am Champion, rookie of the year and competitor in many racing series, Tomy Drissi.
And speaking of drivers, there was some racing royalty in the paddock. None other than 4-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser was the event's Grand Marshal (Yeah, Big Al, father of Little Al and brother of Bobby!). On Sunday, we saw him in constant motion on his trusty golf cart, mingling with both fans and participants alike. He obliged every autograph request he got and made a lot of people's days as he spread himself around the event. As we always point out, these events are as open and interactive as you could ever want or imagine. This was no exception (yeah, you bet I got a selfie!).
As if all this wasn't enough, to see and do, the event was sponsored by both Land Rover and Jaguar. As you'd expect, they both brought a great selection of their new wares, but they both also showed off a little something vintage at the races too. As much as I appreciate them bringing their new cars for us to see and test drive, it would have been even better if they'd let me take a parade lap around the track. I can be gentle...really I can. (Maybe next time, #hint-hint) There was one other demo there that I wasn't able to drive, and that was provided by the folks at AIRBUS! "Parked" in the hinterlands of the paddock was a spectacular Eurocopter EC 135 (Now Airbus Helicopters H135). At an average cost of about $2.5 million dollars, I'm not sure who could afford one of these things, but good on ya if you can! Even though I wasn't able to take a test drive, I always relish the opportunity to get up close to amazing machinery such as the EC 135....what a thing!
At several points in the history of TLP, Mark and I have paused and asked ourselves if were keeping things fresh and trying enough new things. We believe that there is always room for improvement (we're sure you agree) and that we need to try to try new things. These are things that are true, but on the other hand, some of the best things are those that are constant, engrained and predictable and dare I say, virtuous. The Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival is one of those things. It's always on our calendar, it always will be, and in some tangential way, it's part of the DNA of our love for motorsport as well as the creation of this thing called The Loud Pedal. We are both grateful for the the SVRA's hospitality again this year and would also like to acknowledge and celebrate 2017 as it's 40th anniversary. As long as it, the drivers, teams and cars come to northern California to put on this annual celebration of all things vintage and automotive, we will be on site to celebrate with them and share our experiences and images with you.
As we always note, our photographic skills are quite a bit better than our writing skills, so please take some time to look at the gallery below to see what happened in the paddock during my visit to the vintage races.