The Classic Sports Racing Group held its tenth annual Charity Challenge the first weekend in October at Sonoma Raceway in near-perfect conditions. Sunny skies and warm weather with small breeze on Saturday and a bit cooler with some clouds on Sunday. The smoke from North Bay brush fires have mostly dissipated.
Eight run groups filled out the schedule for the two-day event which also included a large charity silent auction and VIP rides with race drivers in race cars. There were long lines for those – with passengers bidding on which car to ride. The designated charity is Speedway Charities.
This weekend was the most successful Charity Challenge, with record-shattering numbers for the Charity Rides, shattered numbers for the gate, two entries short of the record set five years ago before the recession, and a yet to be determined number on how great was the Charity Auction and Drawings.
The Celebrity Drivers who raced in various cars during the weekend, mostly unannounced, included LYN ST. JAMES and EDDIE LAWSON. He ran in more than one race, but he walked away with Group Seven’s race for Fast Open-Wheel and Sports Racing Cars, driving an Osella Sports Racer with a BMW formula engine. Pole sitter DANNY BAKER, in his lesser-powered Formula Atlantic car he had voluntarily moved up from another slower group, finished second. KEITH FREISER finished third in a 1972 Lola 290. St. James finished eleventh in a Brabham BT40. Baker’s father, ROBERT BAKER finished a lap down in his Ralt RT1 Formula Atlantic.
Of interest in the paddock were a variety of exotic and interesting vehicles, with a red hot rod drawing the most interest including a lengthy piece-by-piece review by Lawson.
In addition to the wine and food, there were many beautiful and exotic cars on display in the garage, including a large contingent of Formula One Cars. The locally-based Historic Grand Prix group for authentic Formula One cars was recently bought out by ROBERT MAYDON of England’s Master’s Group for similar cars. Stay tuned.
CSRG started in 1968 with three people – GORDON MILLS, DAVE BURCH and the late DAVID LOVE, who passed away on Friday. It’s mission was to appreciate, preserve and use vintage cars – stressing the irreplaceable mobile racing history while maintaining competition within safety and respectful limits. It’s a lot about the cars.
CSRG is the second strictest vintage group in the United States, behind an Eastern group. CSRG wants to race cars the way they were back in the day, which admittedly is difficult to police. Cars can be tweaked within the original rules as they were written for a specific car. Since then, tires and fuel have improved.
CSRG’s log books start out with an authentication of the racing history and a committee of scrutineers checking the car inside and out for no titanium engines or other updates or modifications. Once the car is authenticated, the cars aren’t much checked. When the car ownership changes, the process begins from scratch.
With few exceptions, no replicars are permitted. The original car being sequestered for life in a museum or private collection is one example.
The pool of eligible cars and drivers who can afford them is lessening to a certain extent, so CSRG invites what they call Guest Cars from other organizations. It is a one-time agreement, among the 36-member Vintage Racing umbrella group. The first time the car is allowed to run without exactly meeting CSRG rules. A second run will start with the CSRG eligibility process.
This year CSRG tried a couple of new things to interest a newer, younger demographic, utilizing Social Media. They sold admission via Groupon, which was quite successful. This year also saw the first For Sale Lot, with six reasonably-priced vintage cars for sale. I saw at least one Father-Son combination going over each car very carefully.
The 46th Annual CSRG Season’s Finale Race is 1-3 November 2013 at Thunderhill Raceway Park, which will be celebrating its twentieth-year anniversary.
Saturday noon there was a Memorial Lap honoring David Love, TILLIE ZUCCHI and JOHN THORNTON, with their cars being driven around the course. Love’s car Ferrari 250 Testa Rosa was on display in Victory Circle but did not go on track. ELI THORNTON drove his father’s Porsche 912.
The Zucchi sons, FRANK and ANGELO drove their race cars. Later, the sons surprised father FRANK ZUCCHI with a lovingly restored red and white Anglia, Dad’s first race car.
For me one of the fun races to watch was Group Eight for SCCA Sedans and Compatible Cars to 1972, a new class with production cars and select cars that conform to other rules, allowing an existing class to race with newer cars. It was a a bunch of drivers I remember from years ago, plus FRANCOIS CASTAING, long-time automotive executive with Renault, American Motors and Chrysler, who developed Chrysler’s new line of cars. The Frenchman, who was inducted into the 2010 Automotive Hall of Fame, had his mechanic qualify the car in the morning session so the bugs could be worked out.
Pole sitter JOE HUFFAKER, aka ‘Little Joe’ won the Saturday race by a country mile in his 1972 Jensen Healey, ahead of JON NORMAN and his iconic lime green and navy 1971 Alfa Romeo GTV.Early on JOHN HILDEBRAND of Sausalito, gridded second, got the lead which lasted until the second lap when he retired with tire rub on his 1968 Chevrolet Camaro. LJ, as the 6’6″ driver and engine builder, took the lead which stretched after Norman spun and continued in Turn Four. TED KATTCHEE in his 1965 Alfa Romeo finished third, but not after a race-long dice with Castaing, who ended up fourth. Fifth was BRUCE McKEAN and his 1969 Alfa Romeo GTV. Hildebrand is the father of IndyCar and Formula Drift driver, J.R. HILDEBRAND.
Sunday it was LJ and Norman again for first and second. Third and fourth was a hotly contested dice between Castaing and Katchee, until Hildebrand passed them both, after a large charge from his backplace starting position due to Saturday’s DNF. The final order was Huffaker, Norman, Hildebrand, Kattchee and Castaing.
Norman said he used to race against the Jensen back in the day when it was driven by the late LEE MUELLER. “beat me back then, and beat me now. But I was the top sedan finisher
Huffaker won the SCCA National Runoffs forty years ago to this date in his No.43 Jensen Healey, at Road Atlanta. His competitive juices have been fueled and he plans to contend for a 2014 SCCA National Championship when it runs at nearby Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Norman raced at ten Runoffs, with a best finish of second. He’s considering running at Laguna Seca next year in his NASPORT Alfa.
Another previous SCCA National Champion competing this weekend is SKIP STREETS, who won the 1991 Formula Vee Championship, at Road Atlanta, the only West Coast FV Champion. This weekend Streets ran his 1969 Titan MK 5 in Group Six for Formula Ford & Formula B. He retired with a bent valve. Streets is also looking forward to trying for another FV championship next year in Monterey.
Another car on display in Victory Circle was a priceless 1963 Ferrari GTO, owned by TOM PRICE. The story goes that he bought it years ago for $600,000 to the dismay of his friends who decried the expense. But now …”Even if you had $40 million, you couldn’t buy it because no one is selling GTO’s.”