It was a beautiful day Saturday at Infineon Raceway for the 23rd Annual Wine Country Classic. The morning fog, which is summer-typical in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, burned off and the skies were blue with a few scattered clouds and a stiff breeze. More than 350 historic cars filled the paddock. There also was a variety of car corrals for interesting marques such as the GT40 Le Mans cars, Mini-Coopers, Sunbeam Tigers, and many others.
The Sonoma event is celebrating 100 years of the British-bred Morgan, which started out as a three-wheel car. The grandson of the Morgan founding father, CHARLES MORGAN, is among the featured guests. The Brit, now President of the Morgan company, came from England, and among other things, he did the PA commentary for the special All-Morgan race. Among all the Morgans this weekend is a reunion of the famed Morgan Baby-Dolls I-V, rounded up by LEW SPENCER. And for those who like to gawk, there was a large corral of Morgans.
My favorite Morgan poseur was a 1967 four seater 4+4 British Racing Green, with a convertible top. Another good looking four-seater 4+4 Morgan was a 1955 two-tone car, best described as sweet colors – milk chocolate and butterscotch. It looked better than it sounds.
In the all-Morgan race, Pole sitter TOM MORGAN of Redwood City CA led the first lap in his 1963 Morgan +4, before being passed by GREG SOLOW of Santa Cruz CA in his 1963 Morgan +4 SS, who led for two laps. JEFF ABRAMSON in his 1959 Morgan +4 then passed and led the last two laps.
Within the 18 Morgans there were five different classes, based on age of the car. J.DALE BARRY of Westchester CA won Class One in his 1934 Morgan SS. Class Two winner was DICK JEFFERY of Hillsborough CA/1955 Morgan +4. Abramson won Class Three. Class Six was won by Solow; and TOM HOLLFELDER of Covina/2003 Morgan Aero 8 GTR won Class 10B. All but one of the Morgans were from California. They ranged from a 1930 Morgan Super Aero with 1084 cc to the 2003 Morgan with 4600 cc.
The other exhibition group was Grand National Cars, which had a lively mid-day parade.
One of the largest race groups of the weekend was the Historic Trans-Am Cars. The group has a large special area in the center of the paddock, allowing for a nice display of these famous race cars. Every year former Trans-Am champion, GEORGE FOLLMER, presents the Roy Woods Trophy, to the driver who best personifies the spirit of the series. It will be presented Saturday evening.
The late ROY WOODS was one of the most successful private Trans-Am team owners in a series which had many manufacturer-backed teams. RWR won the 1972 Trans-Am championship. This weekend there are a baker’s dozen of the RWR cars running, and the two Woods sons, as well as his nephew, are on site as well as some of the RWR crew.
CAL NAUGHTON, Jr. of Santa Clara CA had the Trans-Am pole in his 1969 Penske-Hilton Sunoco Camaro He diced for eight laps with second-gridded JIM HAGUE of Saratoga CA. While officially, there were four lead changes between the two, the two swapped the lead at least once every lap. Naughton prevailed with Hague on his rear bumper at the checkered flag. Photo Finish. It was a good day for Penske cars. Team Penske IndyCar driver, RYAN BRISCOE of Australia has the pole for Sunday’s ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 race at The Milwaukee Mile. IndyCars race at Infineon in August.
The Trans-Am field was mostly ‘thumpers’, with only two Under Two-Liter class Trans-Am cars – JON NORMAN of Berkeley CA in his well-known lime green 1971 Alfa Romeo GTV with door-sized numbers, and ED MATSUISHI of San Rafael CA in his 1965 Porsche 911. Despite being desperately overpowered by much stronger cars, Norman gridded tenth of 36, ran as high as seventh and finished ninth. Matsuishi started twenty-eighth and finished twenty-ninth.
Two other special groups had their own class – the Historic CanAm Cars & FIA cars, and the Historic IMSA GT and GTO cars.
It’s much nicer being here in Northern California with all this moving racing history than slaving away on the laptop, sorting through the morass of racing politics and turmoil. I don’t have to be worried about the alphabet soup political chaos in Formula One, or that some say Junior’s NASCAR slump is contributing to the 13 per cent drop in Fox TV ratings, or whether or not TONY GEORGE was or was not fired by his family as President of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I can spend two days watching really recognizable race cars go at it up and down the elevated road course at Infineon Raceway in the heart of the wine country. Eat your heart out.