General Racing’s Chairman, STEVE EARLE, couldn’t have asked for better weather Saturday at Infineon Raceway for the First Annual Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival. It was nice, and warm with just enough breeze to cut the heat and chase away any clouds. A joint venture with the wine country road course, this event is the twenty-fifth historic race put on by Earle at the Northern California circuit, but the first in the new and improved format. It’s like the Wine Country Classic on steroids. The entry this year is 375 cars, up fifty percent from past events.
The cars come from more than 20 states and three countries.
The weekend’s schedule is familiar, similar to the Monterey Historic Automobile Races Earle’s General Racing had run for the past 36 years at Laguna Seca Raceway, now known as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Friday was open practice for all cars in the 14 groups. Saturday and Sunday have seven groups each, with all cars remaining in the paddock for the weekend for lots of show and tell. Interaction between spectators and owners/drivers is encouraged.
The groups range from Pre-War cars all the way up to race cars from the glory days which now have their own Historic racing series, i.e. Can-Am, FIA Manufacturers, Grand-National (NASCAR), IMSA GTP, and Trans-Am.
The sound of the Can-Am cars warming up in the garages was music to my ears. Louder and sweeter than any NASCAR car.
Pro driver, JOHN MORTON of El Segundo CA will be busy this weekend. Saturday he ran the 1964 Lotus 23 SR owned by TOM GRIFFITHS in Group 5A, finishing sixth. Sunday he’ll start the day in his favorite race car, a 1958 Scarab SR originally raced by LANCE REVENTLOW and CHUCK DAIGH. The car is now owned by MILES COLLIER and is part of the Collier collection. Then Morton jumps into the 1964 Sunbeam Tiger owned by BUCK TRIPPEL, running in Group 3B.
The event program and poster sports the distinctive General Racing artwork, designed in 1980 by Earle and graphic artist CHUCK QUEENER, using the Broadway font artwork.
Car Corrals abound, in the paddock and on some of the access roads, exhibiting a wide variety of marques including Alfa Romeo (celebrating 100 years), Audi, Mini Coopers, Porsches and Shelbys. The smallest ‘corral’ was the lone red McLaren, parked in Victory Circle.
Other displays around the track include the Pacific Coast Air Museum aircraft, and some of the 2010 winners of the Marin Sonoma Concours d’Elegance.
Both days Track Talks will be held during the noon break. Saturday the featured speakers were Earle, Infineon Raceway’s President/CEO STEVE PAGE, and MARTIN SWIG, long-time historic race car driver, promotor of the California Millie 500 event, and patriarch of the vintage racing Swig family.
Earle has always had two steadfast rules for his events – respect the history, authenticity and value of the race cars (run the right tires), and do no damage. The awards bestowed at the Sunday night Prize Giving aren’t for finishing first in any of the races. Rather, they are given to owner/drivers based on presentation and performance. Earle admitted that for him, the award selections is the most difficult part of the weekend.
The big award this weekend is the Phil Hill Trophy. The perpetual trophy was the Monterey Cup at the Monterey Historics. It may be retired, to be replaced with a new Sonoma Cup Trophy, but it will still bear Hill’s name at the request of his family.
Everyone had at least one favorite car of the weekend. For veteran automotive photo-journalist, JOHN BROOKS, it was his ride for the weekend – the Pace Car. It was the 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Super leggera, one of only four in the United States.