Story and photos by Dennis Gray
The Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival took place the weekend of June 4-6, 2010, at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. A strong field of 375 vintage race cars competing in 13 groups took to the technical 2.52 mile road course located in the Sonoma Valley. Organized by General Racing, with veteran leadership coming from Steve and Doug Earle, the event formerly known as the Wine Country Classic put together a vast offering of both on and off-track activities.
On-track action saw historic racing cars that spanned each decade of the 20th Century, including Pre-War Sports and Racing Cars, Sports Racing Cars, Formula Cars, Historic Trans-Am, Historic Can-Am, IMSA GTP and FIA Mfg., GT and Grand National cars. Chris MacAllister of Indianapolis, Indiana won the Sonoma Historic Cup “The Phil Hill Trophy” for top overall performance and presentation, impressing the crowds with his factory orange 1971 McLaren M8F.
Set-up day for the Sonoma Historics was on Thursday, while by Friday morning the pits were loaded with cars, trailers, eighteen-wheelers and trucks. Walking through the pits exposes the high grade of the competitor’s race and street cars, so much so that Sports Car Digest will do a follow-up story on the impressive paddock. It was obvious the fans enjoyed not only watching the action but also experiencing the paddock where they could reach out and touch the cars.
All of the 13 race groups had a good number of entrants, with each competing for 12 laps and many hard fought battles on track. A fine mix of cars and personalities took part in the racing, including former BRE Racing and SCCA Trans Am Champion in the 2.5 Liter Class, John Morton. He tended to the driving duties of the 1958 Scarab Sports Racer that was originally campaigned by Lance Reventlow and Chuck Daigh, in addition to piloting a 1964 Sunbeam Tiger and Lotus 23 SR. Morton commented, “I have a real affection for the history of racing and at these vintage races.”
Not all the action took place at the track, as thirty lucky participants were selected to drive their cars the 15 miles from the track to downtown Sonoma on Saturday evening where a lap was taken around the town’s square before a “pit stop” at a local vineyard. Inside the gates, more than 700 people – including competitors, their friends, family and townspeople – exchanged their $30 tickets for a wine glass and access to food and drink samplings from more than 11 area wineries and just as many restaurants.
“We appreciate the great gatherings and social events because to me vintage racing is 1/3 the people, 1/3 the history and 1/3 the racing opportunity,” said Cameron Healy, who raced his 1953 Cooper Porsche and 1968 Porsche 908K here.
Announced at the end of the evening, the people’s choice award for favorite classic race car was Dick DeLuna’s 1917 Hall-Scott. The crowd pleaser, with its hand built all-aluminum body, put together with 1000 rivets and housing a bi-plane engine, sat high above the others on its oversized spoke wheels, gleaming in the setting sun.
The overriding impression of the inaugural Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival was one of a real upgrade in both the class of cars, and vendors, over previous Wine Country events. Add to this the largest number of spectators I’ve seen at an historic race at Infineon Raceway and it all bodes well looking ahead to future Sonoma Historics.
Looking forward, General Racing announced McLaren would be the event’s featured marque for the event’s second edition in 2011. The legendary name has graced the halls of motorsports since its famed founder Bruce McLaren of New Zealand founded the McLaren racing team in 1963.
“McLaren, like Ferrari and Porsche and other great names in motorsports, created the bloodlines that we worship today in historic automobile racing,” said General Racing’s President Steve Earle, who is the originator of the Wine Country Classic that preceded the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival for 24 years. “Choosing McLaren as our marque means we will pay special tribute to the name, the teams, and the cars that McLaren has produced in the past and will produce in the future, adding another dimension of enjoyment for both competitors and spectators.”
Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival Cars of Interest
Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival – Results and Photo Gallery
Group 1A (1963-1974 Grand National Cars)
1. David Hankin – 1968 Ford Torino, Redding, CA
2. Mark Mountanos – 1971 Pontiac Firebird, Ukiah, CA
3. Randy Peterson – 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Sonoma, CA
4. Jim Hague – 1972 Ford Gran Torino, Santa Clara, CA
5. Scott Rubin – 1966 Ford Galaxie, Santa Clara, CA