Report and photos by Marshall Autry
The inaugural Spokane Festival of Speed was held June 4-5, 2011 at the Spokane County Raceway in Washington.
Vintage racers in the Spokane area have always had to tow four hours or more to get to the tracks in Seattle or Portland. But this year was different. Thanks to the hard work of Spokane area SOVREN members, and the foresight shown by the County Commissioners, the Spokane Festival of Speed was held at the newly reconfigured Spokane County Raceway.
Using the city of Portland’s public ownership of Portland International Raceway as their model, the county purchased the facility in the summer of 2008. Fall of 2010 saw construction begin on a new series of curves, concrete curbing in the critical corners, and much improved paddock access. Winter and the snow brought the project to a halt for a period of time, but the newly reconfigured 2.25 mile road course was completed, and SOVREN’s Executive Board approved sanction for the first race to be held in June of 2011. In addition to the road course, the facility includes a 1/2 mile oval and a drag strip.
The weather couldn’t have been better – clear skies, mild temps, and just a bit of a breeze to keep the insects down. When the track opened for a test and tune session on Friday, over 95 cars and drivers were on the entry list. From Formula V’s to Formula 5000’s, a 1960 Turner Mk 1 to an ex-Trans Am 1969 Mustang, everybody took to the track to learn just which way the course went. Long straightaways and a couple of big sweepers favored the fast cars, and the twisty new section of the race track favored those cars with the best brakes and handling.
As is the norm, Saturday morning started off with practice and qualifying. Race Group 2 – the Historic Small Bore cars – ran the first race of the day. Fastest of the group, and winner of the first race at the new event, was local Nissan dealer Paul Jaremko in his 1967 Datsun 2000 Fairlady (#83). It was a fitting result as Paul was one of the many local drivers and businessmen to put a tremendous amount of time and effort into getting the track back on the schedule, and making it a viable enterprise. Paul is a long time racer – getting Datsun’s first SCCA win back in the early ’60s. Along with the Datsun, the 1964 Porsche 356C (#141) of Greg Campbell and the 1960 Porsche 356 (#43) of Jim Loveall were in a tight bunch at the front of the pack, with the 1963 Elva Courier (#58) of Gary Silcox and the 1967 Datsun Bluebird (#52) of Jim Froula right behind. This group held point for most of the weekend, with the 1965 Lotus Elan S2 (#50) of Ron Horning sneaking in a win, and the 1965 Ladybird Mk 6 (#9) of Paul Ingram getting into the top five on occasion.
Group 3 – the Historic Large Bore cars – took to the track next, and the long front and back stretches let the cars really stretch their legs. The 1968 Camaro (#67) took first in this group in the first race Saturday, but he was pushed hard by the 1969 ex-Trans Am Mustang (#23) of Tom Cantrell, the 1965 Ford Falcon (#24) of randy Dunphy, Mark Adams in his 1969 Jaguar XKE (#56), and the 1967 Corvette (#68) of Oregon driver Curt Kallberg. These cars, along with the ex-Trans Am ’68 BMW 2002 (#34) of Jeff Gerken and the 1963 Corvette (#72) were among the front runners throughout the two day event.
After Saturday’s lunch, which included a flyover by four vintage Stearman biplanes in tight formation, along with an autograph session with Grand Marshal George Follmer, racing resumed with Group 4 – the Formula Cars and Sports Racers. Charlie Lyford took race 1 in his 1970 Caldwell (#78), with Carolyn Dimmer’s 1969 Lotus T200 (#43) close behind. It was the last time Carolyn would not finish in first for the weekend. Bill Simer’s Lotus 23 (#54) was fast, even after losing the rear bodywork in the second race for this group, and the Formula Fords of Chuck Lyford (#8) 1968 Winklemann, John Farrar (#20) 1969 Merlyn IIA, Bob Morrison in his 1969 Titan Mk 5 (#23), and Andrew Morrison in his 1968 Lotus 51B (#23), were all among the front runners for the weekend.
Group 1 – Vintage, FV, and Select Historic Small Bore cars – took the track next. Predominately Formula V’s, this meant that there was tight racing all around the track. It’s hard to get a dominant competitive advantage when all cars are as constrained by class rules like the Vee’s. Among this group, Dan Tilden 1965 Zink C4 (#56), Brian Westmoreland’s (#64) 1965 Formcar, the 1969 Autodynamics (#96) of Mark Lang, and Jim Cutts 1964 Bobsy Vangaurd (#2), were consistently among the leaders all weekend. Along with the Formula V’s, were the Historic Small Bore cars, and fastest among these were the 1960 Lola Mk1 (#85) of Stephen Clark, and the rare 1960 Turner Mk1 (#415) of Mike Muckle. Clark’s Lola and the Turner finished one-two in both of Sunday’s races.
Last out on Saturday was Group 5 – the Exhibition Class. Two Formula-5000’s, two Formula Atlantics, a Formula B, four FF-2000 Formula Fords, and a beautifully prepared Chevron B16. The speed differential between these cars and the cars of Group 1 was amazing. In a 20 minute race, Group 5 was turning 16 laps to 9 laps for the fastest of the small bores. Fastest early on was Miles Jackson in his 1973 Chevron B-24 (#33) F-5000, but an incident halfway through the session put him out for the event. Joe Roggenbuck’s 1973 Brabham BT40 (#40) was very quick, as was Tim Osborne in his 1968 Crossle 15F (#26), and Jace Romine in his 1983 Ralt RT4 (#77). Attrition was the Achilles heel for these cars over the weekend, with just six cars taking the green in their last race.
Benefiting the Parkinson’s Research Center of Spokane, the first Spokane Festival of Speed would have to be judged a success. From Saturday night’s dinner at the Northern Quest Resort Hotel and Casino, which featured a great Q & A session with Grand Marshal George Follmer, to the 100 lap Northwest Tour stock car race Saturday night at the adjoining oval, to the hard work evident all around the facility, a fun new event is now on the Northwest vintage racing calendar.
Spokane Festival of Speed 2011 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture)
[Source: Marshall Autry]