Report and photos by Marshall Autry
Vintage racing returned to Spokane County Raceway in Washington over the weekend of June 1-3, 2012 for the second annual Spokane Festival of Speed. Over 95 racers were entered this year – a welcome addition being a good size contingent from Canada. A rule change made by SOVREN over the winter changed the eligibility cut-off from 1969 to 1972 meant some new blood showed up in the form of Datsun 240Z’s and a 1971 Ford Escort Mk1.
The organizers were busy over the winter again – repaving the pre-grid area, removing a lot of the brush that impeded the sight lines for the corner and safety crews (and the hard-working photographers), and arranging for more facilities for the spectators. As an added bonus, one of the local TV stations was out at the track on Sunday with several cameras and a helicopter for the aerial shots.
Novices and those wanting some extra track time had all day Friday to work on setup, fueling expectations for a great weekend of racing. Unfortunately, some weather blew in overnight, and Saturday morning started out with a heavy rain. But by noon the sun was making an appearance and a steady breeze had the track had drying quickly.
Fastest of the Spokane Festival of Speed 2012 were the cars in Group 5 – the Exhibition Class – with Miles Jackson’s 1975 Chevron B29 (#39 – ex-Brian Redman) running out front, followed by Kevin Roggenbuck’s 1973 Brabham BT40 (#40) and the 1967 Titan Mk3 of Mike Jackson (#122), and the 1983 Ralt RT4 (#77) of Jace Romine. Joe Liesback had his 1970 Chevron out on track as well – he was using this event to fine tune the car for later in the season. Both Jackson’s retired early with gearbox issues, but their crew at JFC Racing had both cars back on track and running at the front by Sunday morning.
One of the largest groups by car count was Group 4 – the Formula Cars. Mostly Formula Fords, there were also a couple of Club Fords, and even a Formula SV in the mix. The racing was tight throughout the field on both days, with Charlie Lyford’s 1970 Caldwell D-9 (#78) and the 1968 Titan Mk4 (#92) of John Ballantyne swapping the front spot over both days. Gary Willis (#05) in a 1972 Titan Mk6B was up near the leaders, and the Morrison’s – Bob (#23) in the 1969 Titan Mk5 and Andrew (#21) in his 1968 Lotus 51B were having their own battles all weekend. Ron Hornig (#70) in his 1972 Titan Mk6B (one of three cars he ran over the weekend) showed well in this group, as did the 1969 Lotus 61 (#61) of John Mihalich. Unfortunately, along with all the great competition, Group 4 had more than its share of on track incidents, with too many laps run behind the pace car. But when they were under the green, the racing was great.
A highlight of the weekend was Grand Marshal Allen Grant. A Shelby Cobra factory driver, with wins at major races worldwide, Grant took to the track each day at lunchtime in the same #98 car he drove all those years ago, turning hot laps, and giving rides to a few lucky folks. There’s an interesting name on the side of the car – his crew chief – childhood friend George Lucas. You might recognize the name – he directed Star Wars and a few other minor movies…
Group 3 – Historic, Mid and Large Bore – had the best racing of the weekend. The cars split into a couple of packs, with the Tom Cantrell’s 1969 Mustang (#23), the 1965 Ford Falcon of Randy Dunphy (#24), and the 1963 Corvette of Dave Edelstein (#72) battling at the front. A little farther back, it was a BMW freight train – Laurie Lyford (#95), Terry Forland (#62), and John Murray (#88), running nose-to-tail, swapping positions almost every lap. Mark Adams (#56) was fast in his Jaguar E-type, and Gary Tisdale (#16) and Jim Loveall (#84) held up the Porsche end of things in their 911s.
Group 2 – Historic Small Bore – was dominated by English cars, with the Lotus Elan S2 (#50) of Ron Hornig on the point for most of the weekend, and the Elva Couriers of Gary Silcox (#58) and Joe Gordon (#80) close behind. Paul Jaremko’s 1967 Datsun Fairlady (#83) was in the mix, and after running in Group 3 on Saturday, Tomas LaCosta ran his 1967 Alfa Romeo Giulia Super (#152) in this group on Sunday. This group didn’t have as many cars as the others, but they put on a great show.
Group 1 – Vintage and Formula Vee. The split field starts that SOVREN put into place last year have really been working well. Two distinct race groups, and in the 15-20 minute races lapped traffic isn’t a real problem for the fast guys to have to deal with. Up front, the 1960 Lola Mk1 (#84) of Stephen Clark was the one to beat. Jim Sullivan’s 1962 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce (#181), the 1964 Crusader (#36) of Ron Federspiel, and the 1957 Devin Triumph (#98) of Bill Hart all fought for runner up honors. The Formula Vee pack was led by Bruce Hunt in his 1968 Beach (#18), while Jerry Hynes (#85) 1968 Zink, Bob Westmoreland’s 1964 Formcar (#64), and Sheridan Fahnestock in his 1970 Zeitler (#118) waged a close battle for second all weekend long. Not the fastest by far, but one of the most fun to watch was the 1949 MG TC of Jim Buell (#8).
The dinner on Saturday night at the Northern Quest Casino was well attended, and there is a touring stock car group that raced at the oval track that shares the property with the road course later that evening. The county keeps making improvements to the racing facility, and they’re discussing more spectator access and a grandstand in the infield to bring the fans closer to the on track action. All in all, another great event.
Spokane Festival of Speed 2012 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
[Source: Marshall Autry]