The inaugural Spring Classic historic races were held on May 19-21, 2017 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California. At the Spring Classic, run groups of vintage race cars from series popular in 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s revved back to life on the Monterey Peninsula circuit to the delight of motorsports enthusiasts.
From screaming Formula 1 machines from the 1970s to the grunt of American V8 engines in the 1966-1972 Trans-Am group, a variety of sounds from fast and fun racing eras past echoed through the hillsides. Fans took advantage of the relaxed atmosphere in the paddock to get up close and personal with the vintage race cars and historic motorcycles that weren’t thundering up and down the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course.
The Masters USA Historic Formula 1 group that quickly became a fan favorite concluded on Sunday with Dan Marvin driving his 1974 Brabham BT44 from behind to a win, edging the Wolf WR4 of four-time Motorcycle Grand Prix champion Eddie Lawson, who has aptly acquitted himself on four wheels.
Among the stars of the Historic F1 group were Chris Locke’s ex-Mario Andretti Lotus 77, the car that Mario raced in 1976. In addition to the on-track accolades, the car was also featured in action in major motion pictures Rush and Iron Man 2. The event was robbed of this wonderful Lotus when a fuel line ruptured on Saturday, resulting in a fire just past turn eleven.
The Masters Historic Formula One grid also included the Shadow DN9 of Charles Warner, his ex-Elio de Angelis/Jan Lammers car from the 1979 season, along with the earlier Shadow DN5 driven by Brazilian Dalmo De Vasconcelos, the Shadow DN3 wheeled by Harindra de Silva and the Shadow DN1 driven by Canadian Keith Frieser. Additionally, John Delane took his Tyrrell 002 that Francois Cevert won the 1971 United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, Cal Meeker’s Williams FW08 came from the 1983 season and Doug Mockett drove the same Penske PC4 that John Watson drove to Penske’s only F1 win at the Austrian Grand Prix.
One of the more intriguing run groups was Group F, which combined 1983-2007 World SportsCar Championship and Le Mans Prototype entries along with 1966-72 Can-Am. It is rare to see a 2006 Riley Scott being pursued by a 1970 McLaren and a 2005 Audi R8 Le Mans Prototype, but it happened at the 2017 Spring Classic Laguna Seca. The 2005 Audi R8 LMP driven by Travis Engen won every time he started on the grid, scoring Group F victories on Saturday and twice on Sunday and winning Saturday’s one-hour vintage enduro that was open to all close-wheeled race cars.
The Historic Stock Car group had spectators doing double-takes as it brought a mix of familiar cars to an unfamiliar venue. Mac Mcgarry won both events on Saturday in Historic Stock Car with a dominant performance from his Kodiak #25 1989 Chevrolet Lumina. Tom Klauer did likewise on Sunday in a 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo once driven by Jimmie Johnson.
Patrick Byrne wheeled his 1965 Alfa Romeo GTA Corsa to back-to-back wins in 1966-1972 Trans-Am 2.5 Liter on Saturday. Among others, Byrne slid his little Alfa through turns two and five, bringing back memories of the GTAs running Laguna Seca in the original Trans-Am series. Troy English followed up with a Trans-Am 2.5 Liter double on Sunday with his 1972 Datsun 510.
Other winners included: John Delane, 1966 Brabham BT18 (1967-1972 Formula B, Race 1); Andrew Wait, 1967 Merlyn Mk10 (1967-1972 Formula B, Race 2); Jeffrey Abramson, 1970 Chevrolet Camaro (1973-1984 SCCA Production GT Cars); Bill Ockerlund, 1968 Shelby Mustang (1966-1972 Trans-Am, Race 1); Forrest Straight, 1970 Ford Mustang (1966-1972 Trans-Am, Race 2); Dalmo de Vasconcelos, 1976 Ralt RT-1 (1973-1979 Formula Atlantic, Race 1) and Danny Baker, 1979 Ralt RT-1 (1973-1979 Formula Atlantic, Race 2).
Sports Car Digest documented the debut Spring Classic Laguna Seca 2017, with Senior Photographer Dennis Gray offering the following pictures from the classic California road course.
Spring Classic Laguna Seca 2017 – Photo Gallery (photos: Dennis Gray)
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[Source: Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca; photos: Dennis Gray]