SONOMA, CALIF. (June 6, 2010) - General Racing's Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival concluded today after two days of racing at Infineon Raceway, and no one could have been happier about its outcome than Chris MacAllister of Indianapolis, Ind. who won the Sonoma Historic Cup "The Phil Hill Trophy" for top overall performance and presentation, wowing the crowds with his jet-fast orange 1971 McLaren M8F. He was one of 375 entries competing in 13 groups of vintage racing cars that spanned each decade of the 20th Century and included 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.
"Having my name on the trophy means the world to me," said MacAllister. "It has been 26 or 27 years that I have been racing all over the world, and the best events I have ever been to are those organized by General Racing. To participate is really cool, to do well is great, but to be recognized by all my peers with the great cars, the great drivers at the best event in the country is really the best...it's as good as it gets."
MacAllister gave credit to his mechanic for preparing the car "to the max." "At the morning practice, I could put this car anywhere," he said. "I was so comfortable; I was full-out everywhere."
Competitors appreciated the challenge of Infineon Raceway's 2.52 mile road course, and the fans enjoyed not only watching the action but also experiencing the open paddock areas where they could reach out and touch the cars.
"We pretty much have every major U.S. professional race in motor racing here," said Infineon Raceway's President and General Manager Steve Page. "Nascar, Indy Car, NHRA, Drag Racing--but those events have become so big that it's hard to create that real direct personal experience for the fans where they can get an up-close look at the cars and get to know the drivers."
The weather was warm, sunny and breezy, ending a long spate of rain that led up to the event. As it was, thousands turned out to enjoy Sonoma Valley, which can be seen from the grandstands, as it unveiled its full beauty. For the price of a $40 ticket, fans not only experienced full immersion into the glorious past of motorcar racing but also indulged in the lavish offerings of the magnificent Wine Country Pavilion, where they were able to sample the best food and wine from both Sonoma and Napa Valleys.
As for the cars, they ranged from the wild to the wonderful, even giving those who'd thought they'd seen everything new wonders to ponder. Some of the startling surprises that showed up in the paddock area were Peter Mullin's very exotic 1927 Delage ERA driven by David Duthu; the 1939 Lagonda V12 of Richard Morrison's, which was nearly lost forever after it fell victim to a bombing run during WWII; and Dick DeLuna's remarkable 1917 Hall-Scott racer intended for the 1917 Vanderbilt Cup but never built until the end of the 20th Century.
About the Delage, David Duthu said, "It's a true rocket ship-a Delage Grand Prix car with an ERA engine in it, a supercharged straight six cylinder engine, and it runs on ethanol. Unlike the Bugattis, with this car you have to be on the edge all the time. You have to get on the brakes a little bit early because of the speed the car carries."
Duthu's own car, a 1925 Bugatti T-35A, was driven by Jim Strandberg from Berthound, Colo., who shared Duthu's sentiment that "some of the best cars and best drivers in the country participated here."
Vintage motor racing has been growing in popularity for decades and opportunities for the public to enjoy it continue to increase, but it was the electric atmosphere at the raceway contrasted with the low-key ambience of the Sonoma Valley that made the overall experience at this year's Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival a true racing odyssey.
Sharing the Love
On Saturday night, the public celebrated exquisite vintage cars, fine wine, and exceptional cuisine at the Sebastiani Winery near downtown Sonoma, capturing the festive spirit of the historic automobile races taking place at Infineon Raceway. The Saturday evening event, called the Historic Car Festival and benefitting Infineon's Speedway Children's Charities, was another high note among many at the umbrella Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival, a General Racing event that expands on the Wine Country Classic the company has orchestrated here for 24 years.
Over 30 vintage vehicles, selected from 375 that were racing, paraded the 15 miles from Infineon Raceway to downtown Sonoma and took a lap around the historic town square before settling just outside the lush grounds of the winery, simulating a mini Concours d'Elegance experience for anyone who wanted to participate. Meanwhile, inside the gates, more than 700 people--including competitors, their friends, family and townspeople--had 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 (Portland, Ore.), 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 (Woodside, Calif.) 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.
McLaren as Marque for 2011
At the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival awards ceremony, General Racing's Steve Earle announced that McLaren will 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 for four decades has devoted his life to organizing historic car racing events and 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."
© Photos Alvin