Every year, Sonoma Raceway hosts a few events primarily based around the same demographic of cars as the recent – and very first – Sonoma Speed Festival, or maybe a slightly stricter bias towards vintage racing. These events are typically referred to as the Sonoma Historics.
Despite the similarities, the atmosphere at the Somona Historics and the Sonoma Speed Festival couldn’t be further apart from each other.
The old Historics felt a bit more ‘homey’, a bit laxer, and maybe even a bit less exclusive. They’re the sort of events where you’d be lucky to even come across an advertisement for them, and typically they’re heard about through word of mouth. Although I overheard numerous event-goers conversing amongst each other about their concerns with the Sonoma Speed Festival – myself included – I think it’s safe to assume that the direction in which it’s transitioning towards is one that will really shed light on how great the venue and participants are.
By now, you’ve probably concluded that the Sonoma Speed Festival was an event not to be missed. Antonio gave us a great overall look at the event, while I tried to dive into some of the cars that ‘popped’ a little more than the others. But overall, the experience itself was incomparable to anything I’d ever seen take place at Sonoma Raceway.
So I figured I’d conclude my coverage with an overview of what unfolded during the three-day-long event.Casual Strolls
When driving to Sonoma, I always get this odd sensation of traveling to another state. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to being surrounded by civilization, or maybe it’s due to the amount of time it takes to get there from my place (roughly two hours with modest traffic).
Whatever it might be, the mixed emotions of relief and anxious excitement always make the trip worthwhile, epecially when the first thing visible after the entrance gate are a line of iconic American muscle car racers.
Moving on through the paddocks, I immediately noticed a drastic difference in the logistics of the display vehicles. White picket fences, freshly laid turf, and multi-million-dollar race cars parked in picturesque format were all notable characteristics that I’d never before seen at this venue.
The exclusive paddock garages seemed to be reserved for the vintage Formula One race cars, and I was quite alright with that. They fit right in, and since everything is accessible to pretty much every spectator, I was able to get up close and personal with numerous hero cars, like the John Player Special Lotus and the Tyrrell 012. I even managed to spot a driver in period correct, uh… hair attire?
Marching forward through the rest of the paddocks did not disappointment, either.
The B-Sedan class consists of racers that are considered ‘small-bore’, and includes cars like the Datsun 510, Alfa Romeo GTA, and Porsche 911 S/R. I find myself keen towards this type of racing because the cars are still considered somewhat attainable. It’s certainly exciting to see 250 GTOs going head-to-head with 250 SWBs, but for most of us common folk, these are races that live in our dreams. Seeing the B-Sedans, and knowing some of the actual people who race in this class, somehow make things seem a bit more… realistic.
After the B-Sedans made their way to the track, I ventured on towards a small, sub-segment display of racing, considered the ‘Old-Timers’. I’m not even going to attempt to explain these cars, because frankly, I have no idea what the hell they are. All I know is that these cars, and the teams that were running them, screamed character in every way possible. They even put on a show at one point, where the team completely disassembled then reassembled the Scaredy-Cat car, and it was all done within 20 minutes.
After witnessing the Old-Timers display, I figured it was best to make way trackside since the LMGT cars were about to head out. I managed to catch a few of them prepping under their tents, while also encountering a section of the event that appeared closed off to the rest of the spectators. It seemed like I was on the backside of the main display area, but I’m glad I stumbled upon it, as there were quite a few interesting cars being worked on by their supporting teams.
I wrapped up the day by hanging out along the sidelines of the track, capturing some of my favorite cars in attendance.
It’s funny because I almost always walk away from these events questioning where my entire day went; it becomes hard to not lose track of time with so many different occurrences going on at once. So I find it quite relieving to wind down and reflect on the euphoric moments in seclusion from everyone else, watching and hearing the legends scream by.
Reiterating on my previous statement, I think it’s safe to conclude that the first Sonoma Speed Festival was a success. Was it different from the old Sonoma Historics? Absolutely. Was it better? I’d like to think so, as I’m keeping an open mind to it all.
Rumor has it that this event is in contract for the next five or so years, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out to really make that final judgement. Plus, Monterey Car Week is just around the corner, so we’ll see if the Sonoma Speed Festival finds its own ranks as a teaser for what’s to come.
But for now, I’ll leave you all with a final gallery of the impressionable cars that made appearances throughout the weekend.