Jim Palam headed to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the VELOCITY INVITATIONAL MOTORSPORTS FESTIVAL with a craving. Discovers he’s just one among 15,000 with a ‘Need for Speed.’
It is like your favorite piece of pie. You will make sacrifices just so you can enjoy it again and again. I had my first Velocity slice a year ago and what a treat to be back to enjoy the VELOCITY INVITATIONAL MOTORSPORTS FESTIVAL again in 2022!
For those of you still waiting to take a bite of Velocity I’d say “Definitely go!” Remember that piece of pie? What makes it a treat is that all of the ingredients are right – and it’s been prepared and presented by people skilled and passionate about what they do. In the Velocity Pie mix are the rare and expensive automotive festival ingredients that impress: Iconic American and imported vintage and historic racecars. Modern Formula One cars. Actual pedal-to-the-metal racing. Cutting-edge prototypes of the next-gen Hypercars. The Mighty Minis! Gourmet food and beverages at the show’s Sip & Savor Pavilion. And – drum-roll please – Mario Andretti running spirited exhibition laps behind the wheel of the ‘13 McLaren MP4/28A Formula 1 car, courtesy of Zach Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing!
From its inception the VELOCITY INVITATIONAL MOTORSPORTS FESTIVAL was designed to be a family affair. “Velocity Invitational was introduced with a vision of revitalizing the motorsports experience for all generations of enthusiasts and their families to enjoy,” said event founder Jeff O’Neill. As I explored the paddock areas I spoke with families from points near and far including California, New Jersey, Kansas and Japan. Some were spectators and others racers. All were having an excellent time!
This year’s 3-Day Velocity event attracted over 15,000 attendees from Friday, October 14 through Sunday the 16th. It was also live-streamed with over 600,000 followers across YouTube (syndicated by Goodwood Road & Racing) and other streaming platforms. I had hoped to cover at least two days of the event but thanks to some anti-car guy who did a hit and run smash on my parked pickup I had to hitch a ride up on Saturday with local race car driver John Adams. He was more than happy to be my driver and even happier that he got a personal photo with racing legend Mario Andretti in the McLaren Garage. The good news is that I had a ball and shot over 800 photos on Saturday. I’m excited about presenting some of my favorite images – including the 3D printed Czinger C21 Hypercar, above right. Enjoy!
Group 6 cars lined up on the Pre-Grid Lane included this red ’67 427 Corvette, followed by the silver GT40 and the blue Shelby FIA Cobra. The Group 6 cars include 1963 – 1969 Sports & GT cars. They were wonderfully noisy and sometimes nasty as they muscled their way around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway.
Sitting right below the gray Media Center building were the Juan Gonzalez Formula One Pole Position Collection cars, most recently on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Juan, a racer and motorsports enthusiast, is the CEO of Mission Foods which is the #1 tortilla company in the U.S. Mission Foods is also a McLaren team sponsor.
I discovered this beautiful Aston Martin DP215 sitting poised and proper along the primary paddock lane when I first arrived at Laguna Seca early Saturday morning. A single example was built for GT racing in 1963. The DP215 was sold at RM Sotheby’s 2018 Monterey auction for $21,455,000 including buyer’s fee!
Impossible to ignore on the green sod of the Pre-Grid display area was the McLaren P1 HDK (High Downforce Kit) orange sizzler from Lanzante Limited and O’Gara. It follows in the same footsteps as the High Downforce Kit that was available to McLaren F1 owners who wanted to give their cars added performance and a unique aesthetic. The McLaren/Lazante P1 HDK is a privately owned, fully bespoke commission.
A ’67 Porsche 910-004 sits low and ready-to-go on the Pre-Grid. Only 980-mm high, its fender height is about the same as the knee height of the mechanic standing at-the-ready next to the driver. Only 29 910s were built from 1966 to 1967; 10 remain worldwide. Specs: 2000-cc 6-cylinder, 225 horsepower, top speed 155 mph. The 910 was only raced for about one year by the factory. Class rivals Ferrari Dino 206P and Ford GT40 proved too powerful for the 910.
We featured an exterior shot of this silver Scuderia Bear GT40 P/1029 for our Monterey Car Week 2022 race report back in August. It was great to see her back out on the track for the VELOCITY INVITATIONAL MOTORSPORTS FESTIVAL. This time I thought you would enjoy a driver’s view of the interior – just before blasting away for the Group 6 Qualifying Race.
McLaren had a strong and active presence at Velocity. Much more than a partner and sponsor of this Luxury motorsports event, they were also fully engaged with the velocity/speed side of things – offering up track rides in their modern production cars and racecars to burn-up Laguna Seca’s asphalt. Pictured is the MP4-27 designed by Vodafone McLaren Mercedes for the 2012 Formula One season punching it out on the Corkscrew.
When he zipped by me, I was impressed by this gentleman’s deft handling of his electric mobility scooter in the paddock garage area. When he parked it behind this iconic ‘61 Cooper Monaco Mk. III curiosity got the better of me, so I struck up a friendly conversation. Turns out this is Jeffrey Heller, the founding principal of Heller Manus Architects of San Francisco, and the proud owner the Cooper. This impeccably restored icon has a wonderful race history that includes ownership by Briggs Cunningham and victories in the early 1960s at Bridgehampton and Watkins Glen. It later won its class with Spencer Trenery behind the wheel.
Stunt driver, drift champion and TV host Tanner Foust was one of the celebrity racecar drivers entertaining the crowds. I grabbed this shot of him in the Gulf Racing ‘96 McLaren F1 GT-12R as it blasted away from the infamous Corkscrew. Racing enthusiast and pharmaceuticals magnate Ray Bellm along with co-driver James Weaver drove this car to four wins on their way to becoming the 1996 BPR GT champions.
This head turner was on the display grass. From a distance I thought, “Hey, it’s a Ferrari 250 SWB!” When I got up close, I realized that this red V-12 gem is a revival build from famed Ferrari restoration shop GTO Engineering. It has been meticulously hand built to the same 1962 factory specs as the original and this example was brought to Laguna Seca by the folks at the O’Gara Collective. GTO Engineering will build just 60 replicated 250 SWBs.
As impressive as it is to see and hear the modern F1 cars scream around Laguna Seca, it’s a special treat to see vintage racers like this lightweight and aerodynamic, 210 horsepower, ‘38 Talbot-Lago T-26 SS aggressively run the course on skinny tires and fervid resolve. The T-26 SS was designed for Le Mans competition but unfortunately would never see a victory at the famed 24-hour race. Brian Mullin was the driver of the Talbot-Lago in this Group 1 Qualifying Race.
If you head to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to catch a vintage automobile race it’s a good bet you are going to see the Ragtime Racers and their impressive collection of pre-1920 racecars from the “Heroic Age.” One of my favorite cars from the collection is the mighty 1917 Hall-Scott owned by Dick DeLuna. Built on a vintage REO steel chassis, this reconstructed racer is powered by a truly massive 9,900-cc, 4-cylinder, overhead cam WW I aircraft motor!
The Next Generation: I met these three 19-year-old guys in the Ragtime Racers open garage space in the paddock. They volunteer for the Ragtimers and are happy to get hands-on experience wrenching on these vintage machines. They are pictured with a 1911 National Racer which is restored to the same specs as it raced in the first Indy 500 back in 1911!
Throughout my day at the VELOCITY INVITATIONAL MOTORSPORTS FESTIVAL, I asked attendees and participants if they were enjoying the event. No one I talked to had anything negative to say. Perhaps the best response I received was from the driver of a stunning Bizzarrini 5300 GT Strada that was staged for a qualifying race. When I asked him if he was having a good time, he shot his thumb up and said, “Inside the helmet I’m smiling!”
Words & Photos © Jim Palam, https://www.jimpalamphotos.com/
“If you can’t see it, smell it and hear it, it’s not a racecar.” – Jeff O’Neill. Founder of the Velocity Invitational, on why he encourages participants to race their vintage and historic cars at VELOCITY INVITATIONAL MOTORSPORTS FESTIVAL. For more details, please visit https://velocityinvitational.com/
For the latest information on events at Laguna Seca, check out https://www.co.monterey.ca.us/government/government-links/weathertech-raceway