Sonoma Historics 2015 – the Grand Prix cars

Maserati8C

It’s never easy growing up in the shadow of a bigger sibling.

For years, the Wine Country Classic stood in the shadows of the nearby Monterey Historics, an event that established the genre and featured some of the world’s most valuable vintage race cars. Sonoma’s event, by contrast, was smaller and decidedly less ambitious.

Although the two events were managed by Steve Earle’s General Racing, Sonoma took on new meaning after Earle parted ways with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2012. With Mazda Raceway now running its own historic motorsport “reunion”, Sonoma has now become an event in its own right.

In 2014, Earle merged his company with SVRA, Tony Parella’s historic racing series. Parella and SVRA have quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in historic racing, as evidenced by a new and successful historic event this week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

SVRA re-imagined the Sonoma event as a “gold medallion” invitation-only weekend. Gold Medallion cars were selected on the basis of historical provenance and racing history, as well as historical accuracy of preparation. It is not a significant departure from Earle’s concept for the event, but it’s different from other SVRA meetings. It’s also a great thing for those who enjoy cars with a rich history.

By selecting a group of significant cars to feature, Sonoma has assembled a collection that rivals any historic event. The collection spans the history of grand prix racing and sports car racing, with Alfas, Maseratis and Ferraris from the days before the sport we know as “Formula One”, and every conceivable year and class (and nationality) of sports cars up through the 1980s. If it was raced anywhere – in IMSA, Can-Am, F1, SCCA, Trans-Am, FIA sports cars, or Le Mans – it was raced at Sonoma.

Divided into 12 classes, there was something for everyone. We’ll start with the grand prix cars, which began in the 1920s with a Bugatti Type 35, and included some fantastic examples of the Maserati 8CM, below:

Maserati8

1935 Alfa Romeo 8C-35:

AlfaTipoBP3a

AlfaTipoBP3

AlfaTipoBP3b

1934 Alfa Romeo P3:

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1928 Bugatti 35B:

Bugatti 35B 1928

1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 MM Spider

AlfaRome8C2300LMSpyder

An American race car of the same period, a 1935 Ford Sprint car:

FordSprintCar

FordSprintCara

For a few years in the early Sixties, F2 supplanted F1 with a smaller engine formula that favored the British “garagistes”  derided by Enzo Ferrari. Lotus, Cooper, Ginetta and others quickly stepped in.

CooperT

Gineetta

LotusF2

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By the Seventies and Eighties, “aero” had taken over, and wind-tunnel designs proliferated. Ex-Didier Pironi Tyrrell, below.

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Sonoma Historics: a new vintage

 

GulfMirage

The 2015 installment of the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival is in the books, and we’ve got hundreds of pictures to sort, edit, and write about. This was the first year of SVRA management of the Bay Area’s “other” historic weekend, and the quality of machinery was the best we’ve seen in years. SVRA ran Sonoma as “Gold Medallion” event for cars of an established provenance and racing history. It’s a more closed format but it led to a deep field of historically significant machines. This is just a tiny sample with more to come (and check out our Instagram feed at instagram.com/ecurie415)!

Porsche910

1954 Ferrari 500 left an impression:

FerrariMondial

Ferrari1954

No shortage of Alfas:

Alfa AlfaWhite

It’s not a classic meet without something small and British, like this TVR:

TVR

 

Or is Lola more your style?

Lola

If it’s muscle you’re looking for, Trans-Am supplies it. How about the first Pontiac Firebird “Grand Am” car built for Bill France’s new series back in 1970?

71Firebird

Germany was well represented: do you choose the 914, the 935, or the Speedster?

914Lineup

1968 Porsche 911 TR:

Porsche1967911TR

Another of Bruce Canepa’s truly amazing cars:

Canepa911

Joest-prepared Porsche 935J, for IMSA racing:

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Porsche

A Porsche 935K that DNF’d at Le Mans:

935Office

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European touring car 1976 BMW CSL:

CSL

CSL

1972 Ferrari 365:

FerrariDaytona

Plenty of McLarens on hand, as Can-Am remains a huge favorite 40 years after the series’ demise:

CommanderMcLaren MclarenM8F

A taste of FIA sports car prototypes from the Seventies left me wanting more. This Gulf-Mirage M6, from 1975, has been maintained and restored beautifully:

Mirageb

Mirage

Ferrari 312 began life as a closed-top prototype destined for Le Mans. Later, the roof was taken off and the car was re-born as a spyder.

NARTSparling312b

NARTSparling312

The 1980s checked in with a 1984 Porsche 956c, raced by Russell Kempnich.

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