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:
1935 Alfa Romeo 8C-35:
1934 Alfa Romeo P3:
1928 Bugatti 35B:
1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 MM Spider
An American race car of the same period, a 1935 Ford Sprint car:
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.
By the Seventies and Eighties, “aero” had taken over, and wind-tunnel designs proliferated. Ex-Didier Pironi Tyrrell, below.