Eye Candy: 2016 Southern California Historic Sports Car Festival

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1988 Porsche 962C-150 | Nicole James photos

Sportscar Vintage Racing Association drivers took to the 21-turn, 2.8-mile road-course configuration last weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, for the 15th annual Southern California Historic Sports Car Festival.

The fourth event of the 2016 West Coast season, the SoCal SVRA event began with a full day of open testing along with an optional driver orientation program for drivers who had not previously been on the track or who wanted to gain a few extra “go-fast” tips.

Plagued by near-constant rainfall, the following two days of competition tested drivers and cars as racing in the rain proved to be mastered only by knowledge and experience. Race days also featured exhibition laps on the oval twice each day for vintage and historic Indy cars and sprint cars.

The SVRA works to ensure wheel-to-wheel completion among similar cars from the same era, restored to a condition consistent with their original, as-raced, specifications. Pre-race inspections and post-race followups are held to ensure that each car is in accordance with the appropriate rules for its category and to make sure that the only on-track advantage lies with the driver and their ability.

As a result, cars competing in the race were split into groups consisting of small- and medium-bore production cars, Formula Ford, sports cars and sedans produced prior to 1979, formula cars, historic stock cars, big-bore production, Can-Am and GTP, and exhibition cars, with Indy cars on the oval only.

Unlike many other motorsports series, SVRA events feature “open pits,” which allow spectators to see the cars up close and tp interact with the drivers and crews.

The next West Coast SVRA event will be the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival, June 2-5, north of San Francisco, followed by the Portland Vintage Racing Festival July 7-10 in Oregon lastly the Coronado Speed Festival, held September 16-18 in San Diego as part of Fleet Week.

Photos by Nicole James

One thought on “Eye Candy: 2016 Southern California Historic Sports Car Festival”

  1. I’ve been going to this event for almost 15 years now and I’m almost to the point of not even

    bothering anymore. Missed the very first one, but have been going ever since.

    When it first started it was sponsored by HSR West and was an actual “event”. It was a big deal.

    They had sponsors like Jaguar attend that hosted mini events with spectator participation. They set

    up big tents with catering and classic cars to look at. The racing field was packed. Every garage

    was filled plus the ajacent parking lot was full of trailers and the cars they were working on.

    There was a beer stand set up in the infield over the bridge too. We would bring our EazyUp and

    chairs with spray bottles to keep us cool on the outside and a cooler for things to keep us cool on

    the inside, and park ourselves between the inside straights. It was awesome to stand there and

    watch the cars fly by 50 feet from the wall/fence. I would buy the 3 days worth of tickets for me,

    my brother and his wife in advance and we would take the kids. There was something for everyone.

    We would walk the pits and talk to tons of different people and drivers, from the guys with the

    Trans Am Camaros, to the B-Sedan 510’s to the FIA sports cars. we’d take lots of pictures and get

    to sit in some of the cars…There was a pretty good spectator turn out as well. I couldn’t wait to

    go back the following year, in fact after a couple of years of going I actually bought a B/S class

    car and planned on getting involved. Unfortunately I was never able to pull it off and sold it. But

    that’s how much I enjoyed things. Seeing the old cars from the historic eras of racing up close, and

    to be able to hear and smell them got into my blood.

    Over time, this awesome event has slowly dwindled to the point where it’s not really a spectator

    event anymore as much as it is for the racers and their friends and family. I suspect the main

    reasons being the economic downturn in 2007/2008 and the lack of advertising. Since then it’s

    really declined. After all, what company has the thousands or dollars to spend on an event where no

    one attends? Slowly but surely you started to notice the changes. First was the lack of big

    sponsorship. Then you noticed that less and less people came. There was no more stand in the

    infield. Almost all of the Port-o-Potties were gone. And suspiciously there seemed to be less and

    less race cars. The ones that did participate seemed to be the same cars year after year. There

    was a lack of variety and a lack of competition. The Trans Am Camaros were gone and now it was a few

    Mustangs and a handfull of Cobras. The 510’s went from having 10 cars in the field to having 5.

    The Alfa’s went from 6-7 to 3. Same with the BMW’s.

    Fast forward to this years event. Even though the slow decline over the years was noticable I always

    looked forward to it and marked it on my calendar with the hopes that maybe there would be a

    resurgence and things would get better. Especially with the economy improving. This year I only

    attended on Sunday, thinking my son and I would just watch the trophy races. What a disappointment

    that was. Only half of the garages were being used and the lot adjacent to the garages was half

    full. We got there in the morning to see the Group 3 race (B-Sedan). This field used to have 20 or

    so cars out there and was blast to see them blow down the front stright. Mazda’s, 510’s BMW’s,

    Alfa’s..Imagine the disappointment when we see 6 total cars. 1 510, the Mazda, a couple BMW’s, 1

    Alfa….It was sad. We only stayed for three or so more groups since they were all the same. 5-6

    cars each. Maybe it was because we came on the last day and a lot of the participants had either

    already broken down and left or just left on Saturday, but if I hadn’t been going for all these

    years, I would seriously consider just not going anymore. It’s hard to keep my son’s attention, or

    mine for that matter, with not much action going on. I do appreciate those drivers/owners though

    that actually do get out there year after year and entertain us. Their friendliness is appreciated

    as well. Honestly though it wouldn’t be surprising if they cancelled the event. What a shame too.

    It’s really close to where I live and is easy access. Doubt I’d make the drive to Buttonwillow or

    Willowbrook as wouldn’t most fans.

    Why can’t the SVRA turn this event around? Do they even want to? It’s a perfect location with lots

    of potential race fans from around SoCal area to attend without having to drive 2 hours. Getting a

    sponsor or 2 involved and paying for a little radio advertising has the potential to make this a big

    event like it was in the beginning. Set up more merchandise stands, and a food vendor or two. I see

    no reason why it can’t be like that again. I get that these things cost money and that Historic

    racing is more a hobby than a business, but that status has been changing over the past few years.

    There are some big name series that draw thousands of spectators for their historic events. Sure

    it’s no Monoco, Goodwood or Monterey, but it is held at a world renown race track near one of the

    biggest cities in America. It has the potential to become the premier festival in Southwest, doesn’t

    it?

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