Mario Andretti, fun races, big crowds
LAGUNA SECA — The Velocity Invitational, a motorsports festival held Oct. 14-16 at WeatherTech Raceway, was a nod to the adage that good things come in threes.
First, there was living legend Mario Andretti, 82, driving a modern Formula 1 car for the first time.
Second was thrilling split-second race finishes that thrilled the crowd of over 15,000.
Third, the tens of millions of vintage racing and hypercars adorning the track. This has made the Velocity Invitational one of the most unique motorsport experiences in the country.
As the three-day event featured hundreds of vehicles in 10 different groups and classifications, it wasn’t hard to tell that Andretti’s turn around the circuit was the highlight for many fans and for the driver himself. -same.
Andretti’s appearance at the Invitation to velocityaIt was the culmination of an invitation from McLaren CEO Zak Brown a few years ago. Andretti expressed that he would like to get behind the wheel of a modern F1 car and Brown finally did.
Andretti, of course, is racing royalty. He won the Indianapolis 500, the F1 World Championship and many other races. Despite the McLaren’s differences from previous vehicles he’s driven, Andretti found it hard to conceal his enthusiasm for the experience.
“At this stage of my life to have this chance is huge,” Andretti said in an interview with MotorSport. “No one will ever understand how much I love racing a race car. Zak Brown just gave me a gift that I can never return, to be honest with you.
While Andretti has contributed to the presence of celebrities in the Velocity Invitational, there were other outstanding drivers at the event, including the signature Group 1 race. Driver Paddins Dowling took the checkered flag in his R2B 1934 English Racing Automobiles (Era), briefly ahead of runner-up Charles McCabe. Group 1 consisted of sports and touring cars from 1927-1937. Dowling felt that a few cars had an advantage.
“Both eras were generally faster than most of the grid,” Dowling said. “I knew it was going to be between me and Charles McCabe, the number 6 of the era. I had a great time. It’s a great track to race on, he was great to race against him and it was really funny.
The two Eras battled it out throughout the race and had a huge lead over the rest of the peloton. Late braking and perfect throttle application on the exit of Turn 11 helped Dowling pass McCabe just before the finish line. Dowling, who resides in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., has owned his supercharged 1.5-liter R2A for 10 years.
The contrast between Andretti’s Dowling-era McLaren and the hundreds of other vehicles made for a fun weekend. Andretti wasn’t the only Indy and Formula 1 driver driving a McLaren. IndyCar’s Pato O’Ward came and F1 champion Mika Häkkinen took turns driving the McLaren MP4/5B-07, Ayrton Senna’s 1990 F1 world championship winning car. the same with Alain Prost’s MP4/2B-3, which won the F1 world championship in 1985.
Beyond the McLarens, American trans-am muscle cars, Ferrari 250s and Porsche 911 RSRs took part in practice sessions, qualifying and sprint races leading up to Sunday’s 10-lap races.
The paddock area featured a range of the latest and greatest hypercars from Guntherwerks, Zenvo and Czinger, many of which tore through Laguna Seca in multiple races at speeds of over 150 miles per hour.
Even rally fans had something to cheer about thanks to Seattle’s DirtFish Rally School. DirtFish brought several rare cars including the Group B Lancia 037, MG Metro 6R4 and Peugeot 206 WRC of World Rally Championship fame. Alister McRae and his son Max McRae have driven and derived selections from this range.
“Velocity Invitational was launched with the goal of revitalizing the motorsport experience for all generations of enthusiasts and their families to enjoy,” event founder Jeff O’Neill said in a statement. “This is the only event in the United States [with] motorsport at this level.
Dowling, the Group 1 winner, agreed.
“It’s a great track to race on and it was really fun. Jeff O’Neill gives a wonderful show. It’s the best historical event in America.
Mason Bloom, 16, a sophomore at Aptos High School in central California, is a new contributor to TheWeeklyDriver.com. He can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected]