Bill Lyon driving ex-Whittington Brothers 935 K3 at 2022 SVRA So-Cal Speed Tour
Avid Porsche racer Bill Lyon enjoys the 600+ hp ride of the ex-Whittington Brothers 935 K3. PHOTO © Rex McAfee

2022 SVRA So-Cal Speed Tour

In the blink of an eye, 2022 has arrived—along with the first vintage race of the season. The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) kicked things off in sunny California with the So-Cal Speed Tour at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Under gusty conditions caused by the local Santa Ana winds, drivers navigated the 2.8-mile “roval” course, which uses part of the oval along with an aging infield section. At the height of the Speedway’s popularity, the same course was used by the Rolex Sports Car Series for Daytona Prototype and GT classes.

Steve Schmidt driving 1960 356 S90 Roadster at 2022 SVRA So-Cal Speed Tour
Steve Schmidt exits turn 9 behind the wheel of his 1960 356 S90 Roadster. PHOTO © Rex McAfee

Unlike the traditional “qualify on Saturday, race on Sunday”, SVRA has found a more successful format—resulting in morning qualifying followed by an afternoon race on both Saturday and Sunday. Pam Shatraw, editor of SVRA’s Speed Tour magazine commented: “Getting to run two races per weekend is popular because it gives everyone a little more excitement, including the spectators.”

William Taylor driving 1965 Alfa Romeo GT during 2022 SVRA So-Cal Speed Tour
William Taylor hustles his 1965 Alfa Romeo GT through the infield towards turn 11.. PHOTO © Rex McAfee

Reviewing a few highlights of the run groups will give you an idea of the weekend’s rumblings. Groups 6 and 12A combined to bring back memories of the SCCA B Production battles between American V8-powered muscle cars. Saturday’s feature race resulted in Bob Briggs finishing first behind the wheel of his 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. The Ford Mustang of J.R. Smith took second, followed by the 1963 Corvette of John Anderson. It doesn’t get much more patriotic than that!

Vincent Tjelmeland driving 1982 Frisbee during 2022 SVRA So-Cal Speed Tour
Always a pleasure to see at Auto Club Speedway, Vincent Tjelmeland makes the last turn before joining the oval in his 1982 Frisbee. PHOTO © Rex McAfee

The ”Exclusive” race group was mostly made up of modern Ligier F3 and F4 cars driven by young drivers in the Formula Pro USA racing series. Alex Kirby earned first on Sunday with a blistering 1:37 best lap time. Group 10 for big-bore GT racers saw William Taylor on top of the box in both races, piloting his 1974 Porsche 911 RSR. And talk about a sound! Memories of 1970’s IMSA races came back like it was yesterday.

John Anderson driving 1963 Corvette at 2022 SVRA So-Cal Speed Tour
John Anderson took 3rd on both Saturday and Sunday behind the wheel of his 1963 Corvette. PHOTO © Rex McAfee

Groups 8 and 12B combined to form a medium-bore GT run group with vintage race veteran Phil Eglin winning both races in his 1972 Datsun 240Z over the very quick 1967 Alfa Romeo GTV of Chet Taylor. Third place on Saturday went to Porsche mechanic/racer Ray Stephens in his 1970 911, where Sunday’s third was captured by Porsche mechanic/racer Klaus Holthaus in a 914/6.

Phil Mendelovitz piloting 1970 Datsun 240Z at 2022 SVRA So-Cal Speed Tour
Hot Shoe Phil Mendelovitz earned 5th in Saturday’s feature piloting his 1970 Datsun 240Z. PHOTO © Rex McAfee

Groups 1, 3, and 4 were mostly small-bore GT racers, which always yield some good bumper-to-bumper action. It was no surprise Harris Koenig took first in both feature races driving his Renault Sports Racer. Saturday’s race saw long-time Porsche racers Bill Lyon (356 Speedster) and Pat Paternie (912) take second and third respectively.

Pat Paternie in Porsche 912 and Mike Allen in Porsche 914 at 2022 SVRA So-Cal Speed Tour
Long time Porsche racers Pat Paternie (912) and Mike Allen (914) finished 3rd and 4th respectively in Saturday’s small-bore feature race. PHOTO © Rex McAfee

Driving home from SVRA’s successful season opener, I couldn’t help but wonder: “Did I just witness the last sports car race at yet another one of Southern California’s disappearing race tracks?” Riverside Raceway, Ontario Motor Speedway; you already know what happens when real estate becomes too valuable.

Originally named California Speedway by its builder Roger Penske, it’s now rumored to be demolished by its current owner (NASCAR), with a “short track stadium” to be built in its place. If you watched the “Clash at the Coliseum”, then you know the future of racing in America depends on finding new ways to attract the next generation of race fans.

Chet Taylor driving 1967 Alfa Romeo GTV at 2022 SVRA So-Cal Speed Tour
Chet Taylor piloting his 1967 Alfa Romeo GTV took 2nd place on both Saturday and Sunday. PHOTO © Rex McAfee

If you have never attended an SVRA event, it’s time to make plans. The country’s largest vintage racing organization really knows how to run an organized event, and with stops at iconic tracks like Sebring, Road Atlanta, Road America, and Watkins Glen, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable experience.

As Pam explained: “One of the goals our president, Tony Parella, initiated years ago was to ensure vintage racing stays connected to mainstream motorsports. With a constant effort to integrate newer classes of cars and schedule destinations people are excited to visit, we continue to experience growth and progress.” I couldn’t agree more, Pam.

Steve Lisa driving De Tomaso Panterra at 2022 SVRA So-Cal Speed Tour
Steve Lisa eaned 5th place in Saturday’s Big Bore race driving his De Tomaso Panterra. PHOTO © Rex McAfee

 

Please see race-monitor.com/Results/Race/115146 for complete timing and scoring. All photos © Rex McAfee ([email protected])

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  1. Rex you are and have been doing a great job over the years and we appreciate all you cover for us vintage gear heads.🏁