Martin Lauber leads the Group 5 – 1972-1977 IMSA Cars field into Turn 1 with his 1975 Porsche IMSA GTO
Article and photos by Bill Wagenblatt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The second Velocity Invitational event was held October 14 to 16 at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, California. Jeff O’Neill and his team once again showed the historic racing community that there is more than one way to hold an event.
Velocity Invitational’s mix of exciting cars, family entertainment, attractive location, manufacture support, and a well-curated display results in an incredible 3-day experience. When O’Neill first started Velocity Invitational, his vision was to present the cars in a more spectator-friendly environment.
Instead of the usual vehicles and transporters spread out in the paddock, the Velocity Invitational team erected large tents, where cars are staged by race groups.
The entry is capped at a little over two hundred cars, and the format proves that quality over quantity works. Take Group 4, for example, a Ferrari 250 GTO, a pair of 250 GT SWBs, 4 Alfa Romeo GTZ, and a Ferrari 250 TDF for good measure – more than enough to excite any historic car enthusiast.
McLaren Automotive is a big supporter of the event. In addition to the paddock and on-track demonstrations, CEO Zak Brown provided a 2013 McLaren MP4/28A for Mario Andretti to try. The 1978 World Driving Champion had driving a contemporary formula 1 car on his bucket list, and thanks to McLaren, that has been ticked off. In addition to Mario, two-time world champion Mika Häkkinen demonstrated the TAG/Porsche powered MP4/2C, and Pato O’Ward, the ex-Senna MP4/5B.
As spectators wander the paddock, there are small displays scattered throughout. In addition to the McLaren road cars, Hypercar manufacturers, Czinger, Guntherwerks, Hennessey, and Zenvo, were displayed. Throughout the weekend, track demonstrations were interspersed with the race groups. The Ragtime Racers and display of Miller cars provided a nice contrast to the hypercars.
The early 1930 Bugattis bookended the nine race groups to 2012 Porsche 911 Club Cars in Group 9. Each day ended with the Mini vs. Mustang race. This is the second year of the matchup and is a takeoff of the sixties-era racing. WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca was an excellent track for the race, with the Mustangs’ power out of the turn and on the straights balanced by the Minis’ handling in the corners.
After starting at Sonoma Raceway in 2019 and the last two years at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, let’s hope that the Velocity Invitational stays on the calendar. If you haven’t experienced the event or west coast historic racing, add the event to your bucket list.