Motorsport is a foundational element of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance events since their beginning 26 years ago.
Founder and Chairman Bill Warner is a noted and notable racer and motorsport photographer and has implanted the racing DNA into his events at their inception. However, it’s not only because Mr. Warner loves racing and seemingly knows everyone in the sport, but also as a definitive way of differentiating the Amelia Weekend from most other concours.
The epicenter of these celebrations is the annual naming of a motorsport honoree, who, for lack of a better term, serves as Amelia’s grand marshal – the poster and program paintings are dedicated to that personality and notable cars from their career, along with much recognition and prizegiving.
The honoree attends the weekend, strolls the show and other events, and is properly celebrated at a lovely Saturday evening gala dinner.
Past honorees include the most significant names and icons from Indy cars, Formula 1, endurance and big game sports car racing, Can-Am, Trans-Am, and NASCAR, and 2020’s highly notable honoree, the incomparable Roger Penske.
2021 marked Amelia’s first female honoree, the versatile and highly accomplished Lyn St. James. Not just a runner, but a winner, Ms. St James proved an extremely popular and worthy honoree this year – she was fully engaged in the role and wore it with humility and genuine joy.
The show always includes a standalone class dedicated to cars of the honoree; thus, a pair of Lyn’s Indy racers and several of her Ford and Ford-powered sports car winners were on hand.
Something unique and important that Amelia does is to gather and present motorsport seminars and panel discussions, including drivers, team owners, car builders, rules makers, and others relevant to a specific topic, followed by an autograph session.
What this especially accomplishes is to allow show attendees, at a very modest cost, the opportunity to see and hear some epic storytelling from the legends and heroes of a particular era, series, or marque.
2021’s two special seminars centered on Chevy Thunder — and Porsche 935 on the IMSA and world stage. Chairman Warner commented about why the Chevrolet program was added:
“Anyone who’s ever attended a drag race, a NASCAR race, a Trans-Am or a Can-Am has heard and sometimes felt, Chevy Thunder. It’s the clear and unmistakable voice of American motorsports.”
These panel discussions were ably hosted by NASCAR championship-winning Crew Chief and now television personality Ray Evernham. For example, the GM/Corvette panel featured four-time Chevy V-8 powered SCCA Can-Am champion Brian Redman, David Hobbs, all-rounder George Follmer (Chevy powered Shadow Can-Am machines), retired GM racing boss Herb Fishel, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and GM NASCAR program director Eric Warren.
The Porsche panel was equally well-stocked; including Redman, Hobbs, Hurley Haywood, IMSA’s Mark Raffauf, ex Brumos Racing chief mechanic Jack Atkinson, Porsche Motorsport’s Alwin Springer, Porsche team owner and racer Bob Garretson, and one of the kings of Le Mans, Sir Derek Bell.
The programs are informative and often hilarious; the panelists are relaxed and generally approachable for a chat, story, or autograph.
The seminars are among countless other factors that make the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance weekend unique and so memorable among the world’s greatest automotive gatherings.
Photography courtesy Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance / Deremer Studios LLC