The Sonoma Speed Festival 2019 took place on the weekend of May 31 to June 2 at the picturesque Sonoma Raceway (formerly known as Sears Point), in the heart of California’s wine country. The inaugural historic motorsports and culture event was highlighted by more than 300 street and historic racing cars in the paddock and on track, providing a memorable three days of historic racing, culture, gourmet food and wine.
Sonoma Speed Festival founder and vintage racer, Jeff O’Neill, wanted to create an event that had a more premium feel, where visitors and participants were treated to the best foods, wines and race cars. To that end, he succeeded in providing a motorsport gathering to match his vision.
Those who attended the Sonoma Speed Festival 2019 enjoyed unprecedented access to a selection of the world’s most historic and valuable racing cars both on and off the track, with notable cars that included Ferrari 250 GTOs; Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinettas; Talbot-Lagos; Ford GT40s; Porsche 917Ks; the Lotus Type 77 driven by Mario Andretti; a Jaguar D-Type; a Ferrari F40 LM; a Bugatti 37 Grand Prix; and a McLaren F1 GTR Longtail; just to name a few.
Ten race groups spanning from the Brass Era to cutting-edge modern racing machines took on the challenging hills of Sonoma Raceway during the 2019 Sonoma Speed Festival. In celebration of the track’s 50th anniversary, the event’s featured class was the 1966 to 1969 Historic Trans-Ams, highlighting the Trans-American Sedan Championship battle fought on the track between Mark Donohue and Parnelli Jones in 1969.
One of the highlights of the debut event were demonstration runs by Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport in the 2016 W07/04 Formula 1 car. The most successful individual chassis in the history of Formula 1, the Mercedes F1 W07/04 Hybrid was driven by Lewis Hamilton to 10 race victories, 9 poles and 14 total podium finishes in 2016. In Sonoma, W07/04 was driven by team simulator and development driver Esteban Gutierrez, who set a lap time of 1:15.430 on the full-course configuration, the fastest lap ever recorded on the 12-turn, 2.52-mile track.
At the other end of the spectrum, but equally exciting, was the 1939 Mercedes-Benz W154 that also took to the track over the weekend. As the final iteration of the ‘Silver Arrows’ before the end of the European Grand Prix Championship and the beginning of World War II, the Mercedes-Benz W154 is a historic machine before even considering its racing performance. In the hands of German ace driver Rudolf Caracciola, however, the W154 became immortal. Caracciola and the W154 never finished off the podium during the 1938 season, winning the championship handily from his teammates.
The paddock area featured the Radwood display with a selection of ‘Rad’ icons from the 1980s and ’90s such as the Audi Quattro, Porsche 959, Nissan Skyline GT-R and several other unique cars. The Driver’s Lounge offered race competitors and VIP guests a relaxation area with an exclusive view of the race track, while Bring a Trailer hosted an Alumni Gathering for vehicles previously bought or sold on its website. Also in the paddock area was the a Sip and Savor Pavilion featuring exceptional wines from a wide variety of California wineries and distilleries, in addition to a Food Park that offered gourmet food and chef demonstrations.
“The inaugural Sonoma Speed Festival was a great success,” said Ryan R. Turri, General Manager of the Sonoma Speed Festival. “We’ve exceeded our expectations in almost every way, and we’re thrilled with the experience we were able to provide for our guests and participants. We’d like to send a huge thank you to all that attended this year’s event.”
Sports Car Digest documented the Sonoma Speed Festival 2019, with photographer Victor Varela offering up a fantastic selection of images from the impressive debut event staged in the Northern California wine country.
Sonoma Speed Festival 2019 – Photo Gallery (photos: Victor Varela)
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