Archive for November, 2009

Lost Track: Vaca Valley

Vaca Valley Open Wheel GridAlthough the Vaca Valley Raceway would later incorporate a drag strip and oval track into it’s road racing configuration (a very early example of a multipurpose motorsport park), I quite like this early description from the May 1960 California Sports Car Club newsletter about the upcoming 1961 races.

“The course, a new one for most Cal Club drivers, is a special built road race circuit with a smooth blacktop surface. It is 2.1 miles in length, there are seven turns, the main straight is 3700 feet long and the course is run in a clockwise direction. It is a true road race course that has everything from a big 1000 foot radius banked turn to a slow twist-back corner and has been very popular with drivers who appreciate something more challenging than a flat airport circuit.”

1960 Vaca Valley Track MapSounds pretty good right? Sadly, the track only lasted until 1972. Usually when we look at some of America’s forgotten racetracks, they invariably have been torn down and replaced with housing developments, shopping malls, and (worst of all) golf courses. Vaca Valley, though, might be even sadder. It has just slowly faded away. Nothing new has been built on it’s property. No encroaching suburban sprawl and angry homeowners drove the track to shut down. If you look at this Google Maps view, you can still see the bones of the old asphalt surface, slowly being perforated by nature.

Apparently the asphalt was never of the highest quality, and subsequent resurfacing did little to correct the problem. Once the surface deteriorated, the owners nor the SCCA was able to pony up the $15,000 needed to bring the track up to par and it just wasted away.

Racing Bultacos at Vaca Valley$15,000! Sounds like it would have been money well spent. In the meantime, there have been a few attempts to re-open the facility, but encroaching neighbors objected in the early ’90s, killing the plan. Later investigations as late as 2003 deemed the project too costly. It seems that for the time being, Vaca Valley Raceway will continue to crumble.

Update: Racing simulator designer and developer Rudy Dingemans has built a raceable version of Vaca Valley for the rFactor and GTR2 racing simulators, see our post on his efforts here. Rudy has commented on this post as well and included links to the tracks in the comments below.

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Siffert’s Chevron at Auction

Ex-Siffert Chevron B19UK auctioneers Barons might not have the international caché of some of the larger houses, but one lot in particular from their upcoming pre-holiday auction could change all that. This ex-Jo Siffert Chevron B19 is a drop-dead stunner. The B19 on offer, chassis B19-70-S-10, has an interesting relationship with Siffert. He is known, according to Chevron’s racing records to have driven the car, but only apparently in a few events.

Chevron’s records establish provenance, but the scenario is a bit interesting because in addition to Siffert’s racing relationship with Chevron, he also helped facilitate the sale of a number of privateer cars. Imagine a contemporary racing driver doing that! This car was an example of Siffert selling the car on Chevron’s behalf, if I’m understanding the relationship correctly. The original owner was Cyr Febbraïo, who competed in a number of hillclimbs largely in France, but also in other parts of mainland Europe. The car was also piloted by Febbraïo and co-driver, Jean Ortelli, in the 1971 2Liter race at the Paul Ricard circuit.

Chevron B10 at the 1971 Paul RicardBarons estimates the car will fetch between £80,000 and £100,000 when this B19 crosses the auction block on December 8. I’ve seen Chevrons with less interesting history command similar amounts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an ex-Siffert example to hit the upper end of that range if not exceed it. One top of it all, she’s absolutely lovely and looks like an absolute blast to drive.

More information at Baron’s lot detail page and supplementary details on Old Racing Cars .

Update: This car sold for £80,800 which seems like a reasonably good deal for a Siffert car. Lots of cars seem to be selling at the low end of their estimates this season.

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1966 Can Am in Vegas, Baby. Vegas.

Stardust International RacewayThis video of the 1966 Can Am race at the Vegas Stardust track starts off with a bang, showing onboard footage of the track from a variety of the competitors’ cars.

Sadly, the rapid expansion of the Las Vegas area in the decades since means that the Stardust raceway has been razed and the land is now a housing development. At least the videos still survive.

And the cars.

I’ll always have an appreciation for Chaparral’s gigantic winged beasts, but the Lolas in this clip really do it for me.

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Period VW Porsche Dealership

Hollywood Way VW-Porsche
Where’s my time machine? I’d sure love some of these prices on ragtop 356s that were offered at Hollywood Way VW-Porsche.

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1963 ATS 2500 GT Recently at Auction

ATS 2500 GTRM AuctionsAutomobiles of London Auction last month turned up more than a few interesting cars across the block. This one, however, really grabbed my attention.

Automobili Turismo e Sport SpA (or ATA), was a short-lived Italian sportscar and racing organization that grew out of the “Palace Revolt” exodus of top designers and engineers from the Ferrari factory in 1961. Headed up by Ferrari GTO masterminds, Carlo Chiti and Giotto Bizzarrini, the ATS brand was built with one goal at the front of their minds, beat Ferrari at their own game. History seems to indicate that they failed in that goal. Looking at this 3 liter GT car though, they put up one Hell of a fight. They gathered up other rebels for their venture, Phil Hill drove for the ATX GP team after a defection from Ferrari. Former Bertone designer Franco Scaglione, meanwhile, penned this lovely road car.

ATS 2500 GTThe road car was at the very cutting edge of technology, and perhaps ahead of its time. With fully independent suspension and discs all around, the ATS 2500 was much more a racing car in sheep’s clothing than a grand tourer for the road. With a mid-mounted V8, she was capable of 160 mph and these remarkable lines and silhouette would virtually guarantee that you’d arrive in style. This example sold WELL below the estimated £600,000-£1,000,000 price. Such are the dangers of a No Reserve auction that allowed one very lucky buyer to take her home for £308,000. Well bought!

Complete information and more photos of this car with a very storied history can be seen on the auction’s lot detail page.

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Airborne Bugatti

Mon Dieu!Anyone know how to say, “Yee-Ha!” in French?

Here’s a Bugatti T59 being chased hard by Dudley Froy’s Bernatto-Hassan at Brooklands.
F1-GrandPrixHistory.net has more harrowing photos of Brooklands’ early days here.

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Cliff Rullman’s ’66 Maryland Endurance Photos

12 Hour Enduro at Marlboro SpeedwayMarlboro Speedway, southeast of Washington DC hosted a variety of SCCA events in the mid 60s. It may have never achieved the fame of Lime Rock or Road America or the Glen, but it looks like it was a fun venue, as these photos document. This is from a 12 hour endurance held in the Summer of ’66, but I’m not able to find much additional information on this specific race. Thankfully, these photos from Cliff Rullman highlight the race in wonderful Kodachrome. I love seeing VW Bugs mix it up with Cortinas and Alfas.

See the complete series of 50 photos here.

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Onboard at Rennsport III in a Porsche 908

Here you are, perched on the dash of Cameron Healy’s Porsche 908 for a few laps around Daytona at the 2007 Rennsport Reunion. This example, 908-010, has a short, but storied history with the factory. It competed in only one race; but it was a very wet Spa 1000km. It finished only 34 laps in that race; but Vic Elford drove 32 of them. After handing off the car to co-driver Jochen Neerpasch, the car quickly met with a telephone pole.

Here’s what Quick Vic tells us about the ’68 Spa race:
“The weather invariably plays a part at Spa; it is almost guaranteed to rain at some time during a race weekend. And this weekend was no exception.

After mixed weather for two days of practice and qualifying, Sunday dawned with rain. It would last all day. I drove the first stint and then handed over to Jochen as the rain continued bucketing down. After just a couple of laps he didn’t pass the pits. Since communications in those days were minimal, it was a while before we learned what had happened. On the very fast, sweeping downhill esses at Malmedy, Jachen had slid off the road and knocked down a telegraph pole, part of which then came in through the passenger side window and hit his crash helmet, knocking him out. Fortunately, the car stopped safely at the edge of the road. Jochen was removed and spent the night in the hospital with a slight concussion but no other injuries”

Porsche 908-010From that afternoon in 1968 until the late 1990’s, the car was stored in Porsche’s warehouse until sold to a US buyer and restored in time for the 2004 Rennsport. It’s now made its way out to Portland and competes along the West Coast.

More info and photos of 908-010 here and here.

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More from the Tijuana Internaccional

Tijuana Road Races
Along with the map and video from earlier today, here are some photos from the 1966 or 67 road races held on the temporary street circuit along the beach in Tijuana. There’s some street action with the Formula Vees entering turn one at the end of the long beachside straight, the drivers in the production class lining up for their LeMans start, and some track shots of some MGAs and Sprites. Excellent stuff here.
Formula Vees in Tijuana
On Your Marks...
Tijuana Drivers Meeting
Now that looks like a happy bunch of drivers.

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Track Maps from the Past: Tijuana

Tijuana Road Racing CourseMexican road racing offered more than just the Panamericana, my friends. This is the temporary street course created for the 1968 Tijuana Internaccional races. The program included Formula Ford and Vee races, as well as production based classes – and even featured a LeMans style running start. ¡Me Gusta!

Hand drawn is almost always best, don’t you think? And when in doubt, add some Speed Racer-esque accent illustrations.

Here’s some video from the same venue a few years later. Fabulous projected 8mm film cans, complete with projector fan noise and voice commentary from the driver.

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