Life In The Fast Lane: Vintage Auto Racing
In Vintage Auto Racing, It Isn't Whether You Win or Lose--It's How You Run the Race
From the Print Edition:
James Woods, May/Jun 97
Within the religion of auto racing, Bill Mazzoni has just committed a mortal sin.
The sacred ethos of this sport, recorded in some yellowing book of rpms now nearly a century old, can be pared to a one-word essence: win. Chapter Two, Verse One says that a pole winner must hold his front position through the first turn, increasing his odds of a relatively unobstructed run toward victory. A pole sitter who starts from last place is a heretic.
Thus it is written.
An experienced and skillful racer, Mazzoni knows this full well. But after annihilating his competition during qualifying laps to earn the pole, he has chosen for some reason to ignore this commandment. He is flouting the racing gods.
As the gentlemen--and one lady--start their engines, Mazzoni's spectacular Chevron B16 growls alive from behind his 11 opponents. Behind even the lumbering two-cylinder DB Panhard driven by Andre Garnier, a droll 71-year-old retiree from France who first raced in 1948.
"Top speed? My car goes up to 90 miles an hour," Garnier said earlier with a grin in the pit lane. "When it's going really, really good, it'll go a little over 90."
Mazzoni's blood-red Chevron can hit 170.
With the nimble Porsche 911 of John Rollins taking over the pole position, the field rumbles and revs its way onto the twisting road course for a single slow pace lap at Metro-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex, south of Miami. They form a peculiar parade. Trailing Rollins in single file is Paul Rowan's hulking, muscular Mustang Boss 302, followed by Michael Kennedy's sleek, streamlined Lotus Formula Ford and Mike Jackson's angular, one-of-a-kind Shadowfax and all the others, a hodgepodge of automotive technology turned into a colorful circus of fiberglass and sheet metal and chrome. Andre Garnier's blue Panhard is second to last in line--followed by the Chevron B16.
As the cars appear around the final turn of the 2 1/4-mile track and dive down the long front straightaway toward the starting line, one car is missing. The Chevron is nowhere in sight.
The green flag drops in front of John Rollins' Porsche, as Rowan's Mustang accelerates in a bid for the lead. Even the Panhard picks up a little steam, rolling toward the starter's flag stand. But still there is no Mazzoni.
Long seconds tick by, an eternity in a sport where world championships often are decided by the nano-fractions on a stopwatch. Finally, the Chevron funnels casually onto the front straight, trundling along at perhaps half speed. "Heeeeere comes Bill," one of Mazzoni's pit workers says calmly, standing with one leg braced on the trackside wall. A full 20 seconds after the green flag fell, the Chevron B16 is officially in the race--and clearly in no hurry to make up lost track.
Incredible as it may seem, Mazzoni is deliberately hanging back, allowing his rivals to get a huge lead. This is not unusual for him at smaller club events such as the competition in Homestead. Other racers say, with amusement and respect, that Mazzoni sometimes pulls into the pits on the pace lap and sits through what he considers a civilized delay before starting to race.
There is a very decent, very practical reason for all this that has nothing to do with the arrogance of owning a machine capable of warp speeds: in an event that ends after the leader completes just eight laps, the Chevron B16 can easily pass the slowest cars several times. Andre Garnier and the other so-called "backmarkers" might haul their vintage automobiles hundreds of miles, tune up their engines, dress in a triple layer of fire-resistant Nomex--and race only three laps. So the Chevron B16 is all but idling now, sauntering through the quick, angled first turn. In a throwback to the sportsmanship of childhood, when competition and camaraderie mattered more than winning, Bill Mazzoni is giving his opponents a head start.
This is the gentleman's end of an aggressive, cutthroat sport. Nothing could distill its spirit better than Mazzoni's simple act of generosity.
It is vintage auto racing, where decades-old cars appear again like ghosts on the tracks of their dimly remembered glories. Machines built by dreamers, machines driven by legends. Machines that made pimply faced young men salivate almost as much as their fathers' hidden stash of Playboys. Today, the kids are grown and earn enough money to own those machines, driving them every weekend around the United States and Europe. Together, those men and those machines make vintage racing a very different class of motor sport.
England's upper crust was among the first to savor the joy of restoring and racing old automobiles. At least as far back as 1950, gents in small, specialized organizations such as the Aston Martin Owners Club competed together by day and laughed together by night over glasses of Port and fine cigars. Soon vintage racing had crossed the Atlantic. It began in 1951, when a driver named Lindley Bothwell raced in the first Pebble Beach, California, events with cars already more than 40 years old.
"He was running a 1908 Mercedes-Benz when people were running Allards as new. He was a pioneer," says Steve Earle, who has played his own pioneering role in the growing popularity of vintage racing. Earle owns the California-based Historic Motor Sports Association, one of nearly 50 vintage racing groups in the United States. He also originated and still operates the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, held annually in August--the premier vintage event in the world.
"The idea I had was to take the sport public, in a sense, because of the tradition of racing in this area, the tradition of Lindley Bothwell running here," Earle recalls. "There were a lot of old race cars sitting around with nowhere to go. If it was broken, it just sat there. Mechanics were saying, 'I don't want to work on that.' "
The first Monterey historic races were run in 1974, attracting about 1,000 people. "That included the 60 drivers and all our friends," Earle says with a laugh. Today, the event is limited to 400 racers and pulls in more than 30,000 spectators. Other big races such as the Sprint Vintage Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio also draw drivers by the hundreds and fans by the tens of thousands.
Drivers and fans alike are united by their passion for old cars. But they are divided by spirited disagreements that make generalizations about this form of racing dangerous--even about its name. In this country, most aficionados simply use the term "vintage," but some insist the only proper adjective is "historic." Then there's the stickier issue of just which cars qualify as vintage. Steve Earle's association accepts any "racing car that has historic significance," though normally that means only automobiles made before the 1960s. Organizations such as the Sports Car Club of America allow cars built before Jan. 1, 1973, to run in its vintage class. And the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, the largest and one of the best in the United States, accepts "historically significant cars constructed prior to 1980."
The people in vintage racing also defy easy categorization. As in all motor sports, drivers are mostly men, but a sizable number of women take part as well. Typically, vintage competition is a very expensive, high-end hobby enjoyed by executives, bankers, doctors and lawyers. Sometimes, it's unbelievably expensive. But even Monterey draws its share of modest-income guys, from gas station mechanics to middle-level managers. "Mazzoni pays more for his tires in a year than I paid for my whole car," says Mike Jackson, a computer manager whose 1969 Shadowfax is worth between $5,000 and $10,000. "Among vintage racers, almost none of us know what each other does for a living. It's almost an unwritten rule that you don't ask. Though we're pretty sure all the guys who run Porsches are lawyers."
Whatever they're doing, many of the vintage racers have plenty of disposable income. And their sport helps them dispose of it quickly. Bill Mazzoni has turned down a six-figure offer for his Chevron B16. He carts the car all over the country in a $110,000 trailer that carries at least $15,000 worth of tools and a $15,000 1965 Mini-Moke support vehicle for getting around at sprawling race tracks. The cost of racing adds another $100,000 to the annual tab. He does all this as a flower grower: "We grow gladiolas--32 cents a stem wholesale," he says. A very large flower grower--with substantial holdings of valuable south Florida land.
But even Mazzoni is not among the fattest cats of vintage racing. Mike Amalfitano, who is in the electronics business, says he owns "about 10 vintage cars worth about $15 million." His comment is telling. When you're not sure exactly how many race cars you own and what they're worth to the closest $100,000, you're probably not worried that the Social Security system might collapse before your retirement. Among his collection is a 1970 Porsche 917, a thoroughbred with 630 horsepower and 12 cylinders. Before he bought the car, it raced throughout Europe, crashed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, competed once or twice in the United States, then was sold to the Chandon family in France--"the Moët & Chandon Champagne people," Amalfitano explains.
"You drive into the pits of a big historic event and you see what's in there--and you'd swear you were at a major race like an IndyCar event. The top guys have, I would say, $300,000 to $500,000 tied up just in their trailers," Amalfitano says. "I have three people working full-time on my cars, including Colin Bennett, who was Derek Daly's race team manager. He's known throughout the industry. This isn't a game."
A rare Ferrari with a distinguished racing history might cost as much as $10 million, says Frank Rupp, president of the nearly 2,000-member Sportscar Vintage Racing Association. "Like a painting, it's how much it's worth to the buyer. Some people collect art. We race it."
They do not race these rolling Chagalls for cash. Vintage racing offers no prize money in the United States, sometimes not even a trophy. Some organizations award the same prize to everyone who takes the green flag, a small token of participation such as a clipboard or tool box. "We're doing it simply for the thrill of racing, to honor the old cars and to know the people who are part of this sport," racer Mike Jackson says. "There's a sense of community that builds up around vintage races. Most of us don't give a rip about who finishes first or second. On any given day maybe John Rollins is running about the same speed as me and we may go out there and have one hell of a race together. The two of us can celebrate the experience of that race. It doesn't matter if we're running ninth and tenth, or first and second."
For racing's true believers, this is sacrilege. To them, auto racing is a hair-trigger skill where squeezing the throttle an eighth of a second too early spins you into the grass, or depressing the brake an eighth of a second too late skids you into the wall. It is a contest where testosterone runs thicker than oil but where blind machismo is more dangerous than inside a singles bar. It is a sport without compassion, fierce and unforgiving. There are no umpires to rule impartially on racing's equivalent of a close strike and no referees to call back what amounts to the winning touchdown pass. There are only gravity and inertia and the other natural laws of Newton. Only the attempt to keep four rubber wheels on asphalt while all the equations of physics try to push you off. There are only adrenaline and raw fear as you try to remember the precise point on the track where you must downshift and into which gear and the exact line through the corner and where to accelerate again, while at the same time watching the tachometer and the oil pressure and the water temperature gauges to avoid boiling the engine, all while trying to block three or four equally busy and determined racers behind you and to slide past another driver in front. You do this knowing that if you are passed by any of those three or four cars, you have failed. And that if you pass the car in front, you have seven or eight more to pass for the lead and the chance then to stay ahead of the full field of relentless competitors for a half hour or two hours or 24 hours. And that if you don't gain the lead, or if you take it and don't hold it, you also have failed. That is real racing to those who pray in the temple of speed.
Some drivers, outside and inside vintage circles, dismiss historic races in the United States as more pizzazz than piston. America's first Formula One champion, Phil Hill, turned to vintage cars long after winning his 1961 world driving title. He's among a few former racing legends, such as Stirling Moss and Brian Redman, who still strap themselves into the elegant old bucket seats of a bygone era. But he has no illusions about reliving the dramatic, daring battles of his youth.
"Vintage car racing has more to do with cars than with racing. Though in England, they seem to drive just as hard with the old cars as with the new ones," Hill says. And in the United States? "I don't do enough of it to talk about that without making someone mad at what I might say," he suggests tactfully--until he's pressed. Reluctantly, Hill says, "I don't think it's a very high level of competition."
Jim Proffit, a competitor whose West Coast business restores old race cars, is a bit blunter. "Vintage racing is like peeing in your pants. It feels hot to you but to everybody else it looks like you're just peeing in your pants," he observes. "This isn't real racing. In real racing, the only thing that counts is winning. I've been in vintage racing since 1977 and I'm still not sure I can define it. It's putting yourself in a time and place to do something as it was back then. Say you have a 1952 car. You know what that car was capable of in 1952. You hop in the seat and try to match or exceed that."
New tire technology and modern pre-race techniques such as camber adjustments considerably ease the task of beating 44-year-old lap times. Those same advances also help ensure that your 1952 Ferrari is less likely today to hurtle into a wall than when it first slid through the inner loop at Watkins Glen.
Safety is in some ways an even bigger concern in U.S. vintage racing than in other branches of amateur auto sports. This is for two reasons: First, the cars are often much less crashworthy than, say, a 1996 Formula Dodge--and no one wants to die on the hood ornament of a Bugatti. Second, the cars are often much more valuable than that Formula Dodge--and no one wants to destroy a 1974 Ferrari GTO worth $4 million.
"It's a more laid-back form of racing," Porsche racer Rollins says. "When you're running wheel-to-wheel with a Ferrari into turn one at Sebring, you tend to be very careful. It is not a contact sport, because the cars are too expensive. You drive within your limits."
Adds Chevron owner Mazzoni: "The rule of thumb in vintage racing is, 'If in doubt, don't.' There's definitely history involved here, definitely respect for the machines. But if you don't think someone will shut the door on you because he's got a million dollar car and you have a half million dollar car, you're wrong. Because he will."
Vintage racing enforces its more gentlemanly, don't-scratch-the-paint approach with some stiff penalties. Many clubs have what they call a "13/13 rule": A driver who causes any mishap resulting in car damage can be placed on probation for 13 months. If he commits a second fender-bending blunder within that period, he is banned from the sport for another 13 months. At Monterey, the regulations are even more summary: "If you have an incident sufficient to cause damage, you're out for a year," race operator Earle says.
But even with all these precautions, there have been deaths in vintage racing--a sobering reminder that metal and flesh are never a safe mix at high speeds. "In the last five or six years, it's certainly under 10 fatalities in this country. And it's probably under five," estimates vintage racer Terry Jackson, an automotive columnist for The Miami Herald. "I think it's less dangerous than other forms of racing. We're not racing for points or a championship. And the cars are important to us."
Ah, those cars. Maybe they are works of art after all.
The long, graceful, arcing sweep of the hood; the sinuous curve of the rear fenders; the compact and functional doors; the narrow windshield that allows the fresh air to twist your shirt collar into knots and whistle through the spaces between your teeth; the low, wide, squat stance, poised like a cheetah prepared to sprint across the veld; the thundering engine that rattles your ankle joints and re-parts your hair. There is a charm and nobility about these automobiles that surpasses mere nostalgia. They are remembrances of a time when the road seemed new and clean and inviting, when driving was something more to be enjoyed than endured, when Route 66 was the main highway west and the world appeared open to any young man with a fast car and a fresh dream. A time before the onslaught of the bulky, despicable minivans and utility vehicles and yuppie pickup trucks. A time when style mattered as much as substance and substance as much as style, when automotive designers recognized that form follows function and understood that the function is speed.
Every vintage driver shares a genuine respect and love for the old cars. Even the most prosaic among them tends to wax a bit poetic when he describes these glistening pieces of the past. For ordinary racers, an automobile is simply his tool, the chisel to carve into the marble of competition. But for vintage owners, the car is at least as important as any race.
And an integral part of the car is its history. Bill Mazzoni has searched through old books and old magazines and old memories for the details about his intimidating Chevron. By pasting together fragments of information, he has constructed a somewhat sketchy record that stretches back 30 years: The Chevron was a car developed in England by Derek Bennett around 1966, with the B16 model first built in 1969 to compete in the European two-liter championships. Just 23 Chevron B16s were made--and Mazzoni's is one of perhaps 17 still in existence. His B16 probably appeared in the 1971 Steve McQueen film Le Mans, then as now marked with the number 44, Mazzoni says. The car went to Italy in 1972 and was stripped for hill climbing, then returned to England around 1983 or 1984, when it was restored to B16 specifications. Somewhere along the way, this Chevron raced and crashed at the famous Hockenheim track in Germany--a precious nugget of background Mazzoni stumbled upon at a vintage event.
"A German guy at Watkins Glen started talking to us about working on these cars. He had been a mechanic, an older gentleman," recalls Mazzoni, who bought the Chevron in 1986. "He said a driver at Hockenheim slid up on one of the curbs and put a bow on the frame of a Chevron B16. It was never fixed but wasn't visible from the outside with the body on. Our car has that bow in it exactly where the gentleman said it would be."
At the millionaire's end of vintage racing, an automobile's pedigree isn't simply academic. "A car is worth literally hundreds of thousands of dollars more, depending on its history--what it's done and who did it," notes Paul Rowan, a seasoned mechanic from England who services Mazzoni's Chevron and races his own 1970 Mustang Boss 302.
But at any end of vintage racing--whether Ferrari-in-the-truck or MG-on-the-U-Haul--a spirit of friendliness and fair play and cooperation exists among competitors. There's nothing quite like it in any other type of motor sports.
Rowan and Mazzoni are talking about this now, the mechanic rumpled casually across the lobby floor of his Foreign Toys garage in south Florida, the flower grower twisted uncomfortably into a stiff, vinyl office chair. They are smiling, speaking about their sport with enthusiasm.
"You go to a vintage meeting and it's a family atmosphere. Everyone looks forward to the next race and being together," Mazzoni says.
"It's a more social event," Rowan adds in a British accent diluted by 15 years in the United States. "If your car breaks down and you don't race, you say, 'Oh well. I'll go and party.' It's very enjoyable and very relaxing."
Is it true that competing vintage owners often share equipment at races? Both acknowledge this with what seems like genuine pride.
"One time at Watkins Glen we were in an endurance race with Bill driving. And another guy came into the pits with a flat tire," Rowan remembers. "He had only one set of treaded tires, the tires he needed for the endurance race. So after 20 minutes, he was out of the event. I went out to our trailer and grabbed a wheel and tire and his guys mounted it and away he went. He was one of our competitors. And we're not the only ones who do this."
"Everybody does it," Mazzoni says. "If somebody's got something that someone else needs, he'll give it to the other guy if he doesn't need it himself."
You find this attitude everywhere around the track at vintage events. Racers admiring their rivals' cars, offering driving tips, talking over mechanical problems. Smiling and laughing and shaking hands, putting aside the pettiness that competition often encourages.
"Think we're going to fire this car up pretty soon and drive it over to your paddock area so we'll be in the right place," Mazzoni says to Mike Jackson shortly before the Homestead race. The soft-spoken comment sounds more like a question.
"That'll be fine," Jackson replies. "Plenty of room."
Vintage racers even seem generous to virtual strangers. As a graduate of several Skip Barber Racing School courses and a sometime-competitor in the Skip Barber Race Series, I wangle permission to ride in one of the historic cars between events at Homestead. Then, just hours before race time, I also receive clearance to drive a vintage car around the track--if I can find someone willing to turn me loose with his expensive machine. But a two-seater is required for both activities, the chief race steward says, and the only one available is Paul Rowan's Mustang. Without hesitation, Rowan agrees to the ride and the drive, first taking his passenger on a cautious but still exhilarating few laps. He tells me I can drive his $45,000 car, alone, after the vintage race. I wonder if I would be as trusting in his place.
Perhaps it's their combined love of rare cars and high speeds. Perhaps it's the ease with which many of the racers switch from white collars and calculators during the workweek to T-shirts and crescent wrenches on weekends. Perhaps it's partly the age of these drivers--most are between 40 and 60. But vintage owners seem to be a special breed. Successful without falling victim to pretensions. Intelligent without lapsing into condescension. Competitive without taking themselves too seriously.
"None of us have any illusions that we are overlooked Al Unser Juniors," says vintage driver Terry Jackson. "On the other hand, I'm glad my races are only eight to 10 laps long, because I can't hold my breath any longer than that."
There is no Walter Mitty in these men. They do not merely daydream about triumph. Whether or not they drive their cars on the outer limits of adhesion, they still crank out 100 mph speeds at an age when most of us tee up Titleists. For a few moments on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, they recover their lost youth, become throwbacks to a time when rugged racers in something like batting helmets piloted powerful, beautiful machines through the forests of Europe. For a brief time they actually transform themselves into Juan Manuel Fangio conquering the Nurburgring in a 1954 Mercedes-Benz or Phil Hill winning the Italian Grand Prix in his 1961 Ferrari, goggles in place, chin strap flapping wildly, cheeks smudged with oil. During those fleeting instants, life looks a bit more innocent, and almost anything seems possible again.
"I started racing about 1959 and quit about '65, racing on a shoestring. Eventually I just couldn't afford to keep doing it. But I really pined for those days. Those were good times," says 63-year-old Walter Hotchkiss, who now competes in a 1964 Griffith 200 and recently bought a magnificent 1962 Ferrari. "And so I started vintage racing in 1992. I saw some of those guys out there and thought, 'I can get back into a race car, too!' It was just like being taken back to my youth. And that's pretty good when you can do that."
Lap 1 of the vintage race in Homestead is almost complete. As they approach the start-finish line at maybe 120 mph, Rollins' Porsche has a narrow lead over Rowan's Boss Mustang. Rowan is trying to pick up the draft, to pass his opponent with a tow from the slipstream of air carved by a car at high speeds. They disappear around Turn 1. Now the second group of competitors slides on to the front straight, followed closely by Mazzoni's fiery machine. The Chevron B16 catapults past this row of trailing cars. "Theeeeeere goes Bill," Mazzoni's pit worker says matter-of-factly, still standing with one leg on the concrete wall, stopwatch in hand.
Mazzoni could easily overtake both front-runners during this second sweep through the winding, tight course--but doesn't. He refuses to use all of the B16's impressive power, instead trailing closely behind the Porsche and Mustang through laps three, four and five. Only three circuits of the track remain before the checkered flag. Everyone is getting plenty of seat time during the race; even Andre Garnier's 1958 Panhard is racking up complete laps.
Finally, the B16 takes the lead, passing Rollins and Rowan 10 minutes into the 14-minute event. Still, the Chevron clearly is far from running flat out. Only during the last two laps does Mazzoni pick up any real steam, giving a freer rein to all that pent-up horsepower. But he avoids overtaking any car that the Porsche and Mustang would not lap--avoids cutting anyone's day shorter than it would be without his B16 in this field.
Just as the race approaches an uneventful end, though, some drivers have serious problems. Rowan's car drops a differential on Lap 7, belching a plume of acrid smoke, and the Mustang is gone. With the mechanical failure, my opportunity to drive a vintage car at Homestead is over.
On the same lap, Mike Jackson is dicing it out with Rich Ernst, who's driving a Zink C4 Formula Vee, when there's a crash. The two already had passed each other at least six times, all clean and careful vintage racing. But as his heart rate rises, Ernst makes the kind of mistake that can happen to any racer under pressure--he slides two wheels off the track. Instantly, his small open-cockpit car spins wildly through the grass and into a concrete wall. He walks away without injuries, though the Zink C4 is damaged.
Mazzoni wins the 18-mile event and sets a fast lap of one minute and 41 seconds. Still, he beats Rollins by only about six seconds. Garnier finishes last this day, his best lap time recorded as two minutes and 33 seconds. But he completes six of the eight laps and apparently has a wonderful time.
After the race, Mazzoni is brief and modest about his unorthodox win. "I ran until I found whoever was in the lead, then just stayed with him," he says. "If I didn't screw up, this was going to be the result." Besides, he's in a hurry to pack his Chevron into the trailer and leave for home, about 100 miles to the north. "Going fishing tomorrow," he says. "I've got a date with a bass."
Back in the pit lane garages, Ernst is inspecting the results of his frightening run-in with the wall. A fellow racer who once owned this same Zink C4 is with him, suggesting the best way to make repairs. This was Ernst's first crash and he is evidently a bit rattled. "I screwed up today. That's all," he admits with an uncomfortable smile. "I screwed up."
There is a saying that there are just two kinds of race drivers: those who have hit the wall--and those who will hit the wall. That may not hold true for vintage racers. But today, Rich Ernst found his patch of concrete nonetheless. The accident is a kind of message for him and his 11 opponents, a warning that vintage competition may be somewhat less demanding and dangerous than other forms of auto racing, but is demanding and dangerous all the same. When your car meets something solid at significant speeds, it hardly matters if you felt desperate to win or not before the crash.
If Rich Ernst serves as an example of vintage racing's similar-ities to other kinds of motor sports, he also is a reflection of its differences, a reminder of the victory-isn't-everything, fight-the-good-fight attitude common among these drivers of classic cars.
Perhaps half an hour after talking with a dispirited Ernst about his accident, I run into him bounding down the stairs from the timing and scoring tower. He is beaming with a broad, satisfied smile and punches the air with his fist victoriously. I am confused.
"Did you get any results?" I ask, wondering what scoring information could so elevate the mood of a man who just crashed his vintage race car.
"Yeah!" he enthuses. Ernst contains his excitement just long enough to give me his news before hurrying back toward the pit lane. "I may have hit the wall. But I got a better lap time than Mike Jackson did!"
Bob Knotts is a regular contributor to several national magazines and has recently published a series of children's books and completed his first novel.
Getting Behind the Wheel
If you want to get into any form of auto racing, you'd better be prepared to spend some serious money.
To start, you need to learn the fundamentals of handling any high-performance car at racing speeds. There are many ways to acquire these skills, including attending driver schools given by the vintage racing associations in your region. But the fastest and best plan is to sign up at one of the top racing schools in the United States.
The Skip Barber Racing School
29 Brook Street, Lakeville, Connecticut 06039 (800) 221-1131
The school offers three- ($2,250), five- ($3,395), or seven-day ($5,795) programs, teaching you many of the basic racing techniques, and in the case of the week-long program, lets you drive in a race.
Bob Bondurant School of High-Performance Driving
Firebird International Raceway, 20000 South Maricopa Road, Gate 3, Chandler, Arizona 85226; (800) 842-RACE
A four-day program ($2,695) is available at the school's specially designed track in Arizona.
Next, you'll need to learn which vintage groups compete in your area and which ones best fit your interests and bank account. Two helpful magazines on the sport are Victory Lane and Vintage Motorsport. Both magazines provide names, addresses and phone numbers of major vintage associations.
After you contact the organizations, attend one of their meetings or one of their races. Talk with the drivers and officials, look over the cars and decide if they meet your needs.
After you're ready to join a vintage racing association, you'll need to purchase personal safety equipment: a triple-layer fire-resistant suit for around $300 to $800, a full-face helmet (that meets current safety requirements) for $250 or so, plus odds and ends such as fire-resistant boots and gloves.
Then comes the biggest expense: the car. You can spend anywhere from several thousand dollars to several million dollars. Add on money for a trailer, replacement parts, entry fees, etc. It is possible to rent a vintage car--your local association or even fellow racers should be able to tell you about rental shops in the area.
The least expensive way to race historic cars is essentially to hitch a ride. After attending the needed driving schools, you can join your local vintage association, find a car owner who competes in endurance events that require two or more drivers--and volunteer to split some of the costs with him in return for racing time. This will get you into a car and onto a track with minimal expense.
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