Velocity Invitational brought vintage racing to life in high style at Laguna Seca

Brandan Gillogly

The first-ever Velocity Invitational brought powerful and rare vintage metal to the historic WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. The event’s creators are the same people that brought us the upper-crust Sonoma Speed Festival and the vibe was similar. The Monterey Bay served as a perfect setting for an event that included wheel-to-wheel racing, wine tasting, and a unique paddock environment designed to highlight some of the world’s most famous racing cars.

With two days to practice and qualify and two days to race, the event packed a lot of motoring into four days. Even when the on-track action was neither timed nor ranked, the exhibitions were fantastic. The sights and sounds of rare racers at speed on the hallowed tarmac of Laguna Seca are second to none. Where else can you see Porsche 917s, Ford-powered Indy cars, and Stirling Moss’ Mercedes 300SLR on the track at the same place?

There were ten classes of cars on track competing for position and glory, plus the aforementioned exhibition laps of cars and motorcycles. Here are the first five groups in action, in chronological order. That’s right—You can book your trip to next year’s event and chalk it up as an education in the history of the automobile.

1907–20 Prewar “Ragtime Racers”

The earliest group of cars to take to the track appeared for exhibition only. With no podium position or points to worry about, these drivers could focus on showing off the fabulous restorations and thumping engines. Many of these vintage racers sounded more like tractors than modern race cars, and their handling told a similar story. Even though they weren’t competing for position, you could see that drivers were fighting to maintain a proper line around Laguna Seca’s tricky curves.

Group 1: 1924–39 Prewar Sports Racing Cars

In this class, you’ll find multiple Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, and ERA entries, one Miller Champ Car, and a pair of Talbots. These cars were going all-out and putting their skinny tires to the test.

Group 2: 1948–57 Sports and Sports Racing Cars

This class included a stately 1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk1, plenty of Jaguars, and a 1955 Chevrolet Mistral. In case you’ve never heard of a Mistral—we hadn’t either— it’s the devilish little red roadster sporting a pair of fangs. It’s powered by a small-block Chevy V-8.

Group 3: 1957–61 Sports Racing Cars

These cars are small, light, sleek, and they sounded angry! They included a Ferrari 250 Testarossa, a 1960 Maserati T-61 Birdcage, and the 1959 Old Yeller II Mark II Buick Special.

Group 4A: 1957–65 GT Cars over 2.5 liters

This group contained some of the best-sounding engines: Small-block Ford and Chevy V-8s growled alongside Jaguar E-Type sixes and the high-winding Ferrari 3.0-liter V-12 in the gorgeous 250 GTO.

Group 4B: 1957–65 GT Cars under 2.5 liters

Don’t let their size fool you. Some of these tiny cars packed nearly 200 hp and weighed about as much as your average carry-on luggage.

We’re not done sharing our favorite racing action from Velocity Invitational, check back for more from Laguna Seca later this week!

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