The Golden Gate Chapter of Audi Club North America is one of the more active organizations in the country. Throughout the year it holds a number of high performance driving events at various racetracks, instructor certification clinics and teen driving clinics. It also has Yosemite and Marin County fun drives as well as hosting a hospitality tent at Turn 5 at Laguna Seca during the Grand-Am races to cheer on the Audi teams.
As summer 2012 faded into fall, the focus turned to its signature event, AudiFest at Sonoma Raceway (formerly Infineon). It's the Chapter's largest event of the year and although it didn't break the record attendance of 2011, it came darn close.
Club members were able to enjoy two days on the track, but it started with a fun drive in Sonoma and Napa counties on the Friday, with a banquet, raffle and auction on Saturday night.
In an effort to centralize the event, all Friday's pre-track activities were held at the Sheraton Petaluma host hotel. This meant attendees could check-in, register for the event and get the car tech-inspected before heading to the Raceway on Saturday morning.
Club member Larry Whitney led Friday's drive through Sonoma and Napa Counties to enjoy the winding roads and vineyards. The group travelled up to Santa Rosa and Calistoga, stopping for outdoor lunch at Busters Southern BBQ. It was followed by a brief wine and champagne tasting at the Frank Family Winery before traversing the mountains back to the host hotel.
With a variety of meetings held for the first-time attendees and track instructors on Friday evening, the all-in-one approach proved to be the right one. The instructors were then paired with their students at the end of the general drivers meeting and everybody retired early to prepare for the first track day.
On Saturday, fog hung low over the hills above Sonoma Raceway, but early risers were greeted to the familiar sight of cars being rolled off trailers into parking spots as the paddock filled.
With the best part of the weekend underway, the instructed groups were out first, followed by the intermediate and advanced groups. The newbies listened intently to veteran instructor Gordon Sanderson who prepared them for what to expect when they got on-track. But first they'd experience slalom, threshold braking and lane-change exercises to understand car dynamics.
After lunch a line had formed at the garage of sponsor Big-O tires, where Guy Gamba and his crew helped students with tire pressure recommendations and free nitrogen fill-ups. The paddock was busy with the DIYers rotating tires, checking oil and cleaning windshields.
The beginners were first on track in the afternoon and the remaining groups got their sessions as the day progressed.
As with most Audi Club events, the evening banquet, with its auction and raffle to benefit the Chapter, was a great way to end the day. While members enjoyed their meal, Event Master Cliff Musante presented Andrew Bennett from 2Bennett Audimotive with the 2012 Member of the Year award. Andrew and brother Ken have been huge supporters who go out of their way to assist members, so it was well-deserved.
The event wouldn't have been possible without help from the sponsors who are listed online. They generously donated 23 items for the raffle worth more than $17000, raising almost $2000 in ticket sales. The impressive list including everything from sets of Pirelli and Continental tires to Neuspeed wheels, APR software, a Milltek exhaust, to dyno pulls and wheel alignments.
Sunday picked up from where Saturday left off, with everybody making the most of their track time and trying to build on their experience. Inevitably, the day passed too quickly but many of the first-timers had been signed off by their instructors for solo laps. They soon had the same worn tires and broad smiles of everybody else in the paddock.
Audi Club North America Golden Gate Chapter had hosted another great event at Sonoma Raceway, but as AudiFest 2012 was ending, its members were looking ahead to the 2013 Winter Diving Event at Thunderhill Raceway, which took place in January.
For more information about the club and its events, visit audiclubgoldengate.org