It's funny how time can change the value we place on objects and pastimes. Take racing, for example. With technologies, facilities, and competition between drivers always increasing, seldom do we consider bygone eras and racing machines as superior to what's available today. Sure, there's a nostalgic appreciation for certain points in history that ripens with time (who doesn't love Group B rally or JDM Super Silhouette racing?), but today's racing is arguably better than it ever has been, by many solid metrics.
But there are exceptions — namely, Porsches. Ten or 15 years ago you could buy a thoroughly used and largely forgotten Porsche for a very small premium over any other car its age. Even in racing circles, buying an obsolete Porsche race car for weekend trackday or club-racing use was a realistic possibility. Today, not so much, and that is what makes the California Festival of Speed so awesome to witness as the years grow on and Porsches continue to appreciate in the market.
A joint venture between the Porsche Owners Club and the Porsche Club of America, this annual event has been welcoming owners of Porsche race and street machines to show off their rides and compete in time-trial and racing competition for over 17 years. Many of the classic and air-cooled Porsches ripping around Auto Club Speedway's infamous "roval" configuration were purchased well before the recent Porsche market boom, and while they could be cleaned up and flipped for monster profits today, their enthusiast owners seem quite content with driving them — hard — any chance they get.
Gutted, caged, tuned, and flared, these machines are the inspiration for many of today's trends in Porsche street/show-car tuning, but where the latter would be most commonly found on the show circuit or being auctioned off for 10-fold returns on their initial investment, you can only find these ones screaming around a racetrack, covered in rock chips, and swapping paint with their rivals, before heading back on their open trailers for the trip home.
Of course, it doesn't end there. California Festival of Speed and its forming partners have a place for Porsches of nearly every vintage, and plenty of late-model cars joined the fray at Fontana, many retired in recent years from series like Pirelli World Challenge, IMSA (or Grand Am before it), ADAC in Germany, and races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
And of course, this being club racing, there were just as many (if not more?) enthusiasts' tuned street cars running side-by-side with the racing veterans. Some even *gasp* of non-Porsche manufactuer!
As intricate and constant as the racing was, it was only part of the California Festival of Speed recipe. Off the track there was a corral grouped by model for owners of just about every Porsche platform imaginable, as well as plenty going on in Vendor Alley.
For those wanting to get in on the driving action without risk of damage or injury, there was a "taste of autocross" course set up as well — un-timed and non-competitive, but still a lot more fun than sitting in a parking lot.
Back at the track, racing was divided up into three time-trial run groups, two groups of wheel-to-wheel sprint racing, and one 70-minute enduro. Rick Levinson, with his no. 723 996 Turbo laid down a 1:43.37 fastest overall timed lap in time-trial competition over the three-day weekend, but right behind him was Top Drift champ and Formula D Pro 2 ace Adam Knapik, behind the wheel of the no. 56 991 GT3, clocking a 1:44.98.
Sprint racing saw David Leyvas dominate both races of the Blue group with his no. 111 '97 Porsche Boxster, earning repeat wins and clocking the fastest lap in each: a 1:49.054 fastest lap in race 1 and a 1:47.858 in race 2.
Like David, Loren Beggs won both races of the Green Group from behind the wheel of the no. 08 '17 GT3 Cup car, also clocking the fastest lap of race 2 with a 1:39.990. But it would be Bob Mueller who claimed the fastest lap of the entire event (from what we can tell), with a blisteringly fast 1:37.718 out of the no. 28 '14 GT3 GT America Cup car all the way in the first practice session of the weekend.
The 70-minute enduro encountered some confusion when a pace car came in too early after a double yellow at about the halfway point of the race, and while there will no doubt be some ... "dialogue" about the decisions by race control for some time to come, Elliott Skeer in the no. 27 GT3 Cup car emerged the decided winner, finishing a full 27 seconds ahead of his next-closest challenger. You'll remember Elliott and this very same car from our coverage of last year's Super Lap Battle, where the duo won the Pro/Comp class and nearly the entire event outright.
So while things change with time, some things don't. Porsches are still fast, still make great race cars, and while more and more owners might choose to preserve these race machines and think of them merely as investments, there are still plenty of others who would love nothing more than to thrash them around a racetrack, to their fullest potential.
For details on next year's event, check out: