It's been five fun years since I decided to try my hand at full-time freelance photography and writing, and over a decade since I moved out to SoCal to work for the now exclusively digital-format Import Tuner magazine. Name a popular event in automotive enthusiast circles and chances are I've covered it. From Hot Import Nights and NHRA Sport Compact in their heyday, to the first Wekfest and just about every Formula D round, to Gridlife festivals and even some professional sportscar racing—you get the picture(s).
But for five years in a row, one of my favorite annual events has consistently been the California Festival of Speed.
The 18-year, time-honored recipe for this annual three-day feast is simple and delicious: One part Porsche Club of America's (PCA) resources and membership base as the largest one-make auto club in the country; one part Porsche Owners Club's (POC) elite roster of club racers, race machines, and track-day logistical know-how; a generous seasoning of industry and food vendors, a side of open-to-the-public Porsche Owners Corral and autocross, and serve on a sun-warmed Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
Oh, and make enough for family and friends. They'll be coming in from all across the country.
Its Sports Car Course, or "Roval" as it's more commonly called, is where drivers get down to the business of racing and track driving, in three main areas: Time Trials, hosted by the PCA, and with two 20-minute wheel-to-wheel POC sprint races and a 70-minute endurance race which all double as points races by season championship competitors.
PCA members and time-trial competitors are generally enthusiasts in stock or modified street cars, competing amongst each other to clock the fastest lap in a given class or session, much like time-attack.
POC drivers take things up a notch, fielding mostly retired GT3 and GT4 race machines from series like Grand-Am, ALMS, IMSA or World Challenge here in the States; or Blancpain and ADAC GT racing overseas. Their drivers are no strangers to competition, either—most are current or retired professional drivers, or seasoned club racers.
Two such retired 997 Porsche 911 GT3 Rs from Manthey Racing have become synonymous with the Festival of Speed in recent years. And while the yellow and green no. 85 car saw limited track time due to a mechanical failure, local LA surgeon Dr. Alexander Marmureanu in the no. 12 car clocked the fastest lap of the entire event—a 1:37.648 scorcher—and won both sprint races overall!
Two other GT3 Rs made their debuts at this year's event, led by San Diego-region PCA/POC member John Cahalin. John drove the immaculate Vali Motorsports no. 776 991 GT3 R to the quickest time of the weekend in time-trial competition with a 1:41.89x, improved on that time while running both of the weekend's sprint races with a 1:40.167, and then finished an impressive Sixth in the 70-minute endurance race.
Running even faster were TKO Motorsports' David Traitel and Memo Gidley in the no. 775 991 GT3 R. The duo drove conservatively in Sprint races and practice/qualifying sessions, but let loose during the enduro, clocking a best 1:38.532 to finish Second overall.
But running faster than either car were a pair of veteran 991 GT3 Cup cars which traded off close Second- and Third-place finishes in each of the sprint races. Claiming Second by under four seconds in the first sprint race was Doug Baron and the no. 77 car, running a best time just one second behind Dr. Marmureanu's best. Improving on that in race 2 was Loren Beggs and the no. 08 car, claiming Second just 2.38 seconds from the win and with a best lap time under a half-second from the winner's. Always impressive to see GT4s taking on (and taking out) GT3s.
Moving into the 70-minute enduro, it really looked like Doug Baron and his no. 77 GT3 Cup car would be Dr. Marmureanu's biggest threat. And while they traded off the lead in the race's opening half, claiming the lead and holding it through to the win would be Vision Performance's no. 271 2003 Porsche GT2, driven by Dan Davis and Craig Stanton—Craig being a multiple-championship-winning GT-class Porsche driver. The duo's 1:38.804 best lap wasn't the fastest, but with a nearly 11-second lead over Second Place they effectively demonstrated how strategy can win the race.
While it might not have been the quickest or winningest car, possibly the coolest of the event was Vision Motorsports' no. 44 "Jagermeister" 1969 Porsche 911. Very heavily restomodded with a blend of yesterday's styling and today's cutting-edge tech and craftsmanship, this thing stole the limelight in the pits, all weekend long. It did alright on the track, too, clocking a 1:44.049 best lap during one of the weekend's two Sprint races.
Back in Vendor Row were some of the usual favorite Porsches: Bisi Ezerioha's monster 911 and Cayman-converted center-drive Boxster ...
... some current World Challenge contenders from locals Global Motorsports Group (GMG) ...
... Rasant Products' insanely clean '75 Porsche 911 S ...
... and Ryan Hoegner's (yes, of Eibach Honda Meet fame) SEMA show-stealing '82 911 SC
SoCal Euro Werks' "Rally Historico" Porsche 914 was new to us at the Festival of Speed and turned its share of heads throughout the weekend. Fittingly, the "Porsche Timeline" theme of this year's show highlighted the Porsche 914, so if you liked what you saw in the SoCal Euro Werks car, there was a whole lot more where it came from just in front of it.
The Porsche Owner's Corral had pretty much wrapped up by the time we got around to it (Porsche race cars just have a way of holding our attention), but there was still an eclectic and impressive assortment of various models hanging out for the duration of the day.
Ditto for the Taste of Autocross experience, which (perhaps due to inspiration) hit peak participation while we were covering the race cars on track. Nevertheless, we snapped a few above-average Joes in action, and even stole some pics of the sole non-Porsche we remembered encountering: one fortunate cone shagger's mint Ford GT40.
Whether you want to experience some fierce, world-class Porsche wheel-to-wheel racing, want to take part in some time-trial competition yourself, have a thing for historical Porsches (that are actually driven!), are a collector, an owner, or just a fan of some of the best sports cars ever made, the CA Festival of Speed is for you. Five years into its 18-year history and it still tops the list of my favorite events of the year, and based on what I saw this time around, next year looks like it might be its best yet!