"It never rains in California..." And, yes, it pours. Saturday's official opening day of the Second Annual Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival dawned with rain showers dampening the 2.52-mile Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., but not the spirits of the 400 participants, as many took to the wet course for practice and qualifying for Sunday's 13 group races. Fine wine, fine food and vintage and historic race cars are highlighting the weekend activities for race fans and foodies in the heart of Northern California's wine country. Sunday's weather predictions show clear skies.
Two important McLaren cars featured in McLaren Automotive's display
Of the six historic McLaren race cars displayed, alongside the 2012 McLaren MP4-12C high-performance sports car, at the McLaren Automotive display during the Sonoma Motorsports Historic Festival, two are especially significant. McLaren is the featured marque at this event.
The 1972 McLaren M20 that Denny Hulme took to second place in the Can-Am championship that year, after which the team retired from the series for good, ending the era, is owned by the National Automobile Museum, the Harrah Collection, in Reno, Nev. "(Event organizer) Steve Earle will come to us and tell us that his event is featuring a certain marque, and if we have a car that fits, then we'll try to figure out a way to get it to the event so people can see it and enjoy it," said Ranson Webster, chairman of the board of trustees of the Museum, and a competitor at this event. "And it's good publicity for the museum.
"We have roughly 240 cars in the museum, everything from an 1892 Phiion (one of the first cars built) to Mr. Harrah's 1976 Wagoneer with a Ferrari engine.
"We also have a tremendous collection of pre-1916 brass cars, cars from the '30s, and a whole race car selection. The M20 is one of four featured cars because of its history."
Webster is competing in a 1960 Abarth Carrera and a 1976 Kremer K3 Porsche 935 this weekend.
"Senna" film previewed by more than 225 in Sonoma
The second significant McLaren on display is Ranson Webster's 1985 McLaren MP4/2B, the Marlboro-sponsored Formula 1 car raced by Alain Prost and Niki Lauda. It is featured in the new "Senna" film, a documentary of Ayrton Senna's years as an intense competitor on the F1 circuit and a fierce rival to Prost, his one-time McLaren teammate.
More than 225 invited guests had the chance to preview the film at the Sebastiani Theater in Sonoma on Thursday evening, June 2, and it was well received.
"Having seen the preview of the Senna film, which will be released in August, and to have the MP4/2B here that Alain Prost drove in 1985 that was featured in the film, is exciting," said event organizer Steve Earle. "It provides something special to the fans and participants who've seen the film to come out here and see a car that was prominent in the film in the McLaren Automotive display."
As for Earle's review of the film, "I thought the film was very good as a documentary and it certainly showed a side that people would never see of Formula 1," he said. "It shows the improvements and the changes that have been made to F1 racing since that time and, while it doesn't seem like a long time ago, it is actually 25 years ago. You can see how the FIA worked together with the teams and drivers to make it what it is today, and how good that is.
"It's an enthusiast's film, for sure, the in-car camera work is terrific, and you see a side of Senna, or any driver during that era, that you would never see. And seeing the change in Senna at his last race was really dramatic (he lost his life in a racing accident at the 1994 San Marino G.P.). His concern was very evident, and realizing what was going through his mind is something few of us, if any, have ever experienced."