Mean 13 from California Festival of Speed
About a week ago, Porsches took Southern California by storm. Owners and drivers young and old, with cars new and vintage, attracted thousands of spectators in yet another iteration of a much-looked-forward-to annual Porsche event and provided ways to participate for anyone who so desired. Owners’ corrals ensued. Shining, pristine examples of the market’s most in-demand Porsches gleamed in the hot California sun.
Retailers and display vehicles lined Vendor Alley. Fans took to an adjacent parking lot for “Taste of Autocross” antics. On the racetrack, caged and flared classic 911s swapped paint with historied 24-hour endurance racing machines, recently retired World Challenge and IMSA competitors waged war with enthusiast racers in a variety of modified track machines (some not even made by Porsche!), and sanctioned time-trial competition, sprint racing, and even a 70-minute endurance race were fought—hard!
We’re writing, of course, about the California Festival of Speed: Porsche Owners Club (POC) and Porsche Club of America (PCA)’s annual joint-venture automotive festival held at Fontana, Calif.’s Auto Club Speedway—the must-attend event of the year for true Porsche lovers.
If you missed the chance to attend this year’s 17th-annual bash, fear not. We’ve prepared a close look at our 13 favorite aspects of the three-day weekend, which should hopefully tide you over until next year’s show.
1. The classics (930, 964, etc.)
They say the classics never go out of style, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more timeless recipe for performance than an early-model Porsche 911. Wise investors have realized this, and while it’s becoming increasingly harder to find them not tucked away in garages or on the auction block, it’s refreshing to see some die-hard fans put them to their intended use: rounding a racetrack!
Whether former road cars converted for track duty by enthusiast owners or the very same retired race machines that set the trend for today’s street and show builders, the classic Porsches on hand at Festival of Speed are worth more—and were driven harder—than ever. We like that.
2. Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs (997)
Five times in the six years between 2006 and 2011, Germany’s Manthey Racing have won the grueling 24 Hours of Nürburgring with one of their iconic Porsche 911 GT3s.
Watching, hearing and feeling their retired no. 85 and no. 12 997 GT3 RSR machines roar around Auto Club Speedway’s banked oval, blast down the infield’s front straight and wind their way through its tight turns with flat-throttle, sequential shifting is an experience every Porsche enthusiast simply must have.
3. No. 28 GAS Motorsport Porsche GT America (991)
For as potent as some of the lightweight vintage Porsches can be, and for as all-out crazy and thoroughbred as the Manthey Racing cars are, it was driver Bob Mueller who clocked the single fastest lap of the event—a blisteringly fast 1:37.718—from behind the wheel of the no. 28 Porsche GT America.
Introduced in late 2013 for the 2014 and 2015 IMSA seasons, the 911 GT America was Porsche Motorsport’s short-lived 470hp adaptation of the venerable GT3 Cup car. It was replaced for 2016 by the larger and more powerful 911 GT3R, but remains a favorite of club racers who can find and afford one. After Mueller’s performance at this year’s Festival of Speed, we can see why.
4. No. 08 911 Design Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (991)
Fastest lap times are impressive and earn bragging rights, but in wheel-to-wheel racing, they're only part of a winning recipe. You’ve still got to out-drive your competitors to take home the win, and in both of the weekend’s two green-group sprint races, it was driver Loren Beggs who achieved that feat in the no. 08 Porsche 991 911 GT3 Cup car.
After the 16 laps for each race were over, Beggs’ margin of victory was about a half-second in the first race, and a scant 1/10th of a second in the second, proving the high level of competition among PCA’s club racers.
5. No. 111 VALI Motorsports Porsche Boxster (986)
If Loren Beggs’ narrow back-to-back sprint wins weren’t excitement enough, driver David Leyvas provided even more of his own by winning both sprint races of the blue group from behind the wheel of the no. 111 Porsche Boxster (a GT4 car!).
Leyvas also set the fastest laps in each race and won by a much larger margin, again after 16 laps. Expect Boxster prices to rise if we continue to see more of this.
6. No. 27 SP Motorsports 911 GT3 Cup (991)
In addition to the four sprint races held throughout the weekend, there was a 70-minute endurance race on Sunday to close out this year’s festivities. After a double-yellow and race restart at about the halfway point (and some confusion by race control), driver Elliott Skeer moved up some 11 places to take the win in the no. 27 SP Motorsports 991 911 GT3 Cup car.
If this car and Elliott Skeer sound familiar, you might remember them for winning Global Time Attack's final-round Pro/Comp competition at Buttonwillow late last year, and nearly clocking the single fastest time of the entire event. We’re hoping to see much more from this team in 2018.
7. No. 723 Porsche 911 Turbo (996)
In the tuner world, there’s time attack. In the racing world, there are time trials. Both are pretty much the same; drivers compete to clock the fastest single lap around a racetrack.
Rick Levinson may not have clocked the single fastest lap of the Festival of Speed weekend, but he did clock the fastest single run of all three official time-trial groups: a 1:43.37 in the no. 723 Porsche 996 911 Turbo.
8. Adam Knapik
Right behind Levinson—by less than 3/10ths of a second—was a name a lot of us will be familiar with, but maybe not for road racing: Adam Knapik. This weekend he was the driver of the no. 56 Savvy Racing Porsche 991 911 GT3 Cup car, clocking a second-fastest time of 1:44.98 in time trials competition.
Before dominating Top Drift competition here in SoCal, and then going on to give hell to the Formula D Pro2 crop, Knapik earned his wings in time-attack and time-trial racing. It’s good to see him getting back to his roots a bit as he completes a rebuild of his Nissan S14 Silvia drift car.
9. Owners’ corrals
Possibly the most popular component of the California Festival of Speed is its owner corrals, which at its peak takes over most of the entire main parking lot adjacent to the pit garages of the Auto Club Speedway infield.
Porsches of nearly any imaginable model and vintage could be found this year, including some race-styled street machines and truly classic vehicles that might’ve seemed more at home in that other show (more on Luftgekühlt soon!).
10. Vendor Alley
Vendor alley was also hugely popular.
From parts swappers in dilapidated vans to some of the racing community’s largest and most well-known brands, CA Festival of Speed’s Vendor Alley is where you can find anything from a 1959 Porsche 356 canooter valve (doesn’t actually exist), to full-size, fully tuned, fully functional race cars just waiting to take part in some club racing themselves (see below!).
11. No. 24 2012 CLK 63 AMG Black Series
If there’s anyone allowed to bring a Mercedes race car to a predominantly Porsche track event, it’s Vision Motorsports. Sitting right next to these guys’ full stable of competition Porsches was this fully built, retired World Challenge AMG Black Series beast, as complete as it was when it last competed.
With a sequential gearbox, Secata Motec electronics, Crawford Composite exterior and capable of about a million horsepower (or closer to 500), this thing is rad. At only $150,000, a veritable bargain!
12. Bisimoto center-drive Porsche “Cayman”
Boxsters are an enigma among Porches. Mechanically similar to the 911, and almost identical to the Cayman with the exception of not having a roof, they're far more common and less expensive on the second-hand market than either car, making the Boxster a bargain for any Porsche lover. But they've just never seemed to enjoy the same appeal. Until now.
Honda guru turned Porsche-head Bisi Ezerioha has recently built one such Porsche roadster, and it rocks. If its flared dimensions, Cayman-look hard top (carbon fiber), cutaway rear bumper and twin-turbo Porsche powerplant don’t make you rethink what’s possible with a Boxster, maybe Porsches aren’t for you.
The center-drive cockpit might not catch on in the street scene, but according to Bisi it’s the best-handling car he’s ever driven on a racetrack. So there’s that.
13. Ryan Castro’s V8-swapped E36 BMW M3
Another non-Porsche party crasher and Global Time Attack star was Ryan Castro’s GM LSx-swapped E36 BMW M3. It may not the prettiest under the hood, but this car was built to perform—something it does really, really well.
Stripped, gutted, tuned and riding on a full Moton suspension, it recently clocked the fastest lap we’ve ever seen from a production-bodied car at one Southern California race track, and only left us wanting more. Stay tuned for further developments with this one.
BONUS! Auto Club Speedway
With traditionally less-expensive Willow Springs and Buttonwillow Raceway nearby, it’s easy to overlook Auto Club Speedway as a venue for track-day events. But Cal Speedway’s (as it’s still sometimes called) magical combination of a banked oval, technical infield, awesome pit garages, easy parking, great vantage points and more, are hard to beat.
With current ownership/management’s renewed interest in enthusiast events as a revenue stream, we’re more eager than ever for the remainder of events scheduled in 2018 and into the future.
As always, stay with us for more!