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The first American Speed ​​Festival makes a smart start

What if the organizer held a prestigious car event to showcase some of the most important race cars to date, with a sparse crowd of two days and an effective rain on the final day, with great success? .. That’s exactly what happened at the first American Speed ​​Festival at the M1 Concourse facility in Pontiac, Michigan, from September 30th to October 2nd, 2021. ASF is an attempt by the M1 concourse, a garage condominium. The performance track “Country Club for Car Lovers” creates an American flavored take at the Goodwood Festival of Speed ​​in the United Kingdom. The festival will be an annual event, and the show’s organizer’s first iteration brought in some of the most historically important race cars in American racing history and tracked at speed, if not angry. Demonstrated above.

How important is it? When I entered the facility, I saw a glittering white and silver Porsche 917/30. It was one of the six 1,500 horsepower monsters that were very effective in dominating the original Can-Am series and was almost destroyed. There was Maserati Tipo 61 nearby. It is lovingly known as the “Birdcage Maserati” from a space frame made up of hundreds of narrow section tubes. Not far from both of them was the former Panelli Jones Lola T70 Roadster, perhaps the most beautiful race car ever, competing in Can-Am before 917/30. The main paddock had two Gurney Eagles from Dan Gurney’s All-American Racer Shop in California, one Fabulous Hudson Hornet NASCAR Racer from Herb Thomas, and two STP Turbine IndyCars (yes, a little audible). Masu) Like a vacuum cleaner). The 1901 “sweepstakes” car Henry Ford used to establish its reputation as an automaker was a replica from the Henry Ford Museum collection, but almost all cars were original and genuine.

It’s easy to say that the collection of important race cars was really superlative, as clichés like “off-chart” and “legendary” fail. It’s even before mentioning the stars of the show. Jim Hall, with Chaparral having his own dominance in sports car racing and one of the most innovative pioneers of racing, was honored as a master of motorsport at the ASF Saturday night banquet.

Unfortunately, due to Covid’s pandemic concerns, the 86-year-old Hall had to virtually accept his award rather than directly, but he was a son, grandson, a team of support personnel, and his Chaparral racer. An event for 4 people. Car owners and spectators also flocked to the Chaparral enclosure. There was the original fiberglass tab Chaparral 2, the 2E with groundbreaking high active wings that apply downforce directly to the rear suspension, and the 2F coupe that incorporated the idea into international endurance racing. And “Yellow Submarine”, Johnny Rutherford’s Indy 500 victory ground, will influence Chaparral 2K with Pennzoil coloring.

As someone who had a slot car with a Lola T70 and Chaparral 2 set, this was better than being a kid at a candy store, and I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Unlike competitions, car shows and museums, I could see most of ASF’s racing machines and other important vehicles running on the track.

The paddock was a bit like a real racing paddock, with less pressure and less competition. Race cars require a lot of maintenance and repair, so some wrenches have been made and tweaked for better performance on the track. Unlike a real racing paddock, there isn’t much competition, and in fact, one of the car owners who brought the former Can-Am 1970 Mustang Sport Coupe I had to mention in an event interview. Said to the high level of friendship between the participants. After the first stint on the truck at noon on Friday, Chaparral 2F needed a master brake cylinder. It could be procured from another car owner.

Car owners were uniformly enthusiastic about how much they enjoyed the event.

As a result, the organizers considered the first American Speed ​​Festival a success, despite the lack of spectators. When I asked one of the facility’s spokespersons about the fact that they didn’t see or hear much about the festival here in the Detroit area, he said he had done some local radio ads. In most cases, the promotion was aimed at wealthy car enthusiasts outside the Detroit region. He then said that getting a spectator in the first year of the year was second only to getting a car. Tim McGrane, CEO of the M1 Concourse, emphasized that the organizers are focused on getting a great car. The idea is to talk to others if the car owner is happy. The truth is that high-end car collection and vintage racing hobbies are a relatively small community and rumors are widespread.

If you ask me, they think it’s wise to use this “if we build it, they’ll come” approach. The festival at Goodwood wasn’t a bucketlist event because people wanted to see Sir March’s mansion. Attracting people and seeing the types of cars they have won at this year’s American Speed ​​Festival is exactly the type of car that will grow the event in the long run. Taking this organic approach seems like a logical way instead of hype to a large number of attendees.

As mentioned earlier, ASF will be an annual event, already scheduled for the first weekend of October 2022 and 2023. To be honest, that’s the only criticism of my event. Scheduling outdoor events in Michigan, famous for its volatile weather, has always been dangerous and the facility got wet on Sunday. But in reality, the weather was fine on Friday and Saturday when the cars were on track, as Sunday was planned to be a static car show with additional cars. If I can provide a recommendation, I’d like to bring the event back sometime in the summer and have both track and static views throughout the event.

In any case, if you’re interested in racing or performance cars (there was an exotic road car class), it’s a good idea to plan to attend next year’s American Speed ​​Festival as it celebrates Shelby American’s 60th anniversary. To do. Hmm. 917/30 There are only 6 Porsche. Based on the organizer’s track record, the pun was not intended. If I were a betting man, I bet that at least one of the six real Shelby Daytona Coupes would get going in Pontiac next October.

[Images and videos © 2021 TTAC/Ronnie Schreiber]

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The first American Speed ​​Festival makes a smart start

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