In the movie Casablanca, Bogie's favorite melody was "As Time Goes By," even as it brought back painful memories, requiring a few stiff drinks to hear it. But experiencing times gone by in older Vettes required only sipping some high-octane race gas at the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival at Sears Point, California. In celebration of the marque's 60th anniversary, collector-car impresario Steve Earle, president of General Racing, Ltd., organized a fond look back at some classic Corvettes during the weekend of May 18-19.
In addition to relishing the roar of action on the 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course, we also took a stroll down memory lane through the pits. There, we took a closer look at a number of memorable Corvettes with significant racing histories, even at the risk of getting a bit misty eyed over all these wild and woolly machines.
Among the Corvettes representing the brand were an array of collector cars from the '50s through the '80s: Paul Reinhart's '57, Vic Edelbrock's '63 Sting Ray, Edward Hugo's '66 427, Randy Peterson's '69 L88, and quite probably the most treasured of all, Larry Bowman's '63 Grand Sport.
Adding to the rich recollections (and collections) was an illustrious panel of Corvette racers, historians, and team managers, who recounted Corvette's history from the early '50s up to the modern-day triumphs in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series. Participating in the seminar were current Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan, former Corvette Racing public-relations representative Rick Voegelin, and Corvette racers Paul Reinhart, Bill Pollack, Tony DeLorenzo, and Dick Guldstrand, among others.
Honored guest Reinhart—still active and hard-charging on the road course at the age of 84—was also awarded the Phil Hill trophy that weekend. Reinhart began racing Corvettes in Northern California in the late '50s, and in 1962 he was crowned Pacific Coast SCCA B-Production champion. He went on to compete against Carroll Shelby's Cobras, driving a Sting Ray coupe. Today, he continues to race his Union Oil 76 '57 in vintage events.
"We tip our hats to Paul Reinhart," said Earle, whose '59 racing Corvette was also entered in the event. "He was a hero of the day…as he mercilessly harassed the Cobras. The '50s and '60s in California were magical years, as Corvettes dominated in SCCA racing."
One vintage racer in particular, Noel Park of J&D Corvettes, is equally respectful of Reinhart—but he didn't hold back on the track, taking First in Group 9 in his yellow '58.
"Some people said I should let Paul win," he noted. "I'm a good sport—but not that good of a sport. I like to come in First. I like to honor him, though. Even though he retired last year, Earle coaxed him out of retirement, God love 'em!"
Park was also appreciative of Earle for staging the event through his organization, General Racing Ltd. He formed it in 1970 to encourage the restoration, preservation, and use of historic sports and racing cars. Earle envisioned events that would unite former racing greats with the enthusiastic amateurs who owned some of the rare cars that once graced road courses worldwide. The success of the first Monterey Historics in 1974, which attracted a field of 66 cars, led to additional events at other tracks.
In keeping with this year's particular celebration of the Corvette's 60th anniversary, look for our coverage of other "As Time Goes By" events later this year. Play it again, Sam.