Speed Festival on Coronado Island this year was a very special event. Not only was it the 14th year of Vintage Racing on the North Island Airfield but it was also part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of Naval Air at the same location. The military that hosts this event every year put on a great show. It was a real privilege to be able to share their excitement and meet & thank a number of the guys and gals that protect our great country.
The Vintage race has been sanctioned by HMSA since the inception of the event. Chris and his crew have this event down to a science resulting in both a professional looking and fun event for spectators and drives alike. The various vintage of cars were logically divided into 8 run groups according to potential performance, year of the car, size of the motor, etc. The result was that a total of seven Minis were among a group of 31 early production cars to fill the grid of group 4. The competition included everything from Porsches, Alfa Romeos, Triumph Spitfires, Austin Healey Sprites, Morgans, Elvas and much more.
The event kicked off on Friday afternoon with a track session intended to simply provide a time to get familiar with a track that is only constructed once per year. The track consisted of mostly pylons laid out on the concrete runways of the naval base. A couple tires walls are used for the chicane down the back straight and a few concrete Jersey barrier are used to limit the exposure to spectators and expensive air field stuff. These are normally active runways/taxiways that are closed just for this event. The surface used for the race cars has been a discussion point about the event ever since its inception. The majority of the racing is done on the concrete that is very aggressive and has been compared to a food grate. Most participants actually choose to run old hard tires to be sure they can complete the week-end. The track is very flat as you would expect on a runway and its length of under 2 miles is considered short. Pretty high speed track with not a lot of technical turns but great fun none the less.
Saturday morning was the first official timed efforts on the track. Run by groups, the track is open to not only practice but each participant is timed per lap to determine the starting grid position for the “Qualifying Race” that is run Saturday afternoon. The Qualifying race results will in turn set the starting grid for the feature race run on Sunday afternoon.
All the Team Mini Mania Minis hit the track ready to go and indeed the Monty Mini (driven by Dennis Racine) was considered one of the favorites. Seven Minis were entered in the event and the Monty managed to out qualify the second fastest Mini by well over a second per lap. The Silver Mini (driven by John Burmann) did a great job is a very well used up car to qualify 10th. The famous yellow Mini (driven by Don Racine) suffered a fatal ‘dropped valve’ that sidelined the yellow Unsbee Mini for the remainder of the week-end.
At the start of the qualifying race, the Team Mini Mania Monty Mini was able to maintain its second place position even with car with much larger displacement breathing down its neck. For the next 5 or 6 laps the Porsche 356A that started on the pole position by a couple fractions of a second was able to hang onto first place. The Monty Mini was very dogged in its pressing the Porsche into making a mistake lap after lap after lap. Finally with only 4 laps to the finish Dennis drove the Monty wide into the left hander before the final turn into the front straight. The wide way is always longer but allowed him to be the best position for the right turn onto the front straight. He pulled it all off and was in the lead down the entire front straight. While Dennis was not able to put any real distance between the Mini and the hard charging Porsche, he never looked really threatened. Then with one lap to go, the Porsche suffered a engine mechanical problem that sidelines him on last lap. The Monty was home free, winning the qualifying race and was set to start on the pole for the feature race Sunday afternoon.
Mark Kearney in his Cooper Car Company green Mini after having been snookered on the start fought back to finish in 5th place. John, in the other Team Mini Mania Mini drove a good race and finished I think in 10th place. Well done for sure.
Coronado Speed Festival Group 4 1953-1966 Production Cars under 2000c Coronado Naval Air Station 1.440 Miles 9/24/2011 02:10 PM Qualifying - Started at 14:13:56
Coronado Speed Festival Group 4 1953-1966 Production Cars under 2000c Coronado Naval Air Station 1.440 Miles 9/25/2011 01:55 PM Race (11 Laps) - Started at 14:00:43 -Sorted on Laps-
All in all, a great race for the Classic Mini and for Team Mini Mania.