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The Velocity Invitational is the historic Rolex for the rest of us

The Velocity Invitational is the historic Rolex for the rest of us

The track features a collection of vintage race cars, including a McLaren F1 GTR, a Lancia 037 and a Porsche RSR.

This absurd collection of vehicles is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the rest of the cars on display.
Photo: Velocity Invitational

For many car enthusiasts, Monterey Car Week is a huge draw. Cars appear that you could not see anywhere else on Earthand of all the events during the car week, the Historics races at Laguna Seca are my absolute favorite.

If you’ve never been there Laguna Seca, as a car enthusiast should be on your list. There is no other race track like this in America, which is one of the reasons it has become the spiritual home of vintage racing in the US. The combination of California’s natural splendor, countless great viewing areas and typically excellent weather is virtually unbeatable.

Besides, you can only spend so much time looking at cars parked on the grass of the golf course, right? And while the Rolex Historics themselves aren’t prohibitively expensive to attend, it will cost you a ton of money to stay on or around the Monterey Peninsula during Car Week. No one is trying to pay $900 a night to stay in Salinas, friends.

Three vintage Trans-Am race cars are parked in the paddock at Laguna Seca.

Trans-Am is the best an American muscle car could ever be.
Photo: Velocity Invitational

Luckily, there’s a new event that brings similar-caliber cars to race at Laguna Seca (plus some you’ll never see during Monterey Car Week), and because it’s later in the year, it’s much more affordable to attend. It’s called the Velocity Invitational, and 2022 marks the second running of what is arguably the best vintage car event in America.

If you’re into F1, McLaren had a selection of key cars from its back catalog here, and some even ran demo laps. There aren’t many places where you can hear a real ex-Ayrton Senna F1 car tearing laps, followed by Mario Andretti in a modern F1 car. Don’t like F1? How about Tommi Mäkinen’s Subaru WRX rally car or a Lancia 037 floating through the corkscrew? In general, the cars were very varied, with a beautiful effect. There were classic Trans-Am cars, racing minis, ex-Le Mans prototypes and even Ferrari 250 GTOs. There were even copper-age race cars and pre-war Grand Prix cars.

The general admission price for the weekend is approximately $150 (individual day passes are also available) and children under 15 get in for free. Unlike some events, general admission doesn’t send you to scum-class seats in the sun; you get the same level of access as the more expensive tickets. The food and drink vendors on site were pretty good too, but you are allowed to bring your own tasty vittles as long as you keep them out of the paddock.

Mario Andretti drives a modern F1 car around Laguna Seca.

It’s a Mario (Andretti).
Photo: Velocity Invitational

For those sophisticated grown-ups with some extra dollars to burn, there’s also the Sip and Savor Pavilion, which, at an additional cost of standard ticket, basically gives you unlimited wine and food throughout the day, plus great views of the course. It’s not cheap at $475 per person, but if you plan on hanging out all day and eating and drinking on the track all weekend, it’s not too bad.

My favorite reason to go to the Velocity Invitational is the Mustangs vs. Minis race. First of all, it’s fantastic racing. The cars are surprisingly evenly matched in terms of overall lap times, but as you can imagine the cars put together those laps in very different ways. Even cooler than that, however, is that the race often runs past sunset. If you’re a regular at Laguna, you’ll understand how rare and special it is to see a night race there.

Two classic Minis race a Ford Falcon at Laguna Seca.

Minis vs Mustangs (or in this case a Falcon) is one of the most fun races I’ve ever seen.
Photo: Velocity Invitational

While the Invitational hasn’t quite reached the Goodwood level of over-the-topness yet, it’s on the way there. It’s hard to say where the event will go, but if it continues on its current path – think Festival Of Speed ​​cars with relaxed revival vibes – it will only get better and better. Don’t sleep over this event, and maybe I’ll see you there next fall.