The Coronado Festival of Speed is this this weekend and will be my first real exposure to the SoCal racing community. I am not sure what to expect, but I will be in the company of friends who call California home–and come out to far away places like my former Midwestern home.
Coronado promises to be a unique vintage motorsport festival, put on by the United States Navy on the runways of its airbase in the harbor outside San Diego.
For the racing history fan, CFS calls to mind the races organized in the 1950’s by Strategic Air Commander, General Curtis LeMay.
As the boys came home from WWII with their European sports cars, clubs and races were organized. Sleepy resort towns, saw opportunity in the participants and spectators attending and turned their municipalities and surrounding country roads into the first road racing venues in the US. Places like Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and Watkins Glen, New York were the most notable, attracting fans from all over, lining the streets–with only Hay bales between them and the cars.
Needless to say, a couple of mishaps and very sadly, an accident that killed a seven-year-old spectator in Watkins Glen, made this type of racing outlawed–including a congressional rebuke.
General LeMay was also a sports car enthusiast. The General owned an Allard J2. He granted permission for the use of Strategic Air Command facilities, which were increasingly unused as the post-war era of SAC was coming to a close, for races by the Sports Car Club of America.
During that era, the towns regrouped and led by men such as Cliff Tufte in Elkhart Lake and Cameron Argetsinger in Watkins Glen, began development and construction of what today would be Road America and Watkins Glen International. It could be said that LeMay might very well have saved road racing in the United States as we enjoyed it in the gilded age.
General LeMay was awarded the Woolf Barnato Award, the SCCA’s highest honor, for contributions to the Club, in 1954 and was inducted into the SCCA Hall of Fame in 2007.
If any of you are down there, please say “Hi” if you see me… This, Rennsport and Infineon should be the highlights of my racing year.