The California Festival of Speed: A Porsche Performance Playground
Porsche Club of America (PCA Zone 8) joined forces with the Porsche Owners Club (POC) to host their highly anticipated 16th annual California Festival of Speed, held at Auto Club Speedway located in the heart of Fontana, CA. This three-day extravaganza was filled with club racing, time trials, show cars, rows of vendors specializing in Porsche products, a swap meet, an autocross and even endurance racing. The Porsche experience was literally bursting at the seams with thousands of vehicles ranging from vintage Speedsters, race-spec GT3 Cup cars tearing up the track, to rare collectibles worth unimaginable amounts of cash. There was something for just about everyone at the California Festival of Speed – Porsche owners and automotive addicts alike.
The main focus of attraction at these events has always been the wheel-to-wheel racing. There were three sprint races over the course of the weekend, with one on Saturday, and two held on Sunday. Also on Saturday, a 70-minute Enduro race was held. Most importantly, this wasn’t some dog and pony show. The Festival of Speed was a sanctioned PCA Club Race points race as well as a POC Cup Race points race. With championship points on the line, the competing drivers at this event were all business and focused to take home the checkered flag.
The #12 Pl Motorsports 997 GT3R piloted by Alex Marmureanu delivered a solid third-place finish in the enduro with a total time of 1:12:41.000 seconds. Alex proved to be the man to beat in his class as he clocked in with a 1:41.67-second run during Friday’s practice.
Not to be outdone, GMG team owner James Sofronas in the #14 2016 Global Motorsports Group 991 GT3R (GTA3 class) qualified on the pole during the Saturday morning session with a blistering time of 1:36.920, achieved with a best speed of 104.003 mph.
The #8 2014 991 GT3 Cup car (GTC6 class) piloted by Loren Beggs was nipping at the heels of the GMG Porsche with a qualifying time of 1:38.815.
The third-quickest qualifier belonged to the #271 2006 911 GT3 CBC for Profits Cup car piloted by Daniel Davis with a best lap time of 1:40.621 seconds. According to the owner, the car started off as a Cup car which was owned by multiple individuals – one of whom was Loren Beggs – who raced it as his primary race car and won multiple Cup car titles in the driver’s seat.
I loved this Highway Patrol-themed 2000 Boxer S (GT3class) owned by Chris Murray of the Golden State Region Porsche club.
The Porsche 914 is one of those cars that you either love or hate. The 914 is a quirky mid-engine car that is often referred to as slow and ugly by detractors. I too am not a fan of Porsche’s “ugly duckling” but my impression quickly changed when I came across this yellow machine. Built by Patrick Motorsports, this 914-6 Super GT is powered by a 3.6L V-Ram engine pulled from a 1997 Porsche and is now using an inverted G-50 transmission. The entire chassis was acid-dipped and fully prepped before the roll cage was welded and wide body panels were installed.
I caught the crew of the #69 Werks II Motorsports GT3 Porsche working diligently inside the garage as they overhauled the brake system and installed a fresh set of Pirelli P Zero R Compound tires following their qualifying run.
Manthey Racing is no stranger to the world of Porsches performance. Olaf Manthey – a former racecar driver – has developed a successful business that caters to the true Porsche enthusiasts. Manthey Racing Porsches have been a formidable foe in the motorsports world as their cars have campaigned races across the world including the Le Mans 24 Hours and ADAC Zurich-24 Hour Nürburgring Nordschleife.
I attempted to stealthily snap a couple photos of the iconic green and yellow livery GT3 as the garage was bustling with action. Drivers Jörg Bergmeister, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet and crew began preparation for Saturday’s 70-minute Enduro race taking place in the later afternoon.
I’m not sure if this McLaren ever left the transport but GMG did a stellar job of teasing spectators throughout the day. GMG and Crowdstrike have partnered up for the 2017 race season to campaign in the Pirelli World Challenge GTS class with this McLaren 570S GT4. The McLaren driven by George Kurtz currently sits in 9th place after two rounds.
Sitting side by side were two “Battle Tested” Porsches that have stood the test of time. Both Paul Young’s 1978 911 SC and Kurt Gokbudak’s white 1986 911’s front end were peppered with rock chips. Call it a badge of honor as both machines have racked up multiple miles competing on various race tracks.
Paul Young’s #1 1978 911 SC “Butch” – named after their family cat from the 70s – was resurrected after suffering major damage due to a wheel failure at Lowes Motor Speedway in 2008. Upon its return to race condition, Butch earned multiple top-place finishes including overall National Championship TTOD at the 2013 Porsche Parade in Traverse City, season championships in Time Trials and Club Racing, as well as several overall podium finishes. In 2014, Butch was POC GT5 season winner and PCA National Club Racing GT5 winner. What makes these results even more impressive? Butch is powered by a mildly modified 3.0-liter engine making a modest 200 horsepower.
As I began walking the garage area, my eyes immediately zeroed in on this carbon-fiber GT3. This wasn’t your typical carbon trunk or fender vehicle – the entire body was adorned in carbon fiber. Further research revealed that this 2002 Porsche GT3-RS was purchased new and delivered to Porsche specialist Kelly Moss Racing to begin race chassis prep. The exterior consists of KMR aerospace-grade composite body panels manufactured from a carbon fiber/Kevlar composite which weighs only 66 pounds in total. KMR built the car and it ran the following year at only eight track events before it went into storage for the next 13 years. In 2016, Stephen purchased the car to compete in both PCA/POC & Vintage racing classes.
Vendor Row offered attendees new and exciting products offered by Porsche shops and specialists. Vision Motorsports displayed a number of crate motors built in-house ranging from rebuilt stock M96/97 engines from 2.5 to 3.8-liters, and their performance VM series from 2.9 to VM1 4.2-liters of displacement.
Also on display at Vision Motorsports: this customer-owned 1966 Porsche 911 chassis that is currently under construction. The Porsche was originally converted to a 935 roughly 20 years ago. Vision performed a number of modifications and as the rolling chassis currently sits, the 51-year-old machine now uses 997.2 GT3 Cup car suspension and brakes, a 3.3-liter turbo motor that now sits mid-engine, a transmission conversion designed to place the transmission upside down to correct axle geometry, twin turbos utilizing original intercoolers, 6-speed sequential paddle shifter, and Bosch ABS brakes. The owner of the car has a goal of keeping the car’s originality as much as possible while utilizing new technology.
For a cool $125,000, you can be the next owner of this 1994 Porsche Speedster. This narrow-body car – limited to only 936 built in the US – shows 63,000 miles on the odometer and has a number of add-on options including rear spoiler, power windows, ABS 4-wheel brakes, fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels, and black leather interior.
The owner of this 1973 RSR Long Hood covered in Viper Green pigment was willing to part with his ride for $159,000. This is an original non-sunroof chassis with RSR body’s fiberglass front spoiler, fenders, rear valence, and duck tail installed. Carrera brakes and rotors, Bilstein RSR struts and shocks, RSR door panels, RSR reinforced rear shock towers, rebuilt 915 trans and 3.2-liter engine round out the package.
Bisimoto Engineering was on hand with a number of their shop cars including their infamous IROC-inspired Porsche 911/930, rolling on a set of 17×9-inch and 17×11-inch Fifteen52 Outlaw wheels.
A pair of Bisimoto/Turbonetics BTX5857 ball bearing turbochargers helps propel the 2,430-pound rocket ship to a respectable 820 wheel horsepower.
If Bisi’s 911/930 seems a bit too retro for your taste, take a gander at his wife’s twin turbo Cayman S which has been modified to deliver over 500 wheel horsepower. I dare you to pull besides Hedi at a stop light and yell “Boxers are slow!”
Among the many show cars on display was this immaculate 1995 993. The 993 chassis has been highly sought after among Porsche owners and the most desirable of the 911 series not only for its performance but also for its distinctive looks. In addition, the 993 was the last of the hand-built air-cooled Porsche 911s built in Stuttgart. This owner added his own personal touches to the car by installing a set of BBS wheels, Bilstein coilovers, turbo front bumper and whale tail.
In the world of motorsports, the saying goes, if you ain’t rubbin’, you ain’t racin’. The three-day event played to the tune of unfortunate crashes, a few blown engines and plenty of black flags thrown at drivers on the track.
Kris Scheussler’s 1985 911 suffered a Saturday mid-day engine failure, leaving a heavy trail of engine oil all the way from the track to the garage. While parked, heavy streams of oil continued to bleed just behind the rear passenger side tire. Blowing an engine is a sensitive subject for any car owner so I didn’t want to bother Kris to find out what happened, but from the looks of it, the engine damage was significant enough for him to call it a weekend.
An autocross course was set up just adjacent to the car show as Porsche owners were encouraged to take their personal rides for a timed lap. I caught this Carrera GT ripping around the tarmac at slow pace, but then again who can blame him? If I owned this $450K supercar, I’d be doing the exact same thing. On the flipside, the older 911 drew the attention of the crowds as it was flying around the course at neck-breaking speeds.
Dave Elsner, running in the GT05 class in his 2013 991, took home the win in his class for the 70-minute enduro race with a total time of 1:11:47.662 seconds.
The winner of the time trial event was Dwain Dement, behind the wheel of the Vision Motorsports 911 GT3 Cup car. Dement turned in a best lap of 1:38.22 seconds, and the #2 Porsche was clicking off consistent lap times all weekend. Dement’s 2003 Porsche might not look like your typical flashy Cup car but by combining the proper suspension setup, chassis preparation, and engine package – not to mention some impressive driving skills – brings it all together.
I ended the day with a quick walk through the parking lot and as expected, the lot was filled with a wide array of show-worthy and race-spec Porsches.
If you missed out on this year’s event, be sure to visit Porsche Club of America, Zone 8 for the club’s upcoming event schedule.