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Vintage Automobile Racing in the Time of Virus

Published on Tue, May 19, 2020

By: Dave Wolin

This past weekend hosted what is possibly the first vintage racing weekend since the onset of COVID-19, as over 100 cars descended upon Buttonwillow Raceway.

25th British Extravaganza
25th annual "British Extravaganza" at Buttonwillow Raceway

VARA (the Vintage Auto Racing Association) held the its 25th annual "British Extravaganza" at Buttonwillow Raceway, near Bakersfield, this past week end (May 16-17) … the event was thought to be the first (and it was possibly the first anywhere in the world) vintage racing weekend after the recent onslaught of COVID-19. 

25th annual "British Extravaganza" at Buttonwillow Raceway
25th annual "British Extravaganza" at Buttonwillow Raceway. Photo by: Dave Wolin

With state and local health requirements well in mind, over 100 cars turned out with an equal number of crewpersons; all socially distanced and properly masked. Unfortunately, because of the (damn) virus, no spectator car show was held this year.

Dr. Shelley Hiestand's Sprite
Dr. Shelley Hiestand's Sprite. Photo by: Dave Wolin

Among the interesting cars: Rory Rinebold's Devin Triumph, Dr. Shelley Hiestand's Sprite, class winner on Saturday before the clutch gave out and her husband's Lancia Monte Carlo, who's motor gave up before the race, a group of Mustangs, Shelby GT350's and Covettes of assorted years and some very cool prewar (both WW1 and WW2) racecars, among them a 1932 Miller and a collection of early century Nationals from the Brian Blain Collection.

25th annual "British Extravaganza" at Buttonwillow Raceway
25th annual "British Extravaganza" at Buttonwillow Raceway. Photo by: Dave Wolin

VARA, founded in 1973, is the largest vintage racing organization on the West Coast and has more of a focus on fun than some of the more strict "real provenance" racing groups. Whether that's good or bad is in the eye of the beholder, of course. 

1932 Miller
1932 Miller. Photo by: Dave Wolin

As you may have noticed from the accompanying photos, VARA's idea of vintage is a bit different from what you might find at, say, the Monterey Historics or the Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival. 

Lancia Montecarlo
Lancia Montecarlo... Martini, of course. Photo by: Dave Wolin

While more than a few entries were cars having racing heritage from back in the day, some of others had more recently been constructed to somewhat looser rules than those enforced other vintage racing groups.

Early century Nationals from the Brian Blain Collection
Early century Nationals from the Brian Blain Collection. Photo by: Dave Wolin

And while billed as the "British Extravaganza", there were a few more non British than British cars there; outstanding were the number of “DTM” entries, BMW's replicating the German Touring Car Championship

DTM cars
Great group of DTM cars. Photo by: Dave Wolin

The weather, almost always “iffy” at Buttonwillow (either v. hot or v. cold, take your choice), was perfect and my guess is that everyone had a good time (and all were v. glad to get out of the house)!!-DW

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