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350 historic race cars return

SPECTATORS CAN LOOK over some of the race cars on the Plaza Saturday evening. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune file photo

SPECTATORS CAN LOOK over some of the race cars on the Plaza Saturday evening. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune file photo

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The Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival returns to Sonoma Raceway May 17-18 for the fifth straight year. The program for the 28th annual historic-car event, organized by General Racing Ltd., will celebrate the early years of the iconic SCCA Can-Am Series, which ran from 1966 to 1974, with a focus on the unique Shadow race car that competed in the Series from 1970-74.

An estimated 350 vintage and historic race cars, in 14 race groups, are scheduled to take to the 12-turn, 2.52-mile road course. They range from a 1911 National 40 and a 1917 Chevrolet 490 Speedster, to more modern racers, including a 1964 Bobsy-Porsche SR-3, a 1965 Cobra and Corvette, a 1970 Porsche 917 and 908, a 1988 Protofab Corvette, and a 1991 Roush Mustang.

The traditional motorcade of bellowing race cars will proceed up Highway 121 from Sonoma Raceway to the Plaza on Saturday afternoon.

A group of 30 select cars, all competing at the Sonoma Historics, will parade to the Plaza and park in the horseshoe in front of City Hall. Food and wine from local restaurants and wineries will be served, and all proceeds from the charity event will benefit the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau and Speedway Children’s Charities, the charitable arm of Sonoma Raceway.

A full schedule of racing will take place on both Saturday and Sunday, and special recognition to the legendary Can-Am cars will include a racing seminar featuring George Follmer, who won the 1972 Can-Am Championship driving Roger Penske’s Porsche “Panzer” later partnering with 1974 champion Jackie Oliver on Don Nichols’ Shadow team.

The Can-Am racing series was the birthplace and proving ground foroutrageous technology. The Can-Am racers were among the first cars to sport wings, effective turbocharging, ground-effect aerodynamics and aerospace materials like titanium. The series was open to Group 7 sports cars with unlimited engine capacity, virtually unrestricted aerodynamics and few other technical restrictions. The high cost of this technology eventually led to the series’ downfall.

Folmer and Nichols, founder of Nichols Advanced Vehicle Systems (AVS), are honored guests at the Festival and will anchor a discussion group, “Can-Am through the eyes of Shadow,” on Saturday, at 10:30 a.m. at Sonoma Raceway.

Saturday’s Historic Race Car Festival runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance or $35 at the event. Tickets to the Sonoma Historic Motorsports Festival are $30 each day (Saturday and Sunday). Children 12-and-under will be admitted free, and students ages 13-20 are $10 each day. For more information, go to racesonoma.com/tickets/sonoma_historic_motorsports_festival/.