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The Velocity Invitational Is the Rolex Historics for the Rest of Us

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A collection of vintage race cars including a McLaren F1 GTR, a Lancia 037 and a Porsche RSR are parked on track.

This absurd gathering of vehicles is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the rest of the cars on show.
Photo: Velocity Invitiational

For many car enthusiasts, Monterey Car Week is a massive draw. Cars show up that you’d struggle to see anywhere else on Earth, and out of all the events at car week, the Historics races at Laguna Seca are my absolute favorite.

If you’ve never been to Laguna Seca, it needs to be on your list as a car enthusiast. There’s no other race track like it in America, and that’s part of why it’s become the spiritual home of vintage racing in the US. The combination of California’s natural splendor, tons of great viewing areas, and typically excellent weather are basically impossible to beat.

Plus, you can only spend so much time looking at cars parked on golf course grass, right? And while the Rolex Historics themselves aren’t prohibitively expensive to attend, trying to stay on or around the Monterey Peninsula during Car Week will cost you a bunch. Nobody’s 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 thing that any American muscle car could ever hope to be.
Photo: Velocity Invitational

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

If you love F1, McLaren had a selection of significant cars from its back-catalog here, even running demo laps with some of them. There aren’t a lot of places where you’ll hear an actual ex-Ayrton Senna F1 car ripping 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 drifting through the Corkscrew? Overall, the cars were extremely varied, to delightful effect. There were classic Trans-Am cars, racing Minis, ex-Le Mans prototypes and even Ferrari 250 GTOs. There were even brass-era race cars and pre-war Grand Prix cars, too.

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

Mario Andretti pilots a modern F1 car around Laguna Seca.

It’sa Mario (Andretti).
Photo: Velocity Invitational

For those sophisticated adult types with some extra greenbacks to burn, there’s also the Sip and Savor pavilion, which, for an additional charge over the standard ticket, gives you basically unlimited wine and food throughout the day, plus killer track views. It’s not cheap at $475 per person, but if you’re planning on hanging out all day and eating and drinking at the track all weekend, it’s not so 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 well-matched in terms of overall lap times, but as you’d imagine, the cars put together those laps in very different ways. Even cooler than that, though, is that the race often runs past sunset. If you’re a regular at Laguna, you understand how rare and special it is to see a night race there.

Two classic Minis racing against 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 Goodwood levels of over-the-topness, it’s on its 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 on this event, and maybe I’ll see you there next Fall.

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