Cavallino Classic 27
If you asked those who had attended the Cavallino Classic more than once (and this was my second) where part of the appeal was that made Ferrari enthusiasts the world over take their usual pilgrimage to Palm Beach every January (this year it was from 24th to 28th), then there would quite a few that would say that it is because of the Track Day that the organiser staged annually.
Static displays of the very best collections of Maranello’s finest may be nice on the lawns of just about anywhere, be it in Pebble Beach, Amelia Island, Blenheim Palace, Chantilly and here at the Breakers Hotel for the Concorso d’Eleganza the following Saturday. You can get really up-close to marvel at the glistening paint job, admire all the minute details of each car on show and fully appreciate the meticulous attention each respective owner gave to his or her car before public viewing.
But just about every tifosi will tell you, Ferrari is more about the driving. The cliché that all great Ferraris “were meant to be driven”, were driven (and very quickly too) around the Palm Beach International Raceway during the first two days of this 27th edition of the event before the weekend approached. While it would be a tremendous privilege to walk around and take a look at many historically significant Ferraris all polished up for the Concorso, I got as much excitement from the moment I arrived at the track as many of the classic Ferrari racing cars that I grew up with were getting prepped and revved in high pitch since that early morning in the paddock area.
The sight of dirt, grime, oily stains and tire marks together with the sounds of each car’s V12s and V8s being tuned by their respective engineers and technicians (and brilliantly captured exclusively here for GRAND TOURING by www.sleepy-nokkie.com) stirred my senses as much as mulling over any vintage automobiles on a fairway grass over a flute of champagne while prancing about in a bespoke suit. Trust me, there is nothing like the smell of high octane racing fuel in the morning…
Another treat for attendees of this year’s Cavallino Classic was the increase in the number of entries in each class in pre-war (which was meant mainly for Alfa Romeo Grand Prix cars under Scuderia Ferrari badge—or a Scuderia Ferrari Duesenberg if you have one.), disc and drum brake cars and a newly-introduced class called “Cruise”. This category was created to accommodate more entrants who prefer the thrills of track driving at speed without the spills of close wheel-to-wheel combat. While we do not need to delve into the value of these cars that had turned out, the Cavallino Classic Track Day was no “processional” parade of precious automobiles. There was actual racing, with drivers vying for trophies that will be awarded at the end of the day over at the Beach Club Party at The Breakers.
Before the actual racing for each class commenced on the Friday (following the practice and qualifying from the days before), the garage and pit enclosures were filled with activities of cars that were not there to race for the benefit of the crowd. These included the gathering of V6 Dinos and assorted V8s ranging from the 308s, 328s, up to the contemporary 458 Italias and the 488s. Another notable presence was a Scaglietti-bodied 500 TRC s/n 0708MDTR. One of only 19 made for sports car racing in 1957 with an in-line 4-cylinder engine, the car was prepared by GTO Engineering for their Canadian lady client/owner and was a delight among the onlookers. GTO Engineering also brought along another rarity in the form of a 365 California Spyder. This glamorous, Hollywood-esque grand tourer made during 1966 to 1967 is one of only 14 in the world, penned by the late, great Tom Tjaarda while he was at Pininfarina.
Two iconic Series 1 Ferrari 250 GTOs took to the track this year. There were the white 3729GT John Coombs-entered ex-Graham Hill car that raced mostly in Britain (hence its rare right-hand-drive configuration) and the red 4757GT that first competed under Count Volpi’s Scuderia SSS Repubblica di Venezia banner. Also capturing my interest was the pontoon-fendered 1958 250 Testa Rossa s/n 0754TR that took part in the Drum Brakes category and belonged to the same owner now as the red 250 GTO.
The particular race I was looking forward to was the one that pitted the 3729GT 250 GTO and the ex-Ecurie Francorchamps 250GT SWB s/n 2445 with a trio of younger Ferrari 512BB LMs: the s/n 29509 that was never raced in-period and was once part of the Matsuda Museum collection, the s/n 29511 that competed at Daytona and Sebring back in 1985 and s/n 35527 that was campaigned by NART twice at Le Mans. I journeyed away from the main grandstand to find another vantage point further down the circuit and found a nice spot on a knoll at one of the turns. There were several other spectators there including a local teenager who were just as eager to see these decades-old racers driven with anger. We kept exchanging places to take photos from where it was allowed from behind the safety fences, as well as trading vital information and statistics on the cars that passed us by that probably only we Ferraristi can comprehend.
What made my experience extra special at the Palm Beach circuit that day was being graciously welcomed by the award-winning team at Motion Products Inc. (MPI) to their garage. Based in Wisconsin, MPI happened to be one of the most experienced teams out there who provide services for Ferrari owners in preparing their cars ready for racing, touring or for show. As it turned out, two of the 512BB LMs that I saw raced were under their care during the week. Thus I managed to have a much closer look at both of them, including a 250 GT Boano and several other exquisite Prancing Horses that they were prepping for show at the Concours d’Eleganza the following day—making classic Ferrari ownership that much more sensible.
In retrospect, the Cavallino Classic Track Day made me feel much like the excited teenager that I met that afternoon once more.
All Photos by www.sleepy-nokkie.com