Arrow-right Camera
News >  Features >  Washington Voices

Weekend Festival of Speed will showcase race cars, sports cars

Bill Simer lifts the rear cover on his 1962 Lotus 23 which he will drive this weekend (Jesse Tinsley)
Bill Simer lifts the rear cover on his 1962 Lotus 23 which he will drive this weekend (Jesse Tinsley)

In a nondescript storage building somewhere in Spokane County sit a few vintage race cars that could make grown men cry. They could actually make grown women cry, too. And starting Friday the cars will get a rare chance to see some daylight and heat up the racetrack with their sleek tires during the 2011 Spokane Festival of Speed at Spokane County Raceway in Airway Heights.

The cars belong to vintage race car enthusiast Bill Simer, who will be racing in the jewel of his collection: a 1962 Lotus 23.

“This thing safely scoots around 120 or 130 miles per hour,” said Simer, glancing lovingly at the Lotus’ sleek, white fiberglass body. “When you get in it, it’s like you wear it.”

He bought the rare Lotus last year. It’s estimated that only about 130 of this particular Lotus were built by the British carmaker.

“The thing about vintage car racing is you can’t just bring any car, it has to be admitted,” said Simer. “The cars this weekend are going to be pretty special.”

And American muscle car fans won’t be shortchanged: there will be Camaros, Mustangs and Corvettes, too.

“They will make a lot of noise; you’ll be able to feel that they are there,” said Simer.

It’s the first time a vintage car race sanctioned by the Society of Vintage Racing Enthusiasts (SOVREN) is taking place in Spokane, Simer said, and more than 150 vintage sports cars are expected to show up over the weekend.

Spectators will see a 1955 Austin Healy 100M, a 1969 Alfa Romeo GTV, a 1965 Porsche 911 and a 1964 Jaguar E type – just to mention a few.

Some race cars, like Simer’s Lotus, are papered much like fancy racehorses. Their pedigree will show important wins in classic races, where they were built and who’s owned them.

“If you have a fancy car you get a lot of invitations to special races, because people want to see the car,” said Simer.

Getting the SOVREN race to Spokane has been a joint venture among Simer and vintage race car enthusiasts Jim Sullivan, Bruce Hunt and Paul Jaremko. Mercedes Benz of Spokane, which is part of Lithia Motors Inc, is the title sponsor and Jaremko Nissan, along with other local businesses, provides sponsorships to cover event costs.

That’s important to the Parkinson’s Center, because events like this have raised more than $8 million for charities over the past two decades.

Simer said that this weekend is by all means a family event, it’s not a guy-thing and considering the horsepower involved it’s a relatively safe endeavor.

“It’s rare that we see incidents. No, we don’t call them accidents,” said Simer.

All drivers have a special race license and must stay current on physicals. If a driver gets involved in too many “incidents” he or she may be sidelined for a year.

“If you are out there driving your million-dollar Ferrari you want to make sure the other drivers know what they are doing,” said Simer. “Mostly, I can’t believe that I actually get to drive these cars. It is pretty cool.”