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Raceway hosts Festival of Speed

Mon., June 9, 2014, midnight

Fourth event draws biggest crowd yet

When vintage car collectors come together, usually it’s to park their polished treasures for the public to admire.

At the Spokane Festival of Speed, the classic Porsches, Corvettes, Triumphs and Alfa Romeos don’t sit still and quiet.

The weekend celebration of road racing history brought hundreds to the Spokane County Raceway to watch an eclectic mix of European and American race cars, mostly 1960s and ’70s models, tackle the 2.25-mile course at speeds up to 160 mph.

“These cars speak to me,” said Spokane driver Alain Kamerer, a Southwest Airlines pilot and former Air Force fighter pilot. “They’re part of my generation, as a kid, seeing these cars on the tracks all over Europe. So now it’s like a dream come true to actually get to drive them.”

Competing in the open-wheeled Formula Ford class, Kamerer drove a 1975 Crosslé 33F owned by race coordinator Jim Sloane.

“There’s no prize money, no trophies, no kisses from the trophy queen,” Sloane said Sunday. “But there are bragging rights.”

The Society of Vintage Racing Enthusiasts puts on the event as a fundraiser for the Parkinson’s Resource Center of Spokane. This is its fourth year and the biggest turnout yet, and on Friday it spilled into downtown Spokane when 35 of the cars made an appearance at Riverfront Park.

“That was a tremendous success,” Sloane said.

On Saturday and Sunday, 16 races were staged, each 20 minutes long. Cars were divided into four groups by class.

Most drivers are men, but a few women were out there as well, including Krista Johnson, of Bothell, Washington. The 33-year-old administrative assistant for an accounting firm races a red and silver 1968 Zink C-4 Formula Vee, a class powered by Volkswagen engines.

Painted on the tail of her open-wheeled car is a message to the boys on the track: “You’ve just been passed by a girl.”

“It’s fun to be able to go out and drive 100 miles per hour,” Johnson said.

Her father, who was racing in the Formula Ford class, got her interested in the sport. This is Johnson’s 13th year racing and her second appearance in the Festival of Speed.

“It’s a chance to spend time with my family,” she said. “My mom is our pit crew and chef. And my dad and I have this thing that we can enjoy together.”

Scott Stevens from Arcata, California, made his first showing at the Spokane raceway, driving his 1966 Ford Mustang Fastback up to 130 mph on the straightaway.

“I like racing with these guys. They’re a fun group to race with,” said Stevens, a retired auto show owner. “Most of us, we have a love for cars. And that’s what it is.”

Joshua Fant, of Spokane, sat in a shady spot Sunday watching the Formula Vee cars roar past.

“We’re just here to watch the cars go fast,” said Fant, sitting with his wife, Hannah. “If they look like they’re going slow, they’re actually going really fast.”

Wayne and Kristina Westbrook, of Bonners Ferry, brought their son Nick to Sunday’s races. They’ve been to the Stateline Speedway as well as dirt track races in Pennsylvania, but this was their first brush with vintage car racing.

“It’s really neat to see the age of these cars that they’re still able to fly around the track like that,” Wayne Westbrook said.

Nick, 15, added, “I think it’s pretty cool.”

The cars, not the drivers, certainly are the stars of the show, Kamerer said.

“We try to show the cars the way they were in the day,” he said. “And then we go out and race them hard.”


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