Anyone that’s sat behind the wheel of a racecar will tell you, traction is key for speed. The same is true of success for events. The first day of the inaugural American Speed Festival at M1 Concourse in Pontiac was sparsely attended, but that may be because people don’t know what they’re missing.
The American Speed Festival is a celebration of speed both past, present and future, exhibiting and providing track time for some of the most influential race cars in history. It certainly was an impressive collection of gears through the years. Fans were treated to a history lesson and evolution of racing from Henry Ford’s 1901 “Sweepstakes” up to a 2021 McLaren.
“We wanted to create something that was a lifestyle of automotive content, said, Tim McGrane M1 Chief Executive Officer. “We have a cross section of things for people to do, to make it a comfortable environment as opposed to cars going around a track surrounded by traditional grandstand seating.”
Grandstand seating is available to watch the cars take on the 1.5 mile, 11 turn Champion Motor Speedway. The brand-new events center and hospitality tents provide luxury accommodations for an enjoyable spectator experience from any viewpoint, but necks craned when Jim Hall’s legendary Chaparral’s took the track.
Hall’s innovative designs helped his cars win in every series they raced from Can-Am to the Indianapolis 500. The Chaparral 2F brought to M1 had not seen a track since 2005. The opportunity to dust off and get behind the wheel of one of his father’s creations had (pardon the pun) Jim Hall II’s motor runnin’.
“These cars are unique. They’re game changers as far as aerodynamics, as far as transmissions and of course composites. The look is very important. They’re cool, unique, sound good, and look good. This still all works 50 years later.”
The Chaparral’sseemed rejuvenated when they were let loose on the track as if to say, “What have you been waiting for?” Hall knew his dad, who couldn’t make the trip, would have loved every minute. “He feels very honored and blessed that at 86 he’s still alive and kickin’ and enjoying life, and seeing these cars honored and appreciated.”
From the Fabulous Hudson Hornet to race cars driven by Parnelli jones, and Jackie Stewart, Johnny Rutherford and recent Automotive Hall of Fame inductee Janet Guthrie there was no shortage of racing history to celebrate or admire.
David Hobbs has been a part of all of it. He’s enjoyed a legendary motorsports career both behind the wheel and the microphone; many of the cars on track this weekend he’s either raced in, against or called the races they’ve won. There won’t be a checkered flag or trophy at the end of the final lap this weekend, these are just performance runs, but Hobbs, who’s serving as guest of honor this weekend, knows racers will do what they are prone to do…race.
“I told Tim (McGrane) you show a driver bit of black asphalt under his four wheels he is going to go fast; you better be prepared. It will be a fun weekend. Hopefully the driver’s keep their heads and don’t do anything silly.” “Easier said than done”, I replied. Hobbs agreed and said, “Yes, easier said than done because most drivers are silly, look at me.”
A little silliness and a little speed can’t be too much of problem at a speed festival. McGrane understands this is just a start but feedback from the participants has been positive. In time, he expects the American Speed Festival to become another marquee event in M1’s quest to be the Motor Cities premier automotive destination and playground.
“We want to create something that’s unique to the North American marketplace with event opportunities that people can come and enjoy a lifestyle that showcases a real cross section of automotive creations.”
The green flag is waving at M1 Concourse and the American Speed Festival, you don’t need a garage or a Ferrari to join the race; just a good ol’ fashioned need for speed.