The 23rd running of the Vintage Auto Racing Association’s annual British Extravaganza saw an eclectic mix of race-prepared cars manufactured in the UK compete on the track at California’s Buttonwillow Raceway Park (a couple hours drive north of Los Angeles) in the “Union Jack Challenge,” with a companion car show also serving to showcase British sports cars. Lucas Oil Products was the presenting sponsor of the event —which also featured a full compliment of Open Wheel, Production, Sedan and Sports Racing-classed cars, with a special Historic Race featuring pre-war cars dating back to 1911.
Well-known British marques like Austin-Healey, MG, Morgan, Sunbeam, and Triumph were represented in the field, as well as some unusual entries like a Turner 950S, Daimler SP250, and Lotus Eleven LeMans.
VARA assembled the field in six Run Groups, which essentially were comprised of small-bore Production (1), Sedans (2), Historic pre-war (3), big-bore Production (4), Formula cars (5), and a mix of fast cars (6).
There were 36 small bore cars gridded up to start the action for Group 1, with Josh Rodenbush and his Volvo P1800 earning the pole position. He was followed by Harris Koenig in a Renault-sports racer and Brian Howlett in a Triumph TR4A. Sunday’s flag race saw Koenig cross the finish line first, followed by Mark Francis in an Elva Mk.7, Howlett (Third), and Rodenbush (Fourth).
VARA’s sedan classes are always hotly-contested. The Group 2 qualifying saw Sam Smith’s BMW 2002 set the fastest lap and grab the pole. He was followed by Steve Bristling in a Datsun 510 and Ken Blasco (BMW). Smith again dominated the field in the Flag Race, followed by Troy Tinsley in a Datsun 710, and Blasco’s 2002 BMW.
Nostalgia reigned supreme in the Group 3 race for Historic cars, with John Kerr (1932 Miller-Schofield Ford), John Miller (1951 Morgan), and Peter Giddings (1932 Alfa Romeo) qualifying 1-2-3. Kerr won the Flag Race on Sunday, with Giddings —who had the fastest lap time— a close Second. Bernard Dervieux was Third in a 1950 Allard.
Group 4 was comprised of a variety of big bore machines, with Karim Marouf’s 1984 Marcos GT taking the top spot, followed by Maurizio Brandhoff in a Factory Five Daytona, and Australian George Vidovic in a Python (“Down Under” Cobra replica). The same finishing order held true for Sunday’s Flag Race.
Formula cars participated in a multi-race series, with Saturday’s Flag Race topped by Stewart Paterson (Ford Crossle), Kinnon Marshall (Lola 440), and Bob Hatle (FF DB3). Sunday’s edition saw Marshall take the top spot, followed by Paterson and Hatle.
Dave Torrey lead the pack for qualifying in Group 6 with his Lola T-592, Bill Barham was next aboard a Lola T-250 and Michael Denering following closely in a Lola T-492. For the Flag Race though, it was Paul Lisec crossing the finish line First in his Ralt FSV, Nicholas Coe next in a Swift DB3, and Rupert Bragg-Smith filled out the podium with his Lola T-492.
The “Union Jack Challenge” saw a variety of British-built cars do battle, with Todd Gerstenberger taking top honors with a Lotus Elan 26R, followed by Steve Phillips in an Austin Mini Cooper S, and Chuck Gee in a 1970 Triumph Vitesse.
After taking the summer off, VARA will finish the season with events at Willow Springs (September 15-16 and November 10-11) and Buttonwillow Raceway Park (October 6-7). For more details on these events, check out VARA’s website here.
Enjoy this gallery of photos from Brad Eells!