Mention any kind of vintage car to an old car buff and you’ll get their ears to perk up.
Tell that same old-car buff — in this case, me — that you can go out in a vintage car on the Sonoma Raceway and they get nearly apoplectic. Yet that’s what happened.
The organizers of the Speedway Children’s Charities Caring for Sonoma County Children in Need asked if I wanted to take a ride on the track in a vintage, 1957 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce. I only had one question, “When do we go?”
Before we get into the ride, you should know this is something YOU can do, too. For $75, if you get to the Sonoma Raceway early enough Saturday and Sunday, you can sign up to be one of the lucky few to ride along with a skilled driver on the Sonoma track.
And yes, for the record, you need a skilled driver to take you out there.
Jonathan Burke is one of those drivers. He took us out on the track and is one of many amazing racers out on the track. He started racing after he’d been driving motorcycles for awhile.
Did you always have Alfa Romeos?
BURKE: I raced motorcycles when I was younger. When I got married I had stopped but I already had more than one Alfa. But someone brought up this particular car, and it was a stock racing Alfa Romeo and my wife was opposed to it. So when I mentioned bringing out the old bike racing gear again she said, “Buy it! Buy the Alfa Romeo!”
Is this a modified Alfa like one on the street?
BURKE: No, this one started racing in 1964 (it’s a 1957 Spider Veloce) by a local San Francisco guy. A previous owner restored it to the vintage racer you see in the 1980s. It doesn’t have a ton of horsepower or as good a breaks as other types of cars, but it handles like a dream.
We also caught up with Chris Lyon who owns a 1963 Alfa Romeo coupe. His, though, has a crazy history of its own.
Is your Alfa like Jonathan’s? A racer?
LYON: No. You can get a regular Alfa Romeo family-type coupe pretty cheap. Up until about 1983 this thing was shuttling families all around Italy. But then somebody bought it and turned it into a Nordic snow racer! It was driving around all over the Nordic countries, they even put a defroster in the front windshield to keep it from fogging up.