Back at the Track

I've had a busy summer full of trips to visit old friends and to work car auctions. So with a weekend at home, I headed out to the Portland International Raceway to watch the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association Vintage Car Races this past Saturday. It had been a few years since I'd made my way out there and this year did not disappoint. There was a great mix of cars and a couple even had a local connection to Portland.

If you've never been to Portland, the PIR is actually managed by the Portland Parks Department and is located 10 minutes from downtown Portland. It's also connected to the MAX, Portland's public light rail system. With the exception of temporary road courses built for one-off events, it is the closest racetrack located in or to any major city in the USA.

Along with Porsches, Corvettes, stock cars, MGs and other British racing cars; there were lots of open-wheel cars and a couple of vintage Indy cars. The one that I was most interested in was the car that Jim Clark last raced here in the States. The race was at Riverside in the Rex May 300.  It was 1967. Two months later, he would die in an accident in Europe. This particular car was built here in Portland, Oregon by the legendary car-builder, Rolla Vollstedt. Rolla built many of the cars which competed in the Indy 500 races of the '60s.

I also got the chance to meet two of my childhood racing heroes. Both Al Unser Sr. and Al Unser Jr. acted as grand marshals for the weekend's races. I have always been a fan of them both, throughout their storied racing careers. They were gracious enough to let me grab a photo with them. I got their autographs too.


I just saved myself $150,000 this weekend. That was the cost of the damage I racked up on the 2015 BMW M4 DTM race car that I crashed into a wall, once or twice.

Well, I wasn't actually driving the real thing; but it sure felt like it. I did get the chance to drive that exact BMW model on the famed Watkins Glen road course. It was the most advanced racing simulator I've ever had the chance to try out to-date. The simulator was set up at the grand opening of the new service center at the BMW Store in Vancouver, Canada. Racing simulators have come a long way in design and development. They can really  give you the feel of the road with very realistic feedback of what it actually feels like to drive a car to its limits. The simulator I got to drive costs $60,000 and is quite popular. While that may seem like a lot for an over-the-top video game, it is invaluable for a driver who is trying to learn a new track or one who wants to freshen up his skills before the race season begins.

Facts and figures aside, it was an absolute blast to drive. What a great event to be invited to. BC beer and wine were poured; the new 7 Series was unveiled; and the latest BMW i8 was also on-hand.