The appeal of historic racing is easy to understand. These cars are works of art meant to be raced and the thrill of being able to race the same type (or in some cases the actual car) of past motorsport heroes is something that all drivers involved in historic racing cite as the reason they enjoy it so much. For those who are interested in this form of racing, I thought it would be informative to hear from a vintage racer so I spoke with California-based racer Kevin O’Connor. We talk about what he loves about racing vintage race cars, where he races and what kinds of cars hold the most appeal for him.
Motorsport Prospects: How did you get started in motorsport and why?
Kevin O’Connor: Well, I have always been a car guy and my dad was an amateur racer in his Jag XK120. He brought me to my first race at Laguna Seca in 1969 and I was hooked from that day on. It is my blood! The thing about these cars is that they are a piece of art and the last of a generation so being able to race them is a privilege. The whole scene is a tribute to the racing life back then.
MP: What do you do for a living to fuel this passion?
KO: I am a real estate developer and car trader.
MP: What cars have you driven/owned and which ones are your favourite?
KO: My favorite remains my recently sold McLaren M8C Can Am racer but I am also a big Ferrari and Porsche guy and have owned and driven several of those. My latest favorite is my 1968 Shelby.
MP: What cars would you still love to race?
KO: Any Can Am car or Group C car. Anything with a big monster motor but I also love racing my Spec Racer Ford.
MP: Where have you raced and how did you do?
KO: My favorite races were the ones I’ve won! I took a first at Laguna Seca which was a dream come true and I have won a few at Thunderhill which is a great track too. A Sonoma win has eluded me thus far but it’s a great track as well.
MP: Is there a “circuit” for historic race drivers? Are there certain races that are iconic?
KO: Absolutely! Here are a few:
- Monterey Historics
- 1000 Miglia
- Peking to Paris
- Spa Classic
- Spa Six Hours
- Le Mans Classic
- Monaco Historic Grand Prix
- The Nürburgring Classic
- Goodwood Festival of Speed
- Pau Historic Grand Prix
There are also organizations like the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA), Classic Sports Racing Group (CSRG) and Historic Motorsport Association (HMSA) that have several races as part of an informal championship.
MP: What is the atmosphere like in the paddock amongst the drivers?
KO: Well on any level of racing, the camaraderie is the joy and then competitiveness with the friendships is pretty unique. You might be racing hard against the same guy that let you use a tool or lend you a part to get you in the field against him.
MP: How hard do drivers racing historics push? With the value of these cars, is that always in the back of your mind when racing on track?
KO: If you are a racer, there’s only one way to go and that’s flat out. That being said, it is imperative to respect the car and even more important to respect the cars and lives of the others so you must always keep that in mind on any level and independent of the value of the car.
For those interested in possibly pursuing vintage racing on their own, every Wednesday I highlight a race car available for sale in the Motorsport Prospects Marketplace with a high percentage of them suitable for vintage racing. I usually also include some information on where they can be raced. Feel free to contact me if you are a historic series organizer, team owner or engineer to add your details to the Motorsport Prospects Directory.