Evan J. Smith
Freelancer
August 11, 2015

Attending new events is always refreshing. You generally see new cars, new faces and get to experience new race tracks—and in many cases the scenery isn’t too bad either. This point was driven home August 7-9 at the NorCal Mini-Nats 30, held at the insanely amazing Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California and presented by the Northern California Region Shelby American Automobile Club. The Mini-Nats 30 incorporated road racing, drag racing, car show, special guests, top manufacturers, a cruise through the wine county, plus a bbq, a banquet and so much more.

Shelby American was there in full force, with its lineup of amazing automobiles including the 2015 Shelby GT, continuation Cobras, the 2015 Super Snake, which we drove all weekend, and it introduced the spectacular polished aluminum 50th Anniversary Shelby Daytona Coupe. We also saw the friendly faces from Maximum Motorsports, and we even ran into Mike Musto of Big Muscle and Camilo Pardo, designer of the 2007 Ford GT. Pardo was on track putting his own GT through its paces.

Speaking of the Daytona Coupe, enthusiasts got the chance to meet and speak with Peter Brock, Carroll Shelby’s first paid employee and the man who designed the Shelby Daytona Coupe. Also on hand was the original Venice, California Shelby crew of Jim Marietta, Ted Sutton, and Duane Carling. These guys were the designers, mechanics, and fabricators, responsible for preparing the 1965 Shelby Mustang GT350 Competition Model. They showed slides at the banquet and told stories of how the first Shelby Mustangs came together. It was inspirational and educational.

Above all, the open track experience at Sonoma Raceway is worth the trip alone. The dramatic 160-feet of elevation change makes for exciting driving, as the track climbs to a peak of 174-feet above sea level in Turn 3a, and it drops to 14 feet ASL in Turn 10. In between are blind corners, high-speed esses’, and your body feels like it’s on a roller coaster the whole time.

We ran two configurations of the 12-turn road course, Friday was the NASCAR layout and Saturday used the popular Traditional Course, which incorporates the exciting carousel. Both paths take you on an exciting and challenging journey through the corners. In addition, the dragstrip was open for quarter-mile passes on Friday night. It was cool to see those road-racing specific Ford pounding the 1,320 as well as busting through the corners.

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The event accommodates all levels of drivers in four run groups and thankfully everyone kept to the paved surfaces. It was just amazing watching the wide variety of Ford machines make their way through the corners. But it was more fun getting on track. Shelby handed us the keys to the 2015 Super Snake. It has power to spare and reaches a new level of handling, thanks to the IRS and Shelby-specific upgrades. It performed flawlessly, but you have to wait a few weeks for all the juicy details.

As you could imagine, the track was packed with Shelby Mustangs and Cobras from all years. We relished in the 1960’s originals, the clones and even the present models. We even spotted a 2015 GT350R that was on display. Michael McGuirk and his crew at Team Shelby set the tone for a perfect weekend that overflowed with energy and excitement. The crew is so welcoming and friendly that we can’t wait to make it to the next event.

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