It was years ago now, fifteen at least. I was at the racetrack in Kent Washington (it used to be called Kent International Raceways when I was a kid, then they called it Seattle International Raceways, or SIR for short, and now it’s called Pacific Raceways) for the annual vintage races.
Tucked in among the old bathtub Porsches and Chevrons and McLaren CanAm cars, as if they were not all that remarkable were two Ferrari GTOs.
One was an original 250 GTO, the most recognizable of the genre, and the other was a GTO 64, one of only two in existence. I’m pretty sure the 64 was Greg Whitten’s, local car guy and Microsoft kid, since the other remaining GTO 64 lives in Japan.
As the day wore on, various run groups hitting the track, stragglers and racers beset by mechanical maladies trickling in amongst the continued roar from the track, it was pretty much a typical vintage race weekend. Jaundiced eyes would barely flicker over the passing of a McLaren M8F as it rumbled by like a ground-bound fighter plane or the now-serine MG Metro WRC coming back on a hook after some un-Godly expensive bang out on the track.
Like a wave slowly running up a beach, silence crept through the paddock. Ratcheting wrenches were stilled, the grunts of Triumph owners working on that last stubborn bolt quieted, and calmly rippling through the paddock, literally whispered from person to person came the excited words: “The GTOs are heading out! The GTOs are heading out!”
From the far distance first one, then a second V12 engine came to life, the unmistakable sound of tearing silk could mean that it could only be the product of one company: Ferrari.
I watched from maybe 200 yards away as the crowd silently parted, and the 62 lead the 64 from the paddock into the pits and directly out onto the track, maybe hitting freeway speed by the time they were into the kink that is turn one, perhaps a quarter mile away from where I was standing.
Everyone stopped and set down tools or oily red shop rags and, without a word, walked to hang off of the cyclone fence like a bunch of 14 year olds at their first track outing.
The sounds of the engines died off as they rounded turn two and into the steep, downhill plunge to the switchback turns of 3a and 3b, muffled notes as they must have worked their way through 5 and 6 by the section every racer simply called “the pit” (“trust me man, you do NOT want to go off and end up down in “the pit”, it’d be bad, really bad.”), when there was a KRAK!! followed by high pitched rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRowRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRowRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!! as both racers simply stood on the gas all the way back onto the main straight and didn’t lift off until the braking area of turn 2.
All of the rail-birds and fence-clingers leaned in and tightened their grip and said nothing until the cars were out of sight, and then crowd simply erupted in a cacophony of shouts:
“Sonofabitchdidyouseethat? Oh my GOD! Wow! Holy Shi-neverinmylife! WOW!”
Everyone from software princes to telecom moguls to working class families were literally transformed into bunch of screaming and hollering teenagers; leaping and jumping up and down and slapping complete strangers on the back: “Have you ever seen the like?! Wow! Boy-oh-boy! That was TOTALLY wicked!!”
And the crowd only got more vocal as the two GTOs carried on like that for another ten or fifteen laps, no one else on the track, but driving like they were being chased by the devil himself; V12 arias bouncing off the distant hills and mountains, slowly being dampened and absorbed by the pine trees.
I can only imagine what it was like when four times as many GTOs took to the track at Laguna Seca this past weekend.