During the 2022 Velocity Invitational at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca, I was passed in the corkscrew by Pato O’Ward in Ayrton Senna’s 1990 championship-winning McLaren MP4/5B Formula 1 car while I was in the (left-hand) passenger seat of a McLaren F1 GTR being driven by racer and stuntman Tanner Foust. It’s an experience that defied my ability to describe it, but if forced to try, I’d say it was something like: Whooosh, Slide, Squeal (tire), Squeal (me), Squeal (Foust), Vroom, Giggle, Cheerful Cussing, Hard Breathing, Total Blackout from Joy.
I can’t promise that you’ll get passed by an F1 car while in an F1 at the 2023 Velocity Invitational, but if it’s going to happen anywhere, this is the place.
The Velocity Invitational is everything that’s good about Monterey Car Week for those of us who most like the historic racing, with a side of hypercars. In 2022 we loaned Mario Andretti a Sharpie, saw a Zenvo active wing in full tilt on track, and got a walkaround of the championship-winning BRE Datsun from its driver, John Morton. We also got to sit overlooking Turn 2 at Laguna, enjoying a wine tasting while Ferraris and Cobras diced it up below. It’s an action-packed weekend.
For 2023, Velocity goes north to Sonoma Raceway during the weekend of November 10–12. McLaren will be back with cars from Zak Brown’s personal collection as well as heritage cars to celebrate its 60th anniversary. O’Ward will be driving again, along with other IndyCar drivers, Brown himself, and F1 pilot Lando Norris. We’ve got interview plans for Norris, so leave your suggestions for questions in the comments.
McLaren isn’t the only manufacturer whose top executive will be on track. Ford will be in attendance as well, with plans to showcase the track-only GT Mk IV, mostly likely with Jim Farley behind the wheel. It’s not the first time Ford has brought cars out to the event. “The Ford GT and the GT40 predecessor have had great representation at Velocity,” says Ford’s global sports car marketing manager Scott Bartlett. “In 2021 Velocity Invitational hosted a reunion of seven Ford GT GTE race cars, alongside our Ford GT MkIV driven by Ford CEO Jim Farley.” He says his team appreciates the enthusiastic audience plus the opportunity to show the racing GT in action.
The rally school DirtFish is bringing out some of its collection of cars, and offering ridealongs, and the show-car paddock is sure to be overflowing with Ferrari F40s, 918 Spyders, McLaren Sennas, and bespoke brands you’ve never seen in person.
Can we beat our 2022 experience? Only if Pato O’Ward can squeeze us inside the actual F1 car. Either way, at $175 for the full weekend, it’s an easier ticket to get than the Vegas GP, and you don’t have to be a celebrity to get in the paddock.