Cavallino Classic XVIII, Palm Beach, Florida, 20 – 25 January 2009
18 Years of the Cavallino Classic – My First Year! Everybody raves about the Cavallino
Classic as THE annual Ferrari gathering, so this year I thought that I should experience it first
hand. Thus on Tuesday 20 January I boarded Virgin Atlantic’s flight VS015 at Gatwick Airport
for the long haul flight to Orlando in Florida. The flight took an inland route over the USA due
to bad weather conditions on the east coast, the path that it would normally take. Looking out
of the window over Canada and the northern states all one could see was snow and ice on
the ground some 38000 feet below, hopefully things would change the further south we went!
After all, I had been reliably informed that the Florida winter was the equivalent of a good
European summer. Upon arrival in Orlando in the evening, it was warmer, but not that much,
only a breezy 5degC, the wind chill making it feel like freezing point. Never mind, I was here
now so would just have to make the best of it!
First Encounter – Although the Tuesday and Wednesday were private test days at the
Moroso circuit for registered participants only, thanks to John Barnes, the head of the
organising committee, I was able to gain access on the Wednesday to see what lay in store.
The circuit has been totally redeveloped over the past few months, and is now called Palm
Beach International Raceway instead of the former title of Moroso Motorsports Park. Not
having experienced the original layout, seasoned veterans told me that it was vastly different
to the original set-up, having been totally resurfaced, the configuration changed at various
points, and the drag strip moved from within the road course to outside it, so that events
could be run on both facilities simultaneously.
The circuit work had been completed, but the infrastructure was still work in progress, which
meant for one thing, that not all the safety fencing had been erected, which afforded the
opportunity to take some action shots. I think that this is going to present problems for
photographers in the future, as from the posts in place it will be high, and there doesn’t
appear to be any facility for press photographers on the inside of the fencing. Maybe action
shots at PBIR will be a thing of the past!
Some of the historic Challenge participants were using these days as a shakedown for their
races on Friday, as it gave them the chance to learn the new layout before official practice on
Thursday. It was nice to find a trio of 250 GTOs in the paddock area, together with a trio of
512 BB/LMs, and the Sunoco 512 M. Amongst more modern variants there was quite a
variety, including the FXXs of Benny Caiola and Preston Henn, a trio of 333SPs, plus
numerous 360 and 430 Challenge cars. To make the day even more enjoyable, the sun
shone and the temperature rose steadily, but still not up to what I was told are the norm.
Thursday – After the registration reception in the Gold Room at the impressively opulent
Breakers Hotel, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, on Wednesday evening, Thursday was the
first day of overall activity at PBIR, and the weather continued to warm up! There was more
activity and more cars than on the Wednesday, and the highlight for me was some laps of the
circuit with Jim Fuchs in his 512 BB/LM, what a machine, and he’s a pretty handy driver as
well! From the circuit in late afternoon, the next stop was the Jet Reception in Jet Aviation’s
hangars at Palm Beach International Airport, which was another glittering affair, with Ferraris
lined up on the tarmac amidst the private jets, while commercial flights carried on their
business regardless a few hundred metres away. This event features a People’s Choice
Award, where all guests are given a ballot card to vote for their favourite Ferrari on display.
This went to the beautiful pale gold 195 Inter Touring Coupé, # 081 S, of Richard Martin, an
ex-patriot Englishman living in California. After this it was more partying, this time at Jeff
Fisher’s private function which he holds every year for friends at his Classic Stable, a
converted cigar warehouse, which houses his collection, including the jewel-like 212 Export
Vignale Spider, # 0090E.
Friday is Shell Historic Challenge Day – At last the weather was what I had been told it
should be, so off with the jacket and out with the sun block! Another day at PBIR with races for
the drum and disc brake groups, in the first rounds of the US Shell Historic Challenge series.
There were around a dozen cars in each group, with the drum brake group containing a pair
each of Alfa Romeo 8C 2300s, Maserati 250 Fs and Ferrari Testa Rossas amongst their
number, with victory going to the Maserati 250 F of Peter Giddings. In the disc brake group,
the Sunoco Ferrari 512 M of Lawrence Stroll had a trouble free win from the pair of 512
BB/LMs of Tod Morici and Jim Fuchs, which proved that my “Thursday Chauffeur” wasn’t
Come the evening and it was more social activity, this time it was the Yacht Hop at the
Rybovich Boatyard on the Intercoastal Waterway. Being a car guy this was my first visit to a
“boatyard”, but boy was it impressive, especially when you hear the multi million dollar sums
being talked about for some of the “boats” moored there. One of these was the three storey
“James Bond” motor yacht “Casino Royale”, featuring some incredible craftsmanship to the
interior, whilst the line-up of four jet skis on the lower rear deck was pretty impressive. Other
yachts moored there were even larger, with one $180 million offering boasting seven floors.
With Ferraris lined up along the quayside under the palms, it made for a quite surreal setting,
you would never dream that the world economy was in meltdown!
Concorso – Saturday is the big day, the concours on the lawns of The Breakers Hotel, and
having offered to assist with the placement of cars, it was a very early start, fortunately with
the good weather continuing. There were fifteen classes with eighty three cars to be judged,
plus a number of display cars, one of which was the 16M 430 Scuderia Spider, courtesy of
Ferrari North America, whilst Ferrari Classiche also had an impressive display featuring a
GTO (288). The 1956 & Earlier Class featured a nice selection of early models ranging from
the previously mentioned 1950 195 Inter Touring Coupé, through a 212 Export Vignale
Cabriolet, a pair of 340 Americas, a 375 America, a 250 Europa GT, to a 250 GT Boano.
There was a special class for the Superamerica series, which featured a quartet of elegant
400s and a 410 model. Competition cars were thin on the ground, but included a 312 P(B)
and the superb pale blue 500 Mondial Spider Scaglietti, # 0556MD, of Rear Admiral Robert
Phillips, which won its class and the Enzo Ferrari Award for the best Ferrari at Pebble Beach
All ears were open at the awards dinner in the evening (more socialising!), to see who the
major award winners were. The top awards went to the 212 Export Vignale Cabriolet, #
0110E, of Tom Stegman, which took Best of Show GT Car, whilst the 500 Mondial of Rear
Admiral Robert Phillips added to its Pebble Beach success with The Best of Show
Competition Car award. A nice touch for the major award winners, in addition to their
trophies, was the presentation of copies of the 2008 Ferrari Yearbook signed by company
President Luca de Montezemolo, which had been organised by Antonio Ghini of Ferrari SpA.
Mar-A-Lago – The finale to the gathering was a charity luncheon and multi marque concours
at the exclusive Mar-A-Lago club of Donald Trump, a short distance down the coastal road
from The Breakers. Here some of the Ferraris from Saturday’s concours were joined by a
selection of prestigious makes, including a pair of pre-war Delahayes, a Bugatti Stelvio 57C,
a Cunningham C3 Vignale Coupé, a stunning Fiat 8V Supersonic and a fine selection of
Aston Martins, including an ex-King Hussein DB5 Convertible, to name but a few. Prizes were
presented by Gina Campbell, daughter of world land and sea speed record holder Donald
Campbell and grand daughter of Sir Malcolm Campbell, who preceded his sons speed
record gathering in the late twenties and early thirties with nine world land speed records
amongst his trophies. Gina also followed the family passion for speed, and has held the
Women’s Water Speed record. Thus my first Cavallino Classic came to an end, and I must
say that it was all it had been made out to be, a fantastic mix of track and concours, great
social events, and really friendly people. Look out Florida, I plan to be back in 2010!
Palm Beach International Raceway Track Day – Participating Cars