Do Savannnah

Savannah Speed Classic shares racing experience with public

  • The public is welcome to meet professional drivers and check out their race cars at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 26 at Ellis Square for the Pace Lap Party to kick off the Savannah Speed Classic, which is Oct. 27-29 at the Hutchinson Island track. (Photo courtesy of HHI Motoring Festival)
  • Professional race car driver and festival Grand Marshal David Donohue.

Savannah Speed Classic shares racing experience with public

25 Oct 2017

Take your car for a spin (45 mph max) around the Hutchinson Island race track, enter your car in a race or better yet, go for a spin in a real race car with a professional driver at the wheel.

Folks with the Savannah Speed Classic want you to feel the thrill of it all Oct. 26-29 with a multitude of events to watch or participate in during this high-octane event. Then they want you to travel north Nov. 4 and 5 for the Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance, one of the nation’s signature automotive events.

“You don’t need to know about cars to have a good time,” according to Sawyer Strelcheck, assistant vice president of operations for Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d’elegance.

“This track is only used once a year,” she said. “This course is really popular with the drivers because no other course is in such close proximity with any other city. They can go to Savannah by crossing the river.”

Kicking it all off will be the Pace Lap Party on Oct. 26. Police cars will escort the 15 invited professional drivers in their race cars from Hutchinson Island across the river over the Talmadge Bridge, arriving at Ellis Square by 5:30 p.m. The race cars have no headlights and are otherwise not street legal, thus the importance of the escort. Plus, if they go slower than 45 mph, they tend to stall out, Strelcheck said.

The public can watch the caravan reach Ellis Square and then meet professional race car driver and Grand Marshal David Donohue and other drivers, see the cars up close, pick up a coupon for $10 off the price of a $20-$30 gate ticket, and purchase race-related merchandise. The kick-off event will last until 8 p.m.

The Savannah Speed Classic is Oct. 27-29 at the Hutchinson Island track. The professional race car drivers will be qualifying their cars Oct. 27. All three days, the public can watch races and drive their cars around the track during the “quiet” hour of lunchtime. The public can also enter their cars to race other similar cars, but they must meet driver restrictions. Prices vary for track use. There will also be eight food trucks on site each day.

From 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 28 and 29, there will be a military outpost tent where active military and their families will receive a free lunch on top of receiving 50 percent off the gate ticket price. There will also be a Kidz Zone and a VIP tent.

On Oct. 28, there will be a panel discussion of “100+ Years of Auto Racing in Savannah” that starts at 11:45 a.m. at the Hot Laps tent. It is open to all ticket holders. Panelists are Rick Timms, a Savannah surgeon and president of Colonial Motorsports Group, organizer of the Dixie Crystal Grand Prix, David Donohue, professional race car driver and event grand marshal, and Savannah’s own Dale Critz Jr., automotive collector/enthusiast and owner of Critz Auto Group.

The pre-race ceremonies begin at 12:10 p.m. Oct. 28 with the presentation of the colors by Fort Stewart Color Guard and the national anthem by Savannah Children’s Choir, followed by grand marshal autograph signing in the paddock.

Non-race activities will be on the infield and will feature vintage racing cars from Historic Sportscar Racing.

On the lower end of the scale, there will be the 24 Hours of Lemons (a play on the race at Le Mans, France), an endurance road racing series for cars that cost $500 or less. Some have creative exteriors and some might race backwards. They will be on display Oct. 27-29, and will take parade laps Oct. 29.

Check the schedule for autograph signing and paddock tour times and days.

Hilton Head Motoring Festival

The event moves to Hilton Head’s Port Royal Golf Club from Nov. 4-5. See highly prized and valued vintage cars. This will include rare cars, some from museums.
Both days will show endurance race cars along with antique watercraft and current racing boats. The Pinnacle Collector, Ken Gross, will bring select cars from rare collections throughout the United States. The Honored Collector, Robert S. “Bob” Jepson Jr., a Savannah philanthropist and businessman, will feature cars from his collection of pre-War American and rare European vehicles.

Festivalgoers with a ticket to the Car Club Showcase on Nov. 4 will have access, via complimentary shuttle from the Port Royal Golf Club, to the Aero Expo the same day. See vintage, new and advanced aircraft, which will sit side by side with comparable automobiles.

On Nov. 5, the Concours d’Elegance will showcase museum quality vintage vehicles, including Brass Pre 1916, 70 years of anniversary cars from Ferrari, Cadillac classics and marque production cars back to 1949, micro cars, sports cars and motorcycles.

Sometimes it’s not just about the race, but how you get there.


What: Savannah Speed Classic
When: Oct. 27-29
Where: Hutchinson Island race track and infield
Cost: Prices vary
Also: Free Pace Lap Party is 5:30-8 p.m. Oct. 26 at Ellis Square. Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival and Concours d’Elegance is Nov. 4-5 at Port Royal Golf Club.