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Amelia Islander

2017 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance

Mar 13, 2017 02:17PM
Bill Warner is often asked when his interest in automobiles and racing began. “To be honest, I can’t remember when I first became enamored with all things automotive, but the thread that goes back as a real defining moment in my life was when, at the encouragement of my older sister, my parents gave me a camera for Christmas,” says Warner. “It wasn’t really high quality, but for a young man of 16, it was sufficient. I really did not start out to be a photographer, but used the camera to record automotive moments in my life—chasing prototypes, shooting race cars at such venues as Daytona, Sebring, and Dunnellon, and just photographing interesting cars.”

Warner, founder and co-chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, was an antique car collector and a writer/photographer at Road and Track Magazine, who together with Patti Hendrix of The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island, produced the first Amelia Concours event in 1996. Since then it has grown dramatically, attracting tens of thousands of people to the island. Along with the public display of automobiles, the Concours also offers assorted seminars, social events, and auctions, creating an unforgettable weekend of exceptional autos, their owners, and car enthusiasts from all over the world.

Now in its third decade, The Amelia is among the top automotive events in the world. Always held the second full weekend in March, it draws rare vehicles from collections all over the world to the Golf Club of Amelia Island and The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island for a celebration of the automobile like no other. The annual event returns March 10, 11, and 12 on the 10th and 18th fairways of the Golf Club, where golf carts are replaced by high-style autos and their enthusiastic owners.

“When someone pointed out that the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance had entered its third decade last March, time seemed to slow for a moment,” says Warner. “We usually don’t have time to think about things like that. I suppose time does fly when you’re having fun. And we are.

“Someone actually called The Amelia ‘The Fun Concours,’ and we keep that in mind as we compose the classes, plan the schedule, and lay out the field. The whole thing begins to gather momentum when we name an honoree. That gives The Amelia a face. Then comes the creation of the poster and sourcing the cars of the honoree. For us, that’s like a kid making the ultimate Christmas wish list!”

[heading style="subheader"]Al Unser Sr. Named 2017 Honoree[/heading] Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser, Sr. has been named the honoree for the 22nd annual Amelia Concours. Unser’s Indianapolis 500 stats alone are as extraordinary as his remarkable versatility. Three decades ago, he became one of just three racers to win the Indy 500 four times, and he is the only Indy winner to have both a brother and a son who are Indy 500 winners. “Big Al” has led the most Indy 500 laps in history (644), tying 1915 Indy 500 winner Ralph DePalma’s long standing record (612 Indy 500 laps led) on the final lap of his fourth victory in 1987. On that same day Unser, Sr. became the oldest Indy 500 winner (just five days short of his 48th birthday) breaking his older brother Bobby’s record with a year-old March-Cosworth that had been displayed in the lobby of a hotel in Reading, Pennsylvania just weeks earlier.

An accomplished road racer, Unser won the 1985 Rolex 24 at Daytona with A.J. Foyt, Bob Wolleck, and Thierry Boutsen. Naturally he shares the Unser family’s genetic predisposition for winning multiple Pikes Peak Hillclimbs (1964 and ‘65). He had to beat brother Bobby for his first Pike Peak win in 1964, and he set a record in the process. From superspeedways to dirt tracks, road courses to hillclimbs, racing sprinters, prototypes, Indy Cars, sports cars, Formula 5000, Can-Am, and even NASCAR stockers, Unser was fast and very much at home.

“The 100th running of the Indy 500 has made us even more nostalgic than usual,” says Warner. “When we started to think about an honoree for 2017, Big Al seemed like the perfect choice. We were very flattered when he agreed to join us.”

[heading style="subheader"]Porsche Driving Experience High Speed Runs with Hurley Haywood Return to The Amelia[/heading] The popular Porsche Driving Experience returns on Friday, March 10th as part of the Concours weekend. Also returning are the high speed runs with Le Mans and Daytona winner Hurley Haywood. Ron Davis, Porsche Driving Experience Rally Master explains: “Last year, the Department of Defense performed construction work on NAS JAX. That prevented us from conducting the high speed runs on the NAS Mayport runways. This year, the runway updates are complete and Porsche speed is back!” In addition to the high performance, high speed driving exercises, the 2017 Amelia Concours Porsche Driving Experience will also visit two private local car collections, with a guided tour of each.

The event begins at 7 a.m. at the Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport and costs $250 for two people in one car. Additional participants per car may be added for $125 each. All tickets are nonrefundable. A driver and a navigator with minimum ages of 21 are required. Any legally licensed roadworthy passenger vehicle may apply for entry. Porsche ownership is not required. Due to the early assembly hour, complimentary coffee and donuts will be served.

[heading style="subheader"]Famous Movie Cars Star at Concours [/heading] While the Grand Classics are always well represented, it is the unique and iconoclastic special classes that have helped the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance earn the unofficial title of “The People’s Concours.” On March 12, a full class of famous movie cars will trigger memories of sitting in a dark movie theater, or, better yet, a drive-in, daydreaming about a famous, or, perhaps infamous, movie car.

Nine cars made famous by feature films from 1964 through 1988 will trigger plenty of nostalgia at The Amelia. It’s an all-star cast, including James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger (1964); the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow Two-Door Sedan and Ferrari 275 GTB/4 Nart Spyder from Steve McQueen’s Thomas Crown Affair (1968); Steve McQueen’s Porsche Gulf 917K from Le Mans (1971); the Corvette Stingray prototype showcased in Elvis Presley’s Clambake (1967); the Woodill Wildfire from Johnny Dark starring Tony Curtis (1954); the 1958 Chevrolet Impala that appeared in American Graffiti (1973); the Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Spider from Gumball Rally (1976); and the 1924 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost Riviera Salamanca used in Sabrina (1954). Of course, the list wouldn’t be complete without the 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible that practically starred in the multi-Academy Award-winning Rain Man of 1988.

“Great cars and special movies are among the most evocative and enduring elements of modern American life and culture,” says Warner. “When Wayne Carini brought the 1949 Rain Man Buick Roadmaster to Amelia last year, it triggered something important. Memories of special cars and movies often frame the central moments of our emotional lives. Usually, they resurrect happy memories. Those feelings and memories are precisely what we’re shooting for with the Movie Cars class.”

[heading style="subheader"]Amelia Concours Honors the Cars of Brumos Racing: “Made in Jacksonville” [/heading] On March 12, The Amelia will feature a special class to showcase and honor the Cars of Brumos Racing. From its founding on September 1, 1959, Brumos Porsche Car Corp (later Brumos Porsche) represented the legendary Stuttgart marque in North America, winning 15 major championships, plus the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring multiple times.

On April 1, 2016, the world famous Brumos name, a contraction of “Brundage Motors,” concluded operations as retail automobile dealerships. Brumos Porsche Dealer Principal Dan Davis retained the legendary name and the cars of the Jacksonville-based Brumos Collection.

“This is a meaningful way to salute Peter, Hurley, Jack Atkinson, and Bob Snodgrass, as well as all the drivers and crew members who made Brumos #59 so successful in racing through seven decades,” says Davis, “I’m honored to have been part of Brumos for the last 25 years and appreciate the effort and dedication of our people who support Brumos racing.”

New headquarters for the Brumos Collection will open in Jacksonville this year. The purpose-built museum will house the vast collection of memorabilia and many of the cars that will be featured at The Amelia, including Brumos’ first IMSA GT Champion, Trans-Am Champion 911, Can-Am Porsche 917 Turbo, Turbo 935 IMSA GT Champion, and many more, such as the cars raced by Brumos’ own and 1998 Amelia Honoree Hurley Haywood, Peter Gregg, Al Unser, Sr, A.J. Foyt, and Le Mans winner Hans Stuck, plus a fleet of famous racing Porsche from the 1970s through today.

“For many of us, Brumos’ red and blue stripes are the colors of our home town team,” says Warner. “Like Gulf’s immortal blue and orange, and Martini Racing’s stripes, Brumos’ iconic white-red-and-blue livery is instantly recognizable to millions of sports car fans around the world.”

[heading style="subheader"]Homecoming For an Italian World Champion[/heading] A world championship endurance racer will make its international Concours debut, a championship quest begun in Florida 36 years ago. The 24 Hours of Daytona -- the Rolex 24—is a harsh and unforgiving place to begin a world championship quest. Points earned there are hard won during Daytona’s long night and sometimes freezing temperatures. There were no points at Daytona in 1981 after the Martini-liveried Lancia engine dropped a valve near midnight.

But that summer, on World Championship sports car racing’s biggest and most glamorous stage, John Campion’s Lancia Beta Montecarlo shone brightly after a trying competition debut at in the 1981 Rolex 24. Just after 4 p.m. on June 14,1981 Lancia Beta Montecarlo number 65 stepped into the spotlight, winning the Group 5 category of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a superb eighth overall finish. Driven by Eddie Cheever, Michele Alboreto, and Carlo Facetti, that victory kept Lancia’s hopes of a repeat World Championship alive. Less than a month after Le Mans, Lancia Corsa returned to the scene of their first world title in 1980 and won the Six Hours of Watkins Glen and a second consecutive World Championship.

“When we coax a significant racing car out of a private museum, we believe we’ve added something valuable and important to The Amelia experience,” says Warner. “When we can present a car with World Championship provenance and pedigree, something that would rarely if ever be seen in public—a Le Mans winner still wearing its race number—we’re honored to have it on the field.”

[heading style="subheader"]Amelia Concours Wins Worldwide Award[/heading] For an unprecedented second time in just four years, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance has won Octane Magazine’s EFG International Historic Motoring Award for the Best Motoring Event of the Year. The award was presented in special ceremonies in Guildhall, London, England on November 17, 2016. As the only American event nominated for the prestigious international award, The Amelia faced strong international competition from the Concours of Elegance at Windsor Castle (England), Chantilly Arts & Elegance (Paris), Concorso d’Eleganza Ville D’Este (Italy), Regent Street Motor Show (London), and the Rømø Motor Festival (Denmark).

“Just being nominated for the IHMA is an extraordinary honor,” says Warner. “To be nominated every year of the award’s existence has been overwhelming. This year, we were the only American nominee in the category. When we won the IHMA in 2013, we were very pleased, especially considering the quality, depth, and reputations of the finalists. We can only say a sincere ‘thank you’ again to the awards committee and our staff, and especially to our volunteers. It’s their selfless dedication that makes ‘The Amelia’ and both our IHMA awards possible. They never cease to amaze us with their helpfulness, charity, and selflessness.”

Since 1996 the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Foundation has donated over $3 million to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Spina Bifida of Jacksonville, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Shop with Cops, and Micah’s Place. For more information, visit www.ameliaconcours.org.

For a complete schedule of events for the 2017 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, visit www.ameliaconcours.org.