Summer Time At Thunderhill!
If you grew up in road racing in Northern California during the period from the 60's through the 80s the time to play was the summer! Warm weather, no threat of rain, vacations and the longer days all meant more road racing for the SCCA and the few other groups that did such things. It also meant Sears Point Raceway and Laguna Seca in June, July and August.
But that changed in the summer of 1994. Armed with a long history of summer fun, the SCCA planned a BIG road racing event on the 4th of July at their all-new Thunderhill Park. What an event this was going to be! The Club even had NASPORT signed up to join the throngs of racers. And there was a big crowd, really big.
But there was one small problem. The weather for the inaugural 4th of July SCCA event at the club-owned 1.8 mile, nine-turn course was hot. It was over 100 degrees in the shade and there was no shade back then.
Despite the "surprise" heat, the event came off and everyone survived! The next fourth of July SCCA event was scheduled again at Thunderhill in 1995. It was hot again. But there was some shade.
It began to appear that hot days in Willows California in the July were not a random possibility. Darn!
Armed with an accelerated learning curve, the leadership of the SCCA decided that there was not going to be a 3rd annual July 4th SCCA extravaganza at Thunderhill in 1996. The body of bay area people who thought 80 degrees was warm were not ready to acclimate to 100+. The summer of racing changed forever.
And now it is common knowledge that Thunderhill Park has four distinct seasons.
We have the winter months of January and February where the weather is truly winter like.
We have the incredible spring that can be from early March to mid June where everyone wants to play at Thunderhill Park, [And Park fits the description of the venue.]
We have the real summer that is hot and dry featuring the legendary California golden landscape. This is usually July and August.
We have the fall months of September through November that are as beautiful and perfect for amateur road track events as is the spring.
And we have December that does not know where it fits in. In recent years December has been fabulous. Very little rain combined with cool days and seasonal landscape have made December the month for more and more events at Thunderhill. The absence of other track activities, the seasonal shut down of sanctioning bodies and the early onset of cabin fever have resulted in more than one event organizer ending up with a fabulous day-long event. [And the track gives rental discounts in December.]
December also has the tracks biggest and most famous event, the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Held on the first weekend in December, this marathon race is a must see event! I is an even bigger must-do event. It is truly big and getting bigger every year!
So there you have it. From a time when most recreational road racing was done exclusively by the Sports Car Club of America in the summer months in the Bay Area to a broad-based schedule that spans most of the year. Times have changed.
Looking back it is easy to recall that summer of 1995 when it became hot news that an annual SCCA 4th of July event at Thunderhill was probably not a good idea.