Coronado Speed Festival and “Everest”

For 18 years, Fleet Week Coronado Speed Festival on Naval Base Coronado has honored our nation’s military and entertained audiences with thrilling historic automobile racing, fascinating guided tours of U.S. Navy ships, military displays and demonstrations, driving opportunities and more. This year – the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II – was no exception.

The many classes of historic vehicles in competition included NASCAR stock cars, historic Trans-AM, sports cars and sedans, open-wheel racecars and sports racing cars.

We learned from a handout, in excerpts from a story written by Boyd Goddard of San Diego, that in 1915 the 300-mile (51-lap) Point Loma Road Race was run under the auspices of the A.A.A. The Al Bahr Shriners sponsored this race, correctly anticipating that it would attract visitors to San Diego’s Panama-California Exposition.

At the time, city streets were unpaved, so preparation for the race included smoothing them and banking turns. That provided work for the locals. 250 Marines from Camp Howard provided security.

Manufacturers of the racecars included such legendary names as Duesenberg, Peugeot and Mercer. The crowd on race day was estimated at 50,000.

In those days racing was very dangerous. While there were many casualties in this race, no one died – a fate which several of the participants would suffer before the year was out.

For a while Eddie Rickenbacher, who would later go on to become an aviation hero of WWI, led the race in a Peugot. Eventually the 4-1/2 hour race was won by Earl Cooper in a Stutz, followed by San Diegan Billy Carlson in a Maxwell. Prize money totaled the princely sum of $10,000.

Fast forward to 100 years later and imagine a field in the Coronado Speed Festival that was packed with ancient racecars, including one that actually ran in the 1915 race (the Tahis Special). It was a very rare treat indeed to see these cars, complete with their riding mechanics (“mechanicians”), race on tall, skinny, exposed wheels and tires.

Elsewhere, U.S. Navy personnel gave informative guided tours of three ships. One was the USS Somerset. Commissioned in 2014, it was named in honor of the Sept. 11, 2001 passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 who heroically gave their lives to prevent terrorists from completing their deadly mission.

The interior of this amphibious transport dock ship is cavernous. Its slab-sided exterior covers the masts, minimizes radar detection and enhances blast protection. Sophisticated automation has enabled significant crew reduction.

The other ships on the tour were the guided missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Mercer and the cruiser USS Cape St. George.

Pairs of military personnel teams competed in the Pit Crew Challenge to see who could perform a simulated stock car pit stop most quickly.

Licensed drivers were given opportunities to autocross BMWs and Jaguars. Famous former IndyCar racer Roberto Guerrero coached me in a Jaguar F-Type.

Throughout each day the race pits and the Car Club Corral were open. Drivers and crewmembers alike were pleased to answer questions and provide information about their cars.


If ever human beings travel to another planet – and manned missions to Mars in the not too distant future are indeed likely – we can expect to find environments that are not conducive to the support of human life. In sharp contrast, here on planet Earth we take for granted the basic essentials of air to breathe and tolerable environmental temperatures. This, however, is not always the case.

“Everest” (in IMAX 3-D) is based on a true story. It will take you to the summit of Mount Everest. Here you will experience the vivid reality of a brutal, exhausting, life-and-death struggle for survival on a truly hostile place on our planet.

Human beings cannot survive for very long at the high altitudes and in the frigid temperatures of where jets fly. With little warning Everest can become a bleak, dangerous, inhospitable place where, at any moment, something could kill you.

Intense competition and a compelling desire to achieve major life goals compounded the risk in “Everest.”

Expect that you will squirm in your theater seat as perhaps you try, through the sheer force of your will, to somehow help the potential victims avoid their inevitable fate. Finally, take a deep breath and begin to relax as the house lights come on and you leave the theater.

“Everest” is in theaters now.

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Copyright © 2015 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #404