Dozens of drivers planning to drive their very fast Corvettes around Thunderhill Raceway’s 5-mile track last Wednesday could have easily sailed up Interstate 5 to Willows.
Instead, approximately 100 people in 70 new and classic Corvettes detoured through rural Colusa County for a planned stop in Stonyford, where they visited the Stonyford Museum and St. Mary of the Mountain Catholic Church.
It was the seventh year the tour took Colusa County’s scenic route through the western foothills, eventually connecting to Highway 162 in Glenn County, where they would spend the next few days flooring their accelerators for an exhilarating racetrack experience.
“I just had to do this,” said Bill Kirschner, of the Lake Tahoe Corvette Club, who was on the tour for the first time. “It’s been a blast and we get to drive these corvettes the way they are supposed to be driven.”
The tour is an arrangement between the Stonyford community and David Ray, of Hooked on Driving, who has been taking the Corvette clubs through Stonyford for the past seven years. Hooked on Driving is a high performance driving school that teaches people to drive on racetracks.
“We also do side activities supporting the car clubs,” Ray said.
Ray said many of his returning drivers particularly enjoy the annual ride to Stonyford, where they visit the museum and are served refreshments in the Community Center.
It’s also a boost to the Stonyford community.
“This has been a wonderful arrangement,” said Joyce Bond, Stonyford Museum director. “All the drivers have given generously to the museum over the years, and we even have one that became a lifetime member.”
Drivers as far away as Alberta, Canada, Southern California, and Oregon, as well as northern and central California, were on last week’s tour. Ray was part of the original committee that was involved in developing the Thunderhill motorsports complex west of Willows 25 years ago. He founded Hooked on Driving in 2004.
Not only were the drivers a diverse group of people, the Corvettes were also a mix of styles and colors, and included a 1966 classic and Kirschner’s 2017 Grand Sport with Lamborghini doors.
Ray said the Stonyford stop is always the favorite part of the tour, which earlier included a stop for lunch at Granzella’s in Williams.
“The people in Stonyford have been so generous and so welcoming, and we appreciate not only the community center, but the museum,” he said. “Every year we come to Stonyford there is different stuff in the museum.”
Ray said he was also proud that the drivers donate to help keep the museum open.
“It’s a win-win deal,” he said.
In addition to the museum, the Corvette group enjoyed its first tour of St. Mary of the Mountain, the restored Catholic Church about one block from the center.
The church was originally built in 1896 at a site about three miles southeast of Stonyford, but was moved to Second Street when East Park Reservoir was developed.
“The church was cut in sections and brought up in wagons,” Bond said. “It sat vacant for 45 years before it was restored. The community did it as a whole. We did not get money from the diocese.”
While in St. Mary, Kirschner, a retired TWA pilot, whistled “How Great Thou Art,” a talent he has honed since the age of 14.
Kirschner has entertained in churches all over the world. ■