Factory Five Coupes Win at Bondurant

Factory Five customer Karen Salvaggio brought her Thunder Valley Race Team which included two (yes, she owns two of them!) Factory Five Type 65 Coupes to celebrate famed race car driver Bob Bondurant’s 80th birthday last weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park outside of Phoenix, AZ.  Karen sent us a detailed report report on the event which included a large field of original Cobras and high-dollar vintage race cars that Bob had driven on the track over the years.  The celebration was held as an “invitation only” event and about 75 drivers and VIPs were among the attendees.  Here’s Karen’s report and photos.

Bob Bondurant terrorized the track in an original 427 Cobra.

FFR Type-65 Coupe Takes “Top Gun” Honors at Bondurant 80th Birthday Celebration
(October 13, 2013) Vintage racing returned to Phoenix, AZ last weekend, and two Factory Five Racing Type-65 Coupes were in the star-studded field. The event was held at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park (formerly Firebird Raceway), and the race, which was held as a celebration of Bob Bondurant’s birthday, served as the inaugural event for the newly reopened raceway on the outskirts of Phoenix, AZ.

Event promoter Oz Marlen (Marlen Motorsports) was particularly interested in fielding racecars of the type that Bob had driven back in the day, and personally invited Karen to bring her two Coupes to the event. The Warrior Queen and the Warrior Princess, names fondly used for the two Coupes among the Factory Five Racing community, would be piloted by Karen Salvaggio and her partner, former CanAm driver and Spring Mountain Motorsports Park developer Rupert Bragg-Smith.


The pair were honored to have the assistance of racecar driver Allen Grant, legendary Shelby American driver and pilot of the original Daytona Coupe which won LeMans and Sebring at the event. Allen was invited as a dignitary, and graciously offered to transport one of the Factory Five Coupes from its home in the Riverside Raceway Museum to the event. As an added thrill, Coupe and Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) driver John Morton spent the weekend with the Thunder Valley Racing team, and even having a chance to drive the Warrior Princess on track during the weekend.

The event was held as an “invitation only” affair, with nearly all of the 75 drivers having decades of racing experience.  Karen Salvaggio served as a ride-along instructor and coach for drivers with less experience.

Here’s a line-up of maybe $2-$3 million of vintage hardware!

On track, the two Coupes would quickly show their prowess among the field of original Cobras, and both cars ran at the front of the Cobra/Daytona Coupes class during Friday’s practice sessions. Both Factory Five Coupes ran the same #28.  Karen’s older Coupe (darker blue) had not seen competition since its legendary run at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill in 2011, in which the team secured the Western Endurance Racing Championship. That year, the car and team overcame a rollover accident in qualifying, and then through the talent and hard work of the amazing race team, was on grid the next morning for the start of the race, and went on to win the 6-hour and finish the 25 Hours.

In Saturday’s qualifying race, the darker blue Coupe would get a great launch from the standing start, with the lighter blue twin and the rest of the field in pursuit. Karen stretched her lead to a full 26 seconds on the field before the engine developed a misfire, which required a pit stop and resulted in a DNF. Rupert Bragg-Smith driving Team Thunder Valley’s other Coupe (the lighter blue #28) drove to the head of the pack, and despite an annoying fuel starvation problem, finished in second place, just behind a very impressive roadster sporting 600 plus hp. Not bad for a 370hp Coupe! As a pro driver, Rupert wisely used the qualifying race as yet another practice in sorting out the corners and pushing the Coupe’s limits. Following the race, he made final adjustments to the car’s handling, including the addition of a quarter inch of toe out to improve turn in. Karen would spend the evening sorting the power/spark issues, which seemed to be solved with the replacement of the computer and TFI module.

Karen pulls into the pits among some truly heavy duty hardware.

Sunday dawned with brilliant, blue skies, and both Coupes headed to the grid to take on the 2.4 mile road course. The dynamics of the race would be a bit different than the practice sessions however, as the GT Class, which included a Viper, a Pro Truck, and several newly built, and wicked fast Mustang Cobra-R’s, would join the Cobra/Daytona Coupe group for the race. Race organizers gridded the group “LeMans” style along the front straight wall, and three Corvettes from the Bondurant School would serve as pace cars for the race. Rupert and Karen knew they would each have their work cut out for them, but took to the track with every intention of bringing victory home.

As the field paraded from the grid, things quickly turned south for the darker blue #28 Coupe. The nasty misfire and engine stumbling which had sidelined the car the day before was back with a vengeance, and Karen struggled to keep the car running during the outlap. Rupert, on the other hand, was positioned well in the field, but at fireup on pre-grid, experienced a low voltage issue which resulted in the car requiring a push start to fire. At race start, and with engine issues prevailing, Karen elected to move her car to the back of the field in hopes of managing the car for the race. Despite the car’s engine issues, the Coupe continued to handle extremely well, passing four original Cobras before the engine issue forced the Coupe to retire. The pair’s race hopes would now rest on Rupert and his skills in the Warrior Queen (light blue Coupe #28), and it quickly became evident that both he and the Coupe were up to the task.

Rupert, standing with Allen Grant, drove the Factory Five Coupe to a First-in-Class and a Third Overall finish at the Bondurant Vintage Road Race.

To everyone’s amazement, the Coupe quickly advanced through the field, passing a number of original Cobras, newer Mustangs, and within a few laps was running near the front of the field. The car’s handling and Rupert’s driving skills were an unbeatable match, and after dispensing of the ProTruck, Rupert settled in for a run on the fully race-prepared Viper and one last late model Mustang which loomed ahead. The distance between the Coupe and the top spots continued to diminish, but in the end, the Coupe crossed the finish line first in class and third overall.

A Factory Five Racing Coupe had secured Top Gun honors at the race; Needless to say, Rupert and Karen were thrilled! When asked about the race, Rupert stated, “The Coupe was an absolute joy to drive, and I’m looking forward to racing Factory Five Coupes again in the future!”

Dr. Karen Salvaggio
Team Thunder Valley Racing Owner

The event gave everyone a chance to spend time around these great cars and meet some racing legends while celebrating Bob Bondurant’s 80th birthday..

Famous Daytona Coupe driver John Morton.

Karen owns two Factory Five Type 65 Coupes – “The Warrior Queen” and “The Warrior Princess”

Karen is a huge part of the Factory Five community.  She is a tireless organizer and supporter of events, and she is generous to a fault… unless you’re on the track with her.  Karen at the dragway during the filming of an episode of Hot Rods Unlimited.