U.S. Vintage Grand Prix @ Watkins Glen

It doesn’t seem real that two weeks have passed by since the SVRA U.S. Vintage Grand Prix presented by Jaguar @ Watkins Glen. Time flies by before you know it. Earlier this week I submitted the event coverage article for Victory Lane Magazine. I’ll post it here once the Victory Lane issue is out. Until then, here’s a few shots of some of my favorite cars of the weekend. For some reason they all seem to be red. Hmmm, interesting. Enjoy….TJ.

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Peter Giddings beautiful 1954 Lancia D50 A/R.

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The Historic Trans-Am Series cars were the stars of the weekend. Here’s Andrew Alcazar’s Ford Mustang Boss 302.

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A work of art. This Surtees TS-5 run by Mark Harmer, was an ex-David Hobbs Formula 5000 car. It even had Hobbs’ autograph on the car next to his name.

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This 1968 Alfa Romeo T33/2 Daytona of Jay Iliohan has an impressive history with former drivers such as Mario Andretti and Lucien Bianchi.

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The immaculate 1985 Porsche 962 driven by Bill Hawe.

 

 

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IMSA Weekend @ VIR

One week ago I visited the beautiful rolling countryside of the Virginia International Raceway. The weekend of August 26-28 (2016) featured five amazing series, headlined by the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. This event set the stage for a battle between the GT Le Mans (GTLM) and The GT Daytona (GTD) classes going for the overall win. Also on the weekend agenda were the cars and drivers of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America series, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA series, and The Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup. What more can a sports car racing fan ask for?! My “Future History” article for Victory Lane is in the final edit stages, but here are a few shots from the the IMSA WeatherTech and Continental Tire SportsCar series. Next week it’s on to Watkins Glen for the SVRA US Vintage Grand Prix. Enjoy!

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Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford GT #67, with drivers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook.

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Pit stop teamwork in action for the Turner Motorsport, BMW M6 GT3 #97, with drivers Michael Marsal and Markus Palttala.

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In the paddock where the race preparation never ends for the Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing, Porsche 911 GT3 R #23, featuring drivers Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas.

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Powering through Oak Tree corner is the Continental Tire SportCar Challenge team RS1, Porsche Cayman #17, featuring the driving duo of Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante.

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The race helmet design of driver Liam Dwyer, of the Freedom Autosport, Mazda MX-5 #26.

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Turning the page, revisited

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In preparation for the new season, I decided to refresh the blog with a new look, and new designs for my business cards. My son, Eric Johnsen (ericjohnsendesigner@gmail.com, Twitter @EricJ_Designer) incorporated my love for the Gulf Porsche 917 of the early 70’s, with a simple and elegant design. The graphic layout from a previous post illustrates both variations of the front of the card, using the numbers 20 and 70. The #20 is of course my homage to Michael Delaney, aka Steve McQueen, from the iconic movie “Le Mans”. The #70 is in reference to the year 1970. This was a very pivotal and influential year for me as I entered my teen years.

So many memorable things happened in 1970 that made an impression on me. In the world of auto racing it was the year Porsche first won Le Mans. The movie “Le Mans” was filmed at the 1970 event. The release of the movie the following year has since become a cult classic. The Porsche 917 is in my mind the perfect racecar, aesthetically…simple, elegant, and ferocious. The drivers of the #20 in the actual 1970 race were Brian Redman and Jo Siffert. Steve McQueen prepared for the film by racing at the 12 Hours of Sebring with Peter Revson. The underdog entry almost pulled it off, if it hadn’t been for an eleventh hour comeback charge by Mario Andretti in a Ferrari. 1970 also saw Jochen Rindt become the first and only driver to be the crowned Formula One World Champion posthumously. Rindt drove the iconic Gold Leaf sponsored Lotus designed by Colin Chapman. Finally, Al Unser won the Indianapolis 500 in the Vels-Parnelli/Johnny Lightning Special (Colt/Ford). Lightning Bolt livery and all!

1970 also featured some of the most beloved music of my life. Cars and music go hand in hand. Driving is a pleasure, and having the right tunes in your car makes all the difference. The music released in 1970 is for me the most concentrated grouping of influential classic rock I can ever remember. Let me remind you of just some of the music released that year…Derek and The Dominos (Layla and other Assorted Love Songs), Eric Clapton (Eric Clapton), CSN&Y (Déjà vu), The Beatles (Let It Be and Abbey Road), Santana (Abraxas), The Who (Live at Leeds), The James Gang (Rides Again), Neil Young (After the Gold Rush), Stephen Stills (Stephen Stills), Simon & Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Water), James Taylor (Sweet Baby James), Joe Cocker (Mad Dogs & Englishmen), Sly & The Family Stone (Greatest Hits), Jimi Hendrix (Band of Gypsys) and the “Woodstock” movie soundtrack…just to name a few. I defy you to find a year that can match that kind of output. 1970 is all you need for the perfect road trip playlist.

Then there was Kent State, May 4th, 1970. I grew up nearby in the Akron area. I’ll never forget it. It was the year I really became focused on politics and the world in turmoil. Later I would attend Kent State, and most of my core classes were held at Taylor Hall, the scene of the tragedy.

So, as you can see trying to decide on numbers for this project was ultimately an easy choice. Fast forward to 2016, and it was refreshing to get back to the track for the SVRA Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio. I’m still contributing to Victory Lane Magazine, but will not be doing the race reviews for now. My focus has instead turned to special focus storylines and interviews of my choosing. Stay tuned!  ……..TJ 2016

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SVRA Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, June 23-26, 2016

It was a beautiful weekend in central Ohio. SVRA and the staff of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course couldn’t have asked for better weather. Though the spectator turn-out was less than I expected, the racing certainly didn’t suffer. Each of the groups presented close entertaining racing. The stars of the weekend (in my opinion) were the International GT cars and drivers. It was no-holds-barred racing. It was fantastic. Here are some of my favorite cars from that weekend. TJ 2016

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Bill Riddell #05, 2011 Porsche Cayman S.

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John McCormick #28, 1985 Ford Cobra IV.

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Tom Cantrell #2, 1969 Open Sports Ford Can-Am.

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Mike Fisher #7D, 1960 Austin Healey 3000.

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Turning the page….

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It’s the start of a new season for me. The SVRA Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio will be my first event of the year. With that comes a new look. I’ll have more to say about that in my next post, but for now I’m packing for the trip tomorrow morning. Stay tuned. TJ.

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Vintage Racer Group – 2015 Turkey Bowl

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Paige Hope, (#35) 1968 MG MGC GTS.

Victory Lane Magazine, February 2016, Vol.31, No.2

Story and photos by Terry Johnsen

Summit Point, West Virginia, November 27-29, 2015

Whenever I think of the term “Turkey Bowl”, I am reminded of the annual football game my friends and I would play every Thanksgiving morning when we were kids. This wasn’t going to be our last game of the season, but most likely the last with good weather. Our goal was to have fun and not to go home with any broken bones. The emphasis was on having fun.

The VRG Turkey Bowl at Summit Point is very similar. The goal is to have fun and provide the participants with one last race meeting before winter arrives. Event Chairman, Michael Oritt, stressed that this is a low-pressure event with no timing and scoring. The emphasis is to have a lot of fun with friends and end the season on a high note.

The event featured four run groups; Group 1 – Vintage Small Bore (<2 liter), Group 3 – Vintage Big Bore (>2 liter), Group 4 – Modern Sports/GT & Baby Grand, and Group 5 – Legends. Group 2 for open wheelers was not included this year, thus allowing additional track time for each of the four groups. The schedule for each day was split between practices in the morning and races for each group in the afternoon. Everyone had plenty of time behind the wheel.

Friday afternoon featured a presentation by VRG President, Mack McCormack, who presented and discussed the 2016 calendar. Seven race events are preceded by two early year activities. In total it is a nine-date calendar. 2016 begins on February 27th with the Winter Tech Seminar at Grato Garages in Clifton, New Jersey. Next is the Pittsburgh Racers Dinner on March 5th. The first race meeting is the VDCA “Wild Hare Run” at VIR on the weekend of April 8-10. The Jefferson 500 at Summit Point is on the weekend of May 12-15. The Third Annual Vintage Motorsports Festival at Thompson Motorsports Park, Connecticut, is slated for June 23-25. The calendar continues with the Whiskey Hill Classic, co-sanctioned with VSCCA in Palmer, Massachusetts on July 29-31. The New Jersey Historic Races in Millville, New Jersey takes place on September 16-18. The colorful fall leaves of upstate New York will be in bloom for the VRG @ The Glen on October 7-9. Finally, the 2016 season concludes with Turkey Bowl XX at Summit Point on November 25-27. It looks to be another action-packed year for VRG.

Back to 2015, the lunchtime break on Saturday featured charity rides supporting High Performance Heroes. HPH is a group committed to helping combat wounded veterans achieve their motorsports goals. To support their efforts, HPH not only offered the charity rides, but also had on display many race worn items from professional drivers that will be auctioned off to support their projects. Items such as gloves from endurance champion Scott Pruett and gloves and shoes from his teammate Joey Hand. There were also race worn gloves from IndyCar legend Al Unser, Jr. IMSA sports car drivers Christina Nielsen and Cooper MacNeil also offered race worn items. For a full list of available auction items and to learn more about how you can support HPH with their projects, please visit their website: www.hpheroes.org.

The 2015 Turkey Bowl enjoyed almost perfect race conditions. The favorable forecast leading up to the event allowed everyone to take a deep breath and relax. This then set the stage for everyone to have fun for one last time before packing up the cars and tools for the winter. Each group produced good clean competition. The racing was hard and fast with virtually no incidents. Of course a few cars were ultimately towed in from the far reaches of the track, and oil dry was used on a few occasions. Saturday afternoon saw the return of the Turkey Bowl relay race. It was just another one of the fun activities for everyone to enjoy. Teams consisted of a car from each of the four groups. Everyone was in it to win it!

Racing throughout the weekend was safe and competitive. Group 1 featured vintage small-bore vehicles such as Triumph Spitfire, Austin Healey Sprite, Volvo, MG, BMW, Mini Cooper, Alfa Romeo Berlina, and Fiat Abarth. Pete Carroll spoke on behalf of Group 1. He drove a (#55) 1963 Austin Healey Sprite. Pete praised VRG and the organization of their events. He added, “We race hard, keep it clean. The name of the game is to have fun.” Pete noted that VRG features great people, a good schedule, and there’s never a glitch.

Group 3 saw the appearance of big-bore cars such as the Ford Mustang, Alfa Romeo, Elva Courier, Datsun 240Z, Porsche 914, MGB, and Lotus Super Seven. Joe Stroh raced in Group 3 with his (#1) 1968 Ford Mustang. His red Shelby Mustang was stunning, and one of my personal favorites of the weekend. Joe said that Summit Point is his home track. He likes turn 10 most of all, calling it a “big-bore corner.” He went on to praise VRG and the Turkey Bowl event for its camaraderie amongst competitors.

Group 4 featured a fine array of modern sports/GT & baby grand makes such as VW, Porsche, Mazda, Nissan, Dodge, Ford, Toyota, BMW, and Chevrolet. Scott Luttrell participated in Group 4 with his (#121) Mini Cooper. Scott stated he really appreciated VRG for starting the modern class. Summit Point is his home track, and he relishes the ability to go home at night. He added, “I love the Turkey Bowl, it’s one of my favorites.”

Group 5 featured the Legends racers. This group was once again a welcome support series for VRG and the Turkey Bowl. They always put on a great show. Tyler Hughes drove the (#83) unmistakable bright yellow Legends racer. He said, “it’s a fun weekend, there’s no pressure.” He also pointed out that the Carousel portion of the track is his favorite….“I make up most of my time there.” That he did! Tyler was the class of the field.

All in all, the 2015 Turkey Bowl was a huge success. VRG finished the season on a high note. The goal for the event was simple…no-pressure, and everyone have a lot fun with friends. Mission accomplished! This is the perfect season ending event for any vintage racer.

TJ 2015——————————–

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SVRA Heacock Classic Gold Cup

Dave Fairchild (#21) in his 1979 Zink Z-10, leads Scott Fairchild (#20) in a 1978 Zink Z-10.  Dave Allison (#8) can be seen through the mist in his 1969 Alexis Mk15.

Dave Fairchild (#21) in his 1979 Zink Z-10, leads Scott Fairchild (#20) in a 1978 Zink Z-10. Dave Allison (#8) can be seen through the mist in his 1969 Alexis Mk15.

Victory Lane Magazine, December 2015, Vol.30, No.12

Story and photos by Terry Johnsen

Virginia International Raceway, September 24-27, 2015

The Heacock Classic “Gold Cup” Historic Races at Virginia International Raceway on September 24-27 was an exercise in endurance, perseverance, and patience. The weekend was locked in a weather pattern that brought rain, rain, and more rain to the region. This event marked the completion of the East Coast calendar for the SportsCar Vintage Racing Association. Despite the soggy conditions, SVRA and VIR put on an amazing showcase of vintage and historic sports car racing. Everyone involved should be commended for pushing on and providing a first class event. Bravo to the competitors who chose to participate in spite of the unfortunate conditions. But, the ultimate kudos goes to the track workers who stood watch in the rain and provided race and safety support.

A full schedule of activity was slated, which included the Hawk Performance Endurance Series. The Vintage/Classic Enduro was held on Saturday, and the Historic/GTP/GT Enduro ran on Sunday. The SCCA Trans-Am Series also was featured on the schedule. The paddock came to life and was put on notice whenever these muscle cars fired up their engines. In Sunday’s race, Paul Fix (#4, Corvette) took the overall win and was first in the TA class. Cameron Lawrence (#1, Challenger) was third overall and first in the TA2 class. Randy Mueller (#0 BMW M2) won TA3I, while Ernie Francis, Jr. (#98 Camaro) won the TA3A class. Overall points-leader Amy Ruman (#23 Corvette) led early, but due to an off-road excursion finished in 11th spot. Despite the setback she retained the points lead over Paul Fix with three races to go in the 2015 campaign.

SVRA held their annual end-of-year “Black and White” Awards Dinner on Saturday evening. It marked the end of the East Coast calendar, and a number of announcements and special awards were presented. Connie Nyholm, Owner and CEO of VIR, began the festivities by presenting the Gold Cup Spirit Award to the father and son pairing of David and Scott Fairchild. Among the other notable awards given that evening, Sean Brown was selected as Rookie of the Year and Ike Keeler for Most Improved Driver of the Year. The final award for SVRA Driver of the Year was presented to Harry Gentry. Surrounded by his fellow competitors and past winners, Harry took to the stage and accepted the award. Afterwards, he said he was very appreciative, but also very shocked. He added that having been selected by his fellow competitors made it extra special. Along with the Driver of the Year trophy, Harry was presented with a Zenith watch. Earlier, Tony Parella, the President of SVRA announced that Zenith is a new sponsor to the series. Regarding the weekend’s rainy conditions, Harry said that its just part of racing, adding he actually preferred a steady rain as opposed to unpredictable and intermittent conditions.

In closing, Tony Parella introduced his staff that were in attendance and thanked them for a wonderful year. He said there is still a long way to go to achieve his ultimate vision for SVRA. He foresees SVRA being a household name in the same conversation with NASCAR and IndyCar. He stated the 2016 calendar will soon be released, and that the final touches are being made regarding an event at Amelia Island. This announcement drew enthusiastic applause. He again thanked everyone’s commitment in making the Gold Cup weekend a success. He ended his remarks and the evening ceremonies to a warm and appreciative standing ovation.

The weekend schedule featured two Hawk Performance Endurance Series races. On Saturday, the Vintage Classic Enduro closed the day of racing. The rain and slick conditions added to the drama. The driver’s concentration and skill were put to the ultimate test. In the end, William Fister (#99) took the win in his 1995 Ford Mustang Cobra. Second place was awarded to the racing team of Jeff Mitchell/Ron Branom (#91). They piloted a 1974 BMW 2002. Taking third in the race was the team of J. Richard Schnabel/John Baycor (#57) in their 1974 Fiat 124 Spider.

The Sunday Hawk Performance Endurance Series race featured the Historic/GTP/GT Enduro. The driving squad of Steven Durst/Tyler Pappas (#96) paced the field in their 2003 Mazda CSR. Finishing in a close and competitive second place was Ben Sinnott (#5) in his stealth-like, black 1991 Lola T91/90. Third place belonged to Claude Malette (#17) in a 1990 Lola T90/91.

Group 1 belonged to Phil Wicks (#5) and his trusty 1967 Austin Mini Cooper S. Phil held on and took impressive wins on Saturday and Sunday, handling the treacherous conditions magnificently. He secured his hold on the field by also capturing the fastest lap in each race.

Group 2 proved to be ultra competitive, with a podium shuffle for each of the two races. Les Bowers (#32) captured the win on Saturday in his 1971 Hawke DL2a, ahead of Chris Forrer (#52) in a 1978 Tiga Formula Ford. Scott Nettleship (#63) rounded out the podium with his 1981 Crossle 45F. Chris Forrer captured the win on Sunday, ahead of William Demarest, Jr. (#50), in a 1972 Titan Mk6B. David Allison (#8) hustled his 1969 Alexis Mk15 home for a solid third position.

Groups 3 and 4 competed together, and it was Denny Wilson (#7) who paced he field in both races. Denny also captured the fastest lap in each event behind the wheel of his dominant 1962 Lotus Super 7. Logan Dernoshek (#57A) claimed third in the Saturday race, then did it one better and secured second position in the Sunday race. Logan piloted the distinctive 1966 Yenko Stinger Corvair.

Group 5 and 7b felt the effects of the rainy weather more than any other of the group races held during the weekend. As the old saying goes, “it only takes two to have a race.” So, Ken Mennella (#000) driving his 1963 Chevrolet Corvette GSRep and the duo of Steven Durst/Tyler Pappas (#96) in a 2003 Mazda CSR paired up for a single race on Saturday. In the end, the #000 took the victory. But it was the effort that counted. Despite the rain, despite the track conditions, these competitors came to race. Their determination and commitment is to be celebrated.

Group 6 featured a battle between two drivers, as they distanced themselves from the rest of the field. Todd Treffert (#14) claimed both wins behind the wheel of his black 1974 Porsche 911. William Foster (#99) finished a close second in each race in a 1995 Ford Mustang Cobra. Consolation for William was claiming fastest laps in each race, as he fought and battled every lap with Todd.

Group 7A featured some intense racing, but in the end the final results were carbon copies of each other. Taking the win Saturday and Sunday was Nathan Scigliano (#79) in a 2004 Carbir S2. Nathan also secured the fastest lap in each race. Second place for both races belonged to Ben Sinnott (#5) in his 1991 Lola T91/90. Rounding out the podium in each race was Owen Adelman (#94) in his 1999 Carbir CS2. Both races were hard fought, close, and a thrill to watch.

Group 8 was another set of races that featured a battle between two competitors as they separated themselves from the rest. Sean Brown (#85) piloted his 1975 Ford Escort RS MKI to the win in both races. He was closely followed to the checkered flag by Davis Jones (#16) in a vibrant green 1972 Porsche 911 S/T. These cars were made to race in the rain. Each driver swapped fastest laps with Sean claiming the honors on Saturday and Davis on Sunday.

Group 9 also experienced a lower car count than usual due to the weather conditions. But it didn’t dampen the pace of the cars as they clocked some of the fastest laps of the weekend. Mike Jacques (#54) won the Saturday race in his 2002 Swift 14. Skylar Robinson (#54) claimed the top spot on Sunday in a 2002 Swift 14. A hard-charging Jacek Mucha (#07) captured second place in each race. He piloted a 2006 Swift 16.

The Group 10 and 11 races belonged to Jacek Mucha (#07) as he continued his strong showing for the weekend by taking both race victories in a 2006 Swift JMS 016 CP. Jacek left no doubt of his dominant performance by also achieving the fastest lap in each race.

The 2015 SVRA Heacock Classic “Gold Cup” Historic Races at Virginia International Raceway may be remembered for the wet and soggy conditions. The weather forecast leading up to the event certainly left no doubt as to what to expect. Some competitors either chose to not come, and some left early. But for those who stayed, they were rewarded with a well-run, first class road-racing event, in spite of the weather. SVRA and VIR delivered.

Again I’ll add, bravo to the competitors who soldiered-on in the face of the extreme conditions. The track workers are stars as well as they held their post and provided race and safety support. SVRA may have come a bit closer to becoming that household name that Tony Parella spoke of. It’s hard to imagine that either NASCAR or IndyCar could have handled the circumstances any better.

——————————– TJ 2015

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