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


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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SVRA – Heacock Classic “Gold Cup” Historic Races @ VIR

Les Bowers (#32) driving his 1971 Hawke DL2a, showing an impressive rooster tail.

Les Bowers (#32) driving his 1971 Hawke DL2a, showing an impressive rooster tail.

I covered the SVRA Heacock Classic “Gold Cup” Historic Races @ VIR last weekend (September 24-27, 2015). It had to be one of the most wet and soggy race weekends I can ever remember. Coming in a close second on the wetness scale would have to be the IMSA 6 Hours of The Glen in June. But I was only there for race day. Either way, I’ve had my fill of rain this year, thank you very much. I’ll be posting the story for the Gold Cup soon, but until then here’s a glimpse of the “wetness.”

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SVRA – U.S. Vintage Grand Prix (story)

Joe Colasacco (#8), driving his 1963 Alfa Romeo TZ-1, leads Henry Gentry (#4) in a 1964 Ginetta G4 up through the esses.

Joe Colasacco (#8), driving his 1963 Alfa Romeo TZ-1, leads Henry Gentry (#4) in a 1964 Ginetta G4 up through the esses.

Victory Lane Magazine, October 2015, Vol. 30, No. 10

Story by Terry Johnsen

Watkins Glen International, July 24-26, 2015

The Glenora Wine Cellars U.S. Vintage Grand Prix presented by WELLIVER, took place at Watkins Glen International on July 24-26, 2015. SportsCar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) brought their amazing series to the spiritual home of U.S. sports car racing for the event. Racing visionary Cameron Argetsinger, had a dream and brought European grand prix style racing to the United States in 1948, beginning with the races through the Village of Watkins Glen (1948-1952). The permanent venue was later established and has been the site of many memorable and historic races over the years. There is no better venue to host an event entitled the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix (USVGP).

The Glen is where I saw my first sports car races in 1973. It was a weekend that featured the Can-Am and World Championship of Makes series. It was magical. Today, The Glen still holds that fascination and allure. The 2015 U.S. Vintage Grand Prix brought back those wonderful memories that captured my imagination.

Mid-September has been the traditional spot on the vintage racing calendar for the USVGP, but because of the enormous repaving project, the event was moved to July. Work has already begun on The Boot section of the course, and this year’s USVGP used the 2.454 mile short-course configuration. Speaking with the competitors, the opportunity to drive the short course met with overwhelming approval and excitement.

Preparation for the event began on Wednesday and Thursday of race week with registration, testing, and inspections. Friday’s schedule consisted of practice and qualifying for the ten racing groups. Saturday included additional qualifying and then the competition began mid-day with “The Collier Cup for MG’s” race. Peter Uzdavinis (#25) driving a 1964 MG Midget took the win with Richard Navin (#246) following close behind in his 1968 MGB. Third spot on the podium belonged to Richard Rzepkowski (#74) in his 1971 MG Midget. The top three separated themselves from the rest of the field, yet there were plenty of close battles throughout. Peter captured the best race lap of 1:35.349. He said afterwards that it was his first time on the short course, and there was plenty of non-stop action.

After the first set of sprint events for each of the groups, the racing schedule for Saturday concluded with the “Vintage/Classic Enduro”. A field of 33 cars from race groups 1, 2, 3, 4, 5a, 6a, and 8 competed in a 60-minute enduro, with one required pit stop. Roy Walzer (#17) covered 31 laps and took the checkered flag in his 1963 Lotus 23B. The driving team of Sean & Daniel Brown (#85C) claimed second spot on the podium in a 1975 Ford Escort RS MKI. Third place belonged to Joseph Riolo (#93) in his 1972 Datsun 240Z. The fastest lap of the race was claimed by Sean & Daniel Brown with a 1:24.581.

Sunday’s schedule featured the second race for each of the ten groups. The second enduro of the weekend took place just before the lunch break. The “Historic GT/GTP/ALMS Enduro” was a 90-minute race for groups 5b, 6b, 7, 9, 10, and 11. The race required two pit stops. Lee Brahin (#4B) drove a 1999 Dallara Infinity and took the win by a margin of one lap over Bruce Hamilton (#85), driving a 2008 Dallara Infinity. Third place was awarded to Travis Engen (#2), in his 2005 Audi R8 LMP. The early pace setter in the field was David Porter (#18) behind the wheel of his 2007 Pescarolo 01 Judd. David captured the fastest lap of the enduro with a 1:05.856.

Following the National Anthem and opening ceremonies, the two headline events took center stage. First up was the “New York Governor’s Cup featuring Chevron Cars”. This race celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the storied marque. The ten-lap race was run at a fever pace. This field of cars also featured the most colorful and attractive car liveries of the weekend. Dominick Incantalupo (#27A) drove to victory is his beautiful yellow and red 1973 Chevron B23. Second place went to Turner Woodard (#73) in his blue and yellow 1975 Chevron B31. Third place was awarded to David Jacobs (#33) in his yellow and green 1971 Chevron B19. David also captured the fastest lap with a time of 1:29.665. Jeff Wright (#4A) driving the vivid pink 1978 Chevron B45 FA, described the action as very competitive, good clean racing.

The featured marque for the 2015 U.S. Vintage Grand Prix was Alfa Romeo. The Nuvolari Trophy was awarded for the “Alfas At The Glen Race”. Jay Iliohan (#220) took the win in the stunningly attractive, red and white 1968 Alfa Romeo T33/2 Daytona. The car took your breath away it was so beautiful. Second place went to Terry Stahly (#32) in his 1972 Alfa Romeo GTV. Third place belonged to Joseph Colasacco (#8) who drove a 1963 Alfa Romeo TZ-1. The real head-turner of the weekend belonged to Peter Giddings (#31) in the blood red 1935 Alfa Romeo TIPO C 8c-35. Everyone wanted to be near it and see this pre-war racing specimen up close. The roar of the engine was impressive and gave us all a reminder of the power of these vintage machines from a golden age.

Throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, each of the ten racing groups competed in two sprint races. The Saturday events ran to a 25-minute window and the Sunday races to a 30-minute window. SVRA categorized Group 1 as “small bore” mass-produced sports cars and sedans built prior to 1973. Pre-war and MGt’s also raced in this group. Dave Morgan (#19) took the win on both days in his 1968 Austin Mini Cooper S. In Saturday’s race, the eventual second place finisher Bob Koons (#61) held the lead throughout in his 1961 Lotus 20, but Dave ultimately nipped him for the win in an ultra competitive race. Second place in Sunday’s race was awarded to Larry Coste (#199) in his 1965 Mini Cooper S. Jim Holody (#511) took third position on both days in a 1959 MG A Twin Cam.

Group 2 is classified as open-wheel cars built prior to 1973. Bobby Brown (#79) driving his 1971 Brabham BT35 took the win on Saturday in a heated battle with second place finisher Bruce Hamilton (#76) in a 1970 Brabham BT36. A late yellow flag bunched up the field, and when it turned green Bobby got the jump on Bruce and retained his slight lead into turn 1. He then held on for the finish. Travis Engen (#1) took the win on Sunday in his 1970 Chevron B17b. Marc Giroux (#59) followed closely behind for second place in a 1969 Brabham BT29. Travis took fastest lap honors on both days, with a best time of 1:18.694 on Saturday.

Groups 3 and 4 were on track together and were described as follows: Group 3 cars are medium-displacement, mass produced sports cars and sedans built prior to 1973; Group 4 cars are limited-production sports cars built prior to 1960. Joseph Colasacco (#8) driving a 1963 Alfa Romeo TZ-1 and Harry Gentry (#4) driving a 1964 Ginetta G4 swapped first and second finishing places on each of the days. Joseph captured the Saturday win while Harry took home the honors on Sunday. Harry Gentry also registered the fastest lap in each of the races, with a best time of 1:28.982 on Saturday.

Group 5 included WSC and World Manufacturers Championship cars that raced in 1960-1972. It also included the Can-Am cars prior to 1969, along with front engine “specials” built after 1959. Ken Mennella (#000) dominated both races in his 1963 Corvette GSRep. The power and pace of his beautiful blue and white Corvette could not be matched. He also took fastest lap in both races, with a best time of 1:24.351 on Saturday. Travis Engen (#1) claimed second place on Saturday in his 1962 Lotus 23B. Roy Walzer (#17) finished in third spot on Saturday in his 1963 Lotus 23B. He also captured second place on Sunday. Simon Lane (#59) brought home third place on Sunday in a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette.

Group 6 cars are known as the “big-bore” mass-produced sports cars and sedans built prior to 1973. On Saturday, Curt Vogt (#23) driving a 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 showed everyone who was “the boss” in race 1. Art Herbert (#63) piloted his 1967 Jaguar XKE to a second place finish after a tough battle with Bob Lima (#33) in a 1969 Chevrolet Corvette. Sunday’s event was billed as the “Dick Mooney Memorial Race”. Jack Busch (#61) took the closely contested win in his 1967 Jaguar XKE, ahead of Bob Lima in second place and Curt Vogt in third spot. Curt Vogt captured the fastest lap in both races with a best time of 1:22.025 on Sunday.

Group 7a are the Sports 2000 racers. This group of cars is designated as having been built from 1984-2008. Brent Gernert (#70) drove his 1991 Swift DB5 to victory on both days. The Saturday race may have been the best demonstration of driving of the whole weekend. Jeff Wright (#116) drove up through the field in a 1990 Lola T90/90 and made a daring pass into turn one on the last lap to claim second place ahead of Bryan Gernert (#77) in a 1986 Swift DB2. Jeff took second place on Sunday as well, just ahead of Chip Vance (#4) in a 1987 Lola T87/90. Jeff claimed the fastest lap in each race with a best time of 1:20.483 on Sunday.

Groups 7b and 11 competed together during the weekend. 7b featured Can-Am cars racing after 1967, and World Championship cars racing after 1970. Group 11 featured prototypes, Trans-Am, and FIA GT cars. David Porter (#18) drove his 2007 Pescarolo 01 Judd to victory in both races, along with capturing the fastest lap in each. His best time was a 1:05.437 on Sunday. Travis Engen (#2) claimed second place in both races while piloting his 2005 Audi R8 LMP. John Burke (#62B) took third position on Saturday in a 1999 Riley & Scott MK III, while Jacek Mucha (#07) finished third on Sunday in his 2006 Swift JMS 016 CP.

Group 8 featured mass-produced sports cars and sedans from 1973-1985. Sean Brown (#85C) was declared the winner of Saturday’s race. He drove a fast and nimble 1975 Ford Escort-R. Joseph Riolo (#93) finished second in a 1972 Datsun 240Z, with Tom Briest (#71) following close behind in his 1970 Porsche 914/6. Sunday’s race was a spirited battle between Jim Hamblin (#18) in a 1969 Porsche 911, and Sean Brown. Jim took the win, along with the fastest lap of the race, with a 1:24.992. Joseph Riolo took home Sunday’s third place honors.

Group 9 is known for their “slicks and wings”. These are open wheel race cars from 1973 to 2008. Justin Frick (#09) claimed victory on Saturday in his 1997 Lola 97/20. Bruce Hamilton (#85) carved his way through the field and ultimately followed Justin across the line for second place in a 2008 Dallara Infinity. John Burke (#55) finished third in a 2001 Swift 014a. Sunday’s race saw the field bunched together for a restart with four laps to go. Marc Giroux (#30) in a 1997 Lola T97/20 and John Burke swapped the lead back and forth, lap after lap. Marc finally pulled clear for the win. Mark Sherwood (#3) finished third in a 1995 Ralt RT41.

Group 10 featured various GT sports cars and sedans from 1973-1999. NASCAR Cup and Nationwide Series cars also mixed it up in this group. Jeffrey Bernatovich (#90) was the class of the filed in his ferocious 1990 Chevrolet GT1 Corvette. Jeff took the wins in both races. Robert Mailand (#7) claimed second place in each race driving a beautiful 2006 Chevrolet Corvette. Robert Pawlowski (#2C) captured the third place finish in race 1 in his 1997 Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Keith (Seymour) Prescott (#71) finished third on Sunday in a 2000 Dodge Charger.

The U.S. Vintage Grand Prix weekend also featured many activities for fans to enjoy. Most notably were the Chemung Canal Trust Company Auto Show, and the Jaguar Driving Experience. In between races on the track you could hear the squealing of tires as fans put high performance Jaguars through their paces on a short auto course in the paddock. Fans had the likes of racing greats Roberto Guerrero and Davy Jones as driving coaches. Each person I spoke to walked away from the experience pumped up and thrilled beyond expectations. It was a huge hit.

I hope everyone in attendance was able to stop by the display for the International Motor Racing Research Center (IMRRC). The center is based in Watkins Glen and holds a vast collection of racing archives and memorabilia. The display was promoting their major fund-raiser of the year, the car raffle. A beautiful 2015 Toyota Camry XSE V-6 was prominently placed beside the booth. With a simple act of donation to preserve auto-racing history, a lucky fan could possibly win the chance to drive home an amazing car. The raffle runs through December 12th (2015). Visit the website for details: www.racingarchives.org

Overall, the Glenora Wine Cellars U.S. Vintage Grand Prix presented by WELLIVER was an overwhelming success. The weather cooperated and racing was never disrupted. Despite the change of the traditional calendar date, which could have had a measurable effect on planning for each of the competitors, the car count was still strong. Pam Shatraw of SVRA expressed that the turnout by fans, and in particular the campers, was beyond expectations and sealed it for everyone. I too camped out just as I did back in 1973. That’s when I fell in love with sports car racing. The Glen left an indelible impression on me, and I can’t imagine a better venue to celebrate the history and traditions of road racing in America.

Together, SVRA and Watkins Glen International presented a first class event. The competitors put on a great show and the spectators were able to sit back and revisit the sights and sounds that first ignited their passion for the sport. The magic is alive and well.

—————————– TJ 2015

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