• SVRA HEACOCK CLASSIC: THE GOLD STANDARD!

    Mike Matune goes trackside at VIR to bring us highlights of the Gold Cup historic races.

    The SVRA wrapped up part of its season at the Heacock Class “Gold Cup historic races at VIRginia International Raceway. Optimum weather and VIR’s lush surroundings welcomed a bevy of seasoned racers. Spectators were treated to the sights and sounds of some great big-bore historic racecars. Olthoff Racing (www.olthoffracing.com) of NC showed up with three Superformance GT40s, top, including those of Harry McPherson (#2) and Jeff McKee.

    Curt Vogt brought his ‘70 Mustang, above. While it is a genuine Boss 302, it has no race history and is prepared to the current vintage rulebook as opposed to period standards. The engine puts out close to 600 horsepower and Vogt used every one of them as he manhandled the beast around VIR, frequently testing the limits of the track’s “friction circle”.

    Michael Lange’s Ford GT was built by Matech in Switzerland for GT3 competition in Europe. It served as an interesting contrast to the 1960s era technology of the Superformance cars. The car has approximately 500 horsepower from a Ford DOHC V8 backed by a Hewland sequential gearbox. Extensive use of carbon fiber keeps overall weight to about 2,300 pounds, allowing “adequate” performance. A surprising feature of the car is air conditioning!

    Tommy Riggins originally built this Falcon for the updated Trans-Am series. It never turned a wheel there and ended up competing in SCCA GT1. It features a fiberglass silhouette body favoring the 1963 Falcon (if you squint) on a modern tubular frame with tubular A-arms up front and a Ford nine-inch rear end suspended with a three-link system. Power comes from a 358-inch Rousch-Yates Ford V-8. Doug Richmond bought the car and freshened it for the vintage racing wars. VIR was its second outing under his ownership.

    It is hard to fault the lines on the Lola T70, Eric Broadley’s early attempt at a Group 7 racecar. Tom Shelton’s example was originally sold by the late Carl Haas, Lola’s U.S. importer to a privateer. It was campaigned in the USRRC and Can-Am with very modest success. As an early Mark I model, it had a narrow body updated to its present wide-body to accommodate hefty racing rubber during its extensive restoration.

    Dave Robert’s ‘56 Corvette could was converted into a racecar by Chicago area Motor Sport Research in the early 1960s. It would live a life over time involving multiple owners and drivers, each attaining some level of success. When technology eventually caught up with it, it became a vintage racer and continued its winning ways. Roberts has recently returned the car to its original configuration to best celebrate its historic significance.

    Ken Mennella is a long time vintage competitor in his “tribute” ‘63 Corvette Grand Sport roadster. Equipped with a 600 horsepower, 400-inch Chevy small-block and TexRacing Super T-10 transmission, the car has been wining in SVRA Groups 5 & 10 for more than ten years. His car is a faithful reproduction of what was envisioned as an American car to beat Shelby’s Cobra and the fastest European racing cars. Its promise was short lived when GM enforced its anti-racing position.

    Externally Robert Gee’s ‘69 Corvette has all the pieces associated with the L88 endurance racing package – fender flares, fixed headlights under clear plastic covers and a vented and bubbled hood. It’s small-block powered and prepared to B/Production vintage standards with original brakes and stamped steel a-arms.

    Bob Lima’s big-block powered Corvette was formerly raced by Dick Kantrud. Like Gee’s car, it features styling cues from the famed Corvette endurance racers of the late-1960s,-early 1970s. Power comes from a big block Chevy with Edelbrock aluminum heads and a plethora of racing hardware. The raised headlights with clear covers reduced weight and complexity by eliminating the retracting mechanism. They also allowed improved airflow.

    Corvette racecars come in all forms from nearly showroom stock to purpose-built racers like Jeff Bernatovich’s entry. Originally built by Irv Hoerr, it combines a tube frame and look-alike fiberglass body panels, sharing precious little with its production counterparts. Some racers like this approach because instead of removing extraneous street components and beefing up cars that were never intended to withstand racetrack punishment, they are starting with a clean slate and incorporating only that what they need for speed and safety.

     

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  • ST. MICHAELS CONCOURS: SHOWTIME ON CHESAPEAKE BAY!

    Mike Matune brings us highlights from one of the top East Coast Concours.

    As the show season winds down, we always look forward to the St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance for one last hurrah. To celebrate its tenth year on the Concours calendar, it returned to the campus of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. This location allowed the showcasing of stunning wooden boats and outstanding automobiles, delivering pure sensory overload. Making its debut at St. Michaels was the North Collection’s ‘33 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300. Under its flaming Italian Racing Red paint is body done in the style of Touring, build by Pettenella.

    Robert Tattersall freely admits the lovely lady, right, featured on the hood of his ‘48 Triumph TRA 2000 is the most frequently photographed element of his car! It’s something of a shame as the car has many other notable features. Among them a “dickey” or rumble seat with a pop-up windshield.

    Tattersall’s Triumph, below, showcases some of the details that make it an excellent addition to the show field: period blanket and picnic basket. One could almost see Yogi Bear running off with the basket!

     

    Karen & John Gerhard’s ‘66 Ferrari 275 GTB Berlinetta was made for, and feels most comfortable on, the open road. When introduced at the 1964 Paris Auto Show, it marked a move by Ferrari to produce a more user-friendly version of its front-engined, closed sports car. But that move didn’t come at any reduction in performance. A Colombo designed 3.3-liter 280 horsepower V12 powered a new 275 chassis with four-wheel independent suspension.

    Here is an early example of American Muscle, Peter Stiffel’s ‘11 Mercer Raceabout. It utilized a minimalist approach to lower weight and high performance. Nothing was included that didn’t serve the singular purpose of providing its driver with a thrilling adventure.

    Max Hoffman, the legendary auto importer of the 1950s, gave us several important marques and models, among them the BMW 507 roadster. Impeccably styled by noted industrial designer Albrecht Goertz, it features a V-8 of just over three liters backed by a four-speed transmission. They became the darlings of the rich and famous in their day. Thomas Pesikey owns this beautiful, Rudge wheel equipped example.

    Paul & Linda Gould’s ‘35 Bugatti Type 57 Grand Raid Roadster was one of those cars you had to observe from every angle to drink in just how striking it is. This one is one of only two that were completed with bodies built by the Swiss firm, Worblaufen. This rear angle gives you a good idea of how all the elements of design combine into one very cohesive shape.

    Alvis is one of those British manufacturers that has disappeared. But before they went, they produced some very well styled cars like James Sprague’s ‘64 TE21 Drophead Coupe with coachwork by Park Ward. Actor Tony Curtis originally owned Sprague’s car. He had it fitted with power steering and brakes, automatic transmission and air conditioning.

    In a car that bore his name, E. L. Cord combined cutting edge engineering with equally impressive styling. FWD drive and a monocoque chassis rested under a rakish body with hideaway headlights and a “coffin” nose. Thomas Haines’s ‘36 Cord 810 Convertible Phaeton takes it all a step further with an open car still allowing for all weather protection.

    Barbara and Al Mason are frequent Concours competitors with their brilliant orange ‘28 Auburn 8-115 Speedster. At St. Michaels they came away with a double victory, earning not only People’s Choice, but also taking Best in Show. An impressive “Double” to say the least!

    Here is proof of the old adage about “There’s nothing new under the sun”. Bill Alley’s Waverly four-passenger Brougham is an electric car built in 1911. Originating in the period when the automobile was beginning to replace horse drawn conveyances, its appointments are more in keeping with an aristocrat’s carriage than what we would expect in an automobile. The interior looks like the drawing room in a fine home.

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  • INDYCAR: SO YOU WANT TO DRIVE THE INDY 500?

    We’ve suspected this for many years and now it’s official. The Indianapolis 500 is no longer a reasonable aspiration for most racing drivers, blogs Stephen Cox.

    Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) president Doug Boles was kind enough to talk with me briefly at the annual PRI trade show in Indy. I asked him what his plan was to increase the number of entries at the Indianapolis 500. His answer took me by surprise.

    “We grew up falling in love with the sport when you had that number of entries,” Boles said. “A lot of those entries were guys who sat around in December and said, ‘You know what? We’re going to build a car in our garage and we’re going to enter it at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500.’”

    “But first and foremost in my mind is just really safety. I don’t think it makes sense for us to get back to fifty or sixty cars just from a safety standpoint,” Boles continued. “I’d love to see fifty or sixty or seventy cars entering and guys just being able to decide that they have a driver who’s running at Putnamville and we’re going to give him a shot to run at the Speedway. I just don’t think it’s practical anymore.”

    Let that statement sink in. American short track drivers – who routinely filled the field until the 1980s – are now considered unsafe and incapable of running the Indy 500.

    Don’t ever go back to the speedway and expect to find the next A. J. Foyt or Parnelli Jones. There won’t be one. Nor will you ever see another Stan Fox or Rich Vogler claw their way up through the ranks and make it to Indy. For that matter, we’re also unlikely to ever see another Rick Mears or Robby Gordon. Those guys got to Indy through off-road desert racing, not Indycar’s current ladder system. They would likely be considered unsafe at the speedway today.

    Boles countered by saying, “We have the best on-track product that we’ve ever had in the history of the speedway with the last five years. The number of lead changes we have, the number of cars in the field that have a chance of winning it.”

    True, recent events have had a certain NASCAR-green-white-checkered-overtime excitement to them. However, this was not achieved by eliminating drivers of sprint cars, off-road trucks, midgets, late-models or amateur sports cars from the speedway. It was achieved – if indeed, this can be called an “achievement” at all – through regulation.

    More teams are in contention because everyone is forced to use the same spec car. The additional lead changes were artificially created through “push to pass” legislation and turbo boost mandates. Using this logic, even better races could be manufactured by enacting a rule disqualifying anyone who leads two consecutive laps, thus assuring 249 lead changes in every 500!

    The bottom line is this – SCCA drivers are welcome to compete at IMS in the Run Offs. SVRA drivers are welcome to Indy’s vintage event. Short track drivers are welcome to buy tickets and sit in Turn Three.

    But the speedway has no intention of enlarging the field past forty cars and creating space that could be filled by new drivers from other disciplines. That is bad news for thousands of very good racing drivers worldwide. And it is even worse news for the Indianapolis 500 itself, whose relevancy continues to fade.

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