Historic Sportscar Racing at The MITTY: Do They Really Race Those Cars?
The 34th Classic Motorsports Mitty, presented by Mazda, at Road Atlanta April 29-May 2 will feature hundreds of vintage racing cars, including dozens that have won some of the most prestigious races in the world.
Because of their value, many people cannot believe that they will actually be racing in competition on the demanding 2.54-mile Road Atlanta course in Braselton, Georgia.
However, drivers and owners all agree that the Mitty, sanctioned by Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) the past 20 years, features some of the most competitive racing to be found anywhere.
"The racing is very close to professional racing," said former IMSA winner Bill Adam of Florida. "You might leave a little more room at times but the racing is very, very competitive."
"Professional racing is different because they have a different agenda. We go because we love to race cars. There's no big payday. It's all about fun," he added.
Adam will be driving an Audi R8 for fellow Floridian Jim Rogers that was runner-up in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2000.
One of Adam's competitors, Jack Baldwin said the drivers aren't fooling around in HSR races.
"It's the real deal, they're serious. We had to upgrade our brake package after the Sebring race because they were driving them that hard. At Road Atlanta, we'll be hitting speeds of 200 miles an hour in the Riley and going all out," the 2009 endurance champion said.
"Some of the most aggressive driving you'll see is at an HSR event," noted Jack Lewis of Norcross, Ga. "We have a rule against bumping, but it does happen, especially at Road Atlanta. It's very intense."
"You drive the same as you would in a professional race but you might leave a little margin for error," said Lewis, who will drive an 1974 Porsche RSR driven by Bobby Allison in the IROC series.
"One of the things that mark an HSR event is that there is an extra degree of sportsmanship among the drivers. We all want to win but we don't want to risk hurting someone or their car."
Adam agrees, "The number one reason we're here is because we love racing and the cars. You don't want anyone to get hurt or a car damaged, but it does happen."
"If people want to race, they come to an HSR race," added Gene Felton of Roswell, Ga. Felton was one of the founders of a segment of HSR racing that features former NASCAR stock cars.
"It's pretty serious racing. They're running as hard as if they were going for the pole at the Daytona 500," added Felton.
Felton will have the 2008 Budweiser Dodge driven by Kasey Kahne on display at the Mitty and also will race a vintage 1976 Chevy Nova similar to cars driven in the Kelly American Challenge Series during the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.
For a car owner like Rogers, watching his valuable cars on the track can be a nervous time.
"Our car is very expensive. Not only the initial monetary impact but the maintenance involved. Racing of any form is expensive but with our car, it's even more," he said.
The Audi R8 driven by Adam will display the same racing livery from the 2000 Le Mans race where it won the pole and set the fastest lap of the race before being edged out for the win after a late mechanical problem.
Rogers, now 71, co-drove the car with Adam until two years ago when he had what he describes as "a major shunt" and his wife made him retire from competition.
He can't put a price tag on the two Audi R8s he will field. "The Le Mans car is probably more valuable because of its history. But I really can't put a price on it."
With more than two dozen races over three days, the Mitty will feature competition in everything from 1950s-era sports and production cars to modern day Mazdas and Porsche Caymans. There also will be races Saturday and Sunday for vintage motorcycles.
Peter Brock of Cobra and BRE fame is Grand Marshall of this year's event and will be honored at a BRE Memorial Dinner April 28. Several of his cars will be racing and on display during the event. Former drivers Bobby Allison and John Morton also will be at the event.
Lotus is the featured marquee and will be highlighted in a 20-lap Formula 5000 race Sunday that will include 1969 series champion Tony Adamowicz in the same Gurney Eagle he drove to the title.
In addition to the racing action, there will be autograph sessions, more than 20 car corrals, a vendor's alley and nightly entertainment and parties. And just for fun, the Concours d'LeMons, is a light-hearted gathering of orphaned or unwanted vintage cars.
For more information, go to www.TheMitty.com.