Sixth Annual VIR Gold Cup Races a Success
Alton, Va. (June 12) -- The sixth annual edition of VIRginia International Raceway's signature vintage racing event, the Gold Cup Historic Races, came to a successful conclusion on Sunday afternoon after three days of on- and off-track action for racers and fans, highlighted by a tribute to Italian auto manufacturers and a large gathering of Austin-Healey cars.
The racing got underway on Saturday, with the largest gathering of Austin-Healeys racers in recent memory lined up for the Vintage Motorsport International Healey Challenge. The IHC is a six-race series pitting a group of 11 Australian teams against their American counterparts. In the VIR round, the third of the series, Australians swept the podium with Peter Jackson and Paul Freestone of Victoria, Australia, leading Tim Pyne of Queenslands, Australia. All three were driving Austin-Healey 3000s.
On Sunday, the first race of the day was the Auto Sport International Italian Festival race, honoring Italian manufacturers. Scott Fairchild of Richmond, Va., the weekend's youngest winner, was first across the finish line in a Fiat-powered 1969 PBS Mk IV sports racer, followed by race director Peter Krause of Raleigh, N.C., in a 1972 Alfa Romeo GTV and Caesar Cone of Charlotte, N.C., in a 1967 Alfa Romeo Duetto. Also running in the race were some rare Ferraris, plus pre-WWII examples of Maserati and Alfa Romeo and examples of the Lancia and Fiat marques.
Following the Italian Festival race were the regular racing group feature races. First up was Group B, with the win going to recent Danville transplant Tivvy Shenton in a 1955 Jaguar XK140 that he has raced for many years. Mike Muckle of Charlottesville, Va., was second in a 1965 Turner Mk III, followed by Allan Casavant of Seven Lakes, N.C., in a 1959 Lotus 7. Group D was next up with one of the closest finishes of the day, with Stephen Steers of Lake Forest, Ill., driving his rare 1958 Echidna to a razor-thin win over the 1958 Chevron Devin driven by Doug Karon of Plymouth, Minn., with Bob Harvey third in a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette.
A brief rain shower fell during the Group G race, causing Milton, N.C.'s Dave Handy to tiptoe around the 3.27-mile VIR circuit in his 1968 McLaren M6B Can-Am car to take the win, followed by Lee Brahin of Cherry Hill, N.J., in a 1975 Lola T294 and Dave Fairchild in the 1969 PBS Mk IV with which his son Scott had previously won the Italian Festival race. Handy made it two wins in a row by taking the victory in the following Group E race in his 1970 Lola T200 Formula Ford, beating Jeffrey Horne of Danville in a 1971 Lola T-202 Formula Ford and Robert McClenagan of Conyers, Ga., in a 1961 Lotus 20/22 Formula Junior.
A huge field turned out for the Group A race, won by ageless veteran Lee Talbot of McLean, Va., in his 1967 Ginetta G-4. Bill Bartlett of Atlanta, Ga., was second in a 1962 Lotus 7, followed by Jesse Prather of Wakarusa, Kan., in a 1966 MGB. In the Group C race, Chris Gross of Centerport, N.Y., and teammate Brian MacEachern of Plain City, Ohio, put on perhaps the best race of the weekend, swapping the lead back and forth in their Austin-Healey "Bugeye" Sprites throughout the race until Gross took the win by .462sec at the checkered flag. Jim Hofer of Memphis, Tenn., was third, also in a Healey Sprite.
The final race of the day was for Group F, with Dave Katrud of Brooklyn, Minn., thundering to victory in his 1971 Chevrolet Camaro ahead of the 1974 Datsun 240Z of Alan Giles of Winston-Salem, N.C., and the 1973 Porsche 911 RSR of Larry Wilson of Columbia, S.C.
In addition to the trophies handed out on the various race podiums, the most coveted awards of the weekend were distributed earlier on Sunday, with the presentation of the Gold Cup Spirit Awards, given to those who exemplify the vintage spirit. The Group A award went to Michael Moore of Midlothian, Va., who did an outstanding job racing the same 1964 Lotus Elan in which he drives his kids to school. The Group B award went to Tivvy Shenton of Danville, for his infectious enthusiasm and his ability to extract other-worldly performances from his 1955 Jaguar XK140. Bob Bodin of Wayzata, Minn., won the Group C award for bringing and racing three different and rare cars, and racing them well.
The Group D Spirit award was presented to Steve Steers of Lake Forest, Ill., for his enthusiasm and a great job racing his 1958 Echidna this weekend. The Group E award went to Robert McClenagan of Conyers, Ga., for his beautifully presented and driven Lotus 20/22 Formula Junior. Les Gonda of Keswick, Va., received the Group F award for consistent skill in his V8-powered MGB GT, and the Group G award went to longtime Morgan racer "Super" Dave Bondon of Duluth, Ga., for his recent successful switch to an ex-Hugh Kleinpeter Royale RP4 sports racer as well as mentoring his daughter Stacy Schepens, who has inherited Dave's old Morgan and become a very good racer in her own right.
The Spirit Award for the International Healey Challenge went to Lakeville, Minn.'s Jeff and Carol Johnk, for service above and beyond the call of duty in organizing the six-race series and their insistence that VIR be a part of the series. The Italian Festival Spirit Award was presented to Jim and Sandy McNeil of Bayport, N.Y., for sharing their rare Italian cars with the crowd at VIR and their longtime support of the sport.
Gift packages from event sponsor Auto Sport International were presented to Bo Lemmon of Rock Hill., S.C., for best tow car (a 1946 Cadillac sedan); Les Bowers of Bent Mountain, Va., for cleanest car (a 1971 Alfa Romeo GTV); John Randall of Boston, Mass., for oldest cars (1936 Maserati 6CM and 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza); and Kent Prather of Wakarusa, Kan., for best newly restored car (1966 MGB).
Plaques of Appreciation were presented to race steward Bud Merrill, chief of timing and scoring Neil Harmon, journalists Walter and Louisann Pietrowicz and grid marshals Bruce and Marti Baker.
Off-track activities included the fourth annual Gold Cup Car Show at the VIR Gallery, featuring People's Choice awards for Foreign Cars, American Cars and Competition Cars. Fans were able to vote for their favorite in each class, and the car show entrants voted for the top 10 overall. Also held at the VIR Gallery was a classic car auction by the Potts Auction Company. In addition, fans were able to drive their own cars on the track during lunchtime on Saturday and Sunday in exchange for a donation to the Children's Miracle Network and there were a number of vendors onsite offering a wide variety of arts and crafts for sale. Parties were held both Friday and Saturday nights for racers and fans, and both were well-attended. Also, noted author Bill Emerson, one of the world's foremost authorities on the Austin-Healey marque, was featured at the annual "Storytime" get-together on Saturday to share his knowledge and tell some great Healey stories.
Emerson was also involved in what was perhaps the biggest off-track news of the weekend, the announcement that VIR will be the home to The Healey Museum^Ù, a 20,000-sq.ft. showcase for significant automobiles, trophies, documentation and memorabilia relating to the cars of Donald M. Healey that will open in 2007. Museum founder Allan Casavant announced that Emerson will be the museum's curator.
The weekend was blessed with great weather, except for the brief shower on Sunday, and an excellent turnout of fans in addition to a wonderfully diverse group of racing cars in the paddock.
"We couldn't be more pleased with the way the weekend turned out," said VIR co-owner Connie Nyholm. "This is our favorite event of the year to present, because the primary goal is to have fun with neat old cars, and the racers and fans who show up all share that attitude. With all these great cars and people, it really feels like we have turned the clock back 30 or 40 years, to a time when sports car racing was pure amateur sport, and that has always been and will continue to be our aim with the Gold Cup Historic Races."
With the sixth annual Gold Cup Historic Races in the books, VIR's attention will now turn to the second annual Stock Car Spectacular, scheduled for Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-4. The Stock Car Spectacular will be a weekend devoted to stock and stock-type cars featuring the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series, the Stock Car Road Racing Championship, the Historic Stock Car Racing Association, the American GT Challenge, the American V8 Supercar Series, Factory Five Racing and the Woodbridge Kart Club.