National Championship Settled Before Record Crowd At VIR Alton, Va. - Over 25,000 people visited VIR the last weekend in September to witness the Lightning National AMA Motorcycle races, while millions more watched the feature race as it was ...
National Championship Settled Before Record Crowd At VIR
Alton, Va. - Over 25,000 people visited VIR the last weekend in September to witness the Lightning National AMA Motorcycle races, while millions more watched the feature race as it was broadcast live on Speedvision. The racers made the most of VIR's historic roadcourse with its dramatic elevation changes and numerous and complex corners, while the spectators took advantage of VIR's park-like setting to enjoy some perfect fall weather and the spectacle of watching some of the world's best motorcyclists master a new venue.
Competitors and spectators alike probably had no idea that this was the largest crowd to visit the historic track in at least 25 years, given the smooth manner in which the event was administered. In fact, a crowd that might have been unmanageable at the 'old' VIR before it closed down in 1974 presented no apparent difficulties, a testament no doubt to the extensive facilities and experienced management put into place when VIR was 're-born' last year. Spectators, competitors and media alike expressed their approval of the venue and the event, with a return date planned for next year, though an exact date has not yet been confirmed.
Track management, anticipating the large number of spectators who chose to camp on the sprawling property in order to be close to all the action, thoughtfully provided entertainment both Friday and Saturday nights. A temporary outdoor theater was set up and a series of specially selected movies were projected on a large open air screen, with a hill-side providing a new twist on the idea of 'theater seating'. Under a nearly full moon and with cool weather ideal for sleeping, spectators enjoyed several hours of motorcycle-oriented cinema, knowing it was only a short walk back to their tent, or to the plentiful and conveniently situated bath-houses and restroom facilities provided at VIR.
License plates from across the country were evident as spectators arrived, and there was even a sizable contingent of European fans that timed their visit to the states so they could be among the first to see these top-caliber riders attempt to tame the highly technical North Course of VIR. Just as notable for their enthusiasm were the riders who rallied to the track from a variety of starting points both days under the auspices of Virginia Motorcyclists Against Cancer (VaMAC) to raise money for the Massey Cancer Center, which also received a portion of the proceeds from each ticket sold. Ducati North America raised money for the victims of the September attacks by selling chances on a ride with Ducati rider Steve Rapp at race speeds around the course on a specially modified race bike.
The National Championships in several classes were decided at VIR, which was the last race of the season for almost all classes, most notably the Chevy Trucks Superbike Series. Coming into the race 4 riders had a numerical shot at that title. When the dust had settled the podium took on a truly international flair, with a popular American rider winning the race, and an over-achieving Australian rider earning his third consecutive series championship. During an impromptu and stirring moment before the champagne corks were popped, the two winners held high the traditional checkered flag as well as the Stars and Stripes in a display that was enthusiastically received by the crowd, for many of whom this was the first public outing since the attacks of September 11th.
VIR has only one remaining Public Event on the calendar for 2001, but it promises to maintain the same atmosphere of nostalgia mixed with excitement that began with the Gold Cup Historic Races in May, when Grand Marshall Carroll Shelby returned to the track for the first time since he won the inaugural race at VIR in 1957. The Season Finale weekend will kick off Friday night, October 26th, with the (members only) Grand Opening of The Plantation Clubhouse at VIR. The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) will hold its final races of the season on October 27th and 28th. The SVRA's motto, "Some people collect art; we race it!" epitomizes the passion and exhuberance which has made vintage racing the fastest growing form of motorsports. A wonderfully diverse collection of cars, from the rare to the readily recognizable, will compete in both sprint races and an endurance race. The combination of vintage cars competing on the historic roadcourse at VIR will be another event that history buffs, car enthusiasts, or anyone with an appreciation of fine machinery and those dedicated to its preservation, will not want to miss.