Rolex Series Drivers Rave About VIR Alton, Va. (October 6) -- Since the day it opened in August 1957, VIRginia International Raceway has been a favorite of racing drivers. In fact, the winner of the inaugural SCCA National race at VIR, ...
Rolex Series Drivers Rave About VIR
Alton, Va. (October 6) -- Since the day it opened in August 1957, VIRginia International Raceway has been a favorite of racing drivers. In fact, the winner of the inaugural SCCA National race at VIR, the legendary Carroll Shelby, said of the challenging 3.27-mile circuit in Southside Virginia, "One lap at VIR is like a hundred at Watkins Glen!"
Many of the most famous names in racing history have tackled the track's technical layout, with its high-speed corners, breath-taking elevation changes and long straights. In the early years, between 1957 and 1974, some of those names included Jim Fitzgerald, Roger Penske, Mark Donohue, Sam Posey, Bob Holbert, Briggs Cunningham, Peter Revson, Bob Tullius, Lance Reventlow, Richard Attwood, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, Richard Petty, David Pearson, Curtis Turner, Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg.
The track was closed between 1974 and 2000, but since then an entire new generation of drivers has come to list VIR as one of their favorite places to race. Many of the drivers who will be competing in this weekend's Rolex Sports Car Series VIR 400, including a number who have won major races and championships here and abroad, have had some very complimentary things to say about the track. Here is just a sampling:
Elliott Forbes-Robinson, No. 4 BOSS Snowplow Pontiac/Crawford: "It's one of the prettiest and nicest facilities anywhere. VIR is such a neat track that flows with slow, tight and fast turns, as well as high-speed straights. It has everything. VIR poses a tough challenge for a driver because there are a lot of high- speed corners that are critical. It's a track where you have to do everything right. At the same time, it's one of the most enjoyable tracks to drive on the Rolex Series circuit."
Andy Wallace, No. 2 CITGO Pontiac/Crawford: "With the high-speed straight and several areas that require heavy braking, VIR provides lots of challenges for man and machine. We've utilized the course for 'shakedown runs' for our cars as well as brake stability tests. It's an excellent facility that is both challenging and beautiful."
Chris Dyson, No. 06 Thetford/Norcold Pontiac/Crawford: "VIR will always have a special place in my heart and also the people at Crawford Race Cars. We [he and Andy Wallace] won the track's 500-mile race together in 2002. It was a very special day because it was Crawford's first race win as a constructor, and it was important for me because it put us in a position to fight down to the wire for the Grand-Am championship."
Harrison Brix, No. 06 Thetford/Norcold Pontiac/Crawford: "VIR is one of my favorite tracks. I have been looking forward to this race for quite a few months. The facility is top-notch and everyone who races there falls in love with the place. The track is challenging, fast and, most of all, fun to drive. No matter what the series, VIR provides exciting and very close racing that the fans and drivers thrive on."
Brian Frisselle, No. 8 RX.com/Synergy Racing BMW/Doran: "This track has just about everything a driver could ask for -- it's a proper road course with a long lap and some high-speed corners and also some good places to out-brake people and make passes, which hopefully we will be doing a lot of."
Shane Lewis, No. 3 PAP-Parts/OZEXE/Southard Motorsports BMW/Riley: "I really enjoy the track. It's very challenging, very fast and technical. Every tenth [of a second] means something. It's great to have a real driver's track on the schedule. The Rolex Sports Car Series has such great courses, and VIR is definitely on the top of that list. No matter how much you're here, I think there is something you can learn at every corner, every time you go out. You can gain time in almost every corner no matter how well you thought you got through it the last time. For a driver that is pretty cool because it never grows old. It never gets boring."
Memo Gidley, No. 19 Air Force Reserve/Make-A-Wish Foundation/Commercial Defeasance/Finlay Motorsports Pontiac/Riley: "This is a real driver's track, but even the best driver would be hard-pressed to come here for the first time, particularly if it rains, and run competitively. The VIR track is like Infineon Raceway or Laguna Seca, a very technical circuit with a lot of blind corners and crests, real high-commitment situations. If you can't go into those turns with confidence, lap after lap, your race is over before it's run. This is particularly true of the 'esses' on the back side of the course, which are both very challenging and completely unlike any other sequence of turns at any track I know about."
Marc Bunting, No. 65 TRG Pontiac GTO.R: "Both [Watkins] Glen and VIR are great tracks. They are both favorites of mine. Both have many high-speed turns as well as tight ones. However, at Watkins Glen it's easier to go flat -- VIR is the more challenging of the two."
Jan Magnussen, No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R: "I have been to VIR a couple of times. It is a fast track with some combination of corners that really test a driver. The esses are really fast and, if you have the car setup right, they are fun and it can be a real advantage."
Jorg Bergmeister, No. 66 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac/Riley: "I really like the track, especially the esses. The track is pretty narrow, but there are several places to pass. The first couple corners are kind of slow and then the fun begins."
The fun begins for both the racers and fans on Friday, Oct. 7. The VIR 400 weekend will not only include a 400km race for the Rolex Sports Car Series' Daytona Prototype and GT classes, but also the 200-mile season finale for the popular Grand-Am Cup series for high-performance sports cars, coupes and sedans straight from the dealer showroom floor. Other support races include the Formula Ford Zetec Cooper Tire Championship and the Porsche Club of America.
Friday's schedule includes practice for all groups and qualifying for the Porsche Club of America. On Saturday's the Grand-Am Cup Series' 200 km race will take the green flag at 1:50 pm, and the day also includes qualifying for the Rolex Series and Formula Fords as well as a sprint race for the Porsche Club of America. The weekend will conclude on Sunday with two races for the Formula Fords, an enduro race for the Porsche Club of America and the featured attraction, the VIR 400 for the Rolex Series, which will begin at 1:00 pm.
Another special event will take place on Friday evening at 5:30 pm at VIR's Plantation Valley Kart Track, when 10 teams will compete in 200cc Zip Karts in the inaugural VIR 400 Pro-Am Celebrity Kart Challenge. Each team will be comprised of four drivers -- a Grand-Am racer, a media member, a staff member from either VIR or Grand-Am and a fan. The fans who will compete were chosen from a lottery of those who purchased an advance ticket by September 28. Each driver will get eight laps of the paved 5/8-mile, 24-four-foot-wide circuit featuring 30 feet of elevation change, and each driver's fastest lap will be recorded. The team with the lowest elapsed time will win, and the top three fans will receive trophies. Spectators are invited to attend this fun event for a $5 donation that will go to Camp Boggy Creek, a Hole in the Wall Gang camp for seriously ill children that is Grand-Am's designated charity.
Tickets for the VIR 400 will be available at the gate, with three-day Super Tickets priced at $60. Single-day tickets will also be available for Friday ($15), Saturday ($25) and Sunday ($50). VIR is a family-friendly facility, where children 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult. Spectator camping is available.
VIRginia International Raceway is a multi-purpose road racing facility, located on the Dan River between Danville and South Boston, Va., and just north of historic Milton, N.C. In addition to its 3.27-mile natural-terrain road racing circuit (designed to be operated as two autonomous, full-service courses), VIR is the cornerstone of VIR Club, America's first motorsports country club; the VIR Raceplex Industrial Park; the VIR Gallery, which is a sales showroom for high-end collector and racing cars; the VIR Safety and Security Institute, which provides specialized training for U.S. Government and military groups; The Lodge at VIR, a 27-room hotel overlooking the track; and the Oak Tree Tavern, a full-service restaurant located within the circa-1840 Plantation Clubhouse.
VIR made history from 1957 to 1974 and is doing so again. The renovated original circuit has 17 challenging turns and 130 feet of elevation change. In addition to spectator events, the track is also available to rent for testing, driving schools and club days.
For more information, visit the track's website at www.virclub.com or contact VIR at 434-822-7700. For more information on the Grand American Road Racing Association, visit their website at www.grandamerican.com.