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PART 14
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SERIES CHAPTERS
SVRA News

SVRA’s 2003 season began as it did last year, co–sanctioning the historic races at the 12-Hours of Sebring with HSR. Three weeks later SVRA traveled to Savannah for its first exclusive race of the year. Then it was on to Road America in May where again an open invitation was extended to all HSR and VSCDA participants. The following month SVRA returned to Mid–Ohio marking its 22nd consecutive annual visit. The weekend’s activities featured a salute to the 50th anniversary of the Corvette.

Next on the schedule was Watkins Glen’s Vintage Grand Prix where the highlight was a special tribute to Mark Donohue. This was SVRA’s 20th consecutive year at Watkins Glen. Considering the interrupted or terminated appearances at other venues, Mid–Ohio and Watkins Glen are not only SVRA’s premier events, they are also the most stable. And such was the case at the next scheduled event, Summit Point’s Blue-Gray Challenge.

In concert with track–owner Bill Scott’s plans to construct an independent second course at his Summit Point Raceway facility, the principals of HSR/SVRA had scheduled a doubleheader event. This ambitious concept involved both HSR and SVRA running at Summit Point on the same weekend, each using its own separate course. However, legal matters and inclement weather caused a significant delay in the construction of the second course that resulted in the cancellation of the doubleheader and SVRA’s longstanding event as well.

The season concluded at VIR, the event now billed as The Formula Car Festival that also included the final round of HSR’s B.O.S.S. (Big Open–wheel Single Seater) Super Cup Series. Because of the frigid temps encountered at the last trackside Annual Awards banquet, the festivities were moved to an indoor facility in downtown Danville. Topping the awards was the presentation of SVRA’s 2003 Driver of the Year to Jim Bradley.

SVRA’s 2004 schedule was an exact duplicate of its 2003’s season, right down to the initial inclusion and then aborted Summit Point event. Highlights of the year included a Jaguar gathering at Mid–Ohio featuring not only racecars but also the surprise appearance of a British, Jaguar–powered military reconnaissance tank.

It was Watkins Glen, however, that exceeded all expectations by establishing an all–time record entry and becoming perhaps the best event ever in SVRA’s entire 24–year history. Although honoree Bobby Rahal and a display of his former racecars captured their fair share of attention, it was the amazing presence of 143 MG racers that stole the show. Organized by the MG Vintage Racers, the impressive gathering was a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Collier Cup that was first run as the Collier Brothers Memorial Race at Watkins Glen in September 1954.

The MGs pushed Watkins Glen’s overall entry into record territory, but it takes more than sheer numbers for any event to be judged as outstanding or, in this case, the “best ever.” The enthusiastic support of the village of Watkins Glen with its now traditional daylong Grand Prix Festival on Friday is certainly a key factor as is the racing history of the venue itself. And located near the epicenter of the post–war interest in sportscars has created an enduring fan–base of genuine enthusiasts. Factor in the longevity of SVRA’s dedication and the sponsorship of Zippo and there’s little mystery in why the Watkins Glen Vintage Grand Prix has achieved the status of one of the country’s best vintage races.

Watkins Glen was a tough act to follow, but the season–closer at VIR has its own attributes not the least of which is one of the most beautiful and user–friendly facilities ever to host a vintage race. A large turnout of formula cars and nearly 40 S2000s helped set a new event record of 350–plus entries. At Saturday evening’s Awards banquet, Travis Engen became the newest and 21st member of SVRA’s elite Driver of the Year club.

With 24 years on the books, SVRA is currently two events into the 2005 season, the next event being Road America on May 13–15. This year’s schedule is the same as the previous two seasons with one major addition, Road Atlanta is back on the schedule and will follow VIR as the season finale on October 20–23.

Although this past March officially marked the 25th anniversary of SVRA’s founding, its first event was at Road Atlanta in September 1980. From that humble beginning of a 17–car supporting role for a Can–Am race to last year’s record–breaking 562–car entry at Watkins Glen, SVRA has survived trials and tribulations, changes of ownership and management, successes and failures and the transition from club to business. In October SVRA returns to where it all began having accomplished success far beyond even the most wildly optimistic dreams of 25 years ago. Rather than speculate on what the future may hold for SVRA, it’s time to celebrate the present and there’s no better way of doing that than remembering the past. It is in that light that we have presented this series. Happy Anniversary, SVRA......Art Eastman

Next week, Part 15: “A Personal View”

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