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PART 8
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SERIES CHAPTERS
SVRA News

The 1990 season began with SVRA’s fourth visit to Grand Bahama. January’s Grand Bahama Vintage Grand Prix, however, lacked the excitement of the previous three week–long parties and with an entry of less than 50 cars, it was also the final GBVGP. At the event-closing banquet, Lotus enthusiast David Whiteside was named SVRA’s 1989 Driver of the Year.

The most important news of 1990 was a complete reorganization of SVRA. Early in the year Alex Quattlebaum relinquished his sole ownership and SVRA now became the property of Mike Amalfitano, Henry Payne, Robert Pass, Pat Ryan, Syd Silverman and Bob Wechsler with Quattlebaum retaining an equal share. The new owners also became SVRA’s Board of Directors with each member becoming a representative of a race group.

With the departure of Joe Pendergast and with Frank Rupp leaving to pursue other interests, the new owners hired Mike Rand as SVRA’s General Manager. A long-time racing enthusiast and competitor, Rand brought 20 years of administrative and organizational experience with SCCA, Skip Barber and, most recently, IMSA. Charlie Gibson was temporarily retained as Competition Director, a position soon filled by Jeff Brooks. Along with the personnel changes, the SVRA office was relocated to Tampa, Florida.

After January’s Grand Bahama Vintage Grand Prix and SVRA’s reorganization, the 1990 season resumed with the traditional Moroso–Sebring Spring Fling. The Memphis event had been replaced by the inaugural Heartland Vintage Grand Prix at Heartland Park, a impressive new multi–purpose track near Topeka, Kansas. This was the farthest west SVRA had ever ventured and the early June event drew several cars from Colorado's Rocky Mountain Vintage Racing club. The highlight of the weekend was Saturday evening's Gatsby gala at the Governor’s Mansion.

Three weeks later more than 350 cars reset the record for entries at Mid–Ohio. Besieged by rain and surrounded by tornadoes, the second most important feature of the weekend was the first round of the North American Austin–Healey Challenge. Led by England’s irrepressible Healey–man John Chatham, the foreign contingency consisted of eight British cars and one from Germany. America’s top challengers Phil Coombs and Dan Pendergraft put in a good showing, but the Brits had also brought their weather and Chatham grinned all the way to the checkered flag.

The final round of the five-round North American Austin–Healey Challenge took place at SVRA’s next event, the Serengeti Drivers Cup at Watkins Glen. Tied at two rounds apiece, the final race was a repeat of Mid–Ohio, rain and Chatham. The top billing at Watkins Glen was Can-Am with series champion Denny Hulme presiding over a 30–car gathering.

SVRA then traveled to Summit Point and in late October held its season finale at Road Atlanta. The nearly 300–car event featured a 35th Anniversary salute to Elva with more than 40 examples on hand. Frank Nichols thoroughly enjoyed the limelight, wryly remarking he was signing autographs at the same rate he signed checks at his Elva factory during the 1950s. The presence of Chuck Dietrich, his favorite American Elva driver, made Nichols’ even happier. This event was also the debut of Robert Pass’ Passport Pinewood Derby, a Sunday morning “quiet-time” activity that proved extremely popular with all age groups.

Robert Pass was named SVRA’s Driver of the Year at Saturday evening's banquet. Long–time Morgan racer and jeweler Harry Gaunt presented his first award at Atlanta’s SVRA banquet. The Harry Gaunt Award is a custom-made item of jewelry presented to an SVRA lady who best personifies the spirit of vintage racing. The award's first recipient was Carol Biggs.

Significantly, the 1990 Atlanta Vintage Grand Prix marked the 10th Anniversary of SVRA, its very first vintage race held at Road Atlanta in September, 1980, as a supporting feature for a Can–Am race. During the past 10 years, SVRA’s growth had greatly exceeded the original vision of its founder Ford Heacock. But the rapidly growing interest in vintage racing would spawn competition for SVRA. The next decade would not be like the first.

As a point of fact, SVRA’s 1990 season actually ended with the second edition of its Winter Fling at Moroso in early December. After experiencing another modest entry, the event was removed from future schedules......Art Eastman

Next week, Part 9: “Stabilization”

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