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HSR Walter Mitty Challenge 2005
at Road Atlanta
Walter Mitty Challenge 2005

With a fresh infusion of approximately 100 additional MGs and Triumphs representing the MG Vintage Racers’ (MGVR) organization and informal “Friends of Triumph” (FoT) group, respectively, joining Historic Sportscar Racing’s (HSR) yearly spectacle this past April 28–May 1, the 28th edition of the Classic Motorsport Magazine’s (CM) Walter Mitty Challenge presented by Moss Motors was anything but a rerun of an old script. Armed with its classic rotation of Dash Series group contests, several one–hour enduros (the Rolex Historic, Classic GT and Vintage contests, and one–hour Historic GTP/Group C/WSC slugfest) and most popular Klub Sport all–Porsche shootout joining the historic stock cars, B.O.S.S. (Big Open–wheel Single Seaters) Super Cup Series entries and newly created Jo (Joakim) Bonnier Cup Series for 2–liter entrants, there was no doubt that “variety” was the theme of this year’s edition.

To accommodate the MG and TR participation, HSR scheduled two additional separate races pitting the TR gang against its MG counterparts. Futhermore, the new Anglo–American GT Challenge produced yet another interesting and creative blacktop conflict fielding Stangs, Vettes, XKEs, TR4s, MGBs and even John Sybrandt’s Sunbeam Tiger, Drew Ewing’s Pontiac TA ride and other unlikely foes all racing together to the checker. Held on Sunday, Larry Ligas’ ’61 XKE “Cat” chased the American iron of Steve Collins and Mike Donohue’s Vette to the podium.

Following past performances, the traditional Klub Sport Porsche shootout had company when the Classic GT protracted race was added to Friday’s formal race start to ease the weekend’s packed schedule. The lengthy race was won by former enduro champ, Eric Bretzel in his 911, while the Klub Sport skirmish resulted in Jim Thomason outrunning 40 other contenders. Great food courtesy of vintage racer, Juan Gonzalez, ended the day.

In a trackside presentation, George Balbach was awarded the Walter Mitty Trophy and Scott Pheil recipients of the Jimmy Seely “Spirit” Trophy.

After Saturday’s miserable rainy AM start, qualifiers filled the balance of the day with plenty of heated dices and the second one–hour lengthy contest, the Rolex Vintage enduro, concluded the asphalt action as Bob Wagner’s Lotus 23c granted him his first victory (he also would later win group 3). Food, music and even a live auction of several very special items carried us into the darkness (All proceeds from the auction will go to benefit the “Brain Injury Resource Foundation”, located in Atlanta, Georgia).

Sun shinning, race day shifting gears with the Rolex Historic and Anglo–American contests getting the adrenalin pumping before Sunday’s mandatory two–hour quiet time. Larry Ligas’ pressing XKE “Cat” could only chase the American power as Chevy small–block motors propelled Steve Collins and Mike Donohue’s Vette to first and second, respectively, in the Anglo–American, while Duncan Dayton’s elder ’67 Lola neatly disposed of three pursuing much newer machines representing the class of ’92: Donald Soenen’s TA Mustang, Dale Phelon’s TA Stang and Steve Cohen’s Aurora. Dayton’s win was just another notch for GM’s small–block motor that is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, and has powered more winning race cars and won more championships than any other engine in American motor sports.

The round–robin of group races, two special MG–TR shootouts, Jo Bonnier 2–Liter Challenge, B.O.S.S. and GTP/GroupC/WSC endurance test filled the balance of the day with dicey dances around Road Atlanta’s blacktop ribbon. Eight decades of complimentary variety as exemplified by Robert Sterling’s ’34 MG NA, Bill Babcock’s 1959 “Porsche Hunting” Triumph “Peyote” Mk11 Special, Larry Connor’s ex–Schumacher Benetton F1 rocket, and Nissan winning IMSA prototypes added to the friendly rivalry of the MG/TR gang all battling around the Georgia landscape in what was deemed as one of the best Mittys I have seen in recent years.

Let’s hope HSR sees the merit in this added variety as an asset to fill RA’s paddock to overflowing proportions once again, especially among the heart and soul of vintage racing, the small bore group, and more importantly, elevate the Mitty back to its rightful place at the top of the heap.

In a parting note, CM’s special guest and Triumph guru, Kas Kastner, was on hand throughout the weekend. Anyone not prevy to Kastner’s resume’, he cut his young teeth wheeling MGs before switching to TRs. He also helped lead Nissan to four consecutive GTP title (1988–1991)......Walter Pietrowicz