The days may be a tad shorter, the air not quite as warm, and autumn’s Technicolor dress a lively reminder that 2008 is closer than we think. Regrettably, this colorful hue also denoted the imminent conclusion to another successful Sportscar Vintage Racing Association’s (SVRA) racing season, and the last opportunity to enjoy the wondrous blend of what SVRA calls, “Safe, Fair, and Fun” vintage auto racing. So this past October 18–21, we packed our tired cameras, crossed the Mason–Dixon, and for the third consecutive year, joined hundreds of entries at Georgia’s Road Atlanta (RA) for the organization’s “28th Annual Season Finale and Annual Award Banquet,” presented by the Gulick Group.
As in the past, Thursday was devoted to test sessions, while Friday marked the official day of practice sessions for the ten scheduled Optima Batteries sprint race groups. Friday’s daylong blacktop exploits also culminated in the first of two lengthy 75–minute Motor Check On–Site Analyzer Enduros. No surprise here, as 2005/2006 Enduro Series overall champion (and as it turned out, the 2007 overall champion as well), Travis Engen (’98 Lola T97/20 Indy Lights) adroitly drove to an impressive two–lap victory over Rick Carlino’s Chevron B36 and Hartmut Von Seelen/Ron Zitza’s 911. Noteworthy, self–proclaimed “Ride Mooch,” and Vintage Motorsport Magazine regular, Burt Levy, teamed with Carlino, quickly demonstrating his road–racing mastery was equally as fast as his command of the English language.
A welcome party hosted by vintage racer, Juan Gonzales of Mission Foods/Car Amigo closed out the day.
Despite RA’s surrounding area suffering from a well–publicized severe drought, the absence of any rain over the weekend was well received by the transient community of entrants, as they got up to speed during Saturday’s heated qualifying rounds. Once again, a (second) protracted endurance challenge concluded the day’s asphalt antics. Next stop, the on–track banquet for an evening of food, drink, a few “short̵ speeches by Competition Director, Carl Jensen, and others, lots of laughs (thanks to the comedic wit of SVRA’s Bob Williams and cohort, Jack Woerhle), and of course, the presentations of the annual awards.
With a few sprint race and enduro championships still up for grabs until the conclusion of Sunday’s feature races, drivers who mathematically cemented their individual classes were awarded and applauded at this time. Additionally, a number of special accolades were handed out, too–––Ken Mennella and Jeff Bernatovich were co–named Amateur Mechanics of the Year; Jerry Waldschmidt, Rookie of the Year; Dave Handy recipient of the inaugural Ryan Handy Memorial Trophy, and a very stunned, Pat Whitfield (wife of MGB racer, Tom) handed the Bubba Award.
And while Glyn Jones gifted vintage racing coach and competitor, Peter Krause, with the 2007 Lola Heritage Trophy for Sportsmanship, Vintage Motorsport Magazine’s Chairman of the Board, Syd Silverman, was profusely recognized by SVRA (presented a beautiful painting of Syd manhandling his 1952 Allard J2X) for his decades of involvement and support for the sport. “A gentleman in all respects,” noted Bob Williams, he also received a unique one-of–a–kind sculpture handcrafted by the multitalented “engine guru,” Ted Wenz of Marcovicci–Wenz Engineering.
For Silverman, Road Atlanta was the last stop of a long, long vintage auto racing endeavor that began at Lime Rock Park, Connecticut, in 1976. As the custodian of an outstanding stable of historic racecars, Syd clocked several last laps around the track’s 2.54–mile circuit in his exquisite 1956 Lister–Maserati, closing the book on his vintage racing chapter. His classy and quiet demeanor will be missed.
A well–deserving and surprised Sean Ryan was named SVRA’s 2007 Driver of the Year. Please check the organizer’s Web site (www.svra.com) for a complete listing of all honorees.
With Sunday’s last chance warm–up sessions and the mandatory two–hour quiet time out of the way, the final 2007 Optima Batteries sprint races blasted off with Charles Rayhall’s 914/6 taking the Group 8 spoils from Mark Simpson’s 914/6. A potpourri of other winning mechanicals included a Ginetta G4, Lola T70 MkIIIb, Dodge Challenger (Historic NASCAR), McLaren M6B, and event main sponsor, Peter Gulick’s Williams FW08 F1 machine.
Unquestionably, while the upcoming wintry sabbatical from racing is always too long, memories of SVRA’s exhilarating “final acts” between the small–block Camaros of Pat Ryan and his son, the newly crowned, Driver of the Year, Sean Ryan, sparring with the big–block Vettes of John Farano and Frank Fusillo for Group 6 supremacy, and definitely the best race of the day, if not the season, and the five–car explosive open–wheel dice for Group 2 honors, will unequivocally abridge the withdrawal ....Walter Pietrowicz