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VSCCA Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix 2005
at Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
PVGP 2005

The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix (PVGP) is more than just a race–––it’s a ten–day “happening.” Celebrating its 23rd successful year this past July 16–17, the actual PVGP race presented by Stop and Shop, was the culmination of a host of automotive–related activities that began with the 17th Annual Kickoff Rallye on July 8th and continued for nearly two weeks with a Black Tie & Tailpipe Gala, the 2nd Annual PVGP Historic Races held at nearby BeaveRun MotorSports Complex, numerous car shows, cruises and much more. It’s apparent that the “not–in–my–neighborhood” attitude has taken a big backseat as the PVGP race is not only contested through and around Pittsburgh’s premier public park, Schenley Park, but resides as the largest and only vintage racing venue contested on public streets.

Repeating past performances, the magical transformation from public transportation arteries to a formidable race circuit began late Friday under the guidance of PVGP President and Race Director, Mike Connolly. Working with Pittsburgh’s various Departments of Public Works, Parks, Safety and utilizing the tireless energy and skill of over a 1000 volunteers, miles of crowd–controlling snow fences were installed, thousands of “No–Parking” signs hung, and hundreds of temporary Jersey barriers jostled into place, joining the park’s natural stone walls to establish the racecourse’s interim layout.

Discounting the park’s daunting six–inch curbing and not so racer–friendly camber road surface, drainage grids, and normal street bumps and dips, the 2.33–mile temporary street course incorporating 16–turns, five white knuckle hairpins and speed–reducing chicane independently remains a most demanding configuration and unequivocally, vintage racing’s most unique venue as validated by most vintage racing pilots.

Tents erected, sponsor banners properly displayed, vendors eager to ring the registers and hundreds of early road racing icons (the hay bale) in place offering token protection from the countless utility poles, hydrants and numerous other immovable park amenities, and “Road Schenley” was once again opened for business as vintage machinery roared to life with the commencement of Saturday morning’s practice sessions.

The Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA) sanctioned event featured six groups: Group 1–Pre–War; Group 2–Under 1–Litre and Preservation; Group 3–Sports Racers and Formula Juniors; Group 4–Small through ’65; Group 5–Over 2–Litre and Group 6–Under 2–Litre and Preservation. It’s obvious that VSCCA modified its own club rule (again) by allowing cars produced past its usual 1959 cutoff to participate. Another bigger change at this year’s event was an actual (casual) podium and trophies presented to the race winners at the Crown Royal (diamond sponsor) Winners’ Circle. Very rarely does VSCCA time and score, let alone give out any awards.

Occasional rain kept the umbrellas up and the crowds down as qualifiers filled the balance of Saturday afternoon with plenty of excitement. Sunday would be different, as the heat of mid–summer kept the threat of T–storms popping up at anytime, but dry conditions remained for race day. Again, practice sessions filled Sunday’s AM hours, while the feature races played to a large population of spectators enjoying the great vintage racing around the normally daily traveled route before them, and a wonderful carnival atmosphere of kettle popcorn, corn dogs, funnel cakes and all things cars populating a large part of the park’s green zones. The latter also included Saturday’s All British Car Show, one of the country’s largest displays of English marques, joining a plethora of numerous breeds staking out their own slice of grassy terrain.

Fittingly, Hau Thai–Tang, Chief Engineer of the Ford Mustang, was Honorary Race Director, and was on hand celebrating the Mustang as the event’s “Marque of the Year”, while Grand Marshall duties were allocated to longtime Burgher, and Director of Public Works, Guy Costa.

With a variety of official pre–race activities and my personal consumption of a few chilli dogs in the bag, the 456–acre normally tranquil oasis exploded to life with pre–war machinery taking the green flag. Ian Landy’s 1936 ERA R6B cruised to his third consecutive victory in that shootout, followed by Manley Ford (MG TD), J.R. Mitchell (Lotus 18), John Barhydt (BMW 2002) and crowd favorite, Tivvy Shenton (Jaguar), taking his unprecedented seventh successive “over–two–liter” win, and impressive 10 out of 11 victories. Unfortunately, the “under–two–liter” group (and final race of the day) demonstrated the hazards of street racing when one of the participants hit and knocked down a utility pole on the pace lap. Luckily, no one was hurt.

Not sitting on his laurels, Executive Director of the PVGP, Dan DelBianco, is on a tireless mission to expand the Grand Prix’ awareness and attract many more than the tens of thousands spectators who have already enjoyed the most unique venue on the vintage racing calendar each year.

Additionally, this year’s edition saw the changing of the guard as restorer, racer, and friend, David George, took on the duties as VSCCA Event Chairman and he looks forward to building on the great legacy forged by the previous Co–Chairmen, John “Jake” Jacobson and Ralph Steinberg. And if you needed just two more reasons to enjoy the 2006 installment, the event is free and all monies raised are donated to two charities, Allegheny Valley School and The Autism Society of Pittsburgh. Your front row seat to all the action is waiting under a century old elm, maple or oak’.
Walter Pietrowicz

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