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Gold Cup Historic Races 2005
at Virginia International Raceway
Gold Cup 2005

Over the years, OK, decades now, I have reminisced ad nauseum about my innumerable adventures to the Glen, Lime Rock, Pocono, the Bridge and various other racetracks to seemingly anyone making eye contact with me. It was my youth, and like many, the racetrack represented one of my initial treks outside the nest without the safety net of mom or dad, but instead, accompanied by a carload of buddies just as eager as me.

And while time luckily has diluted many of my adolescent “experiences”, I have no problem clearly recalling the sights and sounds of Donohue taking the checker at the inaugural Pocono outing, the deafening roar of Can–Am McLarens ripping through the Glen’s esses or the Trans–Am romp of Jones, Revson, Gross, Savage and numerous others negotiating the asphalt of a sandy Bridgehampton. Maybe it was my young adulthood foray of virgin adventures that made it all seem so special, but auto racing circa 60s/70s was raw, real and definitely void of the fabricated rock–star atmosphere, politics, and in–your–face sponsorships of today that have diluted the basic “mano y mano” blacktop wars to resemble more of a corporate outing. The racing atmosphere back then was just fun, and probably the underlining reason I love vintage auto racing today, and more specifically, Virginia International Raceway’s (VIR) signature event, the Gold Cup Historic Races. Each year, the Gold Cup is my H.G. (Hubert George) Wells Time Machine back to my innocence where my Z28 was always one roll bar away from a possible racing career.

Celebrating its sixth anniversary this past June 10–12, the 2005 Gold Cup continues to build off its simple philosophy of racing old cars and just having fun. And despite VIR’s Harvey Siegel and Connie Nyholm’s world–class resurrection and well–appreciated improvements and amenities of the once dying road circuit, the VIR paddock, circa 2005, still wreaks with the charm of road racing’s humble beginnings.

Dotted with nearly 185 machines, this year’s paddock of MGs, Triumphs, Lotuses, Turners, Coopers, Bimmers, Elvas, Mustangs, Porsches, sports racers and gaggles more were joined by a healthy herd of Ferraris, Alfas, Fiats, and Maseratis. Even two of John Kendall’s pre–WWII examples of Italian artistry (one driven by ace restorer, David George), a 1932 Alfa Monza and a 1936 Maserati 6 CM, were in attendance for the featured Italian Festival Challenge race.

Additionally, well over 30 Healey contestants took the green flag for the third leg (five racing venues and one appearance at the Healey National Meet in North Carolina was formally scheduled) of the Australian/US Healey Challenge (or International Healey Challenge) battles. It’s been 15 years since the last Aussie and American challenge.

Except for a brief shower, good weather prevailed during a majority of blacktop skirmishes with the following taking top honors in each group: Group A, Lee Talbot’s 1967 Ginetta G4; Group B, Tivvy Shenton’s 1955 Jaguar XK140 FHC; Group C, Chris Gross’ 1960 AH Bugeye out dueling buddy, Brain MacEachern in probably the best dice of the weekend; Group D, Steve Steers’ 1958 Echidna SR despite running out of fuel on the cool down lap; Group E, Dave Handy’s 1970 Lola T200 FF; Group F, Dick Kantrud’s 1971 Camaro and Group G, Dave Handy’s 1968 McLaren M6B.

Noteworthy, not only did Dave Fairchild/PBS MkIV came in third in Group G, and his son, Scott, pilot their Fiat powered MkIV to a win in the Auto Sport International Italian Festival race, but five–time SCCA GP National Champion, Kent Prather’s son, Jesse, wheeled their exquisitely prepared MGB to a third place Group A finish, and Gold Cup veteran, Alan Giles, earned his first podium with a second place finish wheeling his lightning fast 260Z.

Obviously, the Aussies and their AH 3000s were the team to beat with Peter Jackson and Paul Freestone of Victoria, Australia, and Tim Pyne of Queenslands, Australia sweeping the top spots.

Following tradition, a plethora of other various off–track trophies were presented to an array of deserving participants and vintage enthusiasts. The most desired honor, the Gold Cup Spirit Award, was given to the following recipients who exemplify the vintage racing spirit: Group A, Michael Moore; Group B, Tivvy Shenton; Group C, Bob Bodin; Group D, Steve Steers (racing one of the only three Echidnas built); Group E, Robert McClenagan; Group F, Les Gonda and longtime Morgan competitor, “Super” Dave Bondon. Bondon has recently handed down his swift +4 to his vintage racing daughter, Stacy Schepens while he now wheels the ex-Hugh Kleinpeter Royale RP4 sports racer.

Additionally, The Spirit Award for the International Healey Challenge was given to Carol and Jeff Johnk for their tireless efforts organizing the six-race Aussie–American series, and Sandra and Jim McNeil the recipients of the Italian Festival Spirit Award. A perfect choice since the McNeils purchased the ex–Surtees 1962 250 GTO s/n3647GT Italian mount in ’66, and except for regular maintenance, has kept it totally untouched and survives as the sole original GTO in existence today.

Plaques of Appreciation were also handed out to race steward, Bud Merrill, chief of timing and scoring, Neil Harmon, the grid marshal team of Bruce and Marti Baker and yours truly, Lu (Louiseann) and myself. John Kendall for his race hardy and patina dressed pre–WWIIs machines, Kent Prather for his newly restored MGB racer, Bo Lemmon for definitely the best tow vehicle, a freshly restored ’46 Caddy, and Les Bowers for showcasing the cleanest racecar, all earned special treats from event sponsor, Auto Sport International.

Subsequently, other off–track activities included the fourth annual Gold Cup Car Show and a classic car auction presented by the Potts Auction Company, both held at VIR’s Gallery. Helicopter rides gave you a bird’s eye view of the action, while last year’s inaugural Saturday night “storytime” informal gathering with this year’s raconteur, author and Austin Healey connoisseur, Bill Emerson, entertained everyone with plenty of Healey stories. Bill also served double duty announcing the construction of the “The Healey Museum™.” With a completion date of 2007, founder, Allan Casavant says the 20,000–sq.ft. Building will be the home for noteworthy automobiles and a profusion of memorabilia relating to the cars of Donald M. Healey. Emerson will be the museum’s curator, too.

With nighttime parties offering occasions to bench race, shoot the breeze and just enjoy the special camaraderie surrounding the sport, there’s no doubt the Gold Cup continues to be your portal to vintage auto racing heaven. Some may be quick to cite the car count as a disappointment, while anyone there just enjoyed another casual, unpretentious, and, yes, a weekend of just plain fun–––Let’s not forget a weekend of exciting racing as well. Moreover, I know my now mature buddies would agree with me that the Gold Cup quickly invokes plenty of teenage memories, and who knows, if I only took welding 101, that could have possibly been my Camaro winning Group F....Walter Pietrowicz