May 1 – Alton, VA The 7th Annual VSCCA “Governor’s Cup” Races attracted a wide range of rare and unusual cars for two days of glorious weather, fellowship and, incidentally, racing! This year, the VSCCA, founded in 1959 and one of the oldest vintage car clubs in America, included a Driver’s School at the VIR event in order to inculcate the Club’s “attitude adjustment” to the mostly experienced drivers who wished to join this august and merry band. Forty–six cars, ranging from a 1926 Morgan Aero/GN, run by the father–daughter “Phlexed Sphincter Racing Team” of Michael and Moira Mulroney, to a Ferrari Dino shared by father and son Ven and Nick Fonte and the immaculate BMW 2002 of Bob Breed, enjoyed the extraordinary weather and fabulous surroundings of the VIR facility. With entrants from Ohio, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Florida, it was clearly a popular event.
The variety of the cars was simply amazing, with John Kendall bringing not one, but two fantastic Pre–War Maserati Grand Prix cars, a 1936 8C-3000 and a 1936 6C-1500 “voiturette”, Admiral Scott Ebert his fearsome 1939 Dreyer–Ford Special (which, incidentally, won the LQ or “Leisurely Quick” race group after a tight tussle on Saturday) and some mouth–watering Italian exotica from the well–known Shoreland Racing stable of Anthony and Lulu Wang, including two Ferrari 250GT LWB “Tour de France berlinettas and the first Tipo 61 “Birdcage” Maserati! The earlier of the two Ferrari’s, 0893GT, is the car that finished 7th OA, 2nd in GT at Sebring in 1958 and had gone on to win C Production in the one–hour Enduro at VIR in May of 1958, driven by George Reed. The other, 1465GT, a rare “Interim” model, incorporated a body design serving as a design study for the coming 250GT “Short Wheelbase Berlinetta”, introduced in 1960. The Maserati, originally sold to Joe Lubin of Los Angeles and driven first by Bob Drake and later, Jim Hall and the famed West Coast pilot, Billy Krause, was a hit with the crowd in the paddock. Another “crown jewel” in attendance was the debut of the ex–Tracy Bird Ferrari 250GT-powered Cooper Monaco of Atlanta collector (and driver of great skill) Fred Burke. Burke and his car have been invited to the Cooper “feature” at the Monterey Historic Races this year and had a nearly trouble–free weekend after the able ministrations of Dave Handy and his crew at SascoSports, located on site in the VIR RacePlex.
While all of these cars may have placed their stamp on history long, long ago, the VSCCA “Governor’s Cup” races at VIR have become popular by providing a participant experience unique in vintage racing. Without timing and scoring, without classes and groups, VSCCA stresses the importance of “enjoying and using (member’s) cars among convivial and like–minded friends.” A proper schedule giving almost two and a half hours of track time and run on–time throughout the weekend insured everyone had their fill. The racing was very close at the sharp end, in the middle and even toward the more phlegmatic end of the field, with everyone having somebody to race with. From friendly, roving tech inspection performed by ex–Allen Mann works Ford mechanic (and extraordinary driver in his own right) Tivvy Shenton, to the elegant, sit–down gourmet meal served on–site in the beautiful Antebellum Foote family mansion “South Bend,” which now serves as the Club house for the VIR Motorsports Country Club, there was as much fun off the track as on it!
In keeping with the focus on the cars rather than individual achievement, event chair Peter Krause led an enthusiastic crowd on an informative and entertaining “Paddock Walk” (above image) at lunch on Saturday, detailing the history and filling in the historical context around the various venues and eras where and when these cars were originally campaigned. Almost seventy people followed Krause, the “Pied Piper” of vintage racing and VIR lore, for almost an hour. Back to racing after lunch, the Under 1–Liter group was ably represented by Jim Duffield’s Fiat-Abarth OT 1000 Spider, Sam Blanton’s Fiat 850 Spider and the smattering of SAAB–powered cars from the Vapaa family from Delaware! Four Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spiders, patriotically liveried in red, white, blue and silver, were present driven by Chuck Woodworth, Anthony Wang and Sam Smith. The rare and unusual Turner–Climax of John Master went quite well, mixing it up with cars substantially larger in capacity and Dan Leonard’s Speedwell GT, perhaps the only truly "period correct" car like it in the country, cut a splendid form as he scythed through the field. Father and son teams (as well as a formidable father–daughter team, more later) played a big part in this friendly event, with Bob Mann's Lotus XI dicing with his son, Daren, driving his beautiful Lotus Elite and long–time Italian car aficionados Ven and Nick Fonte sharing the family Dino while their OSCA MT-4 and Maserati A6GCS “Monofaro” get fettled for future events.
The MG T–series crowd was well represented by VIR Gold Cup “spirit” award winner Rob Orander and the immaculate car (and driving) of George Pardee. Robert Bowers, a participant in the first race at VIR in August of 1957, campaigned his Devin–Ermini and was in the lead pack before electrical gremlins slowed his progress. Jim Franklin, driving an Elva Courier that was the very car that he earned the SCCA Marlboro dash plaques from 1962, 1963 and 1964, affixed to his dash, did a terrific job. Paul and Darry Bova, who do so much for the Club with their pleasant smiles and cheerful demeanor, showed of their gorgeous Turner 950S well, with Paul in the lead pack, along with Stefan Vapaa’s SAAB and Hank Giffin’s Elva Courier. Who was at the head of the pack? Admiral Scott Ebert, that’s who! Ebert, one of the most exceptional Pre–War drivers in the Club and in he country, was an absolute “throttle artist” and HAD to be, marshaling nearly 300 bhp in a car weighing far less than a ton and riding on tire contact patches not much bigger than an average sneaker, all while operating the mechanical brakes! In the Q “Quicker” race group, the battle was fierce with “Most Improved” Baxter Phillips putting on a heck of a show trading the lead with Allan Casavant’s Lotus 7 Special and Marcus Jones in a Lotus 18 Formula Junior.
Following VSCCA student Moira Mulroney in her father's 1926 Morgan into Oak Tree, the tightest corner on the course, and at great speed, this observer (as well as the Ferrari driver behind us) felt that we would all need to slow significantly to accomodate this “novice” in her “old” car at this challenging corner. Imagine all of our surprise when she sailed through the corner, her speed unabated in a full four–wheel drift leaving us ALL in the dust! We could not stop laughing in our helmets as we marveled at the 'elan and skill demonstrated by Ms. Mulroney. A perfect end to a fabulous weekend, the enthusiastic delight of the drivers communicating to the corner workers after the checkered flag, the animated conversations held long into the night at the authentic Irish pub in the Clubhouse continually reinforced the idea that it’s all about enjoying cars in a beautiful setting with friends! Perhaps no other Club or gathering in the country integrates all of these qualities so well, at least not on this fine Spring weekend in Southern Virginia... Come and see, next year!....Peter Krause
Images ©Victor Newman