CORVETTES & MOTOWN MUSCLE: VIR GOLD CUP!

Kick-ass domestic & imported racers fill the field at the SVRA bash at Virginia International Raceway.

SVRA invaded Virginia International Raceway for the annual Heacock Classic Gold Cup Historic Races.  As you can see from this shot of David Thomas’ Sprite, right, the course never seems to stop moving. Be it left and right or up and down, the driver is always challenged. Combine this with outstanding facilities and a beautiful setting and a race at VIR is tough to beat.

With only five cars ever built, the Zora Duntov’s Corvette GS has become too valuable to race, an unfortunate truth about vintage racing. But you can still get the flavor of these legends when you watch Ken Minnella, above, circulate in his carefully-crafted tribute.

Racing series tend to ebb and flow, rising in interest at times and disappearing from view at others. For one brief shining moment, the zenith was the Can-Am Series, combining big power and lightweight sports cars with the world’s top drivers to assault the major racing circuits of North America. While McLaren would come to dominate a large part of the series, it didn’t stop others from trying to unseat them at the top. Claude Malette’s winged T222 is an example of one of Lola’s efforts to do just that. 

Velocity’s recent series on Patrick Dempsey’s quest to race at Le Mans has placed the spotlight on actor/racers. James Garner, Paul Newman and Steve McQueen all figure prominently in the series. But there have been other actors who have competed. Among these was Dick Smothers of the Smothers Brothers who campaigned this ‘67 Brabham BT21, now owned by Bob Lima. It got me to thinking about others such as James Dean, Robert Carradine, Jason Priestly and others who shared a passion for the stage and track.

Modern racecars tend sometimes to be more “silhouette” racers than “production” racers. Even some vintage cars tend to go in that direction. But Tony Parella’s ‘58 Corvette has stayed true to its period roots, competing with a stock interior and full complement of shiny (and heavy) trim. Even with its modern safety equipment, it still serves as a tie to a different era.

Here is what we mean when we talk about a “silhouette” racecar, John Wolff’s ‘97 Corvette. Far removed from its production roots, it has a tube frame with fiberglass bodywork that merely hints at the Corvette on which it is based. But this is how racecars needed to evolve as production cars grew ever more complex and less suitable for track use.

Jim Dolan brought his Ford GT40 Mk IV to give us all a taste of those heady days of Ford’s four-year string of victories at Le Mans. Dolan’s car is part of a group of seven cars built a few years ago. These cars are numbered sequentially to the 12 chassis Ford built in the 1960s and are faithful in every detail.  For more detail, your attention is invited to: http://www.karkraftpartners.com/home.php

I have seen Bob Harvey’s “Triple Nickel” ‘57 Corvette several times over the years and have always been impressed by its level of preparation and performance. If you know anything about the handling of early straight axle Corvettes, you have to be impressed by this picture that shows how flat the car corners. Harvey has obviously done his homework.

 Don’t know why, but this photo of Jack Finch’s Dodge stock car brings on thoughts of Darth Vader. It must be the black paint and menacing stance. Here Finch uses every bit of the curbing as he prepares to begin his assault on the back straight. Stock cars represent a good value for performance provided and are continuing to increase their popularity with drivers and spectators alike in vintage racing.

This shot of Mike Fisher’s ’00 Audi S4 is crammed with nostalgia for me. First off, I remember watching Derek Bell compete in this car at the only Washington ALMS race held. Secondly, the hood is emblazoned with the Speedvision logo. For those of us who grew up waiting for months for magazine coverage and watched snippets on TV, 24-hour car coverage was nirvana.

Brian Dolan wrings everything out of his Sunbeam Tiger. One of Carroll Shelby’s lesser-known efforts, the Tiger followed the Cobra formula by combining an English chassis with small-block Ford power. The result was an explosive sports car. Hampered by a couple of niggling design things and a lack of development, the car never achieved Cobra-like notoriety.

Sharing the bill with SVRA on Gold Cup weekend was the Trans Am series. Another hallowed name in the halls of American racing history, the series continues today with a mixture of domestic and imported machinery. As always these cars provide a visual and auditory experience. Amy Ruman’s Corvette competes in the latest iteration of the series.

In 1995 Ford built 250 Mustang Cobra Rs. Into the package went such go-fast goodies as an SVT-tuned 351-inch V8 with HD five-speed. Out of the package came all manner of weighty pieces like AC, radio, power anything and such. The result was a car like Harry McPherson’s.
To ensure the cars ended up for their intended racing purpose only, Ford limited sales to
people who held valid and current racing licenses.

NOTE: We probably don’t say it enough, but thank you to the many volunteers who make racing possible. Without them, none of us would be able to enjoy the events we do. Special thanks to Carl Zorowski and Carl George at VIR.

PHOTOS & WORDS: M.M. “Mike” Matune, Jr.

For more information on VIR, SVRA or the Trans-Am, please visit:
http://www.svra.com/
http://virnow.com/
http://www.gotransam.com/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *