In a few short weeks, the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) will hold its first ever national championship at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Last weekend, according to SVRA, the organization brought about 400 cars to Watkins Glen International for another set of races leading up to that event -- the Glenora Wine Cellars U.S. Vintage Grand Prix presented by Welliver. Some of the racers competing at the Glen may very well have a good chance at winning one of the first United States championship "gold helmets" from SVRA in Austin next month.
After testing, practice, and qualifying sessions on Thursday and Friday, racers competed in 11 different classes on Saturday and Sunday. Featured along with the SVRA groups was the historic Trans-Am series, primarily from the West Coast and including drivers like FOX Sports announcer Mike Joy and Vic and Christi Edelbrock of the American car parts company. SVRA competitors included a sizable number of Formula B cars including a car bearing the name of American comedian, Dick Smothers; MGs; the featured marque, the Mini; the "wings and things" of Group 9, and much more.
Several of Sunday's races were affected by rain, some with severely limited fields compared to the larger contests of Saturday, but the weather cleared in time for the featured race, the Governor's Cup of the Historic Trans Am series. These cars, sedans with American V-8 engines, roar around the track, bringing back memories for those who remember them in their original racing period of the 1960s and 70s. According to Mike Joy, who spoke at the luncheon with media on Saturday, the group is loosely organized by individual collectors and racers and seeks to maintain strict authenticity. These cars were not replicas, he said, but the real deal from back in the day.
Late in the day on Sunday, the Group 9 race, which included open-wheeled Indy Lights and Formula cars, was won by Bruce Hamilton of Monkton, MD in car #36, a 2006 Swift 016a. In that race, best lap time was set by Gaston Kearby of Corpus Christi, TX, with a 1:44.563 in his 2006 Swift 016a.
Other results from the weekend include local racer to the Glen, Marc Giroux of Corning, NY in his 1997 Lola T97/20 Indy Lights. After a fifth place start in Saturday's Group 9 race, Giroux made a blistering run for a finish with a third-place spot on the podium beside drivers of two of the three Swifts in the field, cars that are about a decade newer than his.
Watkins Glen native and motor sports radio announcer, Rick Hughey, raced his locally popular, if not especially fast, bright orange #77 1963 Formula Vee in Group 1. This car is driven annually in the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Festival road race tribute by his brother, Kevin Hughey. With Rick at the wheel on the WGI track on Sunday, the car placed third in class.
In the large field of Formula B and related cars on Saturday, the race was won by Ben Sinnott of Fairfield, CT in his 1991 Lola T9190. Second was Bruce Hamilton driving a 1970 Brabham BT36 and third was Bob Lima of Meadowbrook, PA in his 1967 Brabham BT21.
According to SVRA, the historic group next heads to VIR in Danville, VA, where racers will compete in the Heacock Classic Gold Cup.
According to one SVRA racer, many competitors in SVRA are looking forward to taking their cars out on the COTA track in Austin in October. There, they will all have the chance to drive the new Formula 1 purpose-built track, now home of the U.S. Formula 1 Grand Prix, for the first time. Hundreds of cars are said to be registered for this event, with even more on a waiting list.
The SVRA U.S. National Vintage Racing Championship at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas takes place October 25-27. Who will take home the first gold helmets of SVRA?