Victory Lane Magazine, December 2015, Vol.30, No.12
Story and photos by Terry Johnsen
Virginia International Raceway, September 24-27, 2015
The Heacock Classic “Gold Cup” Historic Races at Virginia International Raceway on September 24-27 was an exercise in endurance, perseverance, and patience. The weekend was locked in a weather pattern that brought rain, rain, and more rain to the region. This event marked the completion of the East Coast calendar for the SportsCar Vintage Racing Association. Despite the soggy conditions, SVRA and VIR put on an amazing showcase of vintage and historic sports car racing. Everyone involved should be commended for pushing on and providing a first class event. Bravo to the competitors who chose to participate in spite of the unfortunate conditions. But, the ultimate kudos goes to the track workers who stood watch in the rain and provided race and safety support.
A full schedule of activity was slated, which included the Hawk Performance Endurance Series. The Vintage/Classic Enduro was held on Saturday, and the Historic/GTP/GT Enduro ran on Sunday. The SCCA Trans-Am Series also was featured on the schedule. The paddock came to life and was put on notice whenever these muscle cars fired up their engines. In Sunday’s race, Paul Fix (#4, Corvette) took the overall win and was first in the TA class. Cameron Lawrence (#1, Challenger) was third overall and first in the TA2 class. Randy Mueller (#0 BMW M2) won TA3I, while Ernie Francis, Jr. (#98 Camaro) won the TA3A class. Overall points-leader Amy Ruman (#23 Corvette) led early, but due to an off-road excursion finished in 11th spot. Despite the setback she retained the points lead over Paul Fix with three races to go in the 2015 campaign.
SVRA held their annual end-of-year “Black and White” Awards Dinner on Saturday evening. It marked the end of the East Coast calendar, and a number of announcements and special awards were presented. Connie Nyholm, Owner and CEO of VIR, began the festivities by presenting the Gold Cup Spirit Award to the father and son pairing of David and Scott Fairchild. Among the other notable awards given that evening, Sean Brown was selected as Rookie of the Year and Ike Keeler for Most Improved Driver of the Year. The final award for SVRA Driver of the Year was presented to Harry Gentry. Surrounded by his fellow competitors and past winners, Harry took to the stage and accepted the award. Afterwards, he said he was very appreciative, but also very shocked. He added that having been selected by his fellow competitors made it extra special. Along with the Driver of the Year trophy, Harry was presented with a Zenith watch. Earlier, Tony Parella, the President of SVRA announced that Zenith is a new sponsor to the series. Regarding the weekend’s rainy conditions, Harry said that its just part of racing, adding he actually preferred a steady rain as opposed to unpredictable and intermittent conditions.
In closing, Tony Parella introduced his staff that were in attendance and thanked them for a wonderful year. He said there is still a long way to go to achieve his ultimate vision for SVRA. He foresees SVRA being a household name in the same conversation with NASCAR and IndyCar. He stated the 2016 calendar will soon be released, and that the final touches are being made regarding an event at Amelia Island. This announcement drew enthusiastic applause. He again thanked everyone’s commitment in making the Gold Cup weekend a success. He ended his remarks and the evening ceremonies to a warm and appreciative standing ovation.
The weekend schedule featured two Hawk Performance Endurance Series races. On Saturday, the Vintage Classic Enduro closed the day of racing. The rain and slick conditions added to the drama. The driver’s concentration and skill were put to the ultimate test. In the end, William Fister (#99) took the win in his 1995 Ford Mustang Cobra. Second place was awarded to the racing team of Jeff Mitchell/Ron Branom (#91). They piloted a 1974 BMW 2002. Taking third in the race was the team of J. Richard Schnabel/John Baycor (#57) in their 1974 Fiat 124 Spider.
The Sunday Hawk Performance Endurance Series race featured the Historic/GTP/GT Enduro. The driving squad of Steven Durst/Tyler Pappas (#96) paced the field in their 2003 Mazda CSR. Finishing in a close and competitive second place was Ben Sinnott (#5) in his stealth-like, black 1991 Lola T91/90. Third place belonged to Claude Malette (#17) in a 1990 Lola T90/91.
Group 1 belonged to Phil Wicks (#5) and his trusty 1967 Austin Mini Cooper S. Phil held on and took impressive wins on Saturday and Sunday, handling the treacherous conditions magnificently. He secured his hold on the field by also capturing the fastest lap in each race.
Group 2 proved to be ultra competitive, with a podium shuffle for each of the two races. Les Bowers (#32) captured the win on Saturday in his 1971 Hawke DL2a, ahead of Chris Forrer (#52) in a 1978 Tiga Formula Ford. Scott Nettleship (#63) rounded out the podium with his 1981 Crossle 45F. Chris Forrer captured the win on Sunday, ahead of William Demarest, Jr. (#50), in a 1972 Titan Mk6B. David Allison (#8) hustled his 1969 Alexis Mk15 home for a solid third position.
Groups 3 and 4 competed together, and it was Denny Wilson (#7) who paced he field in both races. Denny also captured the fastest lap in each event behind the wheel of his dominant 1962 Lotus Super 7. Logan Dernoshek (#57A) claimed third in the Saturday race, then did it one better and secured second position in the Sunday race. Logan piloted the distinctive 1966 Yenko Stinger Corvair.
Group 5 and 7b felt the effects of the rainy weather more than any other of the group races held during the weekend. As the old saying goes, “it only takes two to have a race.” So, Ken Mennella (#000) driving his 1963 Chevrolet Corvette GSRep and the duo of Steven Durst/Tyler Pappas (#96) in a 2003 Mazda CSR paired up for a single race on Saturday. In the end, the #000 took the victory. But it was the effort that counted. Despite the rain, despite the track conditions, these competitors came to race. Their determination and commitment is to be celebrated.
Group 6 featured a battle between two drivers, as they distanced themselves from the rest of the field. Todd Treffert (#14) claimed both wins behind the wheel of his black 1974 Porsche 911. William Foster (#99) finished a close second in each race in a 1995 Ford Mustang Cobra. Consolation for William was claiming fastest laps in each race, as he fought and battled every lap with Todd.
Group 7A featured some intense racing, but in the end the final results were carbon copies of each other. Taking the win Saturday and Sunday was Nathan Scigliano (#79) in a 2004 Carbir S2. Nathan also secured the fastest lap in each race. Second place for both races belonged to Ben Sinnott (#5) in his 1991 Lola T91/90. Rounding out the podium in each race was Owen Adelman (#94) in his 1999 Carbir CS2. Both races were hard fought, close, and a thrill to watch.
Group 8 was another set of races that featured a battle between two competitors as they separated themselves from the rest. Sean Brown (#85) piloted his 1975 Ford Escort RS MKI to the win in both races. He was closely followed to the checkered flag by Davis Jones (#16) in a vibrant green 1972 Porsche 911 S/T. These cars were made to race in the rain. Each driver swapped fastest laps with Sean claiming the honors on Saturday and Davis on Sunday.
Group 9 also experienced a lower car count than usual due to the weather conditions. But it didn’t dampen the pace of the cars as they clocked some of the fastest laps of the weekend. Mike Jacques (#54) won the Saturday race in his 2002 Swift 14. Skylar Robinson (#54) claimed the top spot on Sunday in a 2002 Swift 14. A hard-charging Jacek Mucha (#07) captured second place in each race. He piloted a 2006 Swift 16.
The Group 10 and 11 races belonged to Jacek Mucha (#07) as he continued his strong showing for the weekend by taking both race victories in a 2006 Swift JMS 016 CP. Jacek left no doubt of his dominant performance by also achieving the fastest lap in each race.
The 2015 SVRA Heacock Classic “Gold Cup” Historic Races at Virginia International Raceway may be remembered for the wet and soggy conditions. The weather forecast leading up to the event certainly left no doubt as to what to expect. Some competitors either chose to not come, and some left early. But for those who stayed, they were rewarded with a well-run, first class road-racing event, in spite of the weather. SVRA and VIR delivered.
Again I’ll add, bravo to the competitors who soldiered-on in the face of the extreme conditions. The track workers are stars as well as they held their post and provided race and safety support. SVRA may have come a bit closer to becoming that household name that Tony Parella spoke of. It’s hard to imagine that either NASCAR or IndyCar could have handled the circumstances any better.
——————————– TJ 2015