SVRA Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio (article)


Jeff Mitchell (#73) 1974 Porsche 911.

Victory Lane Magazine, October 2017, Vol.32, No.10

Story and photos by Terry Johnsen

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, June 23-25, 2017

The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course opened their spectator event season with the ever-popular SVRA Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, June 23-25, 2017. After two consecutive weekends at Indianapolis and an early June event at Sonoma, the SportsCar Vintage Racing Association brought their series to the heartland of Ohio, marking the 35th consecutive year that SVRA has held an event at Mid-Ohio. It’s only fitting that the premier vintage and historic racing series in America, holds an annual event at the track that epitomizes grassroots road racing, Mid-Ohio.

Throughout the weekend, fans were able to walk the paddock and get up close and personal with the cars and drivers. The Mid-Ohio garage facilities offer the unique perspective of walkways that allow fans to look down on the work being done on the cars. As fans strolled around the picturesque Mid-Ohio circuit, they were treated to the many car corrals and the vintage British car show being held in the infield section of the track. For a more hands-on thrill, fans had the opportunity to take part in the Jaguar Driving Experience autocross in the paddock, and the Land Rover motorcross over by the Mid-Ohio campgrounds.

The weekend race schedule was highlighted by continuous on-track action from all of the SVRA racing groups, to include the new Mazda Miata Heritage Cup, Formula Junior, and the International GT Series. SVRA utilized the 2.4 track configuration, which added the chicane feature leading into the keyhole turn. Extremely hard rains literally washed out all on-track activity on Friday, except for some early morning practice sessions. This set the stage for a packed Saturday and Sunday of racing excitement.

The feature races for Groups 1, 3, and 4 saw a healthy field of over 25 cars navigate the challenging Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Vic Skirmants (1961 Porsche 356B #70) had a wonderful weekend with a second place finish in race 1 and then did one better by taking the win in race 2. Jonathan DeGaynor (1959 Devin JM Mk1 Special #11) claimed the top spot in race 1. Robert Hieb (1964 Porsche 356C Coupe #54) also had a consistent weekend taking a third place finish in race 1 and a second place finish in race 2.

Todd Strong (1974 Titan Mk9 #16) was the class of the field in Group 2. He won both races in convincing fashion while also claiming the fastest lap in each race. Bob Hatle (1989 Swift DB3 #8) cruised to second place finishes in each of the contests. Tom Linton (1969 Winkelman WD F1 #71) finished third in race 1, while Dennis Firestone (1976 Crossle FF #10) claimed third position in race 2.

Mark Coombs (1990 Lola T90/90 #77) dominated the two feature races for Groups 5 and 7a. Mark took both wins and fastest race laps. Rob Sherwood (2002 Carbir CS2 #05) held his own by finishing a strong third place in race 1 and then doing one better and claiming second place in race 2. Brent Gernert (1991 Swift DB5 #70) finished second in race 1, while Henry Payne IV (1990 Lola T88/90 #13) rounded out the podium in race 2 with a third place finish.

There was never any doubt when Groups 6 and 12 made their way out on to the track for their races. They’re fast, competitive, and thunderous! Christopher Stillwell (1968 Ford Mustang #6) paced the field and took two close wins over Don Soenen (1994 Ford Mustang Cobra #47), who stayed right on Christopher’s heals, finishing in second for each of the two races. Jeff Mitchell (1974 Porsche 911 #73) and Mark Rife (1969 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster #17) were the third place finishers respectively for the Saturday and Sunday feature races.

The Group 7b, 9, and 11 feature races were crowd favorites as real speed took center stage. Jacek Mucha (2006 Swift JMS 016 CP #07) laid down the gauntlet and posted the fastest race laps of the weekend. Jacek stormed off to a dominating win in race 1, finishing 22 seconds ahead of Robert Gewirtz (2003 Riley MKXI #31). Craig Bennett (1975 Shadow DN6 #0) held off Casey Putsch (1996 March Bennett MKII #40) for a narrow win in race 2. Craig also finished third in race 1, while Robert claimed third spot in race 2.

Group 8 competitors produced carbon copy finishes for their two feature races. Thomas Grudovich (1966 Ginetta G4 #94) won both contests by a comfortable distance. His margin of victory in race 1 was 29 seconds, and then extended that margin out to 48 seconds in race 2. He also claimed fastest lap for both races. It was a clean sweep. Tom Briest (1970 Porsche 914/6 #71) and Chris DeMinco (1979 Mazda RX7 #11) finished second and third respectively in each of the races.

The Group 10 feature races belonged to Don Soenen (1995 Ford Mustang TA #74). Don captured the fastest lap for each race and also secured the wins with margins of victory of 13 seconds and 20 seconds. Joining Don on the podium for race 1 was Jon Cloud (2000 Ford Mustang Cobra #44) in second place and Bob Briggs (1988 Chevrolet Camaro #60) in third place. For the second feature race, William Foster (2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo #30) claimed second position while John Wolff (1997 Chevrolet Corvette T/A #38) finished in third.

The Formula Junior feature races gave the crowd a thrilling glimpse of open-wheel racing from days gone by. The competitors in this group produced close, clean, wheel-to-wheel competition all the way to the checkered flag. Gregory Thornton (1961 Lotus 22 #181) battled Martin Bullock (1963 Lotus 27 #127) for the win in race 1, while Christopher Drake (1961 Elva 300 #55) hustled to the third place finish. Joseph Colasacco (1962 Stanguellini Delfino FJR #30) rebounded from suspension issues that kept him out of Saturday’s race, and claimed the win on Sunday. He also captured the fastest lap of the race. Gregory settled for second place while Martin took a step down on the podium to third spot.

The Mazda Miata Heritage Cup presented two close and competitive races, fielding over 20 cars for each contest. This was the third in a five race series featuring first generation 1.6-liter Miatas. The Mazda Miata Heritage Cup offers a new and exciting entry point into vintage racing. Marc Cefalo (1997 Mazda Miata #00) won both races in impressive fashion, and also raced his way to the fastest lap in each event. In race 1, Brian Murdick (1990 Mazda Miata #17) finished second, while Joey Selmants (1990 Mazda Miata #59) followed behind in third place. The two competitors swapped positions for race 2.

The International GT Series complemented the wide array of SVRA events by featuring two sprint races on Saturday and an endurance race on Sunday. Thomas Pank (2010 Porsche GT3 Cup #42) set the pace in the first sprint race, taking the win ahead of Steven Hill (2015 Ferrari 458 Challenge #33). Mark Sandridge (2015 Porsche GT Cup #25) finished in third position. The second sprint race saw Steven and Mark take a step up on the podium, with Steven crossing the finish line first. Thomas finished in third position. Steven Hill repeated his winning form by taking the endurance event on Sunday. Thomas Pank finished on the lead lap in second place. The driving pair of Mark Sandridge and Joe Varde finished in third position for the 90-minute enduro.

Sunday’s schedule featured the two SVRA endurance events. The first race began as the sun was still rising above the treetops in the carousel. 27 cars took the green flag for the Hawk Performance Endurance Series, Vintage/Classic Endurance Race. Graham Adelman (1962 Lotus 23B #58) took the win in the 60-minute event, finishing 32 seconds ahead of Christopher Stillwell (1968 Ford Mustang #6). John Cloud (1970 Ford Boss 302 #23) rounded out the podium in third place.

Just after the Sunday lunch break, the Hawk Performance Endurance Series, Historic GT/GTP Endurance Race took place. The driving pair of Peter McLaughlin and Justin Frick (1980 March 822 #05) won the 90-minute event by a margin of two laps. John Higgins and Charles Monk (1985 Porsche Fabcar #42) claimed second place one lap clear of John Cloud (2000 Ford Mustang Cobra #44).

Reflecting back on the weekend, SVRA had yet again kicked-off another spectator season at Mid-Ohio in spectacular fashion. The response of the fans and competitors alike was overwhelming. SVRA’s slogan is “Some people collect art, we race it”. The combination of the iconic Mid-Ohio natural road course and the wide array of nostalgic SVRA vintage and historic racecars provided the canvas and artistry for another masterpiece of lasting racing memories.

TJ 2017

About terryjohnsen

Writer/photographer of vintage/historic sports car racing. See you at the track! Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terry Johnsen and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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