Hot racing action, great car club camaraderie
By Kelvin Dodd
What do you get when you combine Southern hospitality, vintage racing, and British sports cars? You get one of the most memorable classic car experiences of the year! Classic Motorsports Magazine/HSR Walter Mitty 2005 presented by Moss Motors brought all these elements together at Road Atlanta.
Some 13 car clubs supported the event with car corrals. The infield was also filled with more than 40 vendors offering deals on everything from turkey legs to Moss Motors MGB superchargers.
The infield attractions featured a Saturday autocross challenge sponsored by Kumho Tires, where attendees could get behind the wheel of a new MINI and chase around the cones. On Sunday, Lotus and The Tire Rack took the field with a semi truck full of the new Elise sportscars to drive. By the time the weekend was over, the course was pretty easy to follow from all the rubber laid down by enthusiastic drivers.
Seminars and presentations were key components of the Mitty weekend. Luminaries such as Kas Kastner, Kent Prather, John Twist, Peter Thornley, Carl Heideman, and Burt Levy shared technical knowledge and entertaining anecdotes under the Classic Motorsports Magazine big top.
The real action was on the track. The racing classes ranged from the screaming Sprites, Midgets, and Spitfires to thundering historic stock cars, GTP, and big-block production cars, so there was something for every gearhead taste.
The highlight for many was the MG/Triumph challenge feature race. More than 100 machines were entered, which meant a lot of British iron on the track over the three-day event. In fact, the MG/Triumph grid was so big that it had to be split into two groups.
Group A was comprised of the earlier sidescreen TR2-TR3Bs, the MG T-Series, and MGAs; Group B had the later TRs, Spitfires, an insanely fast Vitesse, Sprite/Midgets, and other MGs, including an MGC and a pair of MGB-GT V8s.
During Saturday practice, two incidents increased Sunday’s drama: at the end of the Group A pace lap, the pace car acted strangely, which caused the first six cars to anticipate a green flag. The subsequent reprimands created a Sunday grid that was bound to turn into a spectacular race. Then the Group B practice was cut short when an unfortunate seal failure coated the track in oil, causing one MG driver to lose control and crash.
The Sunday races were held under blue skies. Group A turned into a duel between Jeff Snook (Bowling Green, Ohio) in a ‘61 TR3A and Randy Williams (Towanda, Pennsylvania) in a ‘59 TR3. Both gentlemen started at mid-pack following the Saturday pacecar problem and showed great skill, maneuvering to the front to take first and second place, respectively. Jeff’s 10 years of vintage racing and overall sportsmanship earned him the coveted Kastner Cup for 2005, presented by Kas and Peggy Kastner in the pits.
Following on the heels of the fast TRs were a flock of smaller-bore MGAs led by Henry Moore (Southbury, Connecticut). Steve Consin (Clifton, Virginia) bested the T-Series XPAG-powered cars in a ’50 Lester MG; Ed Cronin (Saegertown, Pennsylvania) in a ’53 MGTD, and Canadian Boh Grunau in a ’48 MGTC finished close behind. The MG Vintage Racers (MGVR) contingent awarded colorful MGA driver Lou Marchant their Spirit award, otherwise known as The Copper Bucket. In the same vein, the Bill Parrish Award was presented by Zapata Racing cohorts Bob Coleman and Carl George to Will Bowden.
The Group B race had the matched MGB-GT V8s of Jerry Richards (Flowery Branch, Georgia) and Les Gonda (Keswick, Virginia) vying for a close first and second place. The huge flared fenders and sticky race tires powered by alloy VB engines had them at the front of the pack, but the ex-Kastner/Brophy ’71 Triumph Vitesse driven by Mark Thomas (Franklin, North Carolina) gave them a run for the money and rang up the fastest lap of the group. Giving up two cylinders and 1000 cc, the Vitesse (which has a frontal aspect of a brick) kept right on the tails of the leading V8s, closely followed by the very quick ’66 MGB driven by Dave Headley (Cortez, Colorado). Right behind Dave was Steve Plater’s (Cedarburg. Wisconsin) 6-cylinder MGC, proving that even with a heavy engine in the nose, the car can handle well with the right touches.
The Friend of Triumph (FoT) group was well represented with the ’68 Triumph Spitfire of Quinn Derby (Charlotte, North Carolina) coming in ahead of George Wright’s ’61 TR4 and Bill Babcock’s ’59 Peyote tube-frame special. The Triumph and MG racers played together well, and the Friday evening dinner with presentations by Kas Kastner and Peter Thornley gave them a chance to mingle.
Many thanks to Richard Taylor of the FoT, Bob Spruck and Jerry Richards of MGVR, and all of their respective members for pulling the MG/Triumph Challenge together. Thanks also to Historic Sports Car Racing Ltd. (HSR) for hosting the event and to Classic Motorsports Magazine for inciting and abetting the Walter Mitty for 2005.