Moss Supports Magic Collier Cup

There was thunder in the hills around Watkins Glen. Not the kind with flashing lights and pounding rain, but rather flashing cars and ground-pounding horsepower. The Zippo Vintage Grand Prix of Watkins Glen, representing some 46 years of continuous racing in the area, was held September 9-11, 1994, at Watkins Glen International.

A great deal of excitement surrounded the Collier Cup All MG Race. This year being the 40th anniversary, a special effort was made to draw as many entries as possible. Chief organizers of the recruiting effort, Greg Prehodka of Clifton, NJ, and Joe Tierno from Honeoye Falls, NY, outdid themselves drawing the largest entry of any MG race ever held in North America. Even the huge 3.4-mile Watkins Glen International track looked crowded as 64 entries prepared for the event.

Along with the vintage races, 1994 marked the second anniversary of the downtown Grand Prix Festival. This recreation of the original Watkins Glen Grand Prix road race gave the entire weekend a historic feel. Race fans, nowadays relegated to watching from behind acres of fencing, were allowed a chance to get up close and personal with the cars. Participants drove over the original course, featuring 6.6 miles of public roads complete with a famous stone bridge, an infamous railroad crossing and a picturesque view of Seneca Lake. Downtown on Franklin Street, the cars lined up in starting grid fashion for a review and celebration which lasted through Friday afternoon.

Saturday’s activities centered on practice and qualifying. Unfortunately, Ohio-based MG racer Bill Eberhardt spent most of his weekend nursing an ailing motor. After spinning a bearing in practice, Bill dropped the sump, replaced the bearing and immediately developed a rod knock. With his spirits at low ebb, Bill was ready to call it quits; however, several racers convinced him to try one more time, if only to take a green flag in the Collier Cup. Once again Bill removed the sump. An egg-shaped connecting rod journal spelled doom for his engine, but some judicious filing and scraping gave him enough oil pressure to take the green and complete one lap. Bill Eberhardt exhibited the spirit which marks sports car people as a different, hardier breed.

Race day Sunday dawned windy and cold. MG racers, usually concerned about too much heat, were seen frantically taping over oil coolers in an effort to keep engine temperatures up. On the pre-grid, spectators were treated to a cross section of MG racing history. The beautifully prepared N-type Magnette of Bob Sterling from Andover, IL, represented MG’s prewar origins. T-series cars, from bumper and windshield equipped to full-tilt racers, were equally mixed with the various permutations of MGA. There were also MGBs, Midgets, an early Lester MG and even a surprisingly quick MG 1300 sedan. Was anything not represented? Well, this writer was hoping to sec a ZB Magnette with big rally lights on top, or maybe a Y-type—just to round out the field.

With the cars lined up, and the parade lap complete, it was time to race. Tony Simms of Ontario, Canada, in his well-prepared MGA Twin Cam led from the pole, but he couldn’t hold off the hard charging MGB of Tim Handy. Tim, who came in from Goode. VA, took the lead on lap five and held on to win at an average 75.97 mph. Not bad for an engine which, according to Tim, never turned over 6,000 rpm on the 3.4-mile course. We suspect a few extra revs may have been lost in the telling. Sixth overall, and first among the MG T-series cars, was Don Martine of Pacific Grove, CA, in the John von Neuman MG TD. This famous West Coast car was undefeated in its first full year of racing in 1950.

Another entrant of particular note was Denver Cornett from Prospect, KY. Denver wasn’t driving fast out on the track, but that’s to be forgiven, as he and his 1947 MG TC competed in the first Watkins Glen event back in 1948. The car has recently been restored with an emphasis on maintaining originality. By his own account, Denver was the first person to roll a car in a US Grand Prix after World War II. We’ll bring you a more detailed account of his exploits in a future Moss Motoring.

The Collier Cup itself is not awarded to the first car across the finish line, but rather to the individual who best exhibits the spirit of camaraderie and competition. This year, the cup was awarded jointly to Greg Prehodka and Joe Tierno. Their investment of time and effort in recruiting entrants and coordinating activities was beyond the call of mere volunteerism. We at Moss salute you two gentlemen for your efforts. We would also like to thank Frank Rupp of Sportscar Vintage Racing Association for sanctioning the Collier Cup through thick and thin. A great race weekend can’t happen with out a great venue. Special thanks are due J.J. O’Mally, Maryanne Schumaker and Lynn Hodges and all the staff and management of Watkins Glen International. You all worked together and put on quite a show!

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