The 14th edition of the "Wild Hare Run" took place during the weekend of April 8-10, 2016.
Maybe it's the long winter layoff. Perhaps it's the drive down RT 28 through the countryside in the Spring, past the wineries and craft breweries to the city of historic Danville, Virginia. Perhaps it’s the chance to visit the world class racing facility that the late racer (and occasional actor) Paul Newman was quoted as saying, "If there’s a heaven on earth, it’s VIR."
Although It was only my second chance to attend VDCA’s Wild Hare Run, this springtime vintage racing event at the VIR-ginia International Raceway has become one of my favorites. Mike and Sandy Jackson and the rest of the VDCA are wonderful hosts, and I’m thrilled that the Vintage Racer Group (VRG) shares this weekend since I shoot primarily for VRG. The fact that the BMW CCA is part of the weekend is icing on the cake! This event was also the kick-off for the VRG Royale Racing Formula Ford Challenge series which added to my excitement to head south!
The weekend took place under blue skies with hardly a cloud in sight! Friday was terrific, but blustery winds made it feel a bit more like late February on Saturday. No worries! Heck, it was snowing back home in PA, so a little wind didn’t dampen my spirits or those of the vintage racing faithful that filled the paddock. This would be the 15th year for the event since that first event in 2002. The inaugural Wild Hare Run was one of the first racing events held after the facility re-opened in 2000 after being closed for nearly 25 years.
The full paddock displayed a nice variety of vintage racing treasure, including a Joey Bojalad’s 1960 Elva Mk VI, a 1958 Chevy powered "Echidna," and Joe Colasacco’s 1958 Fiat Formula Junior and a 1964 F1 # 17 Ferrari 1512. A few other interesting works of automotive art included Jim Wilson’s Ferrari powered F1 tribute car, a 1966 Cobra Mk III and a pair of Lola T 70 Coupes. A photographer’s dream.
The first race of the weekend Friday evening was actually the Wild Hare Run, a pursuit race involving 50 plus cars, released at specified intervals based on qualifying times, starting with the slowest car first and the fastest car last. After the final car is released, the race directors/official scorers head to the scoring tower to keep track of this unusual race, featuring cars from all nine race groups. Kudos to the organizers of this race which requires some agonizing mathematics, utilizing qualifying times to come up with a formula, which in theory, should result in all the cars finishing in a NASCAR style pack at the finish! That is, if every driver ran his/her qualifying time and lost no time passing cars.
Historically speaking, it is rare that the first car to be released is still leading at the finish. Equally rare is to have a huge group of cars cross the finish line at the same time. This year's winner was Ray Korman, and the second place finisher, and the winner of the "Bunny's Butt" Award was Storm Field, piloting his newly acquired Crossle. It was the 12th year that Bob Clarke has created and donated a special "Bunny's Butt" trophy.
The end of the Wild Hare Run marked the end of Friday's on-track activity, but the off-track party was just getting started over at Dave and Robyn Handy's place in the Raceplex. The gracious hosts open the doors of the Sasco Racing Shop and in addition to snacks and beverages, a splendid array of vintage racing history was on display. My favorite was the legendary F1 Championship winning Lotus 79 F1 of Mario Andretti, undergoing some detailing and maintenance after participating in that wet weekend last fall at COTA. Although it was missing most of the "iconic black and gold" John Player bodywork, it was a rare opportunity to see just how relatively simple and "uncomplicated" (by today’s standard) the state of the art "seventies" F1 cars were. Also on display was an original James Hunt F3 car which is undergoing a full restoration. A bare metal frame in the back of shop was a King Cobra chassis. A slightly newer "vintage" piece on display was the Indy Lights car that Ben Sinnott had spent the last two days testing at VIR.
Racing by groups got underway on Saturday after morning practice and qualifying.
Group 1 small bore production and Formula Vee: included the typical production entries including the MG Midgets, Austin Healey Sprites and Triumph Spitfires. The well prepared 1962 MG Midget of Larry Smith captured the Sunday Group feature over Shea Brown driving his neat looking Fiat 128CS. Richard Jefferson took the third spot in his 1967 Austin Healey Sprite. The fastest drive of the group came during Saturday's feature. Joe Colasacco led all eight laps in his beautiful 1958 Stanguellini Fiat Formula Jr. using all 850cc to turn the track with a fast lap of 2:20.3 seconds, over Smith and Brown. Group 1 included the DSR’s of Chip Haddock (1980 Legrand MK18) and the 1972 NTM MK III of Doug White. Other interesting Group one cars included the 1959 MGA Sebring Coupe of Carl George and the 1959 Jabro MK II of Paul Wilson.
The Group 1 Formula Vees racing may have been the very best of the weekend. The fastest qualifier among the FV crowd was the patriotic looking #77 1966 Zink of Marcus Jones with a lap of 2:31.3 seconds. Typical of the closely matched Vees, the racing was very close and exciting. Marcus grabbed the early lead into turn one followed by the 1969 Lynx B of Michael Ennis. The Formula Vee group of ten stayed in tight formation around turn two and was headed into T3 (NASCAR turn numbering) when Bob O’Conner spun in his Zink Z-5. Everyone got by safely, and Bob rejoined the field without incident. As the race progressed, Charles Jones (1966 Zink) and Mike Jackson (1969 ShadowFax) joined the race for the lead. This group of four swapped the lead all race long. The white flag lap saw Charles Jones leading Mike Jackson when the group headed around T3 NASCAR and into the left hook. Marcus Jones spun racing with Ennis at T4 Left Hook and the race for the win would be decided between Charles Jones and Mike Jackson. At the checkered flag, Mike Jackson took the win by a slim .13 second margin.
Groups 2 (Formula Fords), 5 (Sports Racers) & 7 (S2000s) had special feature races on Sunday, but shared qualifying/practice sessions, and one feature race. The Saturday afternoon race was a thrill to watch, with a split start for the Formula Fords. By mid-race, the Group 5 Sports Racers started working around the Fords without incident, but a few of the S2000s ended up in the grass before the checkered flag fell. William Thumel in a 1967 Lola T70 Coupe took the win over the 1969 Lola T70 MK3B of Hobart Bubbert. The Chevron B36 of Graham Adelman finished third. Ben Sinnott was the best S2000 finishing 4th in his Lola T90/91. Doug Meis (1974 Lola T340) would be the fastest FF on Saturday edging out Scott Fairchild’s Zink Z-10, in a preview for Sunday’s VRG Royale Racing FF Challenge feature.
Group 3 consisted of the medium sized production cars. Some really nice cars run in this group, including Ray Morgan’s 1964 Merlyn Mk 6 that was sporting a new color this year. Over the winter, the Merlyn received a new coat of paint, going back to the original colors according to Ray. Joey Bolajad was back again this year with his 1960 Elva Mk VI that made its racing debut at the 1961 Brands Hatch Boxing Day race, finishing first in class and second to Graham Hill’s Ferrari Testa Rossa. The bunch of great looking Triumphs were in this group including that beautiful white 1961 TR3 of Jeff Snook. A pair of 1964 Morgans caught my eye during Friday qualifying, but I didn’t realize at the time they were piloted by the "father/daughter duo" of Super Dave Bondon and his daughter Stacey Schepens. Ralph Salomon was racing "with a roof" this weekend in a 1969 Ford Cortina. It was good to see Tom Chisholm finally getting some laps in his recently acquired 1962 Lotus Super 7. But it was the 1962 version of the Lotus Super driven by Denny Wilson that was fastest all weekend, setting the fast time and capturing the Group 3 feature on Saturday. Henry Frye finished second in his 1968 Triumph TR250, edging out the 1964 Ginetta G4 of Harry Gentry.
For those that love seeing big cars tossed around on a road course,
Group 6 and 8 did not disappoint. The thunder of big American Iron mixing it up with the big imports is always a favorite. For the fans of Detroit’s Blue Oval, this group included a pair of 1964 Falcons driven by Bradley Steele and Bill Feaster along with the 1966 Mustang of Greg Smith. Fans of the bowtie, were treated to the 1963 Corvette of Steve Epley. The imports were led by the 1970 Porsche 914 of John Forbes and the 1972 model of the Porsche 911 driven by Davis Jones. The black and Red 1972 Alpha Romeo of Vince Vaccarro always catches my eye, racing with the 1971 Alpha of Roy Crowninshield. The fastest BMW 2002 during the weekend was Skip Bryan in his 1972 model. American Iron would rule this weekend, as the 1964 Pontiac GTO of Denis Moser took the win on Saturday over the Lotus Super 7 of Craig Chima. It’s always good to see Dr. Lee Talbot racing his 1967 Ginetta G4. After 67 years of racing, he obviously knows his way around the racetrack! There were quite a few interesting cars in this group, including the Alan Tosler’s 1966 Lotus Elans and the 1972 Europa of Bob Deslodge. The very rare 1958 Echidna Special of Steve Steers was special treat indeed, as only three cars were ever produced. A fiberglass body by Devin, mounted on a 1956 Chevrolet frame and is powered by a 339 cubic inch Chevy engine. Despite its rather simple design, it was a success and winning the 1959 SCCA National Championship for B Modified.
Special races were held on Sunday and started with an Enduro in the morning. The always fast and very competitive S2000s prevailed in this race and at VIR, there is no one faster than Ben Sinnott (91 Lola T90/T91) and Dave Handy (88 Swift DB2). They finished one-two, and the Lola T90 of Paul LaHaye took the third spot. S2000s took the top 5 spots followed by Davis Jones and his 1972 Porsche 911 finishing 6th.
At noon, it was time for the VRG Royale Racing FF Challenge Feature. Scott Fairchild and Doug Meis were fast all weekend and shared the front row. When the green waved, Fairchild edged out Meis into turn one, leading a pack that included the Crossle 45F of Joe Griffin and the Crossle 40F of Bob Bruce. A little farther back, Scott Nettleship in a Crossle 45 battled throughout the race with Scott’s Dad, Dave Fairchild in his Zink Z-10. As we witnessed so many times before at VIR, a see-saw battle between Meis and Fairchild ensued all race long and it could have gone either way, but this day it would be Fairchild edging out Meis by the slim margin of .16 seconds and taking the win for Club Ford. Taking the win for the Historic Ford and finishing 7th overall was Bernard Bradpiece in his immaculate 1972 Crossle 20F, who was able to overtake the 1978 Ford Tiga of Chris Forrer. A mid-pack contest involving the Historic Fords of David Allison (1969 Alexis Mk4), Chris Tchorzinicki (1977 Crossle 32) and Stanford Vann (1970 Caldwell D9) was exciting to watch. A few new comers to the FF ranks made their "maiden voyage" at the challenging track. Storm Field made his first outing in his newly acquired 1976 Crossle 30F as did Tammy Calef in her 1981 Ford Gemini, both putting in good drives during the weekend. The VRG Royale FF Series brought back that old tradition of awarding "Winner’s wreaths" to both class winners and was a fitting final touch to a very successful inaugural weekend for the series.
The S2000 feature race was next and it was captured by Dave Handy in a 1988 Swift DB2, with the Lola T90 of Henry Payne IV capturing the runner-up spot. Rounding out the podium was the Lola T90 of Claude Mallette. Jeff Wright grabbed the early lead, but it was determined that he had passed some cars on the pace lap, and he was penalized. The top finisher in the Vintage S2 class was Steve Konsin in a 1985 Swift DB2. The top finisher in the Historic S2 was the 1983 March 83S of Andrew and Harvey Lewis. The always fast Ben Sinnott set the fast lap of the race with a lap of 1:56.72, but his hope for a win were dashed when the Lola T91/90 retired early.
A big thanks to the Jacksons, the VDCA volunteers, the track workers, the staff of VIR and the participants for the efforts that keep this event "hopping" year after year! Let’s get together next spring and do it again!