IMSA RS Sedan Enduro
Small Bore Enduro
Mid-Ohio Vintage Grand Prix
by Walter Pietrowicz
With the start of summer providing a race weekend of hot-under-the-collar BTUs, nearly 200 SVRA entries rolled into the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (MO) for the Mid-Ohio Vintage Grand Prix June 24-27. Presented by UBS|Michael Stott, the annual event once again presented its normal array of Optima Batteries Sprint Series individual group races and a duo of lengthy endurance contests, the Buckeye 100 for slower cars and the Jim Trueman 100 for the faster machinery.
In addition to the standard menu of formal blacktop skirmishes, the weekend also hosted a Datsun/Nissan and Trans Am feature race, S2000 Championship race, Small-Bore Enduro presented by Classic Motorsports Magazine, and another IMSA RS/SCCA 2.5L Sedan enduro.
Fittingly, race legend John Morton was on hand as Grand Marshall. Morton who raced successfully for Peter Brock’s famed BRE racing team, helped Datsun win the Manufacturing Championships in both ’71 and ’72 (Datsun 510), and also garnished the C-Production National Championship titles (240Z) in ’70-’71.
As usual, Thursday was devoted to testing, while Friday saw the first two rounds of qualifying followed by the event’s first official shootout, the Buckeye 100 enduro. With nearly thirty cars taking the green, it became very obvious that the 911s of Fritz Seidel and David Bland were the cars to beat. Swapping leads numerous times over the 60-minute race, Seidel took the victory by 3.950-seconds over Bland’s Porsche. Accord to non-eligibility parameters, SVRA owner, Peter McLaughlin and co-driver, Tom Yeager’s third place spoils went to Bob Bramlage.
With a nice size crowd occupying the track’s various vantage points, Saturday’s action exploded to another day of qualifiers in the morning, and full choirs of spirited qualifying races in the afternoon. Following preliminary sessions, the outing’s first feature race, the IMSA RS/2.5L Sedan endurance battle commenced, and the S2000 Championship contest closed out the on-track action. Absent from the podium for some time, a jubilant Skott Burkland wheeling his 911, outlasted and outran 19 other entrants to capture the top 2.5L slot, while David Porter kept the hunters in his rearview for a flag-to-flag S2000 win. The IMSA RS/2.5L race once again followed the “index of performance” format, varying the individual’s mandatory pit time to equal the playing field.
Interestingly, Brian Walsh’s Pinto not only scored an impressive 7th place, but had also originally competed in the SCCA 2.5L and IMSA RS categories in the 70s, scoring as high as a 1st in class, 2nd overall at Bridgehampton (first pro win for a Pinto).
An evening social was the next order of business as a large turnout of workers, crews, drivers, and their families and friends enjoyed a wonderful culinary treat provided by Mid-Ohio, and of course, complimented with loads of socializing and bench racing.
A profusion of seat time would endure as Sunday’s blacktop show began with the Classic Motorsports Magazine Small-Bore 20-lap slugfest. Following the format of the IMSA contest, mandatory pit holding times were individually adjusted to hopefully give everyone a fair chance of winning, as demonstrated with 18 of the 30 plus starters finishing on the same lap. Skott Burkland won his second podium (2nd place), while George Balbach’s 356 roadster took top honors.
The Jim Trueman 100 protracted battle followed with a host of speedy rocket ships taking the green. Unfortunately, two of the potential frontrunners were taken out from the get-go, while Travis Engen’s Audi R8 was the unofficial winner (not eligible), and Ralph Thomas’ ’85 Argo JM19C the declared champ.
With lunchtime fast approaching, Fritz Seidel took another first place trophy home for his group 8 win (outrunning Les Gonda’s MGB V8 by only 2.103-seconds), and Shelby Mershon’s BT21 exchanging the lead several times, finally outlasted a quad of other Brabhams around MO’s 2.2-mile circuit (the “chicane” was used this year) for the hard fought and exhilarating victory.
As scripted, the balance of the planned program took to the blacktop after a well-appreciated body refueling and a chance to hide from the sun. First up were the Datsun/Nissan warriors. Showcasing mostly ’60s and ’70s configurations, and even a lone ’96 200SX, initially the fight for the upfront spot seemed to be between Bob Leitzinger’s 510 and Jim Lenehan’s 240Z. Predictably, youth would prevail as Bill Erdman’s younger GTU 280ZX led everyone to the checkered flag.
No strangers to the SVRA podium, Peter Klutt, David Porter, Shelby Mershon and Travis Engen won the Optima Batteries’ Group 6, Group 7, Group 9, and Group 10, respectively.
Understandably, the long event would see a vast decline (for numerous reasons) of entries as the balance of the formal racing groups took the green (please check the website for the official results). No doubt, the Mid-Ohio Vintage Grand Prix with its abundance of seat time and plethora of heated and thrilling blacktop battles, SVRA style, the wonderful weekend continues to be a favorite on the SVRA calendar. See you in September at the Glen!