SVRA Sebring Endurance Classic
by BOB HARRINGTON
It’s hard to believe, but this edition of the Endurance Classic marks the 20th anniversary of the first all Vintage weekend at Sebring. That 1991 event was the first event to be run on the shortened to 3.7 mile, newly paved and widened circuit. Back then there were only two groups, Vintage and Historic, a far cry from today’s multiple groups. Of all the competitors that took part in the first event, only one, Bill Adam, made the anniversary edition. I remember when I wrote the event report, that the organizers requested I call it the “Inaugural” event rather than the first annual, since they were not sure of its future. The weather this year was certainly an improvement over that first event. Then, a severe thunderstorm, with high winds, on Sunday, tore a canopy off a transporter depositing it in pit lane, taking out the power lines and shutting the event down until Florida Power could repair the damage.
The opening of the weekend was a trip for the racecars to downtown Sebring for the Chambers of Commerce’s “Circle of Speed”. A lot of interested spectators were pouring over the cars, and chatting with the drivers. It was a real party atmosphere with a band, food, and a generous amount of libations. I had the good fortune to drive SVRA’s official pace car, the Maserati MC Sportline GranTurismo S to escort the cars from the track to the downtown celebration. On the way back to the track we had a fairly aggressive Police Officer lead the way with lights flashing and siren sounding. I had the unique experience of driving somewhat over the posted speed limit with a black and white cruiser, with lights flashing, in my mirror and not having to worry about it.
The Klub Sport race kicked off the weekend’s racing Friday afternoon. Normally a hard fought battle from flag to flag, this one saw the Bruce/Cody Ellsworth ’72 Porsche 911 ST take the lead from the start and gradually open up a lead. Behind him there was a great battle going on for position, but with no position changes in the top three. At the flag Edie Arrowsmith’s 914/6 took second, with David Bland’s 69 911 taking the final podium spot.
After a worker break, it was time for the first of the weekend’s four enduros, this one, 90 minutes long into the night. No surprises up front with the ’05 Audi R8 of Travis Engen and Paul Reisman’s ’00 Lola B2K 40, quickly pulling away from the field. The best of the rest was the Brad Blum/Ron Zitza sharing a ’06 Porsche 997 GT3. Showing why Audi has been so dominant in endurance racing, Engen was opening up a commanding lead, staying in the lead even during his pit stop. It looked like the race was his to lose. Behind him there were some changes during the stops, with the Blum/Zitza Porsche briefly taking second, while the Camaro driven by the English team of G./ O. Bryant and J. Young moved into third for a lap as did the Sam/Davis Jones ’73 Porsche 911. When all the stops were completed, it was once again, Engen, Reisman and the Blum/Zitza team in that order. With just over 15 minutes left, Engen didn’t come by in the lead, a tire had gone flat and he was out. Reisman inherited the lead followed by the Blum/Zitza team and then the Porsche Cayman of Ronald Rashinski, and that was the order to the flag.
Forty cars took to the track Saturday morning for the Mike Stott/UBS Classic Enduro. The winning team of the Klub Sport race, Cody/Bruce Ellsworth took the lead from the start. Brian Johnson, of AC/DC fame was hot on their heels in his ’70 Royale RP4, while Tom Yeager in his ’64 Merlyn was doing his best to get by them, while trying to hold off the horde behind him. The next time by, it was Todd Treffert’s ’73 Porsche 911 in third, but a lap later it was the ’69 Porsche of David Bland in third. The fierce battle for third continued, with Yeager taking it back on the next go round, only to have Jim McCormick’s ’68 Porsche 911L claim it on the following lap. One of the oldest cars in the race, George Balbach’s 61 Porsche 356 had third on the following lap. A lap later, the Ellsworth team still had the lead, but Johnson was out, Treffert was second, with McCormick third. The running order at the top remained unchanged now until the pitstops started to shuffle the running order. Both McCormick and Balbach had a turn at leading, with Robert Hieb, ’64 Porsche 356 getting as high as third. When all the stops were completed it was Yeager out front, followed by Bland and the ’66 Porsche 911 co-driven by Lee Giannone and Mark Eskuche. As the time ran down Yeager started to ease away from the pack to take the win with Bland and the Giannone/Eskuche team holding their spots.
The next Enduro on the agenda was the Mike Stott UBS GT/Historic Enduro. Rick Carlino led the field in to turn one from the start in his ’77 Chevron B36. Next was Leo Voyazides’ ’66 Mustang GT, then Jeff Boston in a ’90 Lola S2000. At the end of the first lap, Tom Benjamin’s thundering ’64 Cobra had taken over second with Voyazides now third, but right on the Cobra’s bumper. Benjamin held him off for two laps, but then Voyazides took second back. The next change at the top came on lap seven when Benjamin dropped to fifth with Jake Jacobs’ ’66 Lola T70 MKIII taking over third. Jacobs was definitely on the move, taking over second the next time by. Pitstops brought about the next changes. Dennis D’Angelo, ’72 Porsche 911, took over the lead briefly with Jerry Loftin/Gary Jones ’66 Mustang, and Bryon DeFoor, ’73 BMW CSL moving up to second. Jeff Boston, and Dennis D’Angelo, ’72 Porsche 911 both occupied third during the stops. After the stops, Carlino again had the lead by a good margin, followed by DeFoor and the Voyazides. At the flag Carlino had lapped the field while DeFoor and Voyazides held their positions. However, it turned out that Voyazides had been assessed a penalty, based on incorrect information. The time lost due to the penalty was credited to him, which resulted in Voyazides being awarded second with DeFoor third.
With Saturday’s racing program completed it was off to Sebring’s “Legends” building for a welcome party hosted by the Cayman Interseries. After the welcome party it was time for SVRA’s event party, chicken, ribs, and a great time!
Sunday morning brought us the first of the weekend’s race-cars.com Sprint races for Groups 1,3, 4 and 5A. The Tom Grudovich/Mike Clifford ’64 Elva MkVII was clearly the class of the field quickly opening up a lead which was never seriously challenged after the opening lap. Tom Yeager’s ’64 Merlyn MkV gave chase into turn one, but didn’t finish the first lap. From then on, it was a battle of Porsche 356’s for second position with John Schrecker just holding off Tim Baker at the end of the first lap. Schrecker held off the opposition to claim second at the flag, but with only 3 laps left the Vic Skirmants/John O’Steen team managed to get past Baker to claim the final rung on the podium. In the group awards; Ross Bogert, ’74 Ginetta G15 took Group 1, Schrecker Group 3, Bob Weschler, ’57 Corvette, Group 4 and Grudovich/Clifford 5A.
Group 8 was next up for their race-cars.com sprint race. With the Maserati MC Sportline GranTurismo S pace car leading them into turn one the order up front was Cody/Bruce Ellsworth, ’72 Porsche 911ST, Sam/Davis Jones, ’73 Porsche and Edie Arrowsmith/Leon Desimone, ’70 Porsche 914/6. At the end of the first lap though, the Jones Porsche pitted, Todd Treffert’s ’73 Porsche 911 was second with the Arrowsmith/Desimone team a strong third. On the penultimate lap the Arrowsmith/Desimone team took over second and on the last lap took the lead from a Porsche sweep of the podium positions.
It’s said “the cars are the stars” at a vintage weekend, but when you have names like Andy Wallace, Bill Adam and Wally Dallenbach lined up for the start of the weekend’s last enduro, the Mike Stott/UBS Historic GT/GTP/ALMS enduro, its hard to keep that in mind. At the drop of the green it was the George Robinson/Wally Dallenbach ’01 Riley&Scott, chased by Andy Wallace/Bill Adam, 05 Audi R8, with Travis Engen’s similar ’05 Audi taking over third. The first change on the leader board came on lap 6 with the Wallace/Adam team taking the lead, only to lose it the next time around. The next changes came with the pit stops; Paul Reisman, ’00 Lola BK40, and Robert Blain, ’04 Corvette both had a turn at third, while the John Cloud/Don Soenen ’95 Mustang T/A had a three lap stint out front. With all the stops completed the running order out front was Wallace/Adam, Robinson/Dallenbach and Engen. The last ten laps though were a sprint to the finish with the first two cars swapping the lead back and forth. At the flag it was the Wallace/Adam team by just .358 after 48 laps and almost two hours of racing. A great finish to a great race.
Back to the race-cars.com Sprint races, groups 5B and 7 were next up. Not surprisingly Group 7 cars led the way, with Larry Wilson’s ’74 Bobsy SR6 on the pole, Robert Blain’s ’75 B31/36 was next to him, with the Mike Taradash/John Delane ’87 Swift DB2 third. Sharing the second row of the grid was the first of the 5B cars, Terry Hefty’s ’63 Elva MkVIIS. At the end of the first lap, Blain had taken the lead, holding to the end. While there were no further changes in the top three, in 5B Jake Jacobs turned the fastest lap of the race on lap eight in his ’66 Lola T70 MKIII, to take first in 5B and fourth overall.
It was all Group 10 cars up front for the start of the Group 10 and 12 race-cars.com sprint. Don Soenen’s ’98 Taurus NASCAR was first off the line chased by John Cloud, ’05 Taurus NASCAR, then Jeff Bernatovich’s ’90 Corvette GT1. Leading the group 12 contingent was Jerry Peter’s ’05 Porsche GT3. Soenen and Cloud were having a great dice for the lead with Cloud taking it on the third time around, but Soenen getting it back the next time by. Soenen then started to draw away gradually. with Cloud now trying to fend off Bernatovich. Cloud held him off for four laps, but with just three to go, Bernatovich was by and held the spot to the finish. In Group 12, Lee Davis, ’10 Porsche Cayman was by Peters on the first lap and held on to take the group win.
Ford power dominated the group 6 race-cars.com sprint. The Camaro from England shared by G./O. Bryant, J. Young and P. Ratcliffe was second on the grid, but by the end of the first lap it was all Ford out front. Tom Benjamin’s 64 Cobra led the pack, chased by Chuck Bentley, ’65 Mustang 350GT and Leo Voyazides in a ’66 Mustang 350GT. A lap later it was Voyazides out front with Benjamin next followed by Bentley. The Cobra was now trying to find a way past the GT350, but lap after lap he just couldn’t find the space. Finally, with two laps to go, he found an opening and retook the lead, holding it to the end.
Can it be there was too much track time with four enduros plus all the practice, qualifying and sprint races? It certainly looked that way, with the call to the grid for the Group 11 race-cars.com sprint, the last race of the weekend, only two cars showed up. As expected Travis Engen cruised to the win in his 05 Audi R8 lapping Robert Blain’s ’04 Corvette.
Great racing, great weather, and great parties, what more can you ask for? To do it again you say? Of course, come to Roebling Way Raceway, Savannah, GA March 31- April 3 and Watkins Glen June 9-12 for more great SVRA fast, fair fun.