Virginia International Raceway Gold Cup

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Hot! Hot! Hot!  That was the forecast and that, indeed, was the weather at Virginia International Raceway for the 2010 SVRA Gold Cup Races.  But the storms and rain held off (for the most part) and sunny skies prevailed for some excellent racing.

SVRA seems to have the right formula for racing and fun as they attracted over 200 entries for the Gold Cup while other organizations are struggling to fill the grids.  Much can be attributed to Carl, Jack, Bob and the rest of the SVRA staff as they have the right attitude and the right approach to make the weekend safe and enjoyable for everyone.

Thursday’s test day got underway with Ben Sinnott and his Beach sports racer wisely learning the track by attending Peter Krause’s track orientation program.  Particularly at a complex circuit like VIR, this program gets a driver up to speed and comfortable much faster than the trial and error method.  Combine this with Peter’s track walk (more on this later) and you’re sure to go quickly right out of the box.  Dave Gussack and his quick Porsche 914/6 had been to VIR previously so Dave got right down to business working out the finer points of trimming his lap times.  VRS crew for the weekend consisted of Tim Ritchie, senior race mechanic, Harvey Thompson, race mechanic, truck driver, chef and giver of sage advice, and me with my Ginetta G16.

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Serious qualifying sessions got underway on Friday as well as both Enduros.  In qualifying for the day, Ben posted the third fastest time in Group 1 and Dave was in the top ten of a large Group 8.  Every session saw our VRS racers moving up the field.  Right after lunch was the start of Enduro number 1 for smaller bore production cars and both Dave and Ben took the green flag for an hour of hard racing including one five minute pit stop.  At the finish, it was Dave holding down third place after an excellent drive.  Unfortunately, Ben stopped with a minor electrical gremlin shortly before the end of the race.  Not to worry, as Tim (electrical guru) had it solved before the next track session.  The second Enduro of the day for faster cars started under dark, glowering skies.  At the green flag, a line of Indy Lites cars followed by yours truly in the G16 wound our way around, up the esses and smack into a rain storm.  Out came the pace car and one by one the big formula cars (on slicks) peeled off into the pits leaving me in the lead!  Towards the end of the hour, the Lites cars, now on rains (except for ironman Travis Engen who toughed it out on dry tires for the whole race) got back by.  It was especially enjoyable as half the circuit was dry and half was soaked creating a very challenging race.  The Ginetta finished 6th.

Saturday’s results were very impressive.  Rookie Ben took control of the qualifying race and won, guaranteeing pole position for the feature on Sunday.  Porsche driver, Dave Gussack, started on pole and finished second (although with the fastest lap time) for a great finish to the day.  VIR is the home of Dave Handy’s Sasco Sports.  Since the tragic passing of his son Ryan a few years ago, Dave has sponsored The Ryan Handy Memorial One Lap, a walking lap of VIR with instructor, Peter Krause.  As in previous track walks, Peter’s encyclopedic knowledge of practically every square inch of the track is incredible and gives those drivers who walk and pay attention a great advantage in constructing a fast lap.  Ben, Tim and I (Ben taking notes like crazy) walked the track.  It’s a great learning experience and it’s for a good cause.

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Finally, Sunday of the long, hot weekend arrived with everybody ready to race but a little worn out from the oppressive heat.  Dave, clearly the smartest of us all, purchased a cool suit at Summit Point last month and remained cool and comfortable throughout while the rest of us cooked in our cars like baked potatos.  First out was the G16 in Group 5 to finish 6th behind a couple of Group 6 ground pounders (slow in the corners but blast down the straights), a couple of Lola T70s and a Ford GT40.  Next up was Dave on the pole in a very competitive Group 8.  Working hard, Dave tried valiantly to hold off two MGB-GT V8s, but their superior horsepower was too much on VIR’s long straights.  The 914 finished a solid 6th after a good effort on Dave’s part.

Last race of the day was Group 1 with our man, Ben Sinnott, on the pole in only his second race weekend.  A tough battle ensued with Fast Freddie Danovitz grabbing the lead from third spot only to throw it away with a spin at Nascar Corner.  Ben, who had dropped back to fifth, managed to work his way back up to second and execute a superb pass coming into into Oak Tree to take the lead and ultimately the win on the last lap.  Well done!  This was the perfect end to a great race weekend and our thanks to Dave and Ben for upholding the VRS honor.  Off to Mid Ohio in two weeks…see you then.