Virginia International Raceway - January, 1957
The proposed sports car race track near Milton, N.C., is pictured in the aerial view looking toward the east. The Dan River is just out of sight at bottom with Milton off to the right. The farm of John and Jay Foote, who are leasing the 1,200 acre site to the promoters, is also just out of the picture at the right. The starting line will be at the center of the straight stretch at left. The sponsors say a race of "nation-wide interest" is scheduled for the first weekend in May, after the track is paved.
The future of the Virginia International Raceway is growing brighter all the time, according to the group promoting the plans for the proposed sports car racing mecca In Halifax County. The hard-to-get-to site, just ever the state line in Virginia from Milton, N.C., is seen as a goldplated venture that will draw "upwards to half-a-million" sports car racing fans to the area twice-a-year or more.
The promoters are looking for the track, given a preliminary nod of approval by officials of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) Friday to become the major center of the sport on the Eastern Seaboard. Carried away by their enthusiasm, the backers even see the out-of-the-way Halifax County farmland location as the major sports car racing track in the United States.
When the plans for the track, were first unveiled last summer the sponsors said they expected to invest about $100,000 in the initial plunge with this figure perhaps running up as high as $250,000 as improvements were made. Now the figure has been run up to $750,000. Last August, the promoters said they expected to draw 100,000 fan to the races. Now this figure has been upped to half-a-million.
As of this moment the track is in about the same shape it was five months ago. The twisting turning course has been laid out on the 1,200 acre farm of John and Jay Foote and partially graded. The 3.6 mile "trail" is still waiting to be graded. And, of course, the entire project depends on final approval by the sanctioning board of the SCCA.
Two members of this board looked over the site Friday. Ed Kemm, the Greensboro, N.C., man now president of the sponsoring Sports Car Enterprises, Inc., of Virginia organization, says the SCCA officials were more than generous in their praise of the layout. out. "They said the course has the potential of becoming the most outstanding road racing track in the country," Kemm said in an interview Friday, adding that the officials were also pleased with Danville and the general locale. "You have no idea what this means to us." chimed in Bill Browning of High Point, N.C., a director of the sponsoring group who accompanied Kemm and the officials on the inspection trip.
"You have to realize that the SCCA inspects tracks all over the country every year, Browning went on," and that 99 per cent of the requests are turned down." Adding that a "nod" from the, sanctioning board is the first step toward final approval, Browning added that the sponsors are confident the track will help put the Danville area on "the map."
Sports car racing is not to be confused with stock car racing, the promoters hasten to explain. They describe their sport as more of a hobby than the better known stock car brand.
Sports car enthusiasts participate purely for the sport and not for prizes (other than trophies) they say. Thousands and thousands of dollars can be invested in the low-slung, ultra high-powered autos entered in sports car races, it is pointed out, with the drivers pitting their skill and the mechanical perfection of their cars against the hazards of the road race course... it is the best combination of man and machine that wins rather than sheer speed, fans explain.
Kemm and Browning also said that once the track is completed, given final sanction and thoroughly tested, it will probably be put to use as a testing ground by automotive manufacturers.
Last August the promoters said a race would be held in October but the plans had to be changed since the track had not been paved by that time. Nor is the track paved yet. But Kemm and Browning say the paving will be completed this spring with a race of national interest scheduled for the first weekend in May (May 3-5).
"We expect 200 cars to be entered," Kemm said. "including Italian Ferraris and Maseratis, German Mercedes-Benzes and Porsches and English D-Jaguars."
Browning explained that the track is designed for speeds up to 180 miles an hour and that fans could be certain of getting to see all the thrills there are to be seen at the Milton layout. "The course has some grades," he said, "along with slow corners, fast bends and a blistering straightaway of better than a mile." The track is shaped somewhat like a large wooden shoe.
Kemm and Browning said the entire cost of the "racing plant" may run as high as three-quarters of a million dollars. Plans call for a grandstand to be built along with all the necessary conveniences and probably many luxuries.
They said an airstrip would also be constructed to make it easy for racing crews as well as spectators to get in and out of the area. Access is to be provided both from the Milton side and From Rt. 8 to the north, they say.
Plans are for two major car races each year - in May and October - with less important races sandwiched in between. The track also may be turned over for stock car racing a couple of times a year, adding, however, that the sports car races would be the big events of the year.