Virginia International Raceway - July 20, 1957
The rolling hills and dangerous turns of the three and two-tenths mile road course at the Virginia International raceway gave way to their first man-made test today and Steve Spitler of Washington toured the layout at 85 miles per hour in a Jaguar SS.
In the closed-circuit test preliminary to the inaugural American Champlonship Grand Prix races here August 3-4, the Washington region of the Sports Car Club of America participated in full, and every driver was high in praise of the driving test which the Southeast's only road course demands.
Spitler drove his Jaguar SS, a power-packed production model which is practically the same as the D-type, to the best time of the day. None of the drivers had seen the course before and Spitler reported a top speed on the three-quarter mile straightaway incline of 160 miles per hour.
Charlie Wallace one of the leaders in the international competition at Sebring, Fla. Race, also piloted the Jag to a fast pace, but the second best time recorded was by the SCCA's national overall point for 1957, Frank Baptista in his Lotus. The Hyattsville, Md., sports car driver averaged 80 miles an hour for the full course, including the sharp turn -which forced the car to brake to 25 mph.
Bob Hathaway, chairman of the Washington Region which will be incharge of the VIR's Grand Prix events, toured the rolling course on the banks of the Dan River in his Austin Healy and Templeton Briggs of Charlottesville, Va., tested his Alfa-Romeo. Others participating were George Zuver chief steward of the Washington club, Fred Fuller, Dick Nash and "Tex" Hopkins of Arlington, who convinced the Danville Register's reporter that his Porsche Special was capable of touring the tricky track with speed to spare.
It was a closed circuit event arranged by President Ed Kemm of the VIR and he stated that he was fully pleased with the reaction of the nationally-known drivers and with the engineering capabilities of the asphalt road course. Kemm said "In the qualifying for our first Grand Prix races in two weeks somebody might well hit 100 miles per hour, but today's results show that it will take everything working to perfection - driver, car, weather conditions, etc."
The August 3-4 events, conducted by the SCCA which has announced an entry deadline of July 26, will include all classes of competition for racing sports cars. It was stated today that the Italian manufacturers of Maserati were flying over a new 4.5 liter racing car which Carroll Shelby, the national champion from texas, would drive for the first time in the Grand Prix here.
Between 150 and 200 entries are expected for the initial race which will attract an estimated 30,000 or more fans.
Following the trial test yesterday Promoter Kemm was host to the visiting drivers and press at a cocktail hour and buffet dinner at Hotel Danville last night.