VIR SCCA NATIONAL RACE
by Jerome McNamara - Road and Track Magazine Jan 1959
Good racing, along with beautiful rolling Virginia countryside, is a feature of the Virginia International Raceway. Fred Windridge, in the Lister-Chevrolet, drifts through a turn, and a long string of cars streams down the undulating straight. (photos by Warren Ballard)
The 1958 season of National SCCA races on the East Coast ended quietly, and perhaps just a bit predictably, on a beautiful fall day in Virginia. The Virginia International Raceway, playing host, presented its most pleasing weather to 11,000 spectators, while the SCCA contributed some 67 cars and drivers for a three-race afternoon.
After several sparsely entered and extremely wet professional races, the display of big and little iron in the pits was a welcome sight. The big vans of Cunningham, Mrs. H. C. Boden and Continental Motors brought Hansgen's Lister-Jag, Windridge's Lister-Corvette and the Elvas of Frank Baptista and Art Tweedale. Scattered around these scuderia was various other machinery, ranging in size and power from Rich Lyeth's mighty Hi-Tork Special (a blown Corvette engine in the ex-Kimberly 4.5 Ferrari) to Martin Tanner's diminutive H modified winner, the stock-Saab powered Martin T. Special.
The Cunningham Scuderia, which this season has meant Alfred Momo, was fielding only one car this trip as Hansgen's teammate, Ed Crawford, was hospitalized in Chicago. Their competition seemed to be limited to the Hi-Tork Special or to the Lister-Corvette. The latter car, if Saturday's time trials were any indication, finally appeared to have been de-bugged after a season of troubles.
The ex-Ferrari team driver, Gaston Andrey in a Testa Rossa, was another good bet, but this was entirely dependent on Andrey: the car was underpowered compared to its competition. Charlie Wallace, co-winner with Hansgen last year this time, and without a ride since last spring, was to drive Bill Provost's Devin Special. This was the same car which, with a VW engine and Roger Ward driving, did so well at Marlboro two weeks before. The car was now being pushed by a 1600 Porsche engine but unfortunately was no match for the bigger cars on VIR's long straights.
The 20-lap first race got underway at high noon under a warm sun. For three laps Frank Wagonhofer in a Porsche Carrera lead the field, but an extended pit stop forced him back, to be replaced by Ed Ginther in an Osca. Ginther's rapid little car led the field of F, G, H production and H modified cars for the rest of the race, never allowing less than 5 to 8 sec between himself and the second-place car. Bruce Jennings in a Porsche Carrera and Bob Grossman in an Alfa battled mightily for second until the halfway point, when Grossman gained the lead and stayed in second from that point on. Jennings left the road and the race on the 13th, allowing Robert Steward in another Alfa to carry on to the finish in third.
Twenty-eight of the production cars in classes B, C, D, and E lined up for the second race. At the checkered flag Roy Tuerke in a 1958 Corvette grabbed an early lead, but only for 3 laps. Going into the fourth, he spun out and on recovering began throwing oil, which forced him into the pits for the day. Frank Dominianni, in a Corvette, then took the lead, followed by Arch Means and Ross Wees in AC-Bristols. These three sewed up the first three places early in the 20-lapper and didn't allow anyone near for the balance of the race. The show was then in fourth place between Ed Welch, in another Bristol, and Bob Grossman, who had returned to this race in a Jaguar 150-S. Grossman wheeled the heavier car around the 3.2-mile circuit in good style, managing to catch Welch briefly on the 10th lap but only to spin out on the 12th, allowing Welch to regain fourth permanently. Despite his spin-out. Grossman took C production.
The lineup for the feature race saw the first six positions going to Hansgen (on the pole), Don Sessler in a Porsche RS, Bob Holbert in another RS, Fred Windridge in the Lister-Corvette, Gus Andrey's Testa Rossa, and Rich Lyeth (who weighs in like big Bill Spear) in the mighty Hi-Tork Special. It appeared that there would be three close battles among the 15 care on the grid.
Not unexpectedly, Hansgen took the lead from the starting flag, followed by Sessler in the Porsche, Windridge, Holbert and Andrey. The second lap saw the Lister-jag building up its usual lead, but with the Lister-Corvette in second and closing up the distance. Holbert was now in third, staying right with Windridge, Sessler having pranged his left front fender on a slower car and losing four places. On the third go-round it was obvious that Windridge was determined to pass Hansgen and was getting the Lister-Corvette's full cooperation for the first time this year. One more lap saw Windridge do it, and on the fifth he held down first place. Hansgen now was being followed by Holbert in the RS, with Andrey and Sessler behind him, Sessler having picked up three places in 4 laps.
Windridge stayed in first for only 2 more laps and then unaccountably began falling back. He held onto second for 2 laps and then slowly dropped behind Holbert. Sessler, and Andrey, finally not coming around on the 12th lap. It turned out that Windridge while still in the lead, had ruptured his gas line. When the gas began rising over his shoe tops he decided it was time to quit and pulled off the road.
At about the time the Lister-Corvette began to retire, Holbert developed trouble of his own when he sprang an oil leak. He held on to second place until the 11th lap and then, rather than ruin the engine, pulled into the pits for the day. Gus Andrey ran into Holbert's oil slick on the same lap and spun out, but re-entered without loss due to the two retirements.
On the 15th, the halfway point, Hansgen had the lead sewed up and was averaging over 79 mph. Farther back Sessler held down an uncontested second, but there was still a little life left in the race with the fight for third between Newt Davis in the Porsche and Lyeth's Special. On the 17th lap Davis pulled around Lyeth and managed to stay in third until the 24th, when Lyeth decided to rejoin the fray. The 25th lap saw the two Mutt and Jeff cars change places three times, the little Porsche able to outcorner the Special in the chicanes but losing ground fast to the brute torque on the straights. Lyeth came around in third on the next lap and Davis grimly came into the pits. A broken throttle linkage had taken him out for the day.
Fourth place now passed to Andrey, but the lead piled up by the first three cars was too much for even his accomplished driving to overcome. As Hansgen finished his final lap be left the field of cars far behind, having lapped everyone but Sessler and Lyeth in the process. Hansgen's first also firmly settled the class C crown on his head for 1958. Both Davis and Holbert were forced to push their cars across the line, to take second and third in F modified behind Sessler. With all his troubles, Holbert cinched his class win for the season, as did Andrey in class E modified and Baptista in F modified - despite coming in sixth behind Floyd Aaskov.
Altogether, it was quite a satisfactory weekend: good weather and good racing made a fitting climax to an exciting season.