Dick Thompson turned May Day 1966 into Dick Thompson Day at the Virginia International Raceway yesterday by sweeping to record-breaking victories in the feature event and running away with another victory in Sports Car Club of America national points races. The Washington, D.C. dentist obliterated race and lap records held for five years by his friend and former competitor, the late Walt Hansgen.
In the 15-lap championship event for All Sports Car models, on the 3.2-mile up-hill down-hill paved course with its "dangerous dozen" curves, Thompson stomped a new and untested Ford GT40 to a lead in the first lap and kept it there - though threatened throughout. At the end, he led by 15 seconds. In winning, Thompson averaged 83.7 mph and his fastest lap was infinitesimally below 87 mph. By comparison, his average speed overall closely approached the late Walt Hansgen's fastest lone lap record of 84.183, set in a Maserati in 1961.
Even in pushing Big Blue 22 to victory in the finale of the seven-race day, Thompson had to work all the way. Skip Barber of Boston, Mass., driving a Brabham BT-8, was a reasonably close second overall, averaging 83.5, and equalled Thompson's record one lap- although listed as a smaller E-Sports against Thompson's larger C-Sports.
Other class winners in
the championship finale were: Bob Gardner, Wilmington, Del., in an Elva Mark
II, F-Sports, and Gene Hobbs, Arlington, Elva Mk. VII, in G-Sports. Third
and fourth place overall honors, behind Thompson and Barber, went to Bob
Nagel of Bethel Park, Pa., and George Ralph of Salisbury, Md., in Elva
There were no real injuries for the day and relatively few spin-outs. However, the final race produced a spectacular car failure which had fans frightened by the billowing smoke from the direction of the uphill chicane. In this, Peter Lake of Boston, Mass., driving an Elva BMW, in sixth place at the time in the 17-car race, had his suspension drop. He swerved up into the infield and jumped clear before the car exploded into flames and was demolished.
This was the major mar of an otherwise perfect day for racing--except that the victors almost didn't get to pick up their trophies because of a couple of cloudbursts which held back until the final race was over. Then there was the deluge which had been forecast but which did not prevent an attendance of some 12,000. After a delay in the presentation ceremonies, Dick Thompson (looking a bit older and wiser than the boyish competitor of earlier VIR days) took the big silver cups as well as two in the fourth race--third overall and first in class (D-Prod.).
In this race, for C and D Production, Thompson was well back at the finish line-except that he had his Yenko Stinger so far ahead of the remainder of the smaller D Cars that score-keeping was difficult. This fourth race was a nip-and-tuck fender-to-bumper dicing match throughout by the larger C Production cars of Bruce Jennings of Towson, Md. and John Kelly of Washington: D.C., both in Porsche Cars as Jennings finally won at 77.6- few lengths ahead of Kelly. Thompson's 76.5 was well ahead of all others in his class.
However, the sixth race, among the larger (A and B) production models - Cobras, Corvettes,Lotus, etc.-produced the real heartbreaker among the boys with big investments. From the start of this event it had been a see-saw battle between a couple of Cobra 427s driven by Ed Lowther of McMurray, Pa., and Harold Keck of Hellerton Pa. Keck threatened throughout and led at times, but his car failed with one lap to go and he did not even finish. As a result, second place overall and first in B-Production went to Don Yenko of Washington, Pa., averaging 78.9 in a Stingray. But Lowther was far out front with a speed of 83. 1, which, for an A-Production Corvette, was not far off the record for the Sports models.
Race No. 5 brought out the sassy (but not record-breaking) sedans.
The third race of the day, for E and F Production cars, saw Ted Krokus of Arlington, Va. the overall winner in an E-Production Lotus 7-A at an average speed of 73.8. Krokus started in the number three spot but grabbed the lead on the third lap when George Frey's first place Porsche went out with mechanical troubles.
Bert Everette, in a Porsche started in 15th position but worked his way through the pack and took the overall lead after eight laps. His brilliant effort went by the bards, however, as mechanical problems sent him to the sidelines briefly and he finished third in E-Production. Second in E went to Dr. F.J. Kelly of Savannah, Ga. in a Morgan.
Art Riley of Franklin Square N.Y. won in the F Production class in a Volvo at an average speed of 72.7. Riley started in eighth position, third in his class, and took the lead for good at the fifth lap of the 15 lap event. Bob Sharp of Wilton, Conn. finished second in Datsun 311. Sharp started in the pole position tion but encountered mechanical difficulties and fell to 11th on the second lap. He worked his way back and finished sixth overall, beating out the Sunbeam Alpine of Lloyd James and Ed Row of Roanoke and Rocky Mount respectively.
Reed Rollo of Washington, D.C., driving a Cooper, won overall and C class in the 15-lap, All Formula second race of the day at an average speed of 76.9. Rollo started in the pole position but lost the lead on the first lap. He regained it quickly and paced the field the rest of the way, winning handily and posting a one-lap speed of 77.75. Ronald Stanwicks of Newington Conn., finished second in a Cooper 67 and Bill Rutan of Essex, Conn., placed third in a Quantum Saab.
Trailing the C's and winning the Formula Vee race was James Miller of Orangeburg, N.Y. in a Formcar. Miller averaged 76.4 in coasting to victory over Alex Dearborn of Cambridge, Mass., who placed second in a Autodynamics and Whit Tharin who placed third in a Formcar.
The first race of the day, a 15-lapper for G and H Production and H Modifieds, proved to be one of the most thrilling of the day. Bob Sharp of Wilton, Conn. appeared headed for victory in his G-Production Datsun 310 after leading the race for 14 laps. However, on the last lap, Dick Staples of Richmond overtook him on the back straight to pick up the victory in his Triumph Spitfire. Staples averaged 72.4 with a fast lap of 73.9 to edge Sharp and Howard Hanna of Newton Square, Pa., who finished third in a Rene Bonnet.
Bob Rentzell of Chattanooga, Tenn., won H Production in an A.H. Sprite at an average speed of 68.4. Bob Turgeon of Oxon Hill, Md., in a Sprite, had taken the lead on the ninth lap but lost it with six laps to go when he went off the track and out of the race at hog-pen curve. John Finger of Greenville, S.C., finished second in a Sprite and Rod Larson of Woodbridge, Va., finished third in another Sprite.
Ken Butler of Mt. Holly, N.J., averaged 65.7 to win the H Modified class in an OSCA and was followed by Frank Manley in a DB and Larry Beasley of Willoughby, Conn., in a Bobsy.