VIR SCCA Nationals - April 1963
 - Auto Sports Magazine (August 1963)

SCCA Nationals by Don Rosendale

This is a Scarab. Color it blue. It is very fast. Color it fast.

This is Don Devine. He drives the Scarab. Color him very brave. He is just learning to drive a race car. Color him green.

This is Danville. Color it green, too. Color it fast, too.

See the other cars. They are trying to catch Don Devine. They cannot. There is the checkered flag. Color it black and white.

* * *

And that's the way they would put it in one of those coloring books that are the rage these days, and is the way the SCCA's second national of the year, at Danville, Va., went in late April.

Don Devine, a 24-year-old Chicago land developer and protege of Harry Heuer, took out Heuer's ancient (by now) Scarab and proceeded to dust off just about everybody and everything in sight, including Heuer.

Heuer had the bad luck to start in the back of the pack with his Chaparral, the other half of the Meister Brausers racing team and painted a matching blue, and he fought his way to the front and to second place.

But he never could catch his teammate, who took the checker at an average speed of over 80 m.p.h.

The Danville course - it's called Virginia International Raceway even though it's not in Danville or in Virginia, but across the state line in the little town of Milton, N. C.- was ideally suited to the big Chevy specials.

It has a long, rolling straight that lets them unwind, and overcome the advantages of the Porsches and other little cars have on the short, Mickey Mouse courses.

But VIR takes lots of skill, too. It has no escape roads; it's narrow; it has ditches and fences and some stout oak trees at the edge of the road, enough to make a brave man think twice before overcooking it.

It also has a series of uphills esses that can be taken at close to 100 m.p.h., and a set of fast downhill esses, too. In short, it's a course that separated the men from the boys, and Devine showed that even though he hasn't been around that long, he's not among the boys.

Trailing along behind the Meister Brauser boys came the Lotus 23 of Skip Barber, last year's terror-in-a-Turner, followed by one of those aluminum-bodied Corvettes you heard about, this one running under the colors of the Grady Davis stable, Ed Lowther up.

In fifth overall and first in E modified was Joe Buzzetta in the Bosch Spark Plug Special - a Porsche RSK with lengthened and redesigned suspension and a new 1700 c.c. RS-60 engine, which almost caught and passed the 'Vette a half-dozen times.

And after all the "modifieds" came the first of the big A production cars, Dick Thompson's Corvette StingRay.

This requires some explanation, because everybody knows by now that the AC-Cobras are so much faster than the StingRays at to make General Motors blanch.

And indeed, Bob Johnson's Cobra was running well ahead of all the Chevy entries .. . until he blew a tire and spun, a move that dumped him down to seventh overall and second in A production in the final accounting.

That's the second national Thompson has won in the face of the Cobra threat. At Marlboro, Johnson had the only Cobra entered, but dropped out of the running after a collision with a StingRay and the guard rail. Just how long the Chevy will be able to keep it up is anybody's guess. But take our word for it. The standings may not show it, but the Cobra's LOTS faster than a Corvette.

There was one other Cobra in the race, with a strange pilot. A fellow named Bob Holbert at the wheel, driving the same Cobra Dan Gurney had at Sebring. But Holbert, who had gone like gangbusters from time to time in practice, seemed to be having some troubles with the car-whether it was adapting from a low-powered rear-engine job to a high-powered front engine one or mechanical problems we don't know - and could not do better than fourth in class, 10th overall.

The first B Production car was Don Yenko's 283 Corvette, which got the Tarheel Cup, a special award from the North Carolina Region of the SCCA, which put on the race, for having beaten the other cars in his class by the widest margin.

But, if you want one of those little vignettes that make racing what it is, don't look to the big race, but one of the little ones-the bash for F, G, and H production.

In practice for that one, the Morgan 4/4 of Frank Nagel lost its fan belt pulley. You'd think this would be good news for the other competitors in Class G, but it wasn't. Seems there were only two other cars starting in G ... and without Nagel's car on the starting line, there wouldn't be three cars to "make a class," and they'd have to run against the F cars.

His rivals implored Nagel to just push the car to the starting line, but since the Morgan ranks as a competitor in later races this season, there wouldn't be much point in giving away the points.

But about 30 minutes before race time. Nagel's pit crew spotted what they wanted-- a spectator, standing alongside his Ford Anglia . . . which uses the same engine as the Morgan.

The Anglia was quickly smuggled into the pits, and some frantic work went on . . .and Nagle's boys got the car running about a half lap after the rest of the class had gone!

He was off like gangbusters, clipping off 12 seconds a lap, and it looked for a while like the Morgan might be able to make up the deficit, but the Morgan finally pooped out, and the 10 points for first place in G went to the rapid Sprite of Pete Van der Pate.

That same F-G-H race saw one of the most exciting nose-to-tail duels of the weekend. The red Volvo P-1800 of Art Riley, a Volvo dealer on Long Island, and the shiny black Alfa of Jack Crusoe had fought it out the same way at Marlboro. This time, Riley-it's his Volvo sedan that's in that Volvo TV commercial about the car that's gone "50,000 miles," and yes, it is that quick still!-jumped into the lead. Then Crusoe. Then the Volvo.

At the end, by the thickness of a Volvo con rod, it was Crusoe's Alfa. Then came the Volvo, then Van der Pate's flying Sprite. H Production went to the Sprite of Paul Hill, who came all the way from Texas, followed by the Fiat-Abarth of Jack Bebee. This, incidentally, is the same Abarth that Dr. Ed Hessert drove to second place in the national championships last year ... and it's still a pretty rapid car!

Another Abarth was in the winner's circle in C production-the five-speed Sebring car of Paul Richards, which showed its heels to lots and lots of bigger cars. The Abarth has 1000 c.c. Duncan Black's Daimler, which was second, has 2500 c.c. Al Rogers' Morgan, which was third and pressing, has 2200 c.c. Tom Forman's Jag, which was fourth, has 3800 c.c.

After Forman came the TR4 of Bob Tullius, the first place D car. But Tullius has some new competition, the TR4 of Harvey Marks, a Porsche driver who converted over to the Triumph ranks, and who had beaten Tullius in a regional the week before. (When he switched over to English cars, Marks didn't forsake Porsche mechanic Joe Buzzetta.) Marks was a close second behind Tullius, and when he gets more used to front-engine machinery . . .

Fifth overall and first in E was the Porsche of Bill Haenalt, followed by Don Sesslar's Sunbeam Alpine. Charlie Hayes' needle-nosed Elva walked off with the Formula Junior race, which was mixed in with the small modifieds.

In second place was the G modified winner, and a real surprise- the Bobsy of Chuck Dietrich. This is a home-brewed, Midwest machine with almost everything handmade in the U.S.A. It looks something like a Lotus 19, it has beautiful workmanship, and it went like a rocket, beating the Lola's of Art Tweedale and Doc Wylie and the Alfa-BMC of John Fitch. When a home brew starts beating stuff like that, look out! And there's an H modified Baby, too, with wheels drilled full of a million holes for lightness, equally beautiful workmanship, and what sounds like a ferocious Saab or DKW engine. One to keep your eye on.

Usually, there's only one race a year at VIR, and it's a ball. There's southern hospitality, and for us born southerners transplanted up north, it's a surprise to see how many "Rebels" are infected with the sports car bug. VIR is nestled in rolling hunt country of Virginia-Carolina, and though it's a long way from Washington, you still expect to see Jackie Kennedy and a pack of hounds come "tally-ho!" over one of those stone fences at any minute.

But even Jackie'd have to go some to catch that Scarab of Don Devine's. Remember when Reventlow made the first one, 'way back when? Why, it's practically an antique! But it still goes!